While some people are adamant that nutritional science has been well and truly settled, the reality is that the landscape is still heavily conflicted, and scouring around the internet usually rewards your curiosity with more burning questions.
As an aside, I’d like to think that my take on nutrition is quite simplistic, even if controversial.
So fringe vigilante bloggers aside, it helps to be able to look back to the leading authorities to help calm you down, relax your fears about a potential gluten allergy, and set you straight about the fundamentals of good nutrition.
This could be your dietician, your doctor, nutritionist, or whoever is licensed to dispense dietary wisdom these days.
However, I’d caution against taking anyone’s word as gospel, especially when nutrition is concerned. Because the issue is that much of what passes as ‘settled science’ is inextricably interwoven with cultivated dogma, shady financial interests, appeal to authority, and a blatant misunderstanding of what humans are evolved to eat.
So here are some classic pieces of dietary wisdom that you should treat with suspicion. The issue isn’t that they’re misleading. They can be deeply deleterious for your metabolism and wellbeing in the long run.
It pays to be cautious when your body’s playing guinea pig.
1. Moderate Red Meat
The latest attempt to provide a strict set of guidelines for optimal nutrition, the 2019 Eat-Lancet Study earmarked red meat as a massive liability and recommended an intake of no more than half an ounce (14g) a day. In case you don’t know how much that is, it’s not a lot.
Even if your dietician isn’t going to be quite as draconian as that, there’s a good chance that he or she will be telling you to cut down on your red meat intake. Because red meat has been connected with all manner of disease at this point, especially atherosclerosis, through its ability to raise LDL cholesterol.
Fortunately, these ‘connections’ amount to spurious correlations drawn in epidemiological data, and we’ve yet to land on a study that draws a clear line of causation from red meat to whatever disease it’s being blamed for.
And believe me, we’ve tried.
So let’s say the risk of red meat is greatly exaggerated (I would say non-existent, but let’s humour the doom and gloomers). Is there much reward for your risk?
- All the nutrients you need to thrive
- In their bioavailable form
- Without any accompanying antinutrients or inflammatory compounds
I’m happy to stick my neck out and say you shouldn’t just dispense with any thoughts of moderation, you should try and eat as much red meat as possible.
2. Reduce Saturated Fat
The big perceived issue with red meat is its high saturated fat content, which as I’ve already mentioned, has been marked as a risk factor in heart disease.
But LDL itself isn’t to blame. We know that oxidised LDL can lead to plaque formation, since white blood cells will interpret the LDL as threats and swallow them, resulting in clumps forming along the arterial wall. However, while red meat can increase LDL in some scenarios, it doesn’t cause them to become oxidised.
As for what causes the oxidation? Look no further than rancid seed oils. These factory fats are nutritionally bereft, toxic, inflammatory, and create deleterious levels of oxidative stress. That’s unfortunately the risk you run when you formulate foods with no ancestral precedent, that only exists due to mechanisation and hubris.
Saturated fat, on the other hand, is much more structurally stable, giving it better resistance to heat, longer storage, and comes hand in hand with vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s the best fat on the market, and once again shouldn’t be moderated.
3. Reduce Salt
For those who turn an unhealthy shade of red when manoeuvring up two flights of stairs, salt is an obvious candidate for getting the axe. It’s been implicated in high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and kidney disease.
So that’s why the NHS have set a maximum intake of 2.4 grams of sodium, which is 6 grams of salt, and well under what the average member of the British public gets through in a day.
But there’s once again a lack of evidence to back up the finger of blame that has been weighted against salt. It’s a major component of extracellular fluid, essential for hydration, cellular metabolism, neuron signalling, and the synthesis of hydrochloric acid. To cap it off, salt is also a potent ergogenic aid. It’s the best pre workout money can buy, alongside caffeine.
Whereas there is research to suggest that a low salt intake carries a greater risk of morbidity than having too much, which makes sense when you consider that the body has an easy way to get rid of excess salt: the kidneys. Whereas when you have too little, the body has to try and break it out of the bones, stealing other key minerals in the process and potentially leading to more deficiencies.
