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Most Americans are Delusional About Healthy Eating

January 21, 2011

In a recent poll of more than 1,200 American adults, close to 90 percent said their diet was either "somewhat," "very," or "extremely" healthy.

However, 43 percent of the survey respondents said they drank at least one sugary soda or sweetened drink every day. A third also said they were at a healthy weight when they actually were overweight or obese.

Physorg reports:

"When they were asked why they didn't eat [the recommended amount of] vegetables, the most common reason given ... was that they thought they consumed enough already. The next most commonly cited reason ... was that they are hard to store ...

Seventeen percent said someone in their household didn't like vegetables, the same number said vegetables take too long to prepare ... and 14 percent said fresh vegetables are too expensive. Thirteen percent said, quite simply, they don't like vegetables."

It is extraordinarily shocking to me that nine out of 10 Americans told Consumer Reports that they were eating a "somewhat," "very," or "extremely" healthy diet.  The evidence clearly speaks for itself with over two-thirds of the U.S. overweight there is some serious reality discrepancy going on.

Upon closer inspection, the Consumer Reports survey found there is clear evidence that the average person who was polled was seriously misinformed or confused because:

  • 43 percent said they drank at least one sugary drink a day, such as soda or sweetened coffee or tea
  • Only 30 percent said they eat five or more servings of fresh fruit or vegetables daily
  • Top breakfast choices were fruit, fruit juice, juice drinks, cold cereal or whole-wheat bread, toast or muffin -- all of which are nutritional disasters for breakfast

The survey also revealed that 59 percent of Americans said they were either "careful" or "strict" about their food intake, while 23 percent said they ate pretty much whatever they wanted. But if you're misinformed about what foods are actually healthy, then being "strict" about eating them is actually going to get you nowhere.

Americans Confused About Healthy Eating: Most STILL Limiting Fats

What Consumer Reports found was that it appears many Americans are trying to eat better … but their good intentions are either not going far enough or are completely misguided. Taking a positive perspective it is probably a good sign that many believe or are seeking to eat healthier, it is just that they have a very serious information deficiency about what healthy food choices are.

Fifty-one percent said they are limiting their consumption of fat. It's not clear what type of fat was being limited, but chances are this lumps ALL fats into one evil category, when in reality the only types of fats you should really be limiting are man-made varieties like trans-fats and rancid, refined polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils.

Unfortunately, fats in general are considered the dietary villains by many people. And while a low-fat diet is actually quite good for the one-third of people who are carb nutritional types, the other two-thirds of the population do not fare well on this type of diet.

Serious Confusion about Fats

Another persistent sub-set of the fat myth is the belief that saturated fat, in particular, will increase your risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

This is simply untrue.

Saturated fats provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances that are essential to your health, and saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources (such as meat, dairy, certain oils, and tropical plants like coconut) provide a concentrated source of energy in your diet.

When you eat fats as part of your meal, they slow down absorption so that you can go longer without feeling hungry.In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes.

Saturated fats are also:

  • The preferred fuel for your heart, and also used as a source of fuel during energy expenditure
  • Useful antiviral agents (caprylic acid)
  • Effective as an anticaries, antiplaque and anti-fungal agent (lauric acid)
  • Useful to actually lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids)
  • Modulators of genetic regulation and prevent cancer (butyric acid)

So most Americans could actually benefit from ditching the processed margarine and instead eating foods like organic raw full-fat dairy products (butter cheese, milk, cream), grass-fed organic beef and beef fat, naturally raised lamb and coconut oil -- but these health foods are widely shunned.

Another healthy fat, which many Americans are missing out on, are the animal-based omega-3 fats; this is another fat category you should be sure your diet includes plenty of.

Grains are Still Being Considered a Health Food

Another point that Consumer Reports revealed was that most people, 60 percent, were choosing whole grains instead of refined carbs. No doubt about it, refined carbs should be a very minimal part of your diet, if they're included at all, if you want to be healthy, but where the confusion sets in is regarding whole grains. It's generally assumed, incorrectly, that while refined carbs like white sugar and white bread may make you pack on the pounds, "good" carbs like whole grains, beans and fruit won't.

But the truth is that for a large subset of the population, about 85% of the population, those "good" carbs, including whole grains, very well may lead to weight gain, not to mention insulin resistance and related health problems like diabetes.

This is because, typically, grains -- ALL grains, whether whole, sprouted, organic or refined -- rapidly break down to sugar, which causes your insulin resistance to increase, which then can exacerbate health problems such as:

  • Overweight
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer

If you are one of the 15% of the population that doesn't have one of the above conditions then whole grains are typically not a problem unless you have a gluten intolerance. That said, one-third of people will actually require a high-carb diet to lose weight and stay healthy, but even then those carbs typically need to exclude grain carbohydrates.

Vegetables will NOT convert into sugar the way grains do, and most Americans need to eat far more vegetables in their diet -- as the New York Times reported, only 23 percent of American meals include a vegetable! But a mistake many make is to classify corn and potatoes as vegetables. When you think "vegetables," it is far better to think "green."

Eating carbs in the form of vegetables may make your carb intake higher, but will not be a hindrance to your health goals the way even "healthy" carbs like whole grains and fruit might.

