What’s the Best Way to Eat?

An article entitled Can We Say What Diet is Best for Health? by David Katz and Stephanie Meller, from Yale’s School of Public Health, was published in the Annual Review of Public Health a few years ago. A story about the article was published in the Atlantic by James Hamblin, who called it Science Compared Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food. I would have edited out the word “Real” and simply called it “Food.” Then I might have presented a review of the differences between Food (With a Capital F) and manufactured calories.

Like a presentation I give from time to time, Katz and Meller compared a number of popular diets, including low-carb, low-fat, low-glycemic, Mediterranean, DASH, Paleolithic, and vegan, among others. They concluded that “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”  Michael Pollan said it in just seven words: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”

While the fight continues about the precise components of the healthiest diet, Katz, Meller, Pollan, and Sukol have reached the same conclusion: If you restrict your carbohydrate intake to intact carbs, and your fat intake to nourishing fats, and your protein to high-quality protein, your double chin will begin to shrink away almost immediately, you skin will begin to shine in just a few days, your pants will fit better in two weeks, and your energy level will improve dramatically. Your risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and many types of cancer, will fall by up to eighty percent. It doesn’t matter what you call the diet as long as you eat real food.

Here are a few definitions to help you:

1) An intact carb refers to any and all vegetables, beans, fruits and whole grains with an intact fiber matrix. If a carb has had its fiber matrix stripped away, it becomes a stripped carb. The most important examples of stripped carbs in the American diet are white flour, corn starch and corn syrup, white rice, and sugar. These carbs have had their fiber matrix and phytonutrients stripped away. It’s not a coincidence that white flour looks exactly like corn starch and powdered sugar. The original identity of the food has been stripped away, and all that’s left is a pile of white powder. Be “carb selective,” and don’t eat stripped carbs if you don’t have to. Don’t worry about the glycemic index; it becomes a non-issue when you avoid stripped carbs.

2) Nourishing fat sources include avocados, olives and olive oil, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and deep-sea fatty fish. There may be more, but for the meanwhile these are the ones that most of us agree on. Stay away from ultra-processed fats that were invented in the 20th century, and don’t buy any so-called “food” with the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list. Vote with your wallet: if you stop buying it, there’s a good chance that they will stop making it.

3) No matter what other kinds of protein you eat, high-quality protein includes beans (peanuts are a bean, too). Chickpeas, lentils, tofu, pulses, legumes. Many cultures consider beans to be magic, probably because they happen to have the rare quality of being rich in both protein and fiber at the same time. If you desire, you can also obtain high-quality protein from fish, poultry, eggs, dairy, and certain meats, as long as they themselves were raised on a nourishing diet, such as grass (cows and steer), phytoplankton (fish), or bugs and worms (poultry), where those food sources have been a significant part of their diet for thousands of years. On the other hand, when you eat highly processed or industrially-based protein of lesser quality, you are just concentrating low-quality food up the food chain. Straight into you.

David Katz says that “…We’re paying for ignorance with human lives…” and “…With [the] knowledge already at our disposal, we could eliminate eighty percent of chronic disease…”

If you remember just one thing from this post, remember this: “If you focus on real food, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.”


Newsflash: The American Diet Causes Obesity

Have you ever heard anyone say that all you have to do to make your diet more nutritious is to stop eating white flour and sugar? Does that seem radical to you? What’s wrong with white flour and sugar? What would such a change accomplish? I’m not going to say you can never eat white flour and sugar. My motto is moderation. Most people can tolerate a treat now and then. But let’s look at what’s really happening. Why are two-thirds of Americans currently overweight or obese? Because the standard American diet is so nutrient-poor that most people are literally hungry all the time. So they eat. It’s not about willpower; it’s about nutrition. Continue reading


When it’s Not Really Fruit or Vegetables

If I had just ten seconds to share nutrition advice, I know exactly what I would say: Eat more fruits and vegetables. And I don’t think that would surprise anyone. We all know that fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, rich in not only fiber but also phytonutrients, and everyone knows it’s a good idea to eat more of them. Especially since most of us don’t eat enough produce to begin with.

Now, the brand managers in the food industry know that we know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. This is why there are so many processed food items containing fruit-related words, or some version of the actual word “fruit.” Vegetables, too, to a lesser extent. Like vegetable oil. And which “vegetable” would that be, please? Continue reading


Most Manufactured Salad Dressing Isn’t Food

I recently decided that it was time to look at the ingredient lists of salad dressings, whatever that means, so I picked four popular brands to examine. You will be very interested to learn what I discovered. The first ingredient in the first product I picked up, Wishbone Italian dressing, was water. Frankly, that seems like a very expensive way to buy water. And surprising, too, given that Italian dressing consists primarily (and traditionally) of olive oil and vinegar. Not Wishbone Italian dressing, though. Continue reading



Trying to Eat in a Hospital

My mom doesn’t take diabetes medicine; she keeps her blood sugars normal through a combination of common sense and careful carbohydrate consumption. A few years ago, she had to be hospitalized at her local hospital for what she called a “minor procedure.” The procedure went fine, but the food did not. Continue reading


Nourish Your Heart and Soul with Real Food

Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about “real” food. What is “real” food? It’s food that has not been processed, refined, stripped, polished, fortified, enriched or otherwise modified. It’s basically fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, eggs, dairy products, and meats, like poultry, beef, and game, and including all the wonderful variations of these things that our brains are capable of inventing. If it’s not food, then it’s manufactured calories. This post is designed to help you figure out how to tell the difference.  Continue reading




Ratchet Up Your Breakfast to a New Level

This week I’m going to spend a few minutes talking about the typical American breakfast, namely toast bagels muffins waffles pancakes “cereal” biscuits bread. Basically just white flour and sugar. Stripped carb. I put “cereal” in quotes because the word cereal really means grain (like oatmeal, millet, kasha, bulgur wheat), and not boxes of sweetened, dyed, highly processed products of limited nutritional value.

Something I’ve noticed just in the past few months is that EVEN friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have made the switch to real food, and who have rid their kitchens of items from that list of typical American breakfast foods above (at least most of the time) can still be strongly influenced by the list. Continue reading