The main reason salt gets associated with metabolic dysfunction, is because it’s part-and-parcel with processed foods, which also come loaded with plant toxins, sugar, seed oils, artificial sweeteners, and all manners of unwanted chemicals.
Given that we have clear mechanisms of action by which these other compounds create metabolic dysfunction, it wouldn’t be fair to blame salt for the mess.
When you’re adding salt to steak, and dunking it in your workout cocktail, then you’re improving your ability to stay hydrated, and thereby your ability to function optimally.
If you’re still worried, just make sure you have plenty of water across the day.
4. Increase Fruits And Vegetables
As far as most dieticians are concerned, these foods have been plucked from the Garden of Eden, and only exist to bolster the health of the human race.
When reality is concerned, these foods contain little in the way of bioavailable nutrition despite humanity’s best efforts to mould them into multivitamins through several millennia of genetic engineering.
As colourful as they are, fruits and vegetables are far from essential for optimal health, and can often be detrimental. Vegetables in particular aren’t desperate to be eaten, and contain plenty of plant toxins to incapacitate and dissuade predators. Plant toxins that might not necessarily kill you, but can certainly wreck your gut, flare up existing autoimmune symptoms, and prevent the body from healing.
If that’s not enough, they’re also contaminated with pesticides like glyphosate that cause deficiencies as well as damage the mitochondria.
Fruits don’t mind being eaten so much, but the ones found in modern supermarkets have far more fructose than you’d ever hope to find in the wild. Fructose is inflammatory in large doses due to its ability to overload the liver and spike uric acid production, which hastens fat storage and increases oxidative stress.
This isn’t necessarily an issue for people who are metabolically healthy, but unfortunately, most people are either pre diabetic or diabetic, and therefore categorically carb intolerant and not metabolically healthy. So eating fruits with abandon can be a risk.
Fibre itself is problematic for reasons I will soon get into. Meanwhile, there aren’t any important nutrients that you can’t source from animal products instead. Even Vitamin C. And when you opt for animal foods, you’re getting a far greater spectrum of bioavailable nutrition, now without the cost of all that inflammatory baggage.
If you have metabolic issues, like an autoimmune condition, then there’s a good chance that you’ll see the best results by moderating, minimising, or eliminating these precious foods altogether.
5. Ketosis Is Dangerous In The Long Term
Ketosis is the powerful fuel state that you reach when your carbs are low enough to deplete liver glycogen. There is no definitive carb threshold, but a good estimate would be between 30 and 50 grams. As for why you might want to make the necessary sacrifices to get into ketosis, there are plenty. Ketones don’t just produce energy, they are signalling molecules that exert effects across your psychophysiology.
Benefits Of Ketosis
- Lowered appetite
- No energy dips
- No brain fog
- Lowered anxiety and depression
- Mitochondrial healing
It’s a magical package, and you might be wondering what the cost is. This is where we have the long-term ramifications of using your ‘survival’ fuel mode. Ketosis is seen as a stressful state for the body, and as such, the conventional advice is to use it as a means to get from A to B, upon which you can revert to a diet that’s more sustainable.
Here’s the issue with that thinking: If ketosis was actually dangerous when taken the distance and stretched out over years, then we wouldn’t be here. The human species would have met a dismal end and surrendered to the elements during a particularly harsh winter over the last ice age. The Inuits wouldn’t be a thing.
Beyond the tropics, plants would have been seasonal at best, and often non-existent across cold climates. Ketosis wasn’t an option. It was a necessity. We survived and thrived as a species because we could get into ketosis more readily than any other creature.
The ‘problematic symptoms’ of ketosis aren’t issues when you actually look at the context.
Thyroid (T3) goes down, but thyroid sensitivity goes up, meaning you don’t need as much T3, and your metabolic rate does not go down in ketosis.
Cortisol goes up, but it still follows its usual diurnal rhythm. So you just get better at utilising bodyfat in the mornings, and still sleep perfectly fine come bedtime.