U.S. Breakfast is Still a Nutritional Nightmare

The top foods eaten for breakfast by Americans include:

  • Fruit, 42 percent
  • Fruit juice or juice drink, 37 percent
  • Cold cereal, 29 percent
  • Whole-wheat bread, toast, or muffin, 25 percent
  • Eggs, 22 percent (but more than one-third of that group opted for either egg whites or an egg substitute)
  • Oatmeal, 18 percent

In other words, the majority of Americans are starting their days off with a hefty dose of sugar, which will not only interfere with your insulin and leptin levels, but will also lead to a major energy crash. It's no wonder that so many Americans are tired by mid-morning and seeking another pick-me-up like coffee or a candy bar -- they are simply not getting the nutrition they need in the morning.

What's a better breakfast choice? Well, eggs are just fine, provided they are organic and properly prepared -- not the processed or pasteurized egg substitutes so many believe are healthy.

Personally, I eat about four eggs each morning in my breakfast shake -- but I eat them in their healthiest form, which is raw. (The next best would be soft-boiled and then sunny-side up, with the yolk still very runny.) Raw eggs are better because cooking them will damage the valuable nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, bioflavanoids present in egg yolk that are incredibly important for your vision. Heating the egg protein also changes its chemical shape, and the distortion can easily lead to allergies.

Further, when an egg is overcooked, such as when it is scrambled, the cholesterol in it becomes oxidized, or rancid, and oxidized cholesterol can increase your levels of inflammation and lead to numerous health problems. Additionally the fats in the egg serve as a nearly perfect matrix to help you absorb any fat-soluble supplements you might be taking like krill, vitamin E or astaxanthin.

You can read the rest of what goes into my breakfast shake here, but basically it's a combination of raw eggs, Miracle Whey, organic psyllium, coconut milk and a variety of fresh organic seeds. I highly recommend you, too, start out your day with a protein-rich, fresh meal like this one, instead of the refined sugar and grains that most choose.

You can also prepare fresh vegetable juice as part of your breakfast, especially if you're a carb or mixed nutritional type, adding in raw eggs, ground seeds, raw cream or coconut cream depending on your needs.

Sugar, Not Enough Veggies, Still Sabotaging Many Diets

According to the Consumer Reports survey, 53 percent of Americans said they were limiting sweets and sugars, while 58 percent said they are consuming five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. I suspect these numbers are overtly generous, with most Americans still eating plenty of sweets and not nearly enough veggies.

Yet, making these two changes -- cutting down or eliminating sweets and eating more vegetables -- is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to improve your diet.

This is especially true when it comes to fructose, the widespread sweetener found in just about every processed food and soda, which I've written about extensively. Fructose is metabolized to fat in your body far more rapidly than any other sugar, and, because most HFCS is consumed in liquid form (soda), its negative metabolic effects are further magnified. You've got to cut back on fructose (including in fruit) if you want to eat healthy.

On the flip side, there's little doubt that one of the best ways to improve your health is to make sure you're eating plenty of fresh, minimally processed high-quality vegetables, ideally locally grown and organic, with a majority of them consumed raw.

Please resist making the excuses that many Americans use -- as Consumer Reports revealed, common reasons Americans don't eat more veggie is because they're "hard to store or went bad too quickly" or they "don't like them." It's easy to purchase a variety of veggies to snack on, use in your meals or prepare as vegetable juice. You can find out some tips in my past article The Best and Worst Vegetables to Eat.

The Other Diet Variable Most Americans are Missing Out On …

We all have an enormous level of biochemical and genetic individuality that essentially guarantees there is no perfect food plan that will work for everyone.

We are all uniquely designed and require customized eating plans. This is why I adopted a program called Nutritional Typing, which is a central part of my health plan and is available for free on my site. We previously used to charge $29 to take the test and many thousands took it but now the test is free so please take advantage of it.

This plan categorizes people into three different groups:

  • Protein: High amounts of healthy fats and protein and lower amounts of vegetables
  • Carb: High amounts of vegetables and lower amounts of protein and fat
  • Mixed: Somewhere between the above options

The population is divided equally between the groups, with about one-third of the population of the US in each group.

Once I began implementing Nutritional Typing in my practice I noticed a remarkable decrease in those that did not respond favorably to dietary changes. Nearly everyone seemed to notice improvement, and for many it was quite dramatic.

One of the underlying principles of the program is to "Listen to Your Body" and adjust your foods based on how you feel mentally and physically after consuming them. Many who claim to have tried nutritional typing and report feeling worse have clearly missed this most essential point.

If, after a meal, you feel sluggish, tired, nauseous, or depressed, your meal was not ideal. If you are indeed following the nutritional typing program, this will be a giant clue that you need to modify your diet.

You make a great mistake if you simply take the test once and strictly follow the food choices recommended for that type -- you must continuously check in with yourself and keep modifying your food choices until you find the right balance of fats, healthy carbs and protein for you. Nutritional typing is a way to determine what YOUR customized diet is, and it is not even a one-size-fits-all within each nutritional grouping. If you take nutritional typing seriously, its guidelines will help you modify your food intake until you find the right balance for you.

You can experiment for yourself and observe your reactions, but if you would like a systematized way to figure out what diet truly is going to be healthy for you, then I would encourage you to take the free Nutritional Typing Test to determine what you were truly designed to eat.

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