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More Important Than The Food Pyramid

The USDA and FDA have provided the United States with food guidance for over 100 years 1) and no one can tell the difference in the collective waistline. On the contrary, Americans continue to bulge in the middle as heart disease, obesity and diabetes rise to new records. All that we can gather from the wisdom of the food pyramid is confusion and continued ignorance about what is good for us. Some say fat is bad. Others say fat is good! Carbs are bad. Carbs are good! Eat butter. Definitely don't eat butter. Margarine is a healthy substitute. Margarine is a terrible substitute. What was an innocent civilian to do?

The USDA's first real attempt to create a food pyramid was in 1943 with it's “Basic 7” food types to eat 2). It contained a list of bizarely grouped foods, such as the “oranages, tomatoes, grapefruit” group, which included as an aside cabbage and salad mixes. What unites those foods again? These foods are healthy but the groupings where in no way helpful to one's memory. The idea stuck around but eventually led to the creation of the food pyramid and the Basic 7 disappeared into the dustbin of history.

While this first attempt received several modifications down the road, it was on the right track. The food pyramid and its myriad suggestions of what to eat was too much for some people. A better solution would be to pick the highest nutritionally rated foods and focus on how awesome they are. People can remember a small list of awesome things much better then they can repeat back to you the sometimes food, the maybe-once-in-a-while foods, and the eat frequently foods.

This advice will not fully substitute for the knowledge of what is good, what is bad, and what is somewhere in between. However, we mustn't get caught up too much in the white noise. Some simple axioms like “don't eat processed foods” will carry the average person a lot further than being knowledgeable and conversant in the scientific literature on a certain nutrient or food. At least for the most basic orientation to food, we should know the foods that legitimately whoop ass. The finer wisdom can come later. First, let us look at a principle that supports this approach.

The Paretto Principle

Focusing on a handful of foods that are the most nutritionally efficient is an application of the Paretto Rule, which states that many things tend towards a distribution where 80% of your end product comes from 20% of what you are working with 3). It's apparently found throughout our world, and most notanly businessmen see this 80/20 split frequently. Incredibly, the 80/20 Pareto principle is applicable to MANY different things. Tim Feriss has popularized the Pareto Principle by writing a massive best seller called “The 4 Hour Work Week”. In the book, he explains that 80% of your best work comes from 20% of your time. Thus, rather than working many hours at an ineffective rate, you should modify your work life so as to best take advantage of this principle. He is right on, but all he is doing is showing the Pareto's Principle in application. Food is another application of the Pareto Principle.

The nutrition debate has gotten too noisy for people to remember all the guidance. Follow this guide you can give yourself 80% of your health results with 20% of the effort. Knowledge of what is good and what is bad will still help you, but the bulk of your health could be concentrated in these foods and you would be pretty well off.

In no particular order, here are the best foods to consume regularly and possibly daily if you can afford it.

Berries

Blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all top notch foods to include in your diet. Whie you can find a fruit here and there that are just as good as berries, these low sugar fruits are abundant and plentiful throughout the western hemisphere. After American nutritionists where quick to blame the obesity epidemic on excess fats, they soon realized that sugar can be just as fattening as fat when taken in excess. This was a problem for fruits and especially fruit juices because they could run very high in total sugar count. 1 cup of red or green grapes have around 23 grams of sugar. Just a cup of grape juice has 36 grams of sugar, basically the same level as your average soda4). A relatively low sugar fruit, apples, have 11 grams of sugar in solid form but 24 grams of sugar (in one cup) in juice form. Keep in mind, a cup is 8 ounces and plenty of people pour themselves 12-16 ounce glasses, so we are looking at double some of these values, which makes large amounts of fruit consumption a dicey endeavor if one overdoes it.

That is hardly the case with berries. Raspberries are an astoundingly low 5 grams of sugar per cup 5). Blackberries have just 7 grams of sugar per cup 6). Strawberries are just as low per cup at 7 grams of sugar 7), while blueberries have 15 grams of sugar 8), which is still a moderate amount in comparison to many other fruits. Blueberries excluded, you can eat blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries without worrying about eating too much sugar. If you had 2 cups of these berries, the highest amount of sugar you could be having is 14 grams, just under 1 cup of blueberries! This makes them much better choices overall, but especially when you create smoothies. All fruit sugar is absorbed more slowly when the stomach has to fight through the fiber of the fruit to break down the molecules. When you make a smoothie or juice fruits, you are breaking up the fiber from the sugar. Then you are drinking multiple fruits within a few minutes time, usually faster than you can eat it. Putting more sugar into your stomach with less fiber to slow down the process is a recipe for blood insulin problems. This is more or less not a problem if you use berries as your smoothie fruit of choice.

