Talking about diets in terms of their macronutrient ratios is very popular. It’s also popular in scientific studies. I can’t tell you how many diet studies I read where they list the macro ratios of the diets in their methods, but tell you NOTHING about the type of food that made up those diets! Without that information these studies are worthless, because trust me — you can design diets of all different types of macro ratios that are healthy and unhealthy. Macro ratio is worthless! Focus on the QUALITY of those foods, and make your diet mostly plants!
Dietary advice these days is just too complicated. There’s literally thousands of different “miracle diets” online and in best-selling books. And the worst part is you can routinely find polar opposite advice being sold as the miracle answer.
Well, I’ve got my own miracle answer, but unlike the others out there, I’m not selling anything and my answer is super super simple. Like, really simple.
If you want to lose weight and get healthy just do this one thing:
If you follow the various thought leaders in the plant-based movement you may have seen the acronym WFPB. For the uninitiated, this stands for “Whole Foods Plant-Based.” That’s the diet I and many others advocate for.
Adding to the lengthy acronym, many experts in the field also tack on that the diet they recommend is “WFPB No SOS.”
That, good sir or madam, is a mouthful.
“But a mouthful of what?” you ask.
The “No SOS” addition to the acronym stands for “no added salt, oils, or sugar.”
For many, the thought of simply following a vegan, whole foods diet can be extreme enough. Let’s be honest — for most of the country this is still seen as extreme (even though I really don’t think it should be!)
So the thought of eating this way while also cutting out all added sodium, cooking with oils, or added sugar, seems not only ludicrous, but what’s the point? I mean, is the point of eating to not enjoy our food??
So where do I fall on the “no SOS” spectrum? Let me take it piece by piece.
I do still add salt to my food. Except for the past week… Sort of.
For the entirety of my healthy eating journey I’ve taken a pretty simple approach to salt in my diet. I’ve felt that if I stayed hydrated enough (never a problem for me) and limited my processed food (also not a big problem) that I didn’t have to worry about whatever salt I used on my home cooked meals.
I still feel this way, but over the past week I have been trying a “no added salt” experiment, which I will detail in next week’s post, once I have the final results. So stay tuned…
Though spoiler alert, I don’t think it will change my salt philosophy. Stay hydrated. Limit processed foods. Don’t sweat it (or, do… see what I did there).
I do not add oil to my food. This one was relatively easy for me. I never liked the oily taste anyway, the way oil coats your mouth and lips. Yuck… And once I started sautéing with vegetable broth, I really, truly didn’t notice a single difference in the final product (other than the welcomed absence of said oily mouth syndrome…)
I will still occasionally eat things cooked in oil. If I’m out to eat I may indulge in a few fries here and there, or a vegan baked good that obviously has oil in it. I’m not a complete stickler, but in my kitchen I don’t use it. The only oil I keep is for seasoning my cast iron skillets… I do not believe oil is a health food or necessary in a diet, unless you want to add massive amounts of calories and fat to your meal without increasing the fullness factor one bit. Oil is a great way to gain weight. I stay away from it.
I do occasionally add sugar to my food. Well, not like, white sugar. Or cane, brown, coconut, whatever. I don’t add that kind of sugar. The sugar I do add is in the form of maple syrup in my morning oatmeal. I try not to add a crazy amount, but I definitely use it everyday. I could possibly wean myself off it, but hey — life is meant to be sweet.
In fact, I think the entire war on sugar is a bit overblown and is a red herring meant to distract us from the role of animal products in our diet and processed foods at large.
Sure soda is just awful for you. There’s no doubt. We weren’t meant to be able to deliver 50 grams of sugar to our bloodstream in under 60 seconds. That is decidedly bad for us.
But, it is also undeniable that fruit played a major role in our evolutionary diet.
Oh and not to mention the preferred fuel source in the body is glucose, and the only fuel source for the brain and red blood cells is glucose. Our bodies were designed to run on simple sugars. While much of that can (and should) be delivered to the body in the form of complex carbohydrates, there’s no doubt that simple sugars from fruit are important to our physiology.
And back to the red herring thing. I bet if you asked 100 random people why ice cream was bad for them, 100 would say “sugar.” Not the fact that there is also loads of dairy fat, specifically saturated and trans fats, or cholesterol, or hormones, or pus, or preservatives, or anything else. Is the sugar in the ice cream good for you? No. But is it the only reason it’s bad for you — in other words, remove the sugar and ice cream is now a health food? Absolutely not.
So to make a long story short, I am not completely anti-sugar. I am not afraid of it. I think it is very natural for humans to be drawn to it, and thus I don’t get all bent out of shape about the maple syrup I use in my oatmeal 🙂 And I even bake up a batch of vegan cookies from time to time with some real cane sugar added. You gotta indulge sometimes…
So there you have it.
My feelings on the “no S.O.S.” version of the WFPBD. Did I lose you? Essentially I think oils are useless, salt is delicious (more on that next week), and sugar is a o.k. — in moderation.
What is causing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease?
If you cruise the internet you may often see banner ads on the side of websites telling you that “fruit makes you fat!” You might especially be afraid of bananas, so high in sugar, ooooooooo!
Click bait aside, let’s look at the data to find the answer!
I have dreaded writing this post for a long time, but I fear I must confess this. I am a vegan, and I hate salad.
It’s just so boring. There are essentially NO calories in it, and it requires a heck of a lot of chewing. I mean really, what a waste! Seventy-five bites for like 6 calories? C’mon, gimme a break.
I honestly have better things to do with my time.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times in my life where I crave a good salad. If I’ve gone awhile without one, or if I am at a salad place that has tons of awesome, fresh ingredients on hand, things I could never keep at home for just me, then I will gleefully chow down on a big old salad.
