Friday, September 30, 2011

Still getting it wrong -- a rant

Authorities, under the direction of Michele Obama, are once again attempting to tackle the "Obesity Epidemic" in America with the new ChooseMyPlate campaign. The hook of this latest campaign is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, which has some nutritional merit; but take a look at their graphic (just another glorified replacement for the FoodPyramid in a different shape... because triangles are so much more complex to understand than circles, apparently).

OK - notice anything at odds with their intention to reduce obesity?  No? How about that over 75% of the plate is carbohydrates... SUGAR? Now, the carbs in most vegetables (starchy root veg excluded) are negligible compared to the vitamin and mineral content. Arguably the portion size limits the carbs from natural fructose while still providing all the lovely antioxidants and enzymes that (fresh) fruit provides. But, AGAIN, we've got a grain portion way higher than necessary, and most grains (unless you're Vegan) don't provide enough unique nutrition to warrant their carb costs.

And it that the protein (meat) and milk portions just keep getting smaller. What do these people have against animal products anyway?! Humans are omnivorous, and continuing research indicates that our metabolisms have evolved to derive and process nutrients from animal sources more efficiently than from plant sources. So why is over 75% of our plate plants? A misguided belief that the fat contained in animal products are bad for you, maybe? Bullshit!! Natural animal fats are healthy, provide long-term energy, and our bodies actually need them. And fat has a lovely side effect of actually making us feel full faster and longer -- you can eat a ton of carbs before your satiety switch is triggered, and you're likely to just wake up from your carb coma (insulin shock) hungry again.  <-- Can you say "diabetes" and "overeating"?

Let's be honest, that's a pitiful amount of protein to support a growing child or an active adult -- even with the incomplete proteins in most grains, that we don't absorb and utilize as well any way. Our bodies need protein to build healthy tissue and muscles, including your heart and other organs. Our bodies will also use protein for energy, at the same caloric rate as carbs. More and more studies have indicated that previous concerns regarding kidney problems caused by high(er) protein diets were unfounded. A person can, and should, eat a gram of protein for every pound of optimal body weight unless they have a pre-existing kidney malfunction.

So, we've got an obesity epidemic and diabetes is on the rise. It has been slowly happening since the mid-50's when they switched from the Basic Seven Model (the wartime "survival rationing" nutritional guide):

to the Basic Four model, which eventually turned into the Food Pyramid we all learned in the 90's:

Which was updated in 2005:

Only to be abandoned just 5 years later for the MyPlate circle.

What's the common factor? WAY TOO MANY CARBS and an unbalanced diet.

If you look at the Basic 7 -- you've got essentially 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. And that pretty much appeared to work... obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease were all MUCH lower then than they are today. You think that's a coincidence??


Jason J said...

It doesn't really matter what you eat its just a ratio of calories in and calories burned. So instead of mucking about with shapeshifting, how about we all go for a run.

Plickety Cat said...

True, there is the balance of calories consumed versus calories burned. However, your metabolism isn't really that simple a cut-and-dry system. What type of fuel you give it is just as important as how much fuel you give it. Eating a high carb diet, even in reasonable caloric amounts, is sort of like putting gasoline in a diesel engine... sure it sort of works, but it's ultimately not the best for the engine ;)

Carbs are fast energy, and if you're doing a LOT of hard manual labor, you need a decent amount of carbs because that activity is burning it really fast. If you don't burn it fast enough, even if you aren't overeating, your body will store it as fat for later use whenever the fast carbs run out. Unfortunately, if there is no "later" because you are constantly giving your body free and easy fast calories, then all that surplus ends up on your love handles. Unless you put yourself in a carb deficit where it's easier for your body to use your own fat stores to sustain your activity levels rather than digesting the protein and fats you're eating, it's there FOREVER.

(note I said *carb* deficit, not calorie deficit -- a calorie deficit is not always required)

Protein burns midway between carbs and fat, and usually provides enough calories for sustained moderate activity. Eating enough protein (normally includes some amount of fat for animals, and carbs for plants) keeps a good balance between energy needs and tissue building. Your body will almost never attempt to store excess protein as fat, it's easier for the body to excrete it.

Fat is calorie dense slow energy. It's good for long-term moderate activity, or even semi-sedentary activity levels. Your body doesn't like to store excess fat as fat since it needs to first break the fats down and then recombine them for storage... it's not like that chunk of fat on your steak magically travels to your love handles. Like protein, it's much more efficient for your body to excrete surplus fats.