As for the notable absence of carbs and the calamity that brings, we’re just about to tread on that violent topic.
6. Your Brain Needs Dietary Carbs
There’s a common myth still dancing around the low carb space, alleging that while the body can cope with a drop in carbs, it still needs some carbs in order to run efficiently. While ketones can step up and make up for some of the difference, it only supports up to 70% of the brain’s energy needs. That’s why many gurus still recommend keeping a small amount of carbs free of the mass culling.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to throw in a sweet potato to stop your computer from shutting down. The body can comfortably produce the necessary glucose from gluconeogenesis (protein to glucose), triglycerides (the glycerol component) and lactate recycling.
Once again, a deficiency of glucose would have been extremely inconvenient for our palaeolithic ancestors trying to track down a mammoth over an icy wilderness. They would have had to be at the top of the game, because that would have been the difference between a huge score and their tribe starving to death.
And while we don’t often traipse along such a precipice in modernity, we still perform best in ketosis. It’s the ultimate brain fuel due to its antioxidative effects, uninterrupted supply, and balancing of the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters.
7. Eat More ‘Good Plant Fats’
Since plants are aligned with humans in the battle against death and disease, it follows that plant fats should be our preferred option, especially since they don’t spike cholesterol like their insidious animal-sourced counterparts.
The general wisdom in the nutrition sphere is to portray saturated fats (meat, dairy, eggs) as bad while promoting unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil, seed oils) as good. This warped take has been stamped in the public consciousness by decades of government guidelines, epidemiological studies, and relentless fear mongering.
Framing plant fats as ‘good’, and animal fats as ‘bad’ likely represents the most destructive change we’ve made to the human cuisine since our hunter-gatherer forbearers decided to exchange their spears for ploughs.
Plant fats have fewer nutrients, often none at all, come saddled with antinutrients, are contaminated with glyphosate, and are the harbingers of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Polyunsaturated fats in particular are highly unstable due to their double bonds, making their structure brittle and prone to oxidation.
They are also stacked with Omega 6, an ‘essential’ fatty acid that has a very low requirement and is inherently inflammatory and obesogenic.
Meanwhile, the maligned saturated fats come blessed with highly nutritious meat that’s dense in complete protein and a dizzying array of micronutrients. The structure of the fat itself is highly stable, making it resistant to oxidation from light and heat exposure, well suited to storage and cooking, and the preferred form of body fat.
Unfortunately, it can raise LDL and total cholesterol, and despite most dieticians having hopefully dispensed with the latter by now, they’ll still get a panic attack when they see an LDL score of 130.
But while high LDL has been associated with cardiovascular disease in some studies, the correlation also has been lacking in others, alongside with a puzzling finding that high LDL links with a longer lifespan.
This all starts to make a lot more sense when you realise that LDL itself doesn’t cause atherosclerosis, and it’s oxidation to the LDL that advances plaque build up through macrophages attacking the damaged LDL particles and forming plaques on the arterial wall.
And I’ve already covered what dietary ingredients create the oxidation. Which is why swapping butter for margarine represents one of the worst possible moves you could make for your health.
- Resistant to heat
- High degree of satiety
- Preferred form of fat for the body
- Very low in inflammatory and obesogenic Omega 6
- Accompanied by critical vitamins A, D, E & K
- Unstable and prone to oxidation
- Oxidises further and forms toxic by-products when heated
- No satiety
- Causes your cell membranes to become permeable
- High in Omega 6
- Devoid of nutrition
8. Focus On Whole-Grain Foods And Fibre
Alongside the never-ending avalanche of good press for fruits and veggies, is the pantheon of ‘healthy grains’. Which should be an oxymoron, since grains are plant babies, and plants love to protect their babies from predators by stacking them full of defensive toxins.
I have repeatedly said that white rice is the far healthier alternative to brown rice, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Whole-grains are promoted in every supermarket as the pinnacle of healthy carbs, being loaded with gut-nourishing fibre and all kinds of micronutrients that would otherwise be lost in the processing.
