The Broken Food Pyramid

Marcia at Frugal Healthy Simple recently wrote an excellent, heartfelt post about the Food Pyramid, and how, basically, it's just wrong. It contains too many grains, not enough proteins and fats, and far too many carbs. It's an improper mix of dietary inputs.

But it's worse than just being wrong. When the Food Pyramid came out some twenty years ago, people followed it. Marcia included. And with reason: after all, isn't the government here to help? It has our best interests at heart, right?

Right?

Now that more and more of us know the Food Pyramid's wrong, many of us can't help but wonder: were all our efforts to lose weight, and all those years struggling with our diet and with excess body fat... were we sabotaging ourselves all along by eating too many carbs? As our own government instructed us?

I think you'd be completely justified for being angry.

Granted, people--and governments--make mistakes. And the scientific consensus on many, if not most, issues is in a constant state of flux and iteration. In fact, I'm working on a post right now about the various health and dietary myths that have been thoroughly debunked over the past few decades (the Food Pyramid's "six servings of healthy whole grains per day!" is just one of many), and it really makes you wonder: how many things out there do we believe are true that we just haven't debunked yet?

Think about this for a few minutes and it will make you very humble, not just about government dietary guidelines, but about most the things we think we know. This is the reason Marcia's post--and the entire Broken Food Pyramid debate--resonates with me.

There's often a process of consensus-building that makes some subject domains, dietary science included, appear more "decided" than they really are. In fact, we see consensus thinking in many areas: economics, investing, the social sciences, and not to mention in ideologically contentious domains like climate change, environmental policy, trade policy, tax policy and so on.

But just because elite "experts" reach a consensus and hand it down to us doesn't mean things are as conclusive as they appear.

Worse, even after thinking begins to change in a given domain, the overall scientific consensus lags this change in thinking--often by years, even decades. And since government policy recommendations are determined by whatever consensus is in effect at the time they're created, it's the very last to adjust.

We're seeing this right now with the Food Pyramid. And the process is glacial, to put it diplomatically.

And in the meantime, citizens like Marcia and many, many others are coming to realize: they wished they'd never seen these guidelines when they came out twenty years ago.

Read Next: Who's Watching the Watchdogs? Ethical Problems in the "Ten Riskiest Foods" Report By the CSPI


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday September 12, 2014

Links from around the internet. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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How the Food Pyramid f*cked up my life. (Frugal Healthy Simple) Readers: I'll offer my own thoughts on this post in Tuesday's article here at CK.

The idea that spinach is a good source of iron isn't just a myth. It's two myths. (Jayson Lusk)

Useful tips for replacing refined grains with whole grains in your diet. (Whole Grains Council)

Shaking up the salt myth. (Chris Kresser)

How to be frugal and live a good life. (Tynan)

"When your mind isn't occupied with Managing Stuff, whole new vistas of creativity open up." (Ombailamos)

A speech is not an essay. (HBR)

My short career as a landlord. (Retirement: A Full Time Job)

Beguiled by a narrative. (Robert P. Seawright)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Recommended Daily Supplements: Do You Take Them?

Readers, in Arthur De Vany's excellent book The New Evolution Diet (you can find my ragingly positive review here), there was an intriguing discussion on recommended daily supplements.

This is an area where I'm far from an expert, but I'm generally biased against taking supplements, for three reasons:

* Most if not all supplements are superfluous if you eat a widely varied diet.
* Supplements tend to be expensive.
* Supplements are second-order foods and are often exact opposite of natural.

The only supplement (if you could call it that) I ever take is a whey-based protein powder, during extended periods of heavy training--for example when I'm doing weight training or heavy distance running.

In fact, if you subscribe at all to the philosophy of paleo living, how can taking supplements make any sense at all? It’s hard to imagine a more incongruous sight than thinking of "Paleo Man" popping a multivitamin right before he picks up his atl-atl and joins the hunt.

That said, here at Casual Kitchen, I want readers (and myself) to keep an open mind. We want to stay open to new ideas--especially to ideas that differ from the ones we hold dear. Which is why I wanted to offer to readers the supplements that author Art De Vany himself recommends. Some of these are rather intriguing:

Vitamin D (1,000 IU daily)
Omega 3 fish oil capsules
Melatonin (periodically)
Branched-chain amino acids
Antioxidants (De Vany recommends Ultrathione Health Packs made by the Antioxidant Pharmaceuticals Corporation)
Sodium Bicarbonate (50-100mg daily)

Finally, in keeping with his philosophy of inserting randomness and variability into your life, De Vany counsels readers to take periodic breaks from these supplements.

Readers, what do you think? Do you take supplements? Which ones and why? What's your view on taking supplements in general?