Anonymous said...

Preach it, sister. The low fat, high carb diet with mostly grain-fed meat is WAY too low in Omega 3's and we SEE the result: obesity and diabetes. Disaster.

Jennifer in western NC

Plickety Cat said...

Let's give a real example with some numbers:

Grains 6 servings (low-end recommendation) per day =
1 cup oatmeal (2 servings) for breakfast: 310 calories, 56 grams of carbs, 11 grams of (incomplete) protein;
a sandwich (2 slices/servings) for lunch: 140 calories, 24 grams of carbs, 8 grams of (incomplete) protein ;
and a cup of cooked durum pasta for dinner (2 servings): 220 calories, 43 grams of carbs and 8 grams of (incomplete) protein.
Total: 670 calories (a little over a third of your recommended caloric intake!), 123 grams of carbs, 27 grams of (incomplete) protein

Grains 11 servings (high-end recommendation) per day =
3 buttermilk pancakes, 4" diameter (3 servings): 260 calories, 33 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein (7 grams are incomplete);
another 2-slice sandwich (2 servings): 140 calories, 24 grams of carbs, 8 grams of (incomplete) protein --
with a cup of hard pretzels (2 servings): 460 calories, 96 grams of carbs, 10 grams of (incomplete) protein;
1 cup cooked brown rice (2 servings): 216 calories, 45 grams of carbs, 5 grams of (incomplete) protein --
with 1 2-1/2" whole wheat dinner roll (2 servings): 96 calories, 18 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of (incomplete) protein
Total: 1172 calories (over half the recommended caloric intake), 216 grams of carbs, and 35 grams of (incomplete) protein.

Conversely, you have 2-3 dairy and 2-3 proteins (which includes the beans and nuts required to make all those grains complete proteins).

All you'd need to do to meet the 2+2 serving suggestion is add 1 cup of milk (1 serving) to your cereal; 1 slice of cheese (1 serving) and 3 slices of deli meat to your sandwich (1 serving); and 3 oz of cooked fish (1 serving, roughly the size of a deck of cards).

3+3 lets you add 1 egg to your cereal breakfast, or have 6 oz of fish at dinner or 1/2 cup of cooked beans with that rice to make a complete protein; and either a glass of milk at dinner, or a cup of yogurt or another slice of cheese in your sandwich at lunch.

Now, an ounce of meat = 7 grams of protein, and a serving is 3 ounces, or 21 grams. A serving of dairy normally = 9 grams of protein. So 2+2 = 63 grams of protein; and 3+3= 90 grams of protein. If you should have 1 gram for every lb of ideal body weight, 2+2 is only enough protein to support 60lbs (100 at the top end if you count the incompletes from the grains), about an average 6-10 year old child or a very petite teenager or woman, and 3+3 is only enough protein to support 90 lbs (130 at top end if you count the incompletes from the grains), about an average 10-16 year old or an average adult woman.

Jim Lister said...

What is your problem with so-called incomplete proteins? Just add a little yeast flakes to your Tofu. Or take a B vitamin tablet. Or combine legumes and grains (beans and rice) Or drink an unfiltered Home-brewed beer and don't avoid the healthful yeast sediment. You guys seem a little OCD - but very intelligent. I agree the government diet recommendations are a joke - but most Americans over-eat high fat and high calorie processed foods - we can survive on very little animal protein - or none at all if we are willing to take control of out diet. I understand this may not be practical in wilderness Alaska - but can be acceptable in urban areas. There are many ways to skin a cat...

Plickety Cat said...

It's true that I am a little OCD about complete proteins and species appropriate diets. Probably because I spent way too much time and money being hospitalized after attempting a supervised (MD & nutritionist) vegan and vegetarian diet. Vegan sent me into muscular catabolism, as well as developing pernicious anemia (from Vitamin B-12 deficiency)... despite pairing grains & legumes to get a "complete profile" and taking supplements. Vegetarian, more accurately ovo-lacto-pescetarian, was less severe and didn't require months of therapy to correct the health issues.

Now, for some people, their metabolisms are completely able to survive and thrive on a much higher vegetarian based diet... but *my* body can't. I'm human, I'm an omnivore, I embrace it :D I'd venture that roughly 1/3 (up to maybe 1/2 in the winter) of my diet is animal based products, with the remaining 2/3 plant-derived equally between fruits, vegetables and grains (including all manner of legumes, nuts and seeds).

