Functional Health Services for Your Well Being

What’s Wrong With The Food Guide Anyway

written by Alex Boersma

By now, any of you who know me will understand that I am not a big fan of Canada’s Food Guide.  To be fair, though, credit should be given where credit is due.  The truth is, if the average Canadian actually followed the Food Guide, our entire country would be much better off from a health perspective.  Unfortunately, most of us continue to eat the crap that makes us fat and sick, often with the misconception that what we are eating is really not that bad for us.

So the problem with the Food Guide is not that it isn’t an improvement on the Standard North American Diet.  In my humble opinion, eating cat food every day – even the cheap stuff – would be an improvement on the Standard North American Diet!  The problem with the Food Guide is that it consistently undermines the dietary changes which could actually help people to optimize their health.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the food guide advises:

7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

This is one of the few recommendations  with which I wholeheartedly agree. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is good for everybody. I only have two minor issues with this recommendation.  First, I’m not crazy about lumping fruits, vegetables and their juices together. This suggests that you could get all your fruit and veggies from 8 glasses of juice, or a pound of grapes.  Second, I think the recommendation, though probably realistic, is a little low.

My recommendation: 6 to 7 servings each of fruits and vegetables.  Juices only qualify for 1 of each, and they must be 100% juice.  Wherever possible, buy organic.

6 to 8 servings of grains per day

Even with the qualification (found later in the fine print) that half of this mountain of carbohydrate should be sourced from whole grains, I have to believe that this recommendation steers people in the wrong direction.  We are in the middle of an obesity and diabetes epidemic!  Surely we don’t want to encourage people to eat excessive amounts of a food which contributes enormously to this epidemic.  We know that glucose, the main source of calories in grains, has a significant impact on both obesity and diabetes.  We know that there is nothing in grains that we can’t get elsewhere in our diet.  We also know that a good percentage of digestive issues and auto-immune diseases stem from over-consumption of grains…even whole grains.  Finally, we know that phytates in grains impede the absorption of a number of important minerals, most notably zinc, calcium and magnesium.  Wouldn’t it be better to keep the carbohydrate calories low and get most of them from fruits and vegetables?

My recommendation: 2 to 3 servings of whole grains per day with emphasis on oats, brown rice and quinoa.

2 servings of milk and alternatives (emphasis on low fat)

I’m OK with 2 servings of dairy, providing you are not lactose intolerant. But I think that advising people to eat and drink low fat dairy products is simply wrong.  Most of the good things in dairy products (and there aren’t a lot left after the extensive processing most dairy goes through) are in the fat.  Without the fat you lose most of the fat soluble vitamins.  Also, low fat milk has powdered milk, rich in oxidized cholesterol, added to it to give it texture.  Consumption of oxidized cholesterol is great if you like having heart disease but I recommend avoiding it unless you are suicidal. I’m also not crazy about advising people to drink fortified soy beverages as an alternative.  Although there are some minimal health benefits associated with consumption of traditional soy products, “fortified soy beverage” is a far cry from anything the Japanese ever ate.  The highly processed forms of soy which are prevalent in our food industry should be avoided…they disrupt hormone balance and inhibit protein and mineral absorption.

My recommendations: 2 to 3 servings of full fat dairy if you are not lactose intolerant.  3 to 5 servings if you can get raw dairy products from grass fed cows (in which case it will probably be easier to digest as well).  I like almond milk as a substitute, but don’t feel like you need a milk substitute just to get calcium.  To get more calcium, eat more vegetables and stop eating foods high in phytates like grains and soy products.

2 to 3 servings of meat and alternatives (again with emphasis on low fat)

That gives you about 30 or 40g of protein.  Add maybe 10  more if you consume some dairy for a total of 40 or 50g of protein in a day.  That’s less than half of what a 120 lb woman should be getting!  No wonder they want you to eat so many grains!  And, of course, God forbid you get some fat in there to help absorb a few vitamins and minerals.  They advise to eat fish twice weekly and hint that you should be wary of mercury content….OK.  But you have to go to a different website and weed through a 76 page report (if you can find it) to find out that you can easily consume excessive levels of methylmercury by regularly consuming canned tuna.  And what about processed meats?  No mention of the dangers of nitrates…instead just more of the same about choosing low fat!

My recommendations: 4 to 6 servings of meat and meat alternatives.  As much variety as possible including beef, pork, chicken, lamb, wild game, eggs, wild salmon, sardines and shellfish.  Free range, organic or wild wherever possible.  Lots of nuts and naturally prepared nut butters.  Don’t be afraid of the fat.  Use smaller portions if you are trying to lose weight.  Avoid burnt portions when barbequing, and stay away from the deli counter.

2 to 3 Tbsp of unsaturated fat from vegetable oils and soft margarines…no butter or lard

This one is pretty much criminal, as far as I’m concerned.  2 to 3 Tbsp?  And what shall we make our hormones with?  What shall we make our cell walls from?  What shall we use as a preferred energy source?  What shall we use to absorb fat soluble vitamins?  What shall we use to keep our immune systems functioning optimally?  But that’s not the worst part!  Vegetable oil and soft margarine?  Highly inflammatory, seriously unstable omega 6 fatty acids, overheated and oxidized, then often hydrogenated?  Coming to you from the same people who gave you Trans fat.  Does this sound good to you?  You want vegetable oil?  Eat some vegetables!

My recommendations: Butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil.  Lots of it, especially with your vegetables.  Easily 40% of your caloric intake should come from fat.  The more you restrict your caloric intake, the higher the percentage of fat that should be in it.   Get that fat primarily from the natural sources you evolved to consume, not from some toxic soup in a bottle.

Drink water daily…more when it’s hot out

Well that sounds like a good idea.  But how much?  A few ounces?  A few glasses?  What size of glasses?  How about a few gallons?  Bottled water or tap water?  Does it have to be water, or can it be coffee?  How about diet pop?  Saying “drink water daily” is like saying “breathe”.   How about a little more detail!

My recommendations: About 2 litres of water per day for most adults, as long as you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.  More if it’s hot or you are active.  Filtered mineral water is best, but don’t buy it in small plastic bottles (bad for the environment, bad for you).  Tea, especially green, is very good for you.  Coffee and red wine in small quantities is good.  Pop, beer, hard liquor, energy drinks and most non pure juices are all bad for you.  Our society in general is dehydrated….drink up!

WHAT ARE WE LEFT WITH?

Meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, natural fats and water.  These are the things we consumed for hundreds of thousands of years while we evolved into the spectacular specimens that we are today.  Sourced as naturally as possible, they should continue to be the basis of our diet.  Anything else is certainly unnecessary, and, in excess, probably harmful to our health.

Don’t be fooled by the food guide.  Although it certainly beats eating fast food every day, it is by no means an effective guide for optimizing your health.

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