Read Next: Does Healthy Eating Really Cost Too Much? A Blogger Roundtable Discussion

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday September 5, 2014

Links from around the internet. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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What I learned taking a homeless mother grocery shopping. (Babble, via 50by25)

Useful factsheet on transfats. (Fooducate)

Pennsylvania's state monopoly over booze is doomed. (1 Wine Dude)

If you look at fax tax/soda tax policy from the consumer standpoint only, you're making a grave error. (Jayson Lusk)

A cup of coffee when you first get up won't actually make you feel more awake. (Fast Company)

Sous vide goes mainstream. (Ars Technica)

Why we should seek "anti-mentors." (21st Century Stoic)

Interesting analysis of steampunk as it dilutes itself and moves to the mainstream… right into the latest Pottery Barn catalog. (Grant McCracken)

Are you curious enough to really communicate? (Dr. Jennifer Howard)

Beware status arrogance. (Overcoming Bias)

A compelling and strikingly optimistic take on the economy and the stock market from a former colleague of mine. (Business Insider)

Key cognitive errors to avoid as an investor. (What Works On Wall Street)

Book recommendation: 18 Minutes by Peter Bregman. An easy read, offering practical ideas on how to master distraction and focus your efforts on the most important things. I picked up several extremely useful insights from this book.





Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Review: The New Evolution Diet by Arthur De Vany

"There is no failure, only feedback."
--Arthur De Vany

Readers, I'd like to recommend an extremely useful and insightful book to you: The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging by Art De Vany.

I'll start with the author's three central dietary and fitness principles:

1) Do not count or restrict calories.
2) Do not starve yourself, but do go hungry episodically, for brief periods.
3) Exercise less, not more, but with greater playfulness and intensity.

Interesting. Now granted, I know people who have had exceptional success counting calories. And I've seen (and have myself followed) advice to do extended exercise, particularly extended cardio workouts like distance running.

The thing is, most of us hate doing these things. Which is why a book that suggests you do neither is pretty intriguing.

Early on in his book, De Vany offers what I consider to be one of the best brief explanations I've ever read of why we humans are literally built to overeat and underexercise:

"We humans evolved when food was scarce and life was full of arduous physical activity. Hence, our bodies instruct us to eat everything we can lay our hands on and to exert ourselves as little as possible.

That's right. We are, in essence, hardwired to be lazy overeaters.

This was a perfect strategy for success thousands of years ago. No human could survive in 40,000 BC unless he or she ate anytime food was available. Our ancestors knew that famine was always close at hand--feast now or suffer tomorrow. They were also careful to expend as little energy as possible, because burning more calories than absolutely necessary was a threat to survival."

In short, the human body was designed for an insecure food environment. Which is why it's so easy to get fat today, when we're constantly surrounded by an abundance of delicious, tempting and high-calorie food. And it's not like we need to chase down any of this food either! In the mechanized, modern era you can go your whole life without intense exercise. It's easy to see why obesity is our primary health problem.

Thus when De Vany turns the standard diet/fitness advice on its head, it's with full awareness of this critical concept: our bodies are not designed for the modern era. Therefore, we need to imitate--as much as is practicable in modern day-to-day life--the food and fitness environment we are designed for. This is the central thinking behind paleo living. Not just paleo eating--but paleo exercising too.

De Vany tells you to mix your exercise routine up so you won't get bored, and to challenge your body in new and different ways to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Boring, repetitive exercise isn't a recipe for getting in better shape: it's a recipe for, well, getting bored. And quitting.

And De Vany's notion of avoiding boredom extends to eating too. Just as Mother Nature never intended us to exercise on a fixed, rigid schedule, she never intended us to eat on a fixed, rigid schedule either. The human body craves--and benefits significantly from--variation and randomness.

Which is why this book calls for a widely varied diet, not some self-parodying low-carb diet of slabs of meat and bacon. Carbs aren't forbidden: they're okay in moderation--usually in the form of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. The author also suggests experimenting with brief and intermittent periods of fasting: "just remind yourself that your ancestors endured many episodes of hunger and that your metabolism is designed to handle brief fasts."

And while junk foods like processed chips, sugary cereals and soda are generally off limits, even the author himself indulges in a once-a-month piece of cheesecake. This flexibility and allowance for enjoyment is the central strength of De Vany's eating style. As De Vany says: "We are not trying to literally live in the Ice Age, just to emulate aspects of that diet."

Finally, The New Evolution Diet offers readers striking insights and new, healthier paradigms for how to think about food, fitness and the human body. Ideas like:

1) Focusing on building muscle instead of dropping pounds.

2) Using the 80/20 Rule and other non-linear paradigms (e.g., cascade effects, butterfly effects, even outright randomness) to think about the body and how it functions.

3) Adding "kurtosis" in various forms to your life. This might mean adding significant randomness to your workout routine, or varying your diet significantly. As we mentioned before, the human body craves variation. This is the kind of stuff that can make life fun, unpredictable and--most importantly--healthier.

Readers, I strongly recommend this book. It’s rational, practical, thought-provoking and an easy read. Have a look at it and let me know what you think!

Finally, a few things I'm planning to add to my life after reading this book:

1) Add some light exercise before dinner to raise my insulin sensitivity. De Vany explains that this helps train your body to turn food into fuel rather than fat.

2) Make my exercise routines much more varied and unpredictable. I'm the kind of person who craves steady routine, so this may be a challenge for me.

3) Add a few specific foods to my diet: canned salmon and canned shellfish. Both are great sources of lean protein, vitamins, minerals and essential oils.

4) I'm going to try some small personal experiments with intermittent fasting and see what the effects are.

Share your thoughts!





Related Posts:
Cookbook Review: Mollie Katzen's The Heart of the Plate
Ask CK: How Do I Find Good Books To Read?
Interview with Jayson Lusk, Author of "The Food Police"
Review: Wheat Belly by William Davis

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.