Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The (Current) Truth about Food

I am really excited for today's post because I think it is super interesting and informative. Since starting up the Paleo diet, I have been trying to research how different food affects my body. Healthy food has been on my radar for awhile, but I only recently began to want to know the science behind "good" and "bad" foods. The aggravating aspect of researching online is all of the differing opinions and advertising you encounter, which makes it difficult to find facts.

Enter my light-bulb moment: Why don't I just go to the library and borrow some books about nutrition?!

 So I did! I love reading, and I have been a little apathetic about novels lately, so this was the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. The book that I read is titled, Coffee is BadX Good for You and the author is Robert J. Davis, PhD.

What I did was take notes throughout the whole book so I could share the condensed "truths" that Dr.Davis has found through his research. The great thing about this book is that Dr. Davis is completely neutral (although far from boring) in his writing; he has sorted through all the scientific studies relating to food questions/myths, and has shared the actual scientific results/answers that he found.

The book starts out with an explanation of the different types of food research and which kinds can provide us with the most honest answers to our questions, while also explaining which kinds of research may give inconclusive answers. Some examples of unreliable research would be studies paid for by specific food companies, research done on animals, and test-tube research (the effect food has on cells, not whole beings). When a lesser form of study comes up with "facts" about food, these "facts" can be far from the truth.

Dr. Davis has done a wonderful job of summarizing all of the information he researched, but I have condensed the information one step further, so you can have a quick guide to how certain  foods affect your body!
*Disclaimer* Another point made in the book is that science discovers new information every day, so the current knowledge we have about food is constantly changing. The truths in this book are currently accurate, but new research can alter these truths at any time. Also, be careful not to believe every "food fact" you hear, because of the differing levels of research and all of the companies who will feed lies to the public to help their sales!