Beyond this, berries of all kinds are loaded with antioxidants that halt cancer and cellular degeneration in it's tracks. There are the flavanols rutin, quercetin, and catechins, which aid in stopping cancer and heart disease. Gallic acid and ellagic acid both found in berries are anti carcinogenic, and the latter is strongly anti microbial 9) 10). There are tons of phytonutrients in plants that science is only beginning to understand their benefits. With all of this goodness coming out of berries, you really should be stuffing this in your face rather indiscrimminately. Okay, maybe not that much, but you get the idea.

Be on the lookout for local berries. They may not be the familiar blackberry or raspberry, but chances are they fit the usual profile of this fruit species; low in sugar and high in healthy plant constituents. The chances of health boosting plant chemicals increases if those berries are wild berries as well. It's hard to go wrong with berries!

Sweet Potato

In general, potatoes are good for you. They have a nice spectrum of minerals and vitamins in small amount. A large, regular potato with nothing added contains…

  • Vitamin C- 48% DV
  • Vitamin K- 7% DV
  • Vitamin B6- 46% DV
  • Thiamin- 13% DV
  • Riboflavin- 8% DV
  • Niacin- 21% DV
  • Folate- 21% DV
  • Pantothenic Acid- 11% DV
  • Iron-18% DV
  • Magnesium- 21% DV
  • Phosphorus0 21% DV
  • Potassium-46% DV
  • Zinc- 7% DV
  • Copper-18%
  • Manganese-33%

There were small amounts of calcium, selenium and other but they measured under 5%. That is quite the spectrum! But when you deep fry them using cheap vegetable oil, the health benefits begin to be balanced out by the drawbacks. Industrial seed oils that find themselves in those containers at the grocery store called “vegetable oil” are usually canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, or soy oil. By mere coincidence, these are all genetically modified crops 11)! Regardless if you find GM crops risky or not, they tend to be the cheapest oils available (recall the quality vs quantity axiom). They also are oils that contain terrible omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratios. Researchers believe this all important fatty acid ratio was historically between 1 to 1 or 2 to 1. The introduction of cheap vegetable oils to cook with has generated an average ratio today between 10 to 1 or 15 to 1. Potatoes are a worthy food to eat, but continual cooking with these oils negate the heath benefits.

A sweet potato flies past the regular old potato in a couple of aspects. One important piece is the beautiful orange color that sweet potatoes have. Colors in vegetables can signify the existence of important nutrients, and the color in sweet potatoes is called beta carotene. (It's the same beta carotene in carrots.) This chemical substance is a precursor to vitamin A, which is vital for healthy eyesight, strong bones, growth, and immune function 12). So how much precursor vitamin A is in one big sweet potato? How about a whooping 1052%!!! While it is true your body has to prcoess this precursor vitamin and the actual amount of vitamin received from one serving is closer to your total amount of your daily expected value (i.e. around 100% of what you need in a day), it would still be wise to eat this starchy vitamin A source. Sweet potatoes also contain the wide spectrum coverage of minerals and vitamins that if eaten steadily over time will provide you with a solid foundation for most of the necessary nutrients. Here is the comparison to potatoes, at the same weight as the potatoes measured above (300 g, or one large sweet potato)

  • protein- 6 g, 12% DV
  • Vitamin A- 1052% DV (No that is NOT a typo)
  • Vitamin C- 99 % DV
  • Vitamin E-12% DV
  • Vitamin K-9% DV
  • Vitamin B6- 42% DV
  • Thiamin- 21%
  • Riboflavin- 18% DV
  • Niacin- 21% DV
  • Folate-3% DV
  • Pantotheic Acid-27% DV
  • Calcium-12% DV
  • Iron- 12% DV
  • Magnesium-21% DV
  • Phosphorus- 15% DV
  • Potassium-42% DV
  • Zinc- 6% DV
  • Copper-24% DV
  • Manganese- 75% DV

As you can see, the two nutritional profiles are comparable. The main obvious exception is the stunning amount of beta carotene vitamin A.

