The Low-Fat Fad is Killing Us

milk71After I mentioned yesterday that I’m reading In Defense of Food, a reader named Kay suggested several blogs dedicated to the discussion of wholesome foods.  My obsessive personality flipped into overdrive as I read and read and read and read.  And this morning I’m still reading.  I’m gobbling up this information and trying to siphon through it without getting completely overwhelmed.

A few years ago I read and implemented Dr. Weil’s book, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health.  The posts chronicling that journey can be found here, and this post sums up what I learned and what I’ve been trying to implement since.  My commitment to these “rules” waxes and wanes but overall I try to avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup, and I limit the amount of processed foods that I buy.  And of course I’ve recently been limiting my simple carbs and sugars.

The information I’m reading about the value of whole foods isn’t necessarily new to me, although some of it is — specifically the part about fats.  I’ve never been a fan of the low-fat varieties of foods, mainly because I find them tasteless.  I buy real butter, regular sour cream, whole-milk cheese, and I put half and half in my coffee.  I do buy low-fat milk because it’s healthier, right?

Um.  No.  Probably not.  Read this post called Healthy Milk.

I am skeptical about the safety of raw milk, but I am willing to start spending the money to buy organic, but NOT ultra-pasteurized.  (See article.)  And my husband was happy to know that from now on I will be buying whole milk for our household.

For more information on why eating a variety of “good fats” from whole foods is better than eating foods that have been engineered to be “low fat”, read this article called The Fat That Can Make You Thin and this one from the Washington Post called Low-Fat Diet’s Benefits Rejected.  I’m sure there are many more, and In Defense of Food explains it a lot more thoroughly, but that’s a start.

There are a plethora of other changes I want to make, but I can’t do it all at once.  I like Kelly’s advice about choosing the things you eat the most, and changing those first.  So last night I went to the whole foods store with a list of a few things I plan to change right away:

  • Buy organic whole milk.
  • Buy eggs from local farms with pasture-fed chickens.  (I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where these are not hard to find.)
  • Eat more eggs.  I’m going to try to eat one a day.  (And it’s the egg YOLKS that have the nutrients.  The whole egg-white fad is another big fallacy of the low-fat diet trend.)
  • Reduce kids’ consumption of boxed cereals.  Make eggs or oatmeal instead.
  • Switch to organic peanut butter. (Regular peanut butter has trans fats.  I found a tasty organic peanut butter, but it may contain nuts, and my son is allergic, so I’ll have to try another.  Sigh…)
  • Switch to organic jelly.  (Jelly is full of high fructose corn syrup.  Organic is pricey, so next summer I would like to try to make my own and can it.)
  • Take cod liver oil pills.  (This is a topic for another post, but given some of my health issues, I think this one is worth a try.)
  • Continue avoiding refined carbs and sugars, processed foods, HFCS, and PHOs.  Continue eating fish weekly as well as lots of locally grown veggies.

That’s enough to start, dontcha think?

I’m going to look into buying local grass-fed meats, and I’m also going to look into finding local organic produce, although I love my farm market, and while it’s not organic, it is fresh and local and convenient, and perhaps that’s good enough.  I’m putting off breads for a while, but I hope to eventually start making my own.  For now I’m satisfied with Pepperidge Farm’s Soft Honey Whole Wheat that I always buy.

I’m eager to finish In Defense of Food, and I have 2 more books on hold at my library — Real Food: What To Eat and Why and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.  I’ll be sure to let you know how I like them!

Will you still love me if I turn into a health food freak?  Wait.  Don’t answer that.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve been seriously considering changing my eating habits. I’m having some health issues and I think that changing my eating habits may go a long way. I can’t wait to read these articles!

  2. says

    Baked Oatmeal is a great way for kids to eat and it stays good for a couple of days. I normally use avagar to sweeten and not sugar!

  3. sam says

    I LOVED AVM, a yea rin the life. It really was an eye opening book. I try to eat as locally as possible after reading it. I live in Amish country, so it is easier to buy local produce/meats, etc. Winters are tough, though!

  4. Kristie says

    I pop in on your blog from time to time, and wanted to encourage you that this is the BEST post you have ever written. There is so much mis-information out there about food, and we have been tricked into eating industrial/processed foods. Local farmers are barely making it, and it looks like it will only get worse thanks to over-regulation.

    I started learning about this a year ago and STILL read and read and read like you are doing now. Keep it up – it’s so worth it for you and your family.

