This Arlo & Janis cartoon ran on February 24, 2011. I’m going to restate it: “The New Dietary Guidelines have been released. They tell us to eat healthier . . . but not so healthy as to noticeably affect any corporate profits. I’m paraphrasing, of course.”
I don’t think Jimmy Johnson, the writer and artist of the comic strip is too far off. At some point in history we put our trust in the United States Department of Agriculture to tell us what foods would help keep us healthy. But, “we the people” don’t have a big lobby group with disposable income to help make political decisions. Now . . . no, I’m not going on a tirade about the political system here . . . but I do think it’s time we start taking more responsibility for our choices. And some of the new USDA guidelines I take issue with.
Here’s a couple of my big complaints.
First, the recommendation to “increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products”. I’ve said it before, it doesn’t do any good to put fat soluble synthetic vitamins into fat-free milk. Vitamins A, D, E, & K all require fat in order to be absorbed. No fat in the milk = no vitamin assimilation. Plus it’s synthetic vitamins. Nutrient dense, whole foods don’t need vitamins added to them to make them healthy. I think we should all question – if you have to “enrich” or “fortify” the food, what processing did it under go previously that took out the natural vitamins and minerals?
Second, “use oils to replace solid fats where possible”. All fats are not created equal . . . when are they going to look at the research to understand this? Most Americans get plenty of Omega-6 in their diet so replacing a healthy fat like butter from cows eating grass or coconut oil with more processed canola oil isn’t good for your health. Butter is a good source of easily absorbed fat soluble vitamins, trace minerals, is the perfect balance of Omega-3 & Omega-6, contains conjugated linoleic acid (an excellent protector against cancer) and glycospingolipids (protects against gastro-intestinal infections). (My thoughts on coconut oil are in a previous post.) I’m not advocating eating a stick of butter, but we need a good balance between all the Omega fatty acids in order for good inflammation response. And, some oils are better for your health than others, and the USDA doesn’t make a distinction.
Third, the recommendation to consume soy beverages and soy products. Again, all soy is not created equal. Enjoy fermented soybeans such as tempeh, natto, and tamari which date to the Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC). Unfortunately most modern soy foods are not fermented to neutralize toxins in soybeans, and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens. Of course Asian countries didn’t put it into every processed food product possible in order to increase the protein content either. Modern soy food causes the body to require more vitamin B12 and D, is a phyto-endocrine disruptor, contains trypsin inhibitors, and has been linked to breast cancer, low thyroid function, and Alzheimer’s. This shouldn’t be in our food sources and it shouldn’t be recommended by our government.
So, who do we trust when it comes to our health? The answer is complicated and misinformation makes it convoluted. Any magazine you pick up has a different suggestion, often contradicting each other. Even respected members of the American Medical Association don’t always agree. Part of this is because nutrition is an ever changing field. Companies are bought and sold, and frequently change ingredients. New research evolves, and may or may not be reported correctly, since reporters aren’t scientists and they get just as confused as everyone else. Often, “health” takes the side-line to company profits, or maybe I should say “health” gets “redefined” (is that more politically correct?).
I believe the person to trust is your body when it hasn’t been altered by adulterated foods. We have to get “in tune” with our own systems in order to really know what works best for our own individual body. We have to respect our own bio-diversity. This isn’t easy . . . in fact, for most people this is a very difficult road. But, it is the higher ground, it is the path to optimal health from the inside out.