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Science-Based Food Choices


You choose food for many different reasons. Some of these reasons are based upon your knowledge of “what is healthy to eat”. Most Americans are not healthy in that they are over-weight and have or will soon have chronic metabolic diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and small blood vessel disease including dementia, impotence, coronary artery disease, and renal dysfunction. These chronic metabolic diseases are preventable with exercise and a healthy diet. The purpose of this essay is to provide science-based information about food. Everyone thinks they know what is healthy to eat yet few people are optimally healthy. Much of our popular culture food information is incorrect (1). This essay will focus on the latest positive scientific studies and attempt to define what exactly is healthy to eat. Much of this information has already been discussed but it is so important that it is worth summarizing in one place.


Red meat contains saturated fat, omega-6 fats and omega-3 fats. Despite popular culture, studies of over 600,000 people have found no link between saturated fat and heart disease (2). Meat is the best source of protein and amino acids for muscle maintenance and muscle growth . Meat is better than vegetables (3). Vegetable proteins lack leucine. The protein content of 4 ounces of beef is equivalent to 3 cups of lentils. In simple terms eating meat will not cause cardiovascular rise i.e. it will not “clog” your arteries. Part of the incorrect thinking about meat and saturated fat were studies that focused on total cholesterol levels and total LDL blood test. Total cholesterol levels are not a measure of heart health as we will discuss later. Saturated fat does raise total LDL  “bad cholesterol”. LDL however is composed of large particles and small particles. Only the small particle LDL is bad and saturated fat raises mostly large particle LDL (4). LDL subsets were not measured in the past giving rise to the theory that saturated fat was bad. The dangerous small particle LDL is increased by dietary sugar and in high carbohydrate diets (5). Unfortunately, high carbohydrate low fat diets have been recommended recently by physician and the U.S. governmental agencies without any scientific evidence (6).  Because this is most important please remember that the largest and most recent scientific medical study to prevent heart disease found that saturated fat diets do not cause heart disease (7).  


Processed meat includes any meat that has been modified to prolong shelf-life or change taste. Examples include bacon, ham, sausage, salami, baloney, hot dogs and many other “cold cuts” and canned meats. The processes include, smoking, salting, curing, and marinating. The preservative sodium nitrate is frequently added to prevent bacterial growth. In 2015 the World Health Organization found that eating 50 grams of processed meat daily (one hot dog or 4 strips of bacon) increased the incidence of colon cancer by 18 percent (8). This means that the real risk of getting colon cancer in your life time would go from 5% to 6% and you would need to eat a hot dog equivalent every day. 


Studies comparing vegetarians to meat eaters often contain an inherent flaw. People who are very focused on their diet and avoid eating much red meat frequently will exercise more, do not smoke nor drink, and have a very healthy- life style. A large population-based study of 245,000 people found no difference in all-cause mortality in vegetarians and meat eaters (9).

Vegetables do not contain all the vitamins and minerals that you need. Plants are not good sources for: vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and calcium. Vegetables are carbohydrates for energy and the best source of fiber for your digestive tract. There are essential fats and essential proteins that you must eat to be healthy and that cannot be synthesized by your body, but there are no essential carbohydrates. There are many health benefits from eating fiber. Fiber slows down the absorption of nutrients in your small intestine and lowers your peak insulin levels resulting in less synthesis of body fat and lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease and colon cancer (10).


The high sugar content of most fruits is problematic because almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese and the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing (11). Dried fruits like figs, dates, and raisins have the highest sugar content and should be avoided. The fresh fruits with high sugar content in descending order include: raisins, figs, bananas, grapes, cherries, mangoes, kiwis, pineapples, apples, blueberries, nectarines, watermelons, oranges, and apricots. Berries have the least sugar and the most fiber of all the fruits and are the healthiest fruits to eat.


