Natural my a#%!

Natural. The popular catch cry of nutrition gurus, the favorite fallback of all diets.

Let’s start with a simple fact. Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it is good for you. Take cyanide… Ok, let’s not go that far. Let’s have a closer look at the new darling of weight loss magazines: “heart healthy whole grains”. The clever advertising normally involves one of the following: vast expansive fields, shimmering gold wheat, sunburnt farmers, a shape of a heart and a coy mention of “regularity”.

Apply STEP 1 of the FCS: Metabolism
How many mammal species eat grains as a major part of their diet, let alone the base of the food pyramid? When did the human digestive system learn how to process the food group that in the animal kingdom is a leftover for birds only? The reason why you don’t see herds of cows stampeding the wheat fields is that they instinctively know the toxic components of grains: gliadin proteins, wheat germ agglutinin and other lectins, phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors.

STEP 2: Evolution
Since the advent of agriculture people used many processing methods to neutralise the poisons in grains: milling, sifting to remove most of the toxic bran (yes, the one in your bran muffin), fermenting (8-12 days for traditional sourdough), forming into batter, fermenting again for a few hours and finally baking. Making bread was hard work and you can be sure it wasn’t possible to make 6-11 serves recommended today. Bread became a poor man’s meat, an inferior substitute source of nutrition when precious animal products were no longer available on regular hunts.
Today life is so much easier. The industrial processes mill grains into super-fine flour. The fermentation process is largely unused. For “health conscious” consumers, seeds and bran are added back into the mix.

STEP 3: Scientific evidence
Much evidence exists on the damage grains cause to our body. Coeliac disease is the most well-known condition in which gluten causes widespread damage to intestinal lining, causing malabsorption, debilitating digestive complaints, skin rash and higher rates of some cancers. But coeliac is just the tip of a big ugly iceberg. Other conditions linked to grains are less well known: autoimmune thyroid and liver disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type I diabetes and even schizophrenia.

Natural? You gotta be kidding me.
Sigh… Moving on…

In the yuppy heaven of the trendy suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles or London you will come across organic/natural cafes frequented by very casually but expensively dressed 20-somethings who look like they desperately need a feed. The drink of choice is usually soy (possibly chai) latte. Somebody please tell me what is so very natural about soy milk. Have you ever seen a soy bean and does it look like you can easily get “milk” from it? The process of creating this dubiously “natural” beverage is a genius of food chemistry and machinery.

Click for better resolution

Baby food and Adhesives… Yummm

Organic soymilk coffee: the irony

And why is it sold in a dairy section of the supermarkets? (together with margarine made from industrial seed oils in a container with a picture of a cow). To grow herbs on your own balcony and to shop at local farmers markets does not go with drinking soy milk! Let’s not even get started on phytoestrogen and isoflavone content of unfermented soy products and its effect on your thyroid and testosterone. Every time I walk past a baby food aisle in the supermarket and see baby soy formula it makes me physically sick. Some of the most prominent New Zealand scientists, like  Dr  Mike Fitzpatrick and Professor Cliff Irvine, have been calling on NZ Government to completely ban infant soy formula after what they have discovered in the course of their research. (Fitzpatrick “Soy formulas and the effects of isoflavons on the thyroid” NZMJ 2000)

Other pseudo-natural food items that come to mind are egg whites and skinless chicken breasts. I’m trying to  remember the last time I saw an animal documentary where a predator raiding a birds nest carefully breaks each egg into two pieces, decants the whites into a prepared container and then discards the nasty yellow in the centre. Eggs are a complete food. Yes, they have cholesterol and (gasp!) even saturated fat. But they provide a complete profile of essential nutrients, including choline, the deficiency of which has been linked with fatty liver disease. Eating egg whites is a bit like eating the peeled skin off an apple and discarding the rest. Ditto applies to chicken skin, fat on the meat and offal (highly prized in the animal kingdom).

