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Let’s separate fact from fiction in the war on fat and sugar

Nadja Pinnavaia

You may have read last week’s New York Times‘ article that spoke of the body of academic evidence that was suppressed over 50 years ago, which directly linked sugar consumption to cardiovascular disease. The article discussed how the sugar industry funded alternative studies to make fat, instead of sugar, the culprit of the increasing prevalence of coronary heart disease. The rest, as we now know, is history.

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The subsequent low-fat movement resulted in the creation of low-fat, “Let’s throw out the fat and add lots of sugar to make it taste good,” high-carb prepared foods, most of us grew up with and demanded (0 percent fat fruit yogurt, anyone?) The results? Cardiovascular disease still remains our number one killer. We have even more obesity and type II diabetes, even amongst children. It’s safe to say that the low-fat movement did not fix the problem.

Let’s talk now about the anti-movement. Along came the Atkins diet – the anti-carb, high protein, high-fat movement. Now we throw out all the carbs and the pendulum swings the other way. Out goes both simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are those that spike your blood sugar, the highly-refined grains and added sugar that the food industry got us addicted to in order to meet the low-fat demand. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand are the whole grains and starchy vegetables that are filled with nutrition and fiber. They’re the good guys that don’t spike our blood sugar. They slow down our digestion and keep us feeling full by providing a steady stream of energy.

So now we’re throwing out all carbs, swapping out some of the good guys and loading up on animal protein and saturated animal fat. Numerous academic studies (see Dr. Michael Greger’s book “How Not To Die” for a comprehensive compilation of such research) have shown that an animal protein-heavy diet increases the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque of the arteries), which is heart disease. So we still haven’t fixed the problem. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

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No wonder there is confusion. So what’s the right answer? For body and brain health, we need all three macro-nutrients:

  • complex carbohydrates for energy
  • protein for cell health
  • good for you fat for brain & heart health, body temperature regulation, and as an energy reserve

Not one of these macro-nutrient categories is bad. We just need the right mix of the good versions, not the bad versions. Which means eating:

  • predominantly complex carbohydrates, not simple (highly-refined, sugary) – Not all carbs are the enemy!
  • predominantly plant-based protein, not animal
  • predominantly good for you fat, as found in avocado, olive oil, salmon, nuts, and seeds

Sound familiar?

Cutting the sugar and the refined stuff, improves health. Period. Upping the plant protein at the expense of animal products reverses the damage that we do to our arteries day after day. It’s not that complicated. Let’s cut the crap and go back to eating balanced, high-quality, whole food. There’s no big industry that should be able to cover that one up.

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Nadja Pinnavaia, Founder & CEO of Euphebe & the E28 ReBoot

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