    You should read Real Food by Nina Planck (minus her take on evolution) and go to http://www.westonaprice.org/splash_2.htm

    God created food to be nourishing and sustainable. We shouldn’t be afraid of it! (I just started drinking raw milk this week – a huge, huge step for me).

  5. says

    Oh my goodness…I love this topic!! Please share more as you read because it is way too overwhelming to start googling this topic. I’m going to the library to get the book you are talking about so hopefully I can follow along!

    Love your goals and I have started some of these same things. Its always nice to hear what other moms are trying to change to help influence healthier habits for their kids. Great job!

  6. says

    Reading this post totally overwhelmed me. I’m still at that stag where I know we need to make some changes, but I’m in denial at the same time. We considered raw milk last summer, because our son (4 in September) was having major respiratory issues and several people suggested that dairy might be the issue. After looking into local options, we ended up just really limiting his dairy intake. He has had far fewer issues since the.

    What really bothers me about the whole food issue is that the food that is best for us is often the most expensive, difficult to find. When you’re feeding a family of seven, every single dollar counts. I want to buy organic, grass-fed meat, and organic milk, and so on, but I also need to pay my bills, you know?

    I guess I need to take your approach, and start with a few things at a time.

  7. robin says

    I went through this exact same cycle of reading everything on the subject, and I can’t wait to hear your views on these books. I can say with no exaggeration that they changed my family’s eating habits for good.

    I would also suggest seeing the movie Food Inc, if you can.

  8. Jo-Lynne says

    Nicole, it IS entirely overwhelming, and the cost factor most certainly is the biggest obstacle (at least for me.)

    In the book I’m reading, he explains that b/c junk food is so cheap that Americans think we shouldn’t have to spend a lot on food. We tend to spend about 11% of our budget on food whereas Europeans tend to spend more like 17%. I’m totally paraphrasing here, I may have my stats off a bit.

    I realize that not everyone has the luxury of spending a bit more on food. But for me, I’ve decided that I may need to sacrifice a pedicure or two to feed my family better.

    Also, we waste a lot. And we drink a TON of milk. Yesterday I told the kids that we will not be throwing away half-full glasses of milk anymore, and we won’t be drinking it as often either. They can have water. I have a feeling we can spend the same amount and have plenty of milk to drink if we choose to ration it more wisely.

    Meat is pricey. Maybe we will need to eat less. Also, I often have uneaten leftovers. Perhaps I need to be more careful about making such large portions. I know your family is larger than mine, so that idea may not work for you.

    This is basically a big experiment for us, and I’m not sure how far I can go with it, but I’m going to take it a step at a time and see where it leads. :-)

  9. robin says

    In the 1950s the average household spent about 1/3 of its income on food vs. the 10-15% we spend now. BUT in the 1950s the average household spent 5% of its income on healthcare vs 16% now, a reflection on rising obesity rates, heart problems, cancer rates, that may be (and probably are) caused by cultural diet changes.

  10. says

    The answer is yes! I love reading blogs with the same food ideals (and other ideals) as mine. I was, thankfully, raised in a family that believed in eating whole foods and married into one, so I’m pretty well surrounded. I just concentrate on getting foods in the least processed form possible.

    I would encourage you to look into the benefits of raw milk (Weston A Price’s website is great). I am currently not doing it because I’m pregnant but we still start once this baby is born.

    My mom has been drinking raw goats milk for years and still does.

    Yeah for you!!!

  11. says

    This is all so good Jo-Lynne! Good for you for seeking out more information–and then passing it along to us. :)

    I have switched to organic (can’t go raw yet) but still buy 2% for Annelise and skim for us–but I just decided to STOP THAT. Next grocery trip will be organic whole for all of us.

    I think food should be as real as God intended it–it just seems hard to shop/live that way–but I realize I’ve been lazy. I’d like to try a few changes at a time and remember the all things in moderation rule too.

    Good luck to you!! And thanks!

  12. Becky says

    I’m not following this one:

    “Switch to organic peanut butter. (Regular peanut butter has trans fats. I found a tasty organic peanut butter, but it may contain nuts, and my son is allergic, so I’ll have to try another. Sigh…)”

    Um… what organic peanut butter doesn’t contain nuts?

    • says

      My daughter has a peanut allergy, and I’m guessing she means that it may contain trace elements of tree nuts…

      And did you know that peanuts are not actually nuts? They’re legumes.