Even the process of having salad supplies on hand at all times is difficult! You need to have bags of lettuce on hand, which we all know go bad almost immediately. Then you have to have all your favorite toppings, which for me usually means like 7 different vegetables, some seeds, maybe some avocado (also tough to have on hand at all times).
Then we get to the dressings, which are almost all loaded with fatty oils and often sugar, not to mention preservatives.
Sure you can make your own (I often just use straight balsamic vinegar or lemon juice!), but that’s a process as well.
Salad and I have a complex relationship.
Look don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to trash salad completely or throw it under the bus. Salad is quite possibly the single healthiest meal you can consume. If you want to lose weight fast, eat lots of salads, especially before the rest of your meal. If you want to get in literally endless nutrients and consume essentially zero calories, salad is the way to go.
But this is my point:
Salad is not required.
Liking salad is not a requirement of health. I eat salad probably a few times a month, almost never at home, and I still lost 30 pounds on a vegan plant-based diet and am in the best health of my life!
It is such a stereotype that all healthy eaters eat nothing but leaves. And especially us vegans!
I can’t tell you how many times I have received this comment when I’ve told people I am vegan. “Oh I could never do that, I just don’t like salad that much.”
THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE THINK WE EAT. NOTHING BUT SALAD.
Well I am here to shout from the mountaintops, I hate salad (except a couple times a month when I absolutely love salad. Like I said it’s complicated).
I need more calories than that.
Give me potatoes and sweet potatoes, give me black beans and chickpeas, give me tortillas, give me endless fruit, give me whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, give me starchy foods that have a little substance to them. I need to feel full, and salad just don’t cut it, not for me, a 6-foot, 170-pound male who works out regularly.
If you want to lose weight, by all means, eat salad.
I don’t want to send the wrong message — it is a very very very healthy food. But don’t for a second think that you can’t be healthy because you don’t enjoy eating salads. Neither do I! Not all vegans like salad. Some of us just need a little more food than that 🙂
Whole grains are causing the obesity epidemic. Ever heard that before? Let’s look at this claim. Are people eating too many whole grains? How many get the suggested minimum?
For years scientists have been trying to unlock the mystery of how human beings evolved such sophisticated and large brains. The prevailing theory for a long time has been that consumption of energy dense animal flesh (meat) freed up more energy for the brain to use. This lead to many health enthusiasts to develop and adopt what is called the “Paleo Diet” — a diet consisting mostly of meat and vegetables, with no grain, beans, or dairy, and very little fruit.
However, this theory ignores a very basic fact of human physiology — the brain runs exclusively on glucose. It literally cannot use another energy source. And glucose is only found in plants (with the exception of lactose in dairy milk), in the form of complex starches in grains, beans, and tubers, and simple sugars in fruit.
And while technically those on a low-carb diet can convert some fats and proteins into glucose for their brains to use, it is very inefficient, and would not easily supply the large amounts of energy the brain needed to evolve and grow to its current size.
Simply put it is highly unlikely that early humans were following any version of a low-carb diet. In fact it would appear likely that humans evolved their large brains in an environment rich in carbohydrate energy, and a new study just published adds to this theory in a big way.
The study, published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, proposed 5 facts that support their hypothesis that cooked starches (tubers, potatoes, grains, etc) and other carbohydrate foods were instrumental to the development of our higher brain capacity. The 5 factual observations are the following:
- The human brain [makes up just 2% of total body weight but] uses up to 25% of total energy, and up to 60% of total blood glucose. Simply put it is a glucose fiend; an energy hog.
- Human pregnancy and lactation place additional demands on the body’s blood glucose budget and low maternal blood glucose levels compromise the health of both the mother and her offspring. It is highly unlikely that successful offspring would be produced in a chronically low-carb environment.
- Starches were readily available to early humans in the form of tubers, as well as in seeds, and some fruits and nuts. In other words, we evolved in an environment with abundant carbohydrate food sources.
- While raw starches are often poorly digested by humans, when cooked they lose their crystalline structure and become far more easily digested. Cooking is key to the starch story.
- Salivary amylase genes are usually present in many copies in humans (on average 6 copies), but only 2 copies in other primates. This increases the amount of salivary amylase produced [in saliva] and so increases the ability to digest starch. The exact date when salivary amylase genes multiplied remains uncertain, but genetic evidence suggests it was sometime in the last 1 million years. This is one of the only physiological differences between human digestive anatomy and other primate digestive anatomy. Remember, other primates still eat a very high-carb diet from mostly fruits, however the energy density of fruit is lower than cooked starches, hence cooked starches provide an evolutionary advantage.
Cooking starches freed up massive amounts of energy, in the only form the brain can use — carbohydrates (glucose). This influx of energy would have been necessary to develop and evolve a much larger and more powerful brain.
You were meant to eat starch.
Eat the diet we evolved to eat. Follow the true Paleo Diet — one based on high-carb, low-fat starches, like potatoes, beans and legumes, rice, wheat, corn, barley, and quinoa. Round out your diet with fruits and vegetables.
In fact, all large, successful populations of human beings have survived on a diet based on starch, from rice in Asia to corn in Central America to wheat in the Middle East to potatoes in South America.
For more on the real story behind starch and its importance to human health and evolution, read the groundbreaking book by Dr. John McDougall called Starch Solution.
Starch need not be vilified but celebrated for the key role it played in human evolution. You have your big powerful brain to thank for it!
Why do books like Grain Brain and Wheat Belly sell millions of copies while sound, balanced nutritional advice is ignored? How can the vegan and plant-based message be simplified?