MYTH: Organic foods are no better for you than "conventional" foods.
TRUTH: Organically grown foods are grown without the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals that are used liberally on non-organically produced foods. Pesticides have been linked to several disease states including Parkinsons Disease and Diabetes (see the NIH report on the link between pesticides and diabetes. Organically grown foods are also higher in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Look for certified organic or USDA Organic to be sure that what you are buying is truly organic.
CLICK HERE for the updated "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15". You can download a full PDF version, or the iPhone application.
CLICK HERE to see a clear and simple list of "7 foods to avoid" or go to Current Events for 12/29/09.
MYTH: Carbohydrates are bad for you!
TRUTH: Glucose, the simplest of carbohydrates, is absolutely essential to the functioning of the brain, nervous system and red blood cells. You need at least 100 - 130 grams of carbohydrate/glucose for the brain to function daily. If you do not eat enough carbohydrates to meet this need, your body will convert protein into carbohydrate by either breaking down your own muscle or by converting dietary protein into carbohydrate which can generate excess ammonia. Protein will not be spared by eating or breaking down fat for energy because you cannot convert fat into glucose.
Carbohydrate is also an important source of quick energy (glucose) and stored energy (glycogen), and is needed to burn fat efficiently.
Of course use common sense in choosing your carbohydrates... choose whole grains, legumes, starchy vegetables and fruits. AVOID soda, most candy and processed, commercial baked goods (cakes, cookies, doughnuts, etc.) as these often have added sugar, unhealthy fats and additives in them, even if they call themselves "smart" or "healthy." I recommend baking your own at home, or in a pinch, I recommend Newman's organics... choose the fig or fruit filled snacks to get the added benefits of phytonutrients, or choose a dark chocolate bar with almonds, nuts or dried fruit... chocolate (a plant based food!) has a healthy side to it!
MYTH: Fat is bad for you!
TRUTH: Fat is an ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT... your brain is up to 60% fat.... your nerve cells and every cell in your body are surrounded by fat. Fat provides the precursors for your body to make many important compounds including hormones, emulsifiers and eicosanoids.
EICOSANOIDS are very important hormone-like compounds that regulate blood clotting, blood pressure , blood lipids, inflammation, and immune response. They are made from essential fatty acids... alpha linolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid) or linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid). Your intake of these fatty acids can determine how your blood pressure, blood lipids, immune response, etc. are regulated.
Quite often, our diets are too low in alpha linolenic acid (omega 3) and its derivatives (EPA & DHA that we get from fish, organic eggs and wild game). The best sources of alpha linolenic acid itself include FLAX SEED, HEMP SEED, and PUMPKIN SEED. The best sources of EPA/DHA in general are COLD WATER FISH from the WILD... good sources include salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and halibut.
As far as fats and disease, the fats associated with disease are SATURATED FATS OF ANIMAL ORIGIN, not plant based fats such as nuts, seeds, oils, avocado and olives. These plant based fats provide us with phytonutrients, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fatty acids.
Animal based fats accumulate PESTICIDES and TOXINS over time so it is difficult to determine if it is the fat itself or the toxins in the fat that actually contribute to disease. Another confounding variable is that meat itself generates carcinogens when cooked, especially over an open flame(heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or "PAH's" the same as that found in the soot of chimneys).
Also meat generates HOMOCYSTEINE, an amino acid that is damaging to blood vessels if not broken down (with the help of folic acid and vitamins B12 and B6). HOMOCYSTEINE itself is a better predictor of heart disease risk than total cholesterol is.
Another very unhealthy fat is called "Trans" fat which is generated by DEEP FRYING and PARTIALLY HYDROGENATING oils. It is found in most margarines, commercial baked goods and deep fried foods. It disrupts your own body's production of EPA/DHA, cell membranes and fetal brain development (pregnant women should ABSOLUTELY avoid trans fats!). Disruption of cell membranes can lead to increased DNA damage (which can lead to cancer), impaired hormone signalling (hormones can't engage receptors well when trans fats are present) and decreased fluidity of the cell membrane which can impair the transport of essential nutrients and cofactors. So there!
MYTH: Cholesterol is bad for you.
TRUTH: You would die without cholesterol! We don't need to eat cholesterol because our liver makes cholesterol at the rate of 50,000,000,000,000 or more molecules of cholesterol per second! I don't think that the liver is foolish, it knows what it is doing... cholesterol is used in the body to synthesize vitamin D, progesterone/estrogen and testosterone, DHEA, cortisol and bile acids.
Cholesterol is the most abundant lipid in the brain. Your body has an internal feedback loop that will reduce the production of cholesterol as needed. Unfortunately, drugs have been developed to inhibit cholesterol production in the body by manipulating this feedback loop and damaging the enzyme system in the liver. Because the same enzyme is needed to produce coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), these drugs inhibit CoQ10 production. CoQ10 is very important in energy generation in the cell and also in protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidation. It is OXIDIZED LDL that is the culprit in developing atherosclerosis. Therein lies the irony... the drugs that they think will lower heart disease risk are actually inhibiting one of the most important cofactors that protects against heart disease.
Stay tuned for more!