This is the first instalment in a series of posts tackling persistent myths in the world of healthy eating, with a particular focus on the consumption of animal foods as a source of ill health and environmental destruction.
It’s simply not true that eating animal foods causes ill health and environmental damage. However, intensive industrialised agriculture certainly causes environmental damage and leads to humans eating animal products that are less-than-optimal nutritionally.
The vast, overwhelming majority of research linking meat consumption to ill health fails to separate meat products from animals that have been raised in intensive, industrialised agricultural systems from meat products that come from animals raised humanely, naturally and sustainably.
I have written about this before, if this interests you please check the following posts:
This series of posts will now primarily look at the issue of whether or not it is healthier to be a vegetarian or a meat eater, and connections between modern agriculture and its impact on the environment.
Let’s start with…
Myth: Eating fat makes you fat
Truth: Eating more calories than you use makes you fat, whether those calories come from dietary fats, carbohydrates or anything else. Eating a broad, healthy, whole foods diet high in wholesome natural dietary fats does not make you fat. Eating a lot of processed foods and sugar will significantly contribute to making you store more body fat.
I’m starting with this one because this should be pretty easy for you MND’ers to grasp, this is old news to you now. Over the last 60 years, the diet industry has promoted low-fat as the way to go to lose weight and prevent heart disease. Sadly, after 60 years of this, we have an obesity epidemic spreading across the entire Western world, heart disease rates are higher than ever, and we’ve thrown in an international diabetes epidemic as an unexpected little bonus. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure stripping the fat out of everything and replacing it with added refined sugar and processed vegetable oils wasn’t the smartest way forward.
As I have already hammered this topic to death about a hundred times, I won’t go over it in too much detail again now, let’s just highlight the three key points:
- A certain amount of body fat is good. Excess body fat can become unhealthy. Lots of your body is made up of fat – your brain is largely fat and water. Your nervous system is made up of lots of fat (and cholesterol). Many hormones are made up from lipids (fats) in your body, helping to regulate mood, sleep, sexual function and more. Fat keeps you warm and fat is a great place to store certain vitamins, minerals and hormones, that all help to keep you healthy. So don’t just hate fat!
- Mother Nature designed dietary fat as a dense source of calories – calories are energy you can use, so eating dietary fat is a great way to consume lots of usable calories for energy (more on high fat diets below). Dietary fats include lots of lipids that help nourish and support these important functions in your body – hormone production, mood regulation, brain and nervous system function, heart function, joint function and more. Natural dietary fat is not bad. Natural fats – from olive oil to organ meats, from avocado to oily fish – can be part of a healthy human diet for everyone. Over-eating fat, like over-eating anything, can become a problem.
- Animal fats are an [in my opinion] essential element of a well-balanced healthy human diet. We rose to prominence on this planet, between 7 million years ago and the beginning of the agricultural period around 10,000 years ago, by hunting and eating other animals. Saturated fat has always been a major component of the human diet. Over the last 60 years, as food companies pulled all the fat out of processed food, they realised that it left that food bland and tasteless, so they added processed refined sugar, refined vegetable oils and processed salt to create flavour – the end results of half-a-century of this are not good!