Over the past two years, I've made a lot of significant changes to my eating habits. While I made these changes out of desperation (in an attempt to fix the thyroid disorder that prescription medication was doing nothing to address) I soon found that I wasn't alone. People everywhere were turning to natural remedies comprised of the foods that so-called studies had deemed "deadly" for years.
After immersing myself in the holistic health and nutritional therapy community, I soon found myself on a pretty drastic diet that was both infinitely helpful in some aspects and cripplingly inconvenient in others, but that's a post for another time.
This post is about the outdated beliefs that, after changing everything about the way I ate and took care of myself, rang 100%, without a doubt, false.
1. Fat makes you fat.
Supposedly, people are starting to catch onto this, and yet, companies still market their products as "low fat," as if that's somehow a redeeming factor. Fat (as long as it's good quality) is where we get the majority of our energy from food, and it's what makes things taste good in the first place, without adding excess sugar and fillers. A nutritional therapist once explained it to me like this: "If your body is the fire and food is the wood, think of carbs as kindling and fat as a big log. Carbs are going to burn up pretty quick, but your body can power itself for hours on fat, and it won't make your blood-sugar levels dip and spike, either."
The list of good quality fats is a lot more extensive than an avocado and olive oil, too. For almost eight months straight, I cut out all processed grains and ate virtually nothing except fatty meats like lamb, steak, and dark-meat chicken. When I ate vegetables, they were practically drowned in butter. In three months, I dropped about thirty pounds, and fifteen more came off over the next four months.
Why this is bull: Firstly, meat's been getting a bad rap for decades, but around the time when most of these studies were done, we were at the height of eating overly-processed meat from grain-fed animals. If an animal is malnourished, diseased, shot up with medications, and kept in the dark all its life, of course it's going to produce bad quality meat--especially the fat, because fat cells are a storehouse for toxins.
As for fats like vegetable oils and margarine, yes, these are bad for you. They're processed in such a way that causes them to go rancid in the presence of light and high temperatures. This means that by the time these things even hit the shelves, they're already spoiled. Then people decided to do some tests and group these fats in with all the natural, whole-food fats, and voila, a society of people who are scared to eat good food.
2. Bacteria is scary.
Frankly, a substantial amount of food that I've eaten in the past couple years would, for some people, fit right into the category of "rotten," and yet, I've never felt better. We're taught to fear bacteria and germs. We're a sterile society, what with our hand sanitizers and soaps and preservatives, but the truth is, our digestive systems are (or should be) populated with all kinds of bacteria. It's necessary for good digestion, and wiping them out with antibiotics every three months is a really, really bad thing.
Since introducing foods like cultured vegetables, homemade yoghurt, kefir, fermented fish, probiotics, and kombucha into my diet, my digestion has been immeasurably better. My bloating has gone way, way down, and I don't go into those post-meal comas anymore.
Why this is bull: Bacteria used to be a huge part of our diet. When the harvest season was over, our ancestors would put vegetables into jars with vinegar and pretty much let them rot. This became their winter food. And before that? We'd eat things the way we found them, like lying on the ground, and the FDA didn't have anything to say about it.
3. You need six (or more!) servings of grain per day
I just typed this into Google, and this is what I found: "Eat 6 or more servings of grain products daily (whole grain and refined breads, cereals, pasta, and rice). Include several servings of whole grain foods daily for their good taste and their health benefits." Mind you, this came from a government website that still uses the old version of the food pyramid. This infuriates me.
Refined foods are the main cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in this country. While whole grains are generally a little bit better, most people react poorly to all kinds of grains, as they're a huge source of inflammation and poor digestion. Once I stopped eating all grains (both gluten-based and gluten-free) my thyroid function fell entirely into the normal range, no medication necessary.
Why this is bull: While some societies have been eating grains for a very long time, a good chunk of our ancestors ate primarily meat, vegetables, and fruit. The societies that did eat grains prepared them differently, mostly by sprouting the seeds beforehand and allowing for the natural process of fermentation (aka, sourdough). Our bodies aren't evolutionarily equipped to handle such a huge influx of grain, especially when it's processed to the point where there is hardly any nutritional value left, and then loaded up with sugars and preservatives on top of it. Basically, it's like eating several handfuls of paper mache and wondering why your organs don't work.
4. Cholesterol is bad
Among the foods that are high in cholesterol, we find things like eggs, bacon, sausage, red meat, cheese, fish, and butter. I've eaten every single one of these things, pretty much every single day, for nearly every single breakfast I've eaten in the last two years. Not only have I dropped weight like crazy, my hormone levels are more regular than ever, my energy levels are significantly higher, but I'm generally happier (because, let's face it, bacon).
According to Dr. Mercola, cholesterol is essential for a healthy body. It's necessary for cellular interaction, the formation of synapses in the brain, the production of hormones, and potentially even the prevention of heart disease (which is the exact opposite of what we've been taught).
Why this is bull: This misconception started about 100 years ago when a man fed cholesterol to rabbits and decided that it creates a plaque build up in the arteries. However, no one seemed to care that rabbits are herbivores and shouldn't eat cholesterol in the first place. This snowballed into countless studies over countless years that found that heavier people have higher cholesterol levels, but what failed to make it to the results page was that the more cholesterol one eats, the lower their levels.
So, my point? I'm a huge fan of proof, and therefore I'm a huge fan of science, but science doesn't always get it right the first time around. Any similar experiences with outdated data? Let me know; I'd love to discuss them with you.