How the USDA Diet got to be the “Healthy Diet” and What It Means to You.
We are quickly learning that the science of fats is fascinating and the science of weight loss needs to be married to the concept: to be thin, understanding fats is vital.
The standard diet proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was never proven to be a healthy diet. There is not one study to prove that it works and definitely not one study to prove that it lowers risk for heart disease. There are now several studies and some still going on to look at long term risks of a low carbohydrate diet. Shockingly to the American medical establishment, the results showed that although the amount of weight loss was not significantly higher (although in each of the studies, more weight was lost on a low carbohydrate diet and no dieter I ever knew didn’t think a few pounds was significant) the cardiac risk indicators – HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels – were significantly better in those on a low carbohydrate diet.
The only other diet that has been significantly studied is the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been mentioned in many of the most recent studies as the healthiest way to be eating. Eating this way, lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and increases longevity.
The basic premise is to eat more vegetables, fish and omega-3 fatty acids and to consume most of your fats in the form of monounsaturates. The form of monounsaturates that is used in the Mediterranean diet is olive oil.
Before I go any further, I must spend a moment discussing the USDA food pyramid – the supposed rosetta stone of nutrition. Let’s simply start with the name and then that should clear up any of the misconceptions. The inventor of this horribly skewed pyramid is the United States Department of Agriculture. Does anyone out there know what their job is? If you answered: to promote agriculture, give yourself a standing ovation.
The USDA is in existence to increase and promote the spread of agriculture. I don’t know when it was decided by the medical establishment that the USDA knew anything about nutrition. That pyramid was devised to convince people to eat more of the products that the United States grew and to specifically promote large agribusinesses with deep pockets to lobby Washington. They did a really good job because we now eat more grains, rice, soybeans, and sugar – the bottom rung of that bottom-heavy pyramid than ever before. Are we any healthier? Absolutely not! Are we any fatter? Absolutely! Isn’t it time we demanded better than that of the people who are telling us how to eat and what we should be eating? Think about this, if it weren’t for the overwhelming amount of people on lower carbohydrate diets, no study would ever have been done. In fact, I know that the only reason these studies were ever started was to prove that this concept didn’t work and made you unhealthy.
Eating a diet rich in monounsaturated fats and lower in carbohydrates has proven to offer a long list of health benefits – protection from breast cancer, decrease in incidence of heart disease, and decrease in diabetes and pre-diabetes. Not only will you become thinner if you follow the Hamptons diet, but you will become healthier too.
In Thin For Good, I brought the Atkins philosophy to a new level – teaching people that you can eat good complex carbohydrates along with a low carbohydrate lifestyle. The Hamptons Diet goes the next step by teaching you the dramatic changes something as simple as eating the right oils can make to your life.
So, become friends with fat again and as always, the right kind of fat. Become monounsaturated rich. Let fat back into your life and into your kitchen. Let’s try to make this word have a really good meaning: fat=thin=happy=healthy=longer life. Enjoy the book. Eat good fats. Get thin and healthy in the process and most importantly, have fun.
Balancing the Scale
One way of decreasing inflammation and regulating our internal environment is by eating true organic meats and meat products. This includes eggs, cheese and the meat itself. In order to balance the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid content of our diet, we need to consume foods that have as close to 1:1 ratios as possible.
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and hence decrease inflammation in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory and raise inflammation levels in the body. Since our goal is to decrease inflammation and cleanse our internal environment, a really good way to do this is to always ensure that we are balancing these fatty acids in our diet.
I think it is important for patients to understand why they are doing things. This way, you are learning how to make healthy correct choices on your own. So, allow me to give you some pretty eye-opening examples.
Eggs, from hens that have been commercially raised have an omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid profile of 14-16:1. Eggs from organic sources have the proper 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. The same holds true for organically raised meats. When you examine the fatty acid profile of their meat, those animals raised organically will possess close to a 1:1 ratio of good omega-3’s to bad omega-6 fatty acids. Those commercially raised animals will have an imbalance of up to 16 times more omega-6 fatty acids in their meat.
It is important to keep in mind the fatty acid profile of the oils that you use including salad oils
For instance Macadamia oil has the perfect 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, it is the highest in monounsaturated fats and the high smoke point will decrease the risk for any trans-fatty acid formation.
If you always look for food products which share those three characteristics, you will be doing a great service to yourself and your family.
What does Organic Mean
This is a great question and I really wish I had the answer for you. The standards are being set even as we speak and there are even some states which have higher standards than those set by the United States government. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that unless the animal is eating what it was genetically programmed to eat, the meat is not truly organic. Most natural animal products will be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. I say most because there is a standard that allows farmers to say that they are “natural” if they only use a small percentage of antibiotics and growth hormones. Remember, these terms are definitions set up by a governmental agency and therefore are open to scurrilous interpretation by people trying to exploit the system.
A truly “organic” animal product would be one where the cow was fed grass and the chicken fed things like earthworms – things they would be eating if they were in the wild. Animals would have room to move about and not be caged in. The ways in which animals are penned are also important considerations in what the fatty acid content of the meat really is.
A new interesting dilemma is fish. Throughout this book, I will be stressing the importance of fish and the essential fatty acids that they possess as vital parts of a healthy diet. Fish are loaded with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. However, due to the severe problem of over-fishing, many of our fish come from farms. In fact, many of our fish come from overseas farms where we can’t even regulate what is being fed to them and in what conditions the pens are kept. I think this is a real tragedy as we are turning one of the healthiest things we can eat into a potential unhealthy nightmare.
Farmed fish, salmon in particular, can be made to be whatever color you want the flesh to be. They do this by feeding them different foods and food coloring. Due to the unnatural way the fish are raised, they are being fed antibiotics to keep them healthy but are not yet being given growth hormone so they grow faster. What is happening is that the fish are being genetically modified to make them grow faster. There is even concern as to what should happen if these genetically modified fish were to escape into the real world. Would they overtake the natural fish? Would they be able to survive? No one knows in the world of frankenfoods. But, if scientists are frightened of the consequences, shouldn’t we?
By now, you are probably thinking that you want to be a vegetarian. Keep in mind that the farming of fruits and vegetables have their own inherent problems and that is not perfect either. 80% of all the soybeans and 60% of all the corn grown in this country is genetically engineered. When you add in all the fruits and other vegetables that are not as common, it is easy to see that our food supply is badly tainted.
It is really difficult in this day and age to eat perfectly. We have sacrificed so many health benefits to feed an increasingly larger population with less farmers and less land dedicated to farming. There have to be compromises somewhere.
However, when 175 million Americans are suffering from one sort of chronic disease or another, isn’t it time we take a look at some of the simple things we can do to help restore the critical balance that is so lacking in our diet. The Hamptons Diet, whether you follow it because you want to lose weight, want to get healthy or both, is going to allow you to fully take advantage of the latest advances in health and nutrition; which, is really to just get back to nature and eat food that has been either grown, raised, and most importantly, minimally processed.