  • A cup, or two, of coffee is fine per day-- black coffee is best for you, with only 2 calories. What you add to your coffee is what makes the difference.
  • Alcohol contributes to breast cancer-- but may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • You do not need 8 cups of water a day to be healthy. Extra water may be helpful in certain situations, but is not necessary unless it makes you personally feel better.
  • Juicing is not more healthy than eating fruit, and could even lead to over-indulgence of high calories. Juice if you like it, but eat fruits and veggies, too.
  • Cranberries and their juice prevent UTIs.
  • Stick margarine is worse for you than semi-liquid margarine and butter, but healthful oils are the best of all.
  • Olive oil may not be healthier than other vegetable oils.
  • Fish oil (and supplements) help prevent heart disease.
  • Eggs are not bad for your heart and contain plenty of nutrients--unless you have type 2 diabetes, in which case they can be harmful to your health.
  • Nuts lower the odds of heart disease.
  • Transfat (aka partially hydrogenated fat) is bad for you.
  • Carbs do not cause you to gain weight, and studies about sugar levels have varying results. Studies show low carb dieting doesn't affect weight loss more or less than other types of dieting.
  • Multi-grain does not mean whole grain--whole grains have benefits (reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes) so make sure to check ingredients for the word "whole"
  • Oats can lower cholesterol.
  • Gluten free diets can be beneficial if you cut back on refined carbs and calories, but simply replacing breads and treats with gluten-free products won't help, because these items can be higher in sugar and lower in fiber and vitamins.
  • Quinoa is not a whole grain, but a seed.
  • High fiber protects against constipation, heart disease, and diabetes-- whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seed are high in fiber.
  • Sugar is sugar and has the same effects across the board (high fructose corn syrup has not been proven to be different, or more harmful, than table sugar).
  • Honey is not worse for you than table sugar, but also is not better (by much).
  • Aspartame may cause problems in certain people, but is not a problem overall and does not cause maladies.
  • Sea salt is less processed than table salt, but it isn't any better for you.
  • A small percentage of people may be sensitive to MSG, but there is no evidence that it is harmful in general.
  • Produce grown locally is not automatically organic or more healthful than supermarket produce-- it may be tastier, but it is not always better for you. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good for you as fresh, as long as they don't have added salt and/or sauce.
  • Chocolate's health benefits depend on how it is processed and how much you eat. To get possible health benefits, go dark and make sure that cocoa or chocolate liquor (not sugar) is first in ingredients.
  • Raw veggies are not necessarily more healthy than cooked, and sometimes cooking makes certain vegetables more nutritious-- it is best to consume a wide variety in whatever form you enjoy. Eating veggies along with fat, such as oil, can help your body absorb nutrients.
  • Organic produce is better for the environment, but isn't necessarily better for you. If you want to eat organic but can't foot the bill, buy apples, strawberries, and peaches organic and conventional onions, avocados, and pineapples.
  • There is no evidence that acai berries are a super food-- acai juice is a fine beverage (watch out for added sugar) but it isn't any different than other juices.
  • Soy may ward off cancer when it is eaten in large amounts and comes from whole soybeans (like in Asia), but our soy is made from extracts from the bean and may be harmful. Studies are inconclusive about cancer effects, but soy can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.
  • Red meat (beef, pork <certain cuts>, lamb) can increase risk of cancer and heart disease-- in moderation (twice a week) it is fine, even processed meats are okay occasionally (hotdogs, etc.)
  • Grain-fed beef is higher in fat (more tender)than grass-fed, both contain saturated fat (which contributes to heart disease), but grass-fed has a higher % of stearic acid, which doesn't raise cholesterol. Grass-fed is richer in omega-3 fatty acids, but is still lower than in fish and comes in a less researched form. Preliminary studies show grass-fed has a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CIA) which may prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Grass-fed cattle needs less (if any) antibiotics, which contributes to better public health. Organic beef can be grass-fed or grain-fed, but contains no hormones or antibiotics. 
  • Well-done meat can cause cancer. HCAs develop with high temperature and lengthy cooking--marinading meat or pre-cooking in the microwave before grilling can help reduce HCAs. Does not apply to roasting, baking, microwaving, or sauteing. 
  • "Kosher" and "free range" does not mean food is healthier.
  • Farmed salmon has higher chances of being contaminated than wild salmon, and my cause cancer, and environmental issues. Atlantic salmon is farmed, Alaskan salmon is wild, and Pacific can be either. If you buy farmed salmon, ask where it is from, and try to get it from Chile or Washington State.
  • Mercury in fish is hard to determine, but to be safe, eat less tuna and more salmon. Canned white tuna has 3X the mercury as chunk light, and canned salmon has less than both.
  • There is very little evidence that yogurt helps digestion--certain probiotics could help with specific ailments, but overall, yogurt will not ease constipation.
  • Raw milk does not have more nutrients than pasteurized and raw milk can cause illness because of contamination.
  • Soy milk and cows milk have very similar health benefits.
  • Milk is not necessary for strong bones.
  • Dairy products have been tied to prostate and ovarian cancer, but may lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Vitamin C supplements only ward off colds if you are exposed to extreme conditions or push your body to the max--but your body can only absorb 500g at a time.
  • Vitamin B doesn't give you energy.
  • Multi-vitamins have not been proven to improve health, and have been shown increasing risk of cancer.
  • Wash bagged lettuce, too.
  • Bottled water is usually tap water-- it may taste better because of processing, but it is not healthier than tap.
  • Microwaving food in plastic isn't dangerous.
  • Acrylamide may increase cancer risk, but it hasn't been proven. Starchy foods create this when heated at high temperatures--frying is worst, or charring food, but boiling, steaming, or microwaving usually forms no acrylamides. French fries and chips have the highest levels; also in coffee, cereal, crackers, cookies, and bread.
  • Genetically modified foods haven't been found harmful, but no long-term studies have been done.
  • Vegetarian diets are only "better for you" depending on what the diet is compared to. Plus, it is hard to test because vegetarians may have other healthy habits which skew results, and there are many kinds of Vegetarianism.Vegetarians do not usually have protein or iron deficiencies. 
  • The Mediterranean diet (large amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, olive oil; few servings a week of fish, poultry, eggs; low to moderate amounts of dairy products; very little red meat; wine with meals)is associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinsons.
  • Detox diets are not necessary or good for you and can be harmful.
  • The Caveman diet "is healthful overall, but there is little evidence that shunning whole grains, beans, or dairy is necessary for optimal health."
  • Diets high in watery foods (watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, celery, zucchini) help you loose weight.


  1. I love how many lies we've been force-fed, yet am pleased I can still have coffee.

  2. ugh how is an old mind to remember all the do's and don't s ..... i will try to make healthy choices but all and all i think i raised you guys and me eating pretty good things !!!

  3. Mom- I am grateful that you taught us how to eat healthily the whole time we grew up! There are a lot of facts here, and it is kind of impossible to remember them all, but I'm sure you found at least a few interesting and those will hopefully stick with you!
    Theresa- Isn't it insane? In part of the book, the author explains how one company produced about 60 fake blogs by "women" who lost weight eating their product! They were found out because all the before and after pictures were the same even though the names and places changed! It is easy to forget how scummy corporations can be to make money....