Everything You Know About Nutrition Is Wrong

Wed, Feb 16, 2011

Features, Food & Drink, Mind & Body

A New Set of Rules to Eat Right

by Daniel Duane
photographs by Travis Rathbone

During the past several years, conventional dietary wisdom — skimp on fat, count calories — has started to crumble, thanks largely to a one-man wrecking crew named Gary Taubes. In his latest book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, Taubes argues that calories and fat aren’t to blame for the world’s increasing girth and high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He contends that exercise, while a healthy habit, won’t help with weight loss and that most Americans would benefit from eating more red meat and eggs because animal proteins and saturated fat don’t cause cardiovascular disease and weight gain: Simple sugars and carbohydrates do.

Taubes’s critique of dietary tradition is so pointed and vociferous that reading him will change the way you look at calories, the food pyramid, and your daily diet. While his recent book is primarily a slam against the established science of obesity, his philosophy of nutrition upends everything you’ve been told about eating to stay healthy and trim. Adopting a similar approach doesn’t mean you can’t ever consume carbohydrates, but it does mandate a new set of dietary rules that will help you live longer, be leaner, and better enjoy the foods you love.

1. Don’t go on a diet — change your diet.

Starving yourself or cycling through fad diets isn’t a sustainable, effective way to lose weight and stay healthy over a lifetime. Some diets may work for some people in the short term, but dieting has been shown to fail over the long haul. A 2007 analysis conducted by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles reviewed 31 long-term diet studies to find that, on average, one-third to two-thirds of people who lose 5 to 10 percent of their weight in the first six months of a diet gain it back — and then some — within four to five years. Scientists found the effect so consistent across studies that they were forced to conclude that one of the best predictors of weight gain is having been on a diet at some point in the past.

2. Don’t eat anything with BHA, BHT, sodium nitrite…

If you want to live by one rule instead of 10, this is it, not least because it’s the easiest to follow. Shop only the periphery of the supermarket, choosing whole fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and dairy products — instead of fruit juices, canned vegetable soups, chicken fingers, fish sticks, and chocolate-covered ice cream bars — and you’ll avoid the majority of what’s wrong with the modern Western diet. Packaged processed foods are altered from their natural state for convenience and to extend shelf life, but they contain fewer nutrients and more sugars and unhealthy fats than whole foods do.

A good way to tell if a food is overly processed is to scan the nutrition label for ingredients you can’t pronounce or visualize in an organic form. These include, among others: hydrogenated oils, a common source of trans fats shown to boost the risk of heart disease; high-fructose corn syrup, a processed sugar associated with obesity and diabetes; butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a food preservative and suspected carcinogen; butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), a preservative found in potato chips and jet fuel; and sodium nitrite, a chemical used in deli meats that is linked to cancer, heart disease, and other ailments.

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This post was written by:

Daniel Duane - who has written 53 posts on Men’s Journal.


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. anooon Says:

    The fiber in fruit stops a lot of the fructose being absorbed by your body, you are wrong.

    [Reply]

    Jon Reply:

    That’s not the point. Fruit is still going to cause a strong release of insulin. Just look at the GI of the various fruits. Your fiber, while helping, ain’t winning the battle.

    [Reply]

    Nesral Reply:

    Fructose doesn’t create the same insulin response as glucose.

    [Reply]

  2. Sally Symonds Says:

    Such a great article. While I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it, I think we need to think outside the box in terms of weight loss. I pretty much broke all the rules when I lost my weight - no strict diet or exercise plan, no goal weight, no exercise buddy, I didn’t announce to the world I was going to lose weight, I pretty much ignored the concept of portion sizes and I rewarded myself WITH FOOD along the way. I also lost weight faster than most experts recommend (I lost 45 kg in 33 weeks - or 100 pounds in 33 weeks) and I not only kept it off (I lost in 2002 - 2003), I then lost more after that as well (another 8.5 kg or 20 pounds). In total, over 50% of my original body weight - and no lose skin either. Sometimes, when we do things differently, we achieve spectacular results!!!

    [Reply]

    Catherine Purves Reply:

    I’m on-line to find this article to email to a friend and want to second Sally’s comments. I lost about 50lbs in 25 weeks by adjusting my eating preferences based upon what seemed to be most satisfying and “discovered” that I felt best when eating along the guidelines suggested in the article. I do exercise almost daily with moderate to high intensity, but mostly because I love feeling fit. I’m 46 and just ran my first half-marathon.
    Men’s Journal is my favorite magazine because it has loads of great information and well written articles.

    [Reply]

    Nesral Reply:

    Not to mention is has all the latest gagets that help destroy us and the planet.