The prize goes to low fat dairy products. If you are lactose-intolerant or just sensitive to dairy due to digestive or autoimmune conditions, that’s another story (unless you substitute it with soy – see above). People who drink skim milk because of their lipophobia have a lack of basic understanding of what  a natural product actually is. Every constituent of food plays an important role. You can’t just remove fat in isolation and expect everything else to remain the same. Fat content of dairy products allows for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A and D. Why do you think skim milk is often “fortified” with these vitamins and calcium? Milk is another nutritionally complete food. The
macronutrient content of human breast milk is as follows.

Human Breast Milk. Per 250 mL. Source: CalorieKing.com

As you can see the saturated fat content is very high. The medical profession is united in advocating breastfeeding. However, according to conventional wisdom, on the day the child turns 2 years of age they miraculously cease requiring fatty acids for healthy brain development. What was highly beneficial at 1 year and 364 days becomes a silent killer the very next day. No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

Four pillars of modern “natural” nutrition: wholegrains, low fat dairy, egg whites and soy.

I don’t care whether you believe in God or Mother Nature: neither are stupid enough to provide us with natural foods that need industrial-strength modifications and pharmaceutically-supported supplementation just to make them edible. Humans are the only species on this planet which require multi-million dollar investigations to tell them what to eat. Because clearly after 2 million years in existence we clearly still haven’t worked it out.

End rant.
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34 thoughts on “Natural my a#%!

    • My daughter knows exactly how butter is made: take a small bottle of fresh cream and shake it. Margarine processing will take a lot longer to explain.

  1. Another great read and bringing us back to basics. It isn’t the food’s fault allergies/diseases have increased, it is man/woman trying to change nature. Great post Anastasia.

  2. nice one anastasia! keep em coming… I still sugar/CHO lapse at the moment, have lots to adjust and adapt to. BUT, this stuff just helps re-confirm that the choices I am making are correct and that I need to stay on the path as much as I can as I remove the bad and replace with butter, no, …sorry, better!

    • Pun intended, I’m sure :). Lapses are normal. You can’t change your diet and whole thinking overnight. But I found that they come less and less frequently. Any change is better than none at all. Eventually it stops being the matter of having enough willpower. You just stop wanting it: inferior taste, suboptimal nutrition, side effects and reduced cravings. Good luck!

      • pun completely intended 🙂 Thank you, and keep ’em coming… each one comes in a nice bite sized chunk, you have hit the spot in terms of information consumption vs volume of text, give me too much and I tune out: you’ve got it just right! Thanks again… Fred

  3. Nice One Anastasia,
    I have been telling people this for ages, but the brain washing by media and such is powerful, my other pet hate diet drinks, asparteme/ nutrisweet etc…

    and next time Lee comes to Perth you will have to sneak in the luggage 🙂

    Tony

    • Thanks Tony, Lee had some good words about you too. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never been to Perth. So I think for the next trip Lee would have to cop up for an extra ticket.

  4. Well said Anastasia. Another natural ‘favourite” of mine is rice bran oil. I look at the bottle of rice bran oil and then at a grain of rice and wonder just what amazing process they have to go through to turn one into the other!

  5. Primalmeded,

    Its great to read another post and to have it enhanced with a dash of rant, a touch of sarcasm, loaded with common sense and even may I say, a bit of the middle finger! Knowledge and passion can be a formidable combination. More of it, I say.

    Well done

    eljaes

  6. Nice post. FYI, for someone who’s lactose intolerant, that’s no excuse to consume low-fat dairy. If anything, that will make your problem *worse* since the lactose resides in the whey portion of the milk–not the part that’s removed when you’re defatting it.

    Lactose-intolerant need to look into fermented dairy as an alternative if they still want to consume dairy. However, if you make homemade yogurt and ferment it 24 hours and you’re still getting pains, you may be looking at casein allergy instead. I’m not a doctor but I talk with enough people interested in this topic who’ve had problems with milk that I now try to remember to suggest casein allergy to them, because the circumstances under which milk bothers them make no sense to me otherwise.

    • I agree regarding fermented dairy. Most traditional cultures are aware of those benefits. What I meant in the post that many lactose-intolerant people tend to avoid dairy altogether. In my personal experience though avoiding wheat and grains can actually improve your tolerance of dairy. I speculate that excluding grains helps heal the intestinal mucosa to the point where the symptoms of dairy intolerance (where related to the lack of lactase) are reduced. As you pointed out, casein allergy is more serious and tends to cause a wider immune system reaction.

