If you follow my blog and receive Nutrilicious News you’ll know that I am all for Real Food. Guiding my clients back to Real Food is my mission, and that for me is a top priority before starting to worry about whether to eat gluten-free, Paleo, a vegetarian or vegan or even pegan diet. All of the above – if based on Real Food – have the potential to help us recover from chronic disease, get our energy back, and improve our general wellbeing. Conversely, all of the above have the potential to making us sick, too. It’s the Real Food aspect that counts.
Vegetarian and vegan diets consistently achieve excellent health improvements, but it all depends: Bread, jam, chips, biscuits, ketchup, crisps, and fizzy drinks are all vegetarian or even vegan. You can’t argue with that, but a diet based on those foods is not healthy. I hasten to add that most vegetarians and vegans do not base their diets on the above and consequently are generally found to be in a better state of health than most omnivores.
You can buy ‘Paleo cookies’, ‘Paleo brownies’, and ‘Paleo pizza’, too, all dairy- and grain-free. But healthy? And how likely is it that our caveman ancestors, whose diet the Paleo Diet is fashioned after, consumed such things?
There are stacks and stacks of gluten-free foods in every supermarket’s health aisle and health food shops. Great! If you’re coeliac or suffer from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity or have are sensitive to wheat, you can eat those things without having to worry about them causing symptoms. But many, if not most, of these products are highly processed. Sugar and trans-fats are ‘gluten-free’ by nature, so they may well be in there. Many gluten-free products have a high glycaemic load and will spike insulin levels. That’s not healthy, however big it says ‘gluten-free’ on the packet, so bear that in mind.
Real Food is what matters.
Our ancestral diets would have been very diverse. Some people lived by the sea, some in the mountains, some where it’s cold, some where it’s hot. In some areas, you’d find abundant plant foods at all times, in others hardly ever. And yet people have lived on a variety of local, traditional diets for thousands of years, and doing very well. Chronic diseases such as diabetes 2, heart disease or cancer were not their top killlers (but rather accidents, infection, violence, starvation). But you don’t even have to go back that far. Just ask your grandparents what they ate and you’ll find that it was mainly Real Food. While chronic illness was common then, too, the incidence was much, much lower than it is today. Shouldn’t that tell us something?
Last week, a ‘damning’ report of the Public Health Collaboration UK made headline news. It’s available for download from the PHCUK website and is a great read. Do read it, it’s worth it. The PHC reacted to the recently unveiled ‘new’ Eatwell Guide as published by the NHS and British Dietetic Association. Among others, it compares the glycaemic load of two breakfasts: one that is in line with the Eatwell Guide, and one that is high in fat (and cholesterol), but low in carbohydrate, breaking all the rules of the Eatwell Guide. The former has a glycaemic load of 43, the latter of less than 1. Following the Eatwell Guide, the PHC argues, sets you up for obesity and diabetes.
Here’s one little snippet that says what I always say (and that’s why I copied and pasted it):
Of course there is controversy. The supporters of the official UK dietary guidelines deny the validity of the report and defend their views, but they are continuing to lose traction. Here's their response. (You may notice that the PHCUK Report contains 64 references. The rebuttal - while criticising the evidence used in the report, contains 0 references. We're just going to have to take their word for it.) The American authorities have accepted the evidence and removed their limit on fats. When will the UK catch up?
Another quote from the Report:
If you’d like to see what both sides have to say, here some links to the papers:
And here some links to my own previous blog posts on the subjects in question:
Eat less, exercise more? – on the value of calorie counting
Fat? Sugar? Which is it? – a reading list
In this one, I collated a few books which nicely summarise the recent research on the low-fat debate and explain how it all went wrong.
Grandma didn’t need to know – Why our grandparents diets were much better than ours
There's loads more. Just keep reading!