  13. says

    This is a great post!

    For the past several months, I’ve been doing an “experiment” in our house with whole milk and/or raw milk. We all have varying degrees of dairy allergies (there are 7 of us in our family) and so we often only use milk for eating cereal.

    But . . . I read a site a while back called Real Milk (http://www.realmilk.com) and was intrigued by the fact that it said even people with dairy allergies are often able to drink raw milk with no trouble.

    Now, I also have an 11 year old son who is autistic and between that and our allergies (not just to dairy but many other things), we try to eat a very natural diet. And like most people, we believed that pasteurized and homogenized dairy was healthier than the alternative.

    So, like I said, I read the Raw Milk site and immediately went and purchased some raw milk from a local dairy here in Washington (state). Nobody in my family noticed a taste difference, well, not an adverse one anyone – they all agree it tastes BETTER than “regular” milk.

    And after these several months, I’m happy to say that our dairy allergies (along with asthma symptoms and the like) are becoming less and less.

    This is enough for me to totally get on the bandwagon of not just organic, but natural and raw foods as well.

    So, good luck to you! I hope it does as well for you as it has for us.

    ~Annie

  14. Jo-Lynne says

    Becky. I should have clarified. Peanuts are not nuts. They are actually a legume (bean). So my son is allergic to tree nuts but not peanuts. Weird, huh?

  15. says

    Peanut butter solution: Go to a health food store, like Whole Foods, and grind your own peanut butter. You have to keep it refrigerated, and it’s a bit more expensive than jar peanut butter, but OH IS IT GOOD!!!

  16. says

    Another alternative to peanut butter (if you’re not allergic to almonds) is almond butter. I am allergic to peanuts so we use almond butter instead. You can usually find it next to the pb grinder at places like Whole Foods.

    It’s very tasty!

  17. says

    You and I are reading the same 3 books but in the opposite order – I’ve finished Animal Vegetable Miracle and loved it – seriously, one of my top favorite books of all time. And I’ve been trying to get Real Food on hold:)

  18. says

    I’ve been kind of “musing” the same things lately. I want to eat how I will want my daughter to eat (she’s only 8 months now), and that is healthy, whole foods. I have PCOS so I would really like to cut out meat and dairy that have hormones.

    But I admit I don’t understand the whole raw/organic/etc milk stuff. Guess I need to do more research. I am so hesitant to buy organic milk when it’s just my husband and I using it and we rarely drink straight milk. Mostly I use it for baking, and we throw out some nearly every week.

    I don’t want to do this just because it’s a fad, though. My husband is extremely skeptical about the whole organic debate, so it’s already a touchy subject for us. But I do want to eat well and be healthy. Why has it become such a issue lately? Because of obesity? Ability to find whatever we want on the Internet? Ha. It’s baffling.

    Jessie

  19. says

    I wish I could afford to make changes to my foods, I do try to keep HFCS out – as much as I can afford to – and I’m trying to offer more fruits and veggies as snacks instead of…other stuff. I’ll never trade out my 2% milk though, I hate the taste of whole milk LOL

    It would just be easier if America would start only offering foods that are good for us *sigh*

  20. Stefani says

    When you buy your veggies from a local farm stand, I would ask the farmer if they are organic. Some farms (at least in my area – NC-) use organic practices but can’t afford the organic certification. At any rate, I feel like even conventionally grown local produce is WAY better than anything that has been picked before it’s ripe and shipped around the world.

    I’m going to check my library for those books! Thanks for this post!

  21. says

    I’ve got IDOF on my bookshelf and A,V,M on my Kindle. They’re next on my reading list.

    We *try* to be as organic/natural foods/whole foods as we can, but right now we live overseas where it is very difficult to find many of the foods I’d prefer for my family. I make compromises where I can, though. (Sadly, ALL the milk that’s available to us is ultra-pasteurized. I miss the local dairy that we used to have deliver fresh milk to our doorstep every week at our last home.)

    I’ve found that Skippy Natural is a good alternative to organic peanut butter. It doesn’t have any artificial ingredients and no trans-fats or hydrogenated oils in it, but tastes great. Plus it’s no stir. The ingredients are roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, and salt.