Secondly, we have evidence of a isolated population on the island of Japan, knowns as the Okinowans, who consumed sweet potatoes as a staple. Today, this population is known for their incredible longevity. Despite a lack of modern access to global food, the Okinowans ate a very simply diet and they have had a life expectancy years beyond more modern populations. Their diet was a mostly vegetarian diet with the occasional pig roasted for holidays and other cultural events. This isn't too different from a few other populations we have studied as well, which brings to mind the beautifully brisk 7 word summation of Michael Pollan's food manifesto; eat food; mostly plants; not too much. What makes their diet special is that they were known to eat between 1-3 sweet potatoes DAILY. It is believed over 70% of their calories could come from sweet potatoes. Not only were they living longer, but their citizens were less frequently having the problems of the “civilized” world; obesity, heart diease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Lastly, the Center For Science In The Public Interest has released a list of top ten foods to eat. Sweet potato tops the list! CSP is no woo-woo organization. This, in combination with the above evidence, is proof positive that a simple diet that includes sweet potatoes as a staple has potential health benefits.

Raw, Grass Fed Butter/Whole Coconut (i.e. high quality saturated fat)

Despite the bad press saturated fat get's in the media, numerous health guru's stand by their claim that saturated fat is good for you. Indeed, even the status quo recognizes a biological necessity of consuming saturated fat up to 10% of your caloric intake. The brain is made up of sterols and fat 13) as we can see in the nutritional profiles of the ruminant brains we eat. If anything, standard nutritionists are backing off their claim that partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (AKA margarines) are a healthy substitute for butter. This doesn't mean they are running back to say butter is healthy, though. But we have a different bit of advice.

Quality trumps quantity almost every time in human nutrition. You would be better off taking in less than your daily recommended intake of 2,000 calories, even as much as once or twice a week, with high quality food than you would to reach your 2,000 calorie quota every single day but with low quality foods. The data on intermittent fasting proves that occasional breaks from the 2,000 calorie benchmark can do you a lot of good. It can do even more good when you take those intermittent fasts from food that is of low quality, and one of those low quality foods is (CAFO raised) butter.

The butter in the grocery store comes from animals confined in horrid conditions that induce higher rates of udderitis??? and pus formation in their milk. Their bodies are also pumped full of hormones, sometimes harvested from dead cows and sometimes a genetically modified variety, some of which are banned in countries outside the U.S. The cows also are force fed corn and soy, which doesn't digest well in their 4 chamber grass stomachs. If you ask the question “is butter healthy?” and only use store bought butter, you are using low quality butter. A better question would be “can unhealthy cows produce healthy milk?” The answer is: It is a lot less likely.

Instead, buy your butter from cows who are allowed to roam in grassy pastures. They will eat when they need to and their bodies are designed to accept it, thus allowing their dairy to be of the highest nutritional quality.

Additionally, butter is GREAT for the above listed food, sweet potatoes. That is because the pre cursor Vitamin A needs to be absorb with fat molecules in the stomach, but sweet potatoes don't have any fat. Thus, you NEED to eat some fat when you eat sweet potatoes, carrots, or anythign that has fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

There will be some, who for a multitude of possible reasons, do not or cannot eat cow's butter. You don't hear much of goat's butter or other alternatives because it just doesn't separate as well. In that case, you should be adding coconut to your diet.

Inside the coconut shell, depending on the species variety, is a half inch layer of coconut “flesh”. True to its moniker, it is high in fat first, has some protein, and has texture reminiscent of some meats when you cut into it. Coconut is one of the best vegetarian sources of saturated fat. It is loaded with other beneficial properties, such as ??? If possible, you should eat the coconut flesh. If you don't live in a tropical area, you can consume coconut oil. It will lack the small amount of protein and it isn't a “whole” food for those sticking to a McDougall type diet, but it still retains its many antibacterial and anti microbial properties.

Moringa

Never heard of morginga? Neither has anyone else. But that is alll set to change as moringa is about to become the health food of the decade. Moringa is a tree whose leaves and seeds are highly nutritious. Moringa leaves have been fed to cattle for much longer than humans have taken a liking to them, mainly because it has proven to increase their dairy volume. Less than 4 ounces of moringa leaves has around 8 grams of complete protein 14), in addition to a a nice selection of vitamins and minerals 15). It also contains flavanoids, cytokinins, polyphenols, xantins, and other beneficial plant chemicals 16).

Health gurus are going bananas after even the National Institute for Health (NIH) described moringa in a nutrient comparison at an ounce per ounce rate. Moringa can not only best most food items in nutrient categories, it can outdo the traditionally known fruits and vegetables that reign sumpreme for a particular nutrient. For instances, oranges rank as a top fruit for vitamin C. When converted for weight differences, moringa measures 7 hundred percent more vitamin C. Morgina also trumps milk's calcium by 400% and doubles the protein found in yogurt 17). Since the NIH has done this, numerous organizations are comparing all sorts of vegetables on an ounce for ounce basis. It makes it appear as though moringa is god's gift to humanity, but remember that you usually dont eat more than a few ounces of moringa. Still, this food is a must to include in your diet.

