I don’t even know where to begin with today’s blog as I am so frustrated with the alarming amounts of misinformation being thrown around by well meaning health proponents and profiteers. It is both scary and disheartening.
It all started the other day when I got a mailing from Humana (aka “Inhumana”). Despite the fact that I haven’t been a customer of theirs in over 4 months, I received a full-color 8 page advertising piece reiterating the USDA nutrition guidelines (Yes, the same ones that have contributed to the massive obesity epidemic by promoting a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.)
Based on this mail out, Humana most assuredly is profiting (at least in the short term) from the slew of advertisements/coupons including an array of cereals, a “heart smart” nutrition bar to lower cholesterol (as if the most up to date research actually indicated that folks with lower cholesterol levels suffered fewer heart attacks), and mayonnaise that has olive oil added to good ole’ soy oil to make it sound healthier. Do I sound a little bit cynical in my tone today?
To be fair, the promotional fliers did encourage blueberries, eggs, and a few other Paleo foods, but for the most part, it was an advertising vehicle that made it clear the health insurance company is in bed ‘so to speak’ with the food manufacturers.
Here are a few key things I want to touch upon that struck me as particularly ludicrous:
1. It is laughably ironic that a healthcare insurance company is promoting the SAD (standard American diet). While they may make a dime today from selling advertising space to the food manufacturers, rest assured they will be paying a dollar tomorrow for the diabetic supply kits needed by those who took their advice and ate lots of ‘heart smart’ cereals and snack bars. (Also included were coupons for Slim-fast and Blue Bunny no sugar added ice cream – here’s to your health!)
2. Regarding cereals specifically, a while ago I came across a great infographic making its way through the paleo-sphere that really shows how ridiculous they are when compared to candy, apple pie, and other treats. Kellogg’s Smart Start, advertised in the Humana mailer, was one of the worst offenders. (See 1st sources link below for the actual infographic. One of my favorite new products is the cereal with Greek Yogurt and honey – basically the ingredients are sugar, wheat, sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, wheat, and preservatives. Yummy!
My father, who used to eat huge NY style Bran muffins in the name of good health (who has since passed away from a sudden heart attack after following a low fat diet with lots of chronic cardio exercise), was once told by a good friend of his, “Joel, don’t fool yourself, a bran muffin is nothing but cake.” How right she was.
3. I went to the website for Kardea Nutrition Bars as they were one of the Humana advertisers and there I was greeted by a picture of the cardiologist who is lending his name to them (He was at least 35 lbs overweight by my guestimate. By contrast I only have 15 stubborn lbs. to go). On this website, there was a quote from Dr. Oz about why it is so important to lower cholesterol. I guess he forgot to read the UCLA study of hospitalized patients in the US that shows only 25% of them had high cholesterol upon admittance for heart attack. Oops. Well at least he did feature Loren Cordain and Nell Stephenson on his show recently. Progress! (Link below)
Kardea’s bars are being promoted as heart smart because they contain plant sterols and fibers that tend to lower cholesterol similarly to statin drugs. In addition, the advertising indicates they are “carb smart”. However the ingredients list reads like a blood sugar elevation recipe to me. In addition, they are loaded with soy protein isolate.
With 20 grams of sugar in a 140 calorie snack, Kardea bars are packed with carbs gram for gram. The first ingredient is brown rice syrup and the third ingredient is agave syrup. Agave in particular is known to be as detrimental when it comes to blood sugar. It is considered as bad as high fructose corn syrup due to the excessive fructose levels.
To be fair, there are 7 grams of fiber to lower the carb impact so the net carbs would be 13 grams, but if you are among the 1 in 5 Americans who also have IBS, you can expect a long night of gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea/constipation as this bar is filled with FODMAPS galore. What a treat!
I guess the thing that is so troubling to me is that there are so many dietitians, physicians, and lawmakers on board with the whole low fat, whole grains mentality that it is impossible for anyone to trust nutrition information at all. I seriously think that many of the “experts” just don’t know about the current science. Others, are beholden to the food and pharma manufacturers for their livelihood so they have a clear conflict of interest. To be sure, the cereal manufacturers would like to keep the current research under wraps and are spending huge amounts of advertising dollars to push the alleged health benefits of their products. I secretly suspect that much of the anti-beef studies are inherently bias. Elk, bison, and antelope sure look like red meat to me. It is simply too hard to believe these real foods are the problem.
When evaluating fact from fiction, the best measure of whether a food is good for you or bad for you is to ask yourself 3 main questions.
- Did our ancient ancestors eat it before the agricultural revolution? Is it REAL food?
- Do I feel well when I eat it? How does it affect my body personally?
- Do I like it? Is this food something that I enjoy eating or do I have to force myself?
There is no one size fits all diet. That said, the questions above should serve as a guide to you and eating breakfast cereal, slim-fast, diet ice cream, and soy oil mayonnaise, never made me feel healthy and well nourished. All these foods did was leave me craving more which led to my personal battle of the bulge. It only makes sense that this would be the case for most people since these manufactured products are not at all what we were intended to subsist on. So glad I found Paleo and can eat a diet that is based on food meant for human consumption.
About the Author: Wendy J. Schwartz is a graduate of New York University and holds a BS and an MS Degree in Food and Nutrition. During her early career, she worked at both Mt. Sinai Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Wendy is currently a member of the Nutritional Therapy Association.
Wendy is a professional blogger who has written hundreds of articles on various topics. Her current blog, Go Paleo, can be visited at http://www.gopaleo.com.