We have already discussed that fats are a necessary and an essential part of your diet. Fats do one thing that no other macronutrient can do-they increase our metabolic rate. A diet 60 percent fat, 30 percent protein and 10 percent carbohydrate will burn 300 more calories per day than a diet 60 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat in the same participants (12). Fats will make you healthier by helping you lose body fat, maintain more muscle while dieting, lower your inflammatory molecules, increase your HDL, lower your triglyceride blood levels, and decrease your markers of inflammation (13). The simple truth is that high fat low carbohydrate diets are best for healthy weight loss (14). The biggest nutritional mistake made by Medical Societies and the US government agencies was to recommend a low fat high carbohydrate diets for over 40 years and cause a nation-wide increase in obesity that continues today (15). Not all fats are healthy. The monounsaturated fats from plants and animals such as nut oils, olive oils, avocados, nuts, butter, lard, and chicken fat can be healthy. The monounsaturated fat in canola oil is very unhealthy. When fat is exposed to high temperatures it can become unhealthy (16).

There are two essential polyunsaturated fats -omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Both are essential in a ratio 1 to1. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in seafood, eggs, meat, flax seed, and walnuts. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts, seeds, grains, beans, and some vegetable oils. Omega-6 fatty acids are used in many processed foods and snacks made with canola oil, soybean oil, corn oil and their over use will decrease your life expectancy(17).  Omega-6 fatty acids eaten in excess were studied in a prospective randomized study of 9000 hospitalized and thus well controlled patients. The experimental group was fed polyunsaturated fats from corn oil exclusively (increased Omega-6) while the control group was fed saturated animal fats as well as some polyunsaturated fats. The experimental group on polyunsaturated fats had a significant decrease in serum total cholesterol levels yet a 22 percent increase in mortality. Systematic review for corroborating information identified five randomized controlled trials showing that cholesterol lowering, unsaturated fat interventions had no evidence of benefit on mortality from coronary heart disease (18).  The following fats are not healthy: Crisco, fake butter, margarine, hydrogenated soybean or vegetable oil, trans fat.

Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) is an amazing fat supplement. It is present in coconut oil and available as a food supplement. MCT when ingested goes directly to your liver and can be used by cells as an energy source without storage in fat cells. MCT increases your metabolic rate and increases body fat loss (19). 


Beans are the dry seeds of some plants and are not vegetables. Beans contain vitamins, minerals and sufficient nutrients to generate a new plant. Beans are mostly carbohydrates. They also contain lectins which protect plants from being eaten because they cause human intestinal cell dysfunction and physical discomfort (20). Bean protein is low in leucine and less efficient in building muscle compared to animal protein or whey protein.


Grains are grass seeds. The outer layer of the grain is bran and is undigestible fiber that decreases the absorption of nutrients and lowers insulin levels. Fiber is healthy. The germ of the grain contains vitamins, minerals, protein and a little fat. The remaining endosperm is carbohydrates-high glycemic starch which increases insulin levels and is stored in your body as fat. Remember that carbohydrates are not essential for your health. Grains historically were cultivated by people to make a stable source of man-made food. 

Grains contain lectins and the lectin gluten interferes with the cells in the small bowel and activates the gut immune system against the intestinal cells. This is an auto-immune  inflammatory response causing varying degrees of dysfunctions, “leaky gut syndrome” to celiac disease (21). Gluten can be tolerated by most healthy people but it is best avoided when possible.

Breakfast cereals including oatmeal are popular foods that are mostly sugar and should be avoided. Many children start their day with cereal and many children are becoming obese in the USA (22). In a major study, overweight children were fed one of three possible breakfasts with the same calorie content: eggs, instant oatmeal, or steel-cut oatmeal. The egg breakfast children had lower blood sugars, lower insulin levels, lower cortisol levels and ate less food the rest of the day (23). Protein and fat are healthier foods than grain. Some grains do not greatly elevate blood sugar such as quinoa and amaranth and are healthy to eat. 











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