    [Reply]

  3. DAMGOODBODIES Says:

    As a personal trainer who has been in the business for 25 years and read hundreds of articles and dozens of books on nutrition, I can honestly say that this is the best article I have read! It was broken down so than anyone can understand. A mention that Almond Milk is a great alternative to regular milk could have been added but other than that and the fact that I’m not a fan of soy for men or women for several reasons, the article was awesome! I have sent the article to all of my family, friends and clients.

    [Reply]

  4. Colette Says:

    This is basically a paleo diet! Taubes definitely is not breaking this news, far from it.
    Look up Loren Cordain or Robb Wolf, they have been saying this for YEARS! They literally changed my life - and are a lot more specific & clear - highly recommend both of their books!
    http://www.thepaleodiet.com/index.shtml
    http://robbwolf.com/

    [Reply]

    Jon Reply:

    Taubes has been writing stuff along these lines for over 10 years now. This is just his new condensed book.

    [Reply]

    Colette Reply:

    I don’t take John’s without an “h” very seriously, but noted. I’m actually reading his book now and enjoying it. Thanks for correcting me - perhaps I spoke too soon.

    [Reply]

  5. Jon Says:

    This approach seems very similar to ‘primal’ diets. Mostly eat vegetables and meats. What I don’t see mentioned is anything about intermittent fasting. I’ve found that intermittent fasting is awesome for overall health and for fat-loss. We need more people who question the established ‘rules’ about health and fitness. I think this article is on the right track.

    [Reply]

    Steve Reply:

    Yeah, the logic is pretty powerful - eat the way the human body evolved to eat. Not a lot of raw sugar or corn-fed livestock around. Of course that also means that fruit would definitely not be a “no-go” food since most primates eat a hefty level of fruits. But the rest I tend to buy.

    [Reply]

    Jon Reply:

    The fruits our Paleolithic ancestors ate werent the behemoth sized fruits that have been selected for high sugar and size that we have today

    [Reply]

    Nesral Reply:

    No one said you have to eat the whole fruit silly.

    [Reply]

  6. Nesral Says:

    Nothing like misinterpreting studies for media attention and the AMERICAN DOLLAR. Every body is different and the way we metabolise and store macronutrients. Yes, I agree, don’t eat processed FOODS!

    [Reply]

    Nesral Reply:

    Sorry “metabolize”.

    [Reply]

  7. Ellen Says:

    “The book [_Good Calories, Bad Calories_], published in 2007, was convincing and solidly rooted in real science, but so long and complicated that many doctors, even those in the field, failed to read it.” It’s pretty clear that the author of this piece failed to read it as well: “All legumes, except baked beans, are particularly healthy because they’re high in fiber and protein” is not a concept based on Taubes, who spent an entire chapter of GC,BC demolishing myths about fiber. GC,BC also explained that the glycemic index is flawed because it fails to account for the effects of fructose, yet it’s promoted in this article.

    And whatever are recipes full of panko breadcrumbs doing in a piece on why refined flours aren’t good for you?

    [Reply]

  8. RHB Says:

    Block NESRAL from his unacceptable comments unless he is with NIH or CDC.

    [Reply]

  9. Myrto Ashe Says:

    This article does leave out a couple of issues. One is that eating meat exposes you to more toxins, because they are concentrated up the food chain. While 100% grass-fed is better, the fact is that the entire planet is contaminated with hormone modulators and neurotoxins and that their concentration in meat is higher than plants.

    Another issue is that global warming/climate chaos will soon become a major problem, nutritional and otherwise, and perhaps we could trade off a little health now for a lower planetary impact. Eating more meat does have a larger impact on the planet (water use, too).

    [Reply]

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    [...] Everything You Know About Nutrition Is Wrong | Men’s Journal mensjournal.com/everything-you-know-about-nutrition-is-wrong – view page – cached During the past several years, conventional dietary wisdom — skimp on fat, count calories — has started to crumble, thanks largely to a one-man wrecking crew named Gary Taubes. In his latest book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, Taubes argues that calories and fat aren’t to blame for the world’s increasing girth and high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He… Read moreDuring the past several years, conventional dietary wisdom — skimp on fat, count calories — has started to crumble, thanks largely to a one-man wrecking crew named Gary Taubes. In his latest book, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, Taubes argues that calories and fat aren’t to blame for the world’s increasing girth and high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He contends that exercise, while a healthy habit, won’t help with weight loss and that most Americans would benefit from eating more red meat and eggs because animal proteins and saturated fat don’t cause cardiovascular disease and weight gain: Simple sugars and carbohydrates do. View page [...]

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