Avocado

Avocados and their high fat content (around 45% of the recommended daily amount in one avocado) sometimes scare people away from eating them. Since the fat is mostly monounsaturated fat, even mainstream doctors say that this is a good fat to eat 18). Like most of the items on this list, avocados provide a surprisingly wide spectrum of nutrients.

  • Dietary fiber- 54% DV
  • Vitamin A- 6% DV
  • Vitamin E- 21% DV
  • Vitamin K-53% DV
  • Thiamin- 9% DV
  • Riboflaviin- 15% DV
  • Niacin- 17% DV
  • Vitamin B6- 26% DV
  • Folate- 41% DV
  • Pantothenic Acid- 28% DV
  • Iron- 6% DV
  • Magnesium- 15% DV
  • Phosphorus- 10% DV
  • Potassium- 28% DV
  • Zinc- 9% DV
  • Copper- 19% DV
  • Manganese- 14%

Source seen here 19)

As mentioned before, there are even more nutrients below 5% not listed.

Eating avocadoes on a regular basis will provide an energy and nutrient dense way towards health. The rich and creamy texture of avocados also make them ideal for substituting into desserts. You can have a dessert like cacao avocado mousse and never be afraid of doing something bad for your health!

Sauerkraut (Or Anything Fermented With Priobiotics)

Louis Pasteur would be rolling in his grave if he saw the state of western diet and western intestinal systems today. Pasteur was known for his development of the pasteurization process, a method of heating foods to super high temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria that could be lurking in it. Few people know that Pasteur and his discovery were apart of a heated battle of theories. Some felt you had to eliminate as many bacteria from your environment as you could in order to be free from disease (tha was Pasteur's side). The other side argued that it was impossible to live a life without bacteria. They are everywhere. You would be better off building up your body's defense against bacteria then trying to wipe them out. On Pasteur's death bed, he confessed that he thought the other side was right.

Here are the facts that validate Pasteur's sudden change of heart. To begin with, we are more bacteria then we are ourselves! It is estimated that we have at least 500 different species of intestinal bacteria inside of us, and each one of those species average 1 trillion cells, for a minimum total of 500 trillion cells. Humans have roughly 100 trillion cells of their own to care after. This bacteria aren't infecting us, either. We need them to help break down nutrients, help absord nutrients, and to fight off and crowd out bad bacteria. If they weren't there in those populations, it makes a great recipe for yeast overgrowth.

When you take antibiotics, those drugs do not discriminate between good bacteria and bad bacteria. They kill both. Considering that the weight of those 500 trillion cells amounts to 3 to 4 pounds of weight in your body (!), the significant loss of those microbes when you take a course of antibiotics allows yeast to dominate your system 20). Yeast overgrowth is commonly seen after antibiotic treatments, and people who receive regular antibiotic treatments complain of chronic yeast infections 21). Considering you need the bacteria for proper digestion and gut management, you need to keep these colonies well populated.

Yogurt is good enough for a culture source, however it typically only has bifidis, lactobacillus, and a couple other bacteria strains. We don't want a monocrop of bacteria inside you, we want diversity!

We strongly suggest eating a wide variety of fermented foods, with the caveat that the fermentation should not make whatever you are eating or drinking an alcoholic beverage. Fermented brews like kombucha or ginger beer can give you the probiotics you need with less than 1% alcohol. If it takes a three beer queer 3 drinks to get drunk, and an average beer being 4% alcohol, you would need at least 12 of these fermented drinks to get drunk. Clearly, you would be wasting your time.

Google how to ferment your own vegetables, the ingredients couldn't be simpler. You need a vegetable, some water, salt, a jar, a breathable cover to that jar, and some starter liquid (which can be made but once you get going you keep reusing it). The yeast does the work for you!

Grass Fed Cow Liver (Nose To Tail Philosophy)

The question of eating meat depends on the person. There has been plenty of evidence that people can reduce the amount of meat they eat, whether it be ovo-veg, lacto-veg, pesca-veg, or what have you, and live a long and healthy life. The same can be true for meat eaters. They just have to be very selective with the meat they eat. The question is more of an ethical one than a health one, in this author's opinion.