    And ever since I’ve been buying my own groceries I’ve been using Polaner All-Fruit in place of regular jelly (I think Smucker’s makes a fruit juice-sweetened jelly, too, but it’s a little more expensive… just by pennies, but still…). The ingredients in my black cherry fruit spread are: pear and grape juice concentrates; cherries, fruit pectin, citric acid, and natural flavor. No HFCS or refined sugar at all. It’s not organic, but the organic stuff at the grocery store has TONS of sugar in it. No thanks.

    (On a side note, several years ago we were going to stay at my MIL’s house. I mentioned that we didn’t use regular jelly because of the sugar in it, so she bought the kind with artificial sweetener in it instead. It was a nice thought, but really not what I meant.)

    Also? Don’t buy the biggest bottle of cod liver oil pills just yet. Try a smaller bottle to see if you can handle the aftertaste. I tried taking them, but burped up the fishy taste for hours afterward. And I don’t eat fish or seafood of any kind… so it really grossed me out. I do take flax seed oil in its place, though.

  22. says

    I know there’s plenty of bad stuff out there, but a while ago we started drinking organic whole milk and will never go back. If for no other reason than taste alone. And I figure, since it’s probably the one thing Jillian consumes the most of, it’s worth every penny of the extraordinary price!

  23. says

    I like your list. We already do most of those things.

    And I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and it’s quite eye-opening and has some great recipes too!

  24. Kay says

    What got me started on searching out healthier food alternatives was an article I read about how dangerous imported foods from China and Thailand can be. For instance, talipia that live in sewage infested water…gross! On my next grocery vist I started reading labels to find the country of origin and was shocked how much isn’t from the USA and is from China!! I think it was on Dole brand fruit cups that I read it was from China. Oh my, I just assumed our food was from here but no, so much is not. Just go look and read the labels on the food in your kitchen.

    I checked out fresh produce and discovered the same thing…many are imported. I looked in the freezer section and once again many are imported. Now I only buy things from the USA or countries I think would be safe…certainly not China or Thailand. This means that we no longer eat items that aren’t in season as you can be sure they are imported. When I see USA frozen veggies I stock up because the next time that very brand may not be from here.

    I realize that even when items are from the USA there can be problems…for example recently there was tainted meat and then the peanut butter problem earlier…but I’ll take my chances. Organic does help but some organic is imported. I prefer local (and as close to home as possible) and non organic.

    When eating out obviously we don’t have control on the source of the food. We just eat out less and not think about it…ha! Afterall, I’m tying to find a balance in all this and not make myself nuts.

    On peanut butter I buy Smuckers organic. It needs to be refrigerated but I just keep it on the counter during the day and stick it in the fridge when I’m done. Almond and cashew butter are really tasty but more expensive.

    On eating frugally, here is an article that has good tips and comments: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/06/q-a-nourishing-food-for-a-single-gal-on-a-budget.html

    I’m glad you are talking about this and that others are interested too. Keep us informed on what you discover from the books!

  25. S. says

    I know I am a little late, but maybe try freezing the cod liver pills. I think that fixes the burp up problem. At least that’s what my OB said to do with the Omega3 pills I had to take while pg.

    I started reading IDOF last summer, but didn’t get to finish it (got pg and had so many other things to read and was so exhausted) and had to return it to the lender, but my interest was definitely peaked.

    I am really very interested in making changes, and have the perfect reason to do so, since Katie Jane is showing some food intolerances while nursing.

    S.

  26. says

    I am trying so hard to make changes, but you’re right it is expensive at times. We just went to the farmer’s market this morning – yum! Beets, onions, potatoes, cherries, apricots, snow peas, zuccini. And a huge forsythia bush to plant in the yard (from this cute little old guy). All for $28.20 (the plant was $12.50). But the organic milk kills me on the price. I would love to buy all organic dairy, but it gets costly. And eggs are great from the farmer’s market, but they’re hard to find in the off-season. And we live in farm country! Local meat is plentiful, but I just need to figure out where to buy it. My husband hunts, so if he gets a deer or elk that helps. We are splitting a local grass-fed cow with his parents and brother this year. We usually buy a lamb at the fair. Now if I could find local chicken, we’d be great!

  27. says

    Great post. I also wax and wane on my commitment to the whole whole food thing. The bottom line is if it doesn’t take more money, it takes more time. For me, I have to make it a priority or it just doesn’t happen. This post was really encouraging.