  7. Hey Anastasia!
    I like your blog. Its nice to see someone who is leaving med school with a level head on their shoulders. I’m a very interested reader in these circles, and I’m looking to gather enough information to help people learn to avoid “non-foods” in favor of more suitable, natural ones. Keep up the good work!

  8. Greetings Anastasia,

    I recently started reading you blog after seeing it on the Fat Head site and I have been really enjoying your posts.

    This post gave me an “ah ha” moment that both terrified and angered me more than I like to think it could have. I live in the Silicon Valley, and here in the land of gracious governmental oversight it has been said that we have “epidemic” proportions of brain chemistry problems with out kids.

    I remember growing up in the 80s with whole milk most of the time until my late teens. As an adult I followed the guidelines I learned in school, and passed them along to my child who got the same thing in school.

    My son has autism and most of my friends children have something “abnormal” with their brain chemistry be it ADD, ADHD or any of the dozens of other issues. I wont to become outraged until I see some good science about the subject, but viscerally…

    Recently, my wife and I have been making a lot of dietary changes for weight and for general health and we are taking a lot more time to look at the science and pay attention to what we eat and how it got to us. I love reading your posts and sharing them on FB and elsewhere.

    Thank you,
    ~Jon Wanzer

    • Dear Jon, as a parent I hear the frustration in your voice. We tried to do the best for our children by following the “healthy” guidelines. The science is just starting to understand the link between our diets and brain development. I highly recommend you start reading the blog of a brilliant psychiatrist Dr Emily Dean. She writes about the important role that nutrition plays in our mental health, touching on topics like autism, ADHD, schizophrenia and depression. Here is a direct link to one of her autism posts.
      I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. Best wishes to your whole family with your lifestyle change.

  9. Great Rant and I totally agree. The only reason why corn is so cheap is that it’s subsidized by our tax dollars. If it were priced as it costs, then no one’d be eating it except for special occasions.
    But for the skim milk rant – before there was this industrial process called “homogenization”, the animal was milked, the milk sat until the cream was separated and then the cream was “skimmed” off the top to make things like butter (which keeps longer) and the skim milk was drunk.
    ALSO! up until recently, the fat content in most dairy animals was not nearly as high as it is now.
    😉

  10. How can soy “milk” be labelled a food?
    I saw an ad for a brand of ice cream that was: “Made with the goodness of low fat milk. And no artificial colours or sweeteners.” Investigation revealed that the first two ingredients were reconstituted low fat milk and glucose syrup (wheat). Hmmmm … wheat is a naturel sweetener? Further down the list were sugar and soy and a list of additives that had more numbers than the Periodic Table.
    But it was 97% Fat Free! So I guess that makes it Good for us!

    • Yep you can whip up pretty much any chemical concoction and as long as you package it up with bright pics of fruits and vegetables and then stamp Low Fat on it, it’s perfectly ok.

  11. Here’s the thing….. I know alot of people who drink and eat “soy” especially. I’ve had many discussions about it with them and asked why. They all say the same thing… “I just can’t stand the taste of (real) milk”…. And the funniest thing of all…. the majority of these people claim to be “health smart” and “gym junkies (almost)” is it just me or does that just not make sense??? =/

    • I wonder what they think of soy with no vanilla flavour, no sugar and no coffee. The greatest “health product” of our time is just another processed industrial fake.

  12. Actually soy ‘milk’ is not on that processing chart. Traditionally soy ‘milk’ is made from dried soy beans that are soaked then ground up in water. That’s it. Natural tofu is made by coagulating the protein from the soy ‘milk’. I’m not saying this makes it good for you, just that it is possible to buy a good quality soy ‘milk’ that isn’t an ‘industrial fake’.

    • Agree, Rowdy (love the name, by the way), though it is not how the majority of soy milk in the supermarket is made. Still wouldn’t drink it due to phytates and phytoestrogen levels.

      • Yeah, the soy milk found in grocery stores is a byproduct of the processing shown in the chart above. They found a way to market it, but really it’s just industrial waste.

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