For those who make the decision to eat meat, however, there comes some refining aspects not always considered. First, no ethical person can stand up for the terrible treatment animals receive at large factory farms. You should be purchasing your meat from people who treat their animals with respect and understand that a diseased, unhealthy animal does not produce healthy meat. Second, there IS the possibility that eating only animal flesh does not promote a healthy humans if one buys the whole food argument. Animals and indigenous humans ate pretty much every part of the animal that was edible. Taking a look at (grass fed, humanely raised) beef liver should clue you into why this decision was a great one 22). (Indeed, consumers of animal flesh should consider eating a little bit of all the organs, as this is what nature indtended when you kill an animal to eat it. Liver tops the list in terms of nutrient value, however.)

  • Protein- 43% DV
  • Vitamin A- 423% DV
  • Thiamin-10% DV
  • Riboflavin- 163% DV
  • Niacin- 71% DV
  • Vitamin B6- 42% DV
  • Folate- 53% DV
  • Vitamin B12-1122% DV
  • Pantothenic Acid- 56% DV
  • Iron- 28% DV
  • Phosphorus-39% DV
  • Potassium-8% DV
  • Zinc-28% DV
  • Copper-591% DV
  • Manganese- 14% DV
  • Selenium- 38% DV

Source seen here 23)

  • Important* *

Beef liver is an incredible source of many nutrients. Of particular note is Vitamin B12 at a whooping 1122%! Fortunately, this vitamin is water soluble, which means your body absorbs what it needs and dispenses the rest as excrement. For those who are on a meat restriction or “flexitarian” diet, liver would be an ideal meat to add because of how much vitamin B12 is present. This vitamin is not found in your normal grocery store fruits and vegetables in any amount, and while there are a couple exotic options (like yeast) as a source of B12, the body absorbs B12 the best from animal products. Liver could be eaten once a week at most and it would provide adequate B12. Even if you are a meat eater, people are turning up with B12 deficiencies. One study showed that 40% of middle aged people tested with low B12 levels 24). All people should consider adding liver to their diet, but this food is an exception to our rule thus far in that you cannot eat liver willy nilly.

Why can't you eat liver every night? B12 might be water soluble, but Vitamin A is fat soluble, and just one serving of liver contains over 400% of your daly recommended vitamin A. Fat soluble means the body can only absorb it with fat in the meal, but once the food is absorded it can be stored by the body. There is a toxicity level of all fat soluble vitamins and should you eat beef liver 3 times a week or more, you will probably find this out yourself. In addition to vitamin A, liver has unusually high amount of copper. However, if liver is eaten in moderation, this should not cause any problems. You may be asking why you would want to risk even eating liver if these nutrients push the boundaries from healthy to toxic. The truth of the matter is our body's upper limits to these nutrients are malleable and not set in stone. Dr. Weston Price was a dentist who traveled the world analyzing indigenous people's teeth and jaw structure, and his research suggests they were consuming fat soluble vitamins 1000% times more than we are today 25). Some of these groups had such solid bones and bone structure that they had little to no incidences of cavity formations, even if they didn't brush their teeth!

In conclusion, there is evidence that eating liver (although probably not more than 2x a week) can be a super boost to your health. If you think about it logically, the liver only takes up so much of a cow's weight. If you were to eat a cow, a liver would make up a portion of your eating but it should not make up the majority of your consumption, not even close. While we don't have to eat the exact porportion by weight of a cow organ to the cow's flesh, we shouldn't ignore the ratio completely and eat liver more than we eat muscle meat. This food is so dense with certain nutrients YOU SHOULD EAT IT IN MODERATION.

Explore The Nose To Nail Diet As Well

Liver stands out as the best organ meat to consume, but by all means explore kidneys, hearts, brain, and even bone broths. If you accept the position of an omnivore, you must accept the nose to tail theory, which is to say you should eat the whole animal. Quite obviously, nature intended meat eaters to consume the entire edible carcass. Our selective choosing of muscle meat does not fit with nature. We can see this in the nutritional guru's today who support omnivores; they all advocate eating some organ meats as well. Not only are organs storages of great nutrients, eating them fits within the grander “whole foods” paradigm that you should be following in the first place. It just makes sense.

Pyramids No More

Now you have berries, sweet potatoes, moringa, avocado, healthy sat fat, organ, and sauerkraut foods. With the exception of organ meats, all of these can be eaten pretty indiscriminately. Common sense will tell you if its excessive or not, because of course these can be eaten to the point of detriment. They are so jam packed with goodness that you can eat them liberally without TOO much concern.

Perhaps a little mnemonic device to make this even easier? BACBOSSM. Reads like Back-bosom, because this plan centers firmly around healthy fats. Where do we store a lot of our fat? In our backside and our bosom! Fats first… Butter, Avocado, Coconut, Berries, Organs, Sauerkrauts, sweet potato, moringa.

Easy Peasy.

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