I do believe that there is some merit to the caveman diet... eating what you're hereditary ancestors would have had most accessible to them given their geographic location and conditions. Their metabolisms would have genetically adapted to that diet, and is passed down to us. Which I believe, may be the reason why some people of different ancestries can thrive on diets that are less suitable to others.

I do agree that overeating (consuming more calories than you need), and a high reliance on artificial/processed foods is a HUGE problem. I strongly prefer whole foods and minimally processed foods, and attempt to eat things that were grown/raised with the minimal amount of synthetic chemicals, hormones and medications and preserved with the minimum amount of synthetic chemicals or nutrient destroying processes. Nutrient depletion and destruction in the modern diet is, in my opinion, behind a lot of our overeating... we're getting the calories, too many of them, but we aren't getting enough of the micronutrients anymore to be complete healthy and nourished.

And yes, you're right, a vegetarian diet is not appropriate to any extreme cold climate, especially in a remote location where you must actually function for extended periods outdoors. The amount of calories metabolically necessary to simply maintain body temperature, much less do any form of physical labor at those temps, is too high to achieve and sustain with a vegan/vegetarian diet unless you are eating constantly and eating extremely high fat vegetable products (like nuts and oils). 3000+ calories, which is the minimum for a small/avg female up here, equates to an uncomfortable volume of food; 5000+ for most males would be nearly gut rupturing. Plant derived foods simply contain too few calories by volume to be viable ;)

Janene said...

You are indeed correct! It's refreshing to hear the same voice calling out in the woods (about food)!

I would like to see non-meat eaters try and make their own tofu, B vitamins (suppliments) ect.

That kind of eating isn't sustainable at all, not to mention unhealthy.

Off my soapbox now, carry on! :)

Janene said...

It's nice to hear the same voice calling out in the woods (about food!).

You are indeed correct....most tofu eaters (non-meat eaters) have to buy waaay to much of what they eat + suppliments, and is NOT sustainable.
Not to mention unhealthy!

Keep on keepin' on! You Rock!

Linda said...

I eat a basic 30% fat, 40% carbs, and 30% protein diet.. well I try too! When I do, not only do I lose weight, but I feel 100% better!

Jim Lister said...

I stand corrected...

It is way too common to make generalizations from our own lifestyle and health perspectives. I live on the grid and there is a Three Bears warehouse outlet just 3 miles from my house. With that understanding what works for one doesn't always work for everyone. I have genetically high cholesterol along with severe hypertension. Eliminating additional Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) from my diet is a health choice I have decided to try. I am not a hard core PETA style vegan. I do eat Alaska seafood and aspire towards a locavore perspective to my diet if it were simply more practical. I do supplement my food supply from my garden and am growing salad greens here in Wasilla this winter under grow lights. You can follow my Wasilla garden adventures at:

I think what you guys are doing is awesome. The fact that we don't agree on everything just makes life interesting.

AussieAlaskan said...

Loved your blog and the comments - what a breath of fresh air!

Anonymous said...

Hey Plickety Cat , So good to see that you two are doing well . After reading the Wheat Belly Book I am am wondering what are we going to do with the tons of Wheat we have in the basement storage . Got any good hints ? My Kids joked and said to save it for the zombies .
Anyway we are desperate to get healthy and the prices of fresh fruits and veggies are headed sky high like we knew they would . I hope you are able to get a good garden in this year . Tell Gungnir /hey .


Plickety Cat said...

FM - you could always sprout your wheat berries and eat them as greens in salads, soups, bread or stir-fry.

Or feed it to the chickens or goats and turn it into eggs and milk (and meat if you're inclined to butcher).

Or you may try fermenting your wheat flour breads, either with a true sourdough wild yeast or just a long bulk ferment with regular yeast letting it rise in a cool place overnight. The long fermentation seems to help me with my normal wheat intolerance. (or go totally wild and just make beer!! LOL)

But, whatever you do, don't make "wheat meat" or seitan -- which is nothing but a cake of pure wheat gluten used as a meat substitute -- if you already know you have digestive issues with wheat. I had some wheat meat faux meatloaf at a friend's house and nearly died afterwards, or at least I certainly felt like I wanted to!!