Fibre also happens to be mostly indigestible, and is not an essential nutrient, no matter what advertising says. The body is perfectly capable of sustaining the microbiome, lowering blood sugar, promoting satiety, and ensuring the efficient passage of food through the digestive tract, all without the use of fibre. In each case, you’d be better off without throwing nature’s sawdust into the mix.
Gut Fuel – Fibre acts as a feritiliser for both beneficial and inflammatory gut bacteria, thereby worsening existing gut dysfunction. The body meanwhile can fuel the microbiome with alternatives that aren’t quite as indiscriminate, like with butyrate (butter), collagen, and ketones (beta hydroxybutyrate).
Lowering Blood Sugar – The major selling point of brown rice is its lower glycemic index compared to white rice, 55 vs 64. Not only is this pretty negligible, the impact on blood sugar would be much easier to attenuate if you simply reduced or cut out your rice portions.
Promoting Satiety – The effect that fibre has on fullness is very much transient. Slowing down the passage of food and testing the mechanoreceptors in the stomach with the extra bulk will only have a short-term effect on stimulating satiety. The body needs nutrients, and it’s smart enough to know the difference between food and indigestible sawdust. You can’t fool millions of years of evolution that easily. The hunger will return soon after you stuff that salad down.
Reducing Constipation – This is one that everyone has a hard time wrapping their heads around. You fix constipation by eliminating fibre, not by increasing it. A low residue diet like carnivore will be largely digested in the small intestine, leaving very little that could potentially clog up the large intestine, and then the colon.
If that’s not enough, you also have to deal with the many plant toxins that come saddled with whole grains.
- Phytic Acid – Blocks the absorption of key minerals
- Lectins – Inflames the gut lining and promotes dysfunction
- Arsenic – Carcinogen
- Saponins – Causes digestive discomfort
- Glyphosate – Carcinogen and causes mitochondrial damage
- Mycotoxins – Causes immune system dysfunction
White rice exists because our predecessors realised that brown rice was terrible for digestion, and resulted in poor health. The veneration of whole grain foods are another slick marketing gimmick that you’d do well to steer clear of.
9. A Well-Designed Vegan Diet Is Perfectly Healthy
Any dietician who willingly prescribes a vegan diet should be charged with malpractice. There’s just too many holes to pick through in this misguided way of life. But the main point of contention should be the fact that a vegan diet will inevitably lack critical nutrients that can only be sourced from animal products.
- Vitamin B12
- DHA (Bioavailable Omega 3)
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin K2
- Heme-Iron (Ditto)
People with the money and the knowledge could try to supplement those glaring deficiencies away, but supplements only get you so far, since many of these nutrients will require the accompaniment of other nutrients in order to be efficiently absorbed. Like iron requiring the presence of copper.
This is where food will simply outperform supplements. The latter comes as isolated compounds, the former exists in a synergistic matrix as nature intended.
A vegan diet is simply suboptimal, and while it can be better than a diet laden with alcohol and junk food, that’s competing with the lowest of bars. If you’re looking for anything close to optimal health, then animal foods are an absolute necessity. Anything else would be unnecessarily complicating your life by pulling the difficulty slider all the way to the right.
I have two major issues with dieticians and the like. For one, many of them have been singing from the same curriculum for the last half century, and it’s high time we moved past it. Especially since the whole foundation of the high carb low fat movement was built on cherry picked epidemiological data. They used the worst form of scientific evidence, and still had to fudge the numbers.
Second, they have a nasty habit of making nutrition far more complicated than it needs to be. Rather than taking hair follicle tests to identify food intolerances, eating Brazilian nuts to get your selenium in, and some fermented cabbage to help grow a particular strain of ‘beneficial’ gut bacteria, we could just instead eat ancestrally appropriate foods, eliminate the toxic modern foods, lift heavy weights, and let the body take care of the rest.
By ancestrally appropriate foods, I mean delicious fat-soaked steak.
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