  28. says

    I was so excited to read this post…it is something that my mother has been nagging me about. I grew up eating very natural, raw, and organic…and now married to someone who didn’t grow up that way, I have had to make a ton of compromises…BUT, I can say, that it is great to hear another person out there thinking about healthy foods too.
    I thought about giving raw milk to my children as babies, since I grew up on the stuff, but it is actually illegal here in VA to buy and sell raw milk. You actually have to purchase a share in a cow in order to obtain raw milk. I didn’t really op for the cow-buying option, so we just bought organic.
    We also bought our grass-raised beef from a local farmer in bulk. We were able to have it custom butchered such that I can use some of the cuts for specific Korean recipes. It all averaged out to be about $4/lb which is expensive for ground beef, but super cheap for filet mignon. You might want to check http://www.eatwild.com to find a farm near you. This year we may do pork and poultry. Oh, and you’ll need a chest freezer if you are going to do a big bulk order.
    I am interested in continuing to read along your food musings. :) Best, Abbie

  29. says

    I read about the importance of organic whole milk several years ago and we haven’t bought anything else since.

    We also buy eggs from local farms and try to avoid convenience foods.

    I do need “help” in the snack department though. We eat fruits and veggies and nuts (which is good). But I must admit that we also eat fruit snacks and granola bars (not so good). We could definitely do better…

  30. Jo-Lynne says

    Stephanie, I am buying more of my processed foods at Trader Joes or in the organic section of the grocery store b/c even though they aren’t necessarily healthy, I usually recognize all the ingredients on the label. :-) I consider those types of snacks “neutrals”. Also, there are many good recipes online for homemade granola bars, which are FAR superior in taste and nutrition than anything you can get at the store.

    But fruit snacks – girl, I gotta tell you. They are HORRIBLE. They rot your teeth. I don’t let them in my house. My kids all have deep grooves in their teeth, and I have awful dental health, and the dentist warned me about the fruit snacks. I would ban them. Seriously. I don’t tend to go “all or nothing” on anything, but fruit snacks is where I draw the line. And the fact that they promote them as healthy just makes me want to scream.

    Alrighty then. Stepping down off the soapbox. ;-)

  31. Dawn says

    Got here from As Many As We’re Given (although I already knew where “here” was!!). Had to comment that I was just telling my MIL this about two hours ago at lunch. I was saying how I’d rather have whole sour cream, butter, milk, cheese, etc., cuz once they start cutting out the natural ingredients (fat) they have to start adding in a bunch of fake stuff to make up for it.

    My son is on a low carb diet that controls his seizures and the last few years have introduced a lot of high fat foods into our house. While we don’t do low carb as a family, I have found that eating whole, full fat foods is more satisfying and hence you (sometimes) don’t overindulge as you might if you were, say, doing Weight Watchers, KWIM?

    Good luck with your food adventures.

  32. says

    I’ve been learning a lot about scratch cooking and really getting to know what goes into my food. My daughter and husband both have food allergies and so we check the labels on absolutely everything and you really start wondering what the heck all that other stuff is that you’re eating. I love scratch cooking because you know exactly what is going into it. And when it hasn’t been augmented with all that other junk it just tastes better. I’d love to read more of your posts on the subject. Thanks for sharing your info. : )

  33. Richard McCabe, PhD says

    It must be understood that the historical correlations of cholesterol and heart disease are inherently misleading. In the body fats are transported together and high cholesterol correlates roughly with high level of other fats. An scientific acquaintance took the old data and re-correlated it. He found that the best correlation was with trans fatty acids – and especially with margarine (which, at the time was the main source of trans fatty acids). I would venture to say that since it’s inception hydrogenated margarine killed more people than all the wars in the world over the same period. Of course, that has since been corrected and margarine is now safer – at least we think it is.
    The government’s “you are what you eat from your head down to your feet” propaganda was at the head of the low fat fad. And it’s rubbish: the body can make fat from any major energy source: fat, protein or carbohydrates. One important discover since the government-sponsored low fat fad kicked off is the essential fatty acids. These are especially important for brain development because the brain is almost entirely fat. The brain grows fastest in young children and they need more fat than adults. Many parents – driven by government propaganda – provided their children with low fat diets at a time where their fat needs were higher than adults. Animal studies have shown that this cause altruism and other brain diseases that increased in humans over the same period.
    That’s not to say that fats are entirely good. Many Americans get 50% or more of their calories from fats while adults should be getting 20-30% for ideal weight (more in children and diabetics). However, the government (and Harvard University – the main proponent of low fat) are covering up the facts.

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