What I Eat and What I Don’t Eat – 2014 Edition

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It has been two years since I updated this list. If you want to see how my diet has become less restrictive over time, let me point you to the two prior editions.

Most of the reasons I had for restricting certain foods turned out to be weak at best or just flat out wrong.

I have rejected the neurotic overly restrictive diets peddled by many in the nutritional blogosphere. Most foods aren’t bad, but eating them in excess can be. People are quick to accept the narrative that the blame lies with the food and not with the excess. But in a world of endless eating options, I still feel it is a rational decision to remove the foods most likely to cause issues and those with the worst nutrient profiles. Often they are one in the same.

What I Don’t Eat

#1 Industrial Seed Oils – What if it is all about vegetable oil? Once you strip away allergies and intolerances, what if the decline in health many experience can all be tied back to consumption of industrial seed oils? I did a three part series on this topic last December. Start with The Common Enemy in Nutrition.

#2 Wheat / Gluten – Since my 2012 edition, the gluten defenders have been at it in full force. The logic goes something like this: most people are fine with gluten, therefore strict gluten avoidance is unnecessary, therefore gluten is fine and thus gluten is healthy. I appreciate the motivation of the defenders in that we shouldn’t be falsely demonizing any food, yet it is a big leap to go from saying “gluten isn’t bad for most people” to “gluten is healthy”.

Even if you have zero issues with gluten, I don’t consider it to be risk free. From the post Was I Wrong About Gluten? Part 2:

When I listened to Evil Sugar Radio Episode 9, Antonio Valladares and Alan Aragon were mostly dismissive of gluten issues. Alan shared his research stating that 90-91% of the population does not have any gluten issues, so therefore gluten is fine and that projecting these problems out to everyone is absurd.

I have a few problems with the logic here. One is 10% is not a small number. What if it really is 30%? That is a tremendous number. Something is going on and even if I wasn’t gluten intolerant, I’d be taking notice. Why are so many people having so many issues with a food that is so prevalent? And what does “fine” really mean? Do we know? I have trouble believing that a food would be harmful to 10% (or 30%), but beneficial to 90% (or 70%).

My concern here is that we still don’t know that much about gluten issues. So instead of focusing on what is causing the problem, the defenders focus on how small the problem really is and how most people are perfectly fine with wheat. Absence of evidence is not absence of risk. As a healthy person who has dealt with this issue, I see their callous attitude as counter productive to figuring out what is causing the problem.

I also find it interesting that many of the gluten defenders are quick to advise their clients to cut out processed foods. I don’t know where you draw the line on the term processed, but with the exception of the WAPF group that soaks, sprouts and ferments grains, I’d consider all the wheat based products you find at the grocery store or in restaurants to be processed. I’m actually surprised I don’t see others pointing this out.

So if I avoid gluten and I’m not “gluten sensitive”, then that makes me neurotic. Yet if I avoid processed carbs, most of which have gluten in them, that makes me health conscious?

Anthony Colpo’s latest book is a good primer into why grains still aren’t healthy.

Whole Grains, Empty Promises: The Surprising Truth about the World's Most Overrated 'Health' Food
Whole Grains, Empty Promises: The Surprising Truth about the World’s Most Overrated ‘Health’ Food by Anthony Colpo

Regular readers now know I no longer avoid gluten 100%. I drink about 1 beer a month. I no longer go out of my way to avoid soy sauce or gojuchang. I believe I have restored my ability to handle some gluten by restoring my gut flora with fermented foods (dairy kefir, kimchi) after heavy use of antibiotics. However, that is just my best guess. I have no way of knowing for sure what happened. And because I don’t know, I am not going to return to eating bread. It took me years to restore my health and I like how I feel without it.

Many nutritional gurus are jumping on the idea that the gluten shark is gone (or never existed), so we can all jump back in the water. I’m unconvinced. I’ll be on the shore watching you guys. As someone with a background in investing, I do not think the gluten defenders understand risk or appreciate my concept of nutritional alpa.

#3 Diet Colas – On the list, off the list, on the list, off the list and now back on. Although I am not convinced this food is dangerous, I’m also not convinced it is safe. If I want a cola on a hot day, I’ll get one with sugar.

#4 Food From China – I will not knowingly purchase food from that ecological disaster. I’m sure I get some China based food when I eat out at some Asian restaurants, but I’m not going to buy any for home.

#5 Peanuts – I do not think peanuts are good for us, yet I purposely will expose myself to a few each year. For an explanation see Healthy vs Resilient.

That is the entire list.

Neutral Foods

#1 Alcohol – I can only handle a small amount of beer. Thankfully the style I seem OK with is the saison, which is my favorite.

hilliards saison

Hilliards Saison Photo by Luke Dorny.

#2 Nuts – I am less down on nuts than I was last year. See the post Nuts, PUFA and Vitamin E for an explanation. I still minimize their consumption, because I tend to overeat them when they are around.

#3 Oranges, Tangerines – I’ve moved these foods off the Avoid list as I am less repulsed by their smell. Still not a fan. Maybe someday. For a background explanation, see Why I Don’t Like Oranges.

#4 Sugar – I feel sugar has gotten an undeserved bad reputation. Once the saturated fat/cholesterol boogie man was killed, everyone went looking for a new villain to fill that role. Sugar was picked. I think sugar has a lot of bad friends such as industrial seed oils and wheat, but by itself I am longer swayed by the weak evidence that is inflammatory or heaven forbid “toxic”. The phrase excess sugar is used so much, I think a lot people stopped thinking about the term excess.

The only reason it is on the neutral list is because it can be easy to over consume and it can displace more nutrient dense calories (nutritional alpa). But eating sugar when your nutrient demands are met and you aren’t in caloric surplus is fine and can even be beneficial. I’ve used sugar to increase appetite to gain muscle and used to help my sleep.

What I Eat

Pretty much everything else is now fair game. Inclusive eating is so much more enjoyable.

14 thoughts on “What I Eat and What I Don’t Eat – 2014 Edition

  1. Big Tex

    As a person that was getting good exercise but ate alot of everything-good and bad…to the point of gaining weight from 180 to 215 over the last few years…
    and climaxing with a cardiac event on 8/27 after running some 50 yard intervals and then having quad bypass surgery on 8/28…I have been looking for dietary answers…the big thing for me was a high carb/calorie diet….up to this point I from 8/28, I have lost 20 lbs and want to get to 175 again…I have been pretty much now following a diet that is pretty much what MAS is following…I have been starting every morning with a “green” drink made in a Ninja blender.

  2. @Big Tex – Sorry to hear about the bypass surgery.

    I will say that diet is what I think is best for me today and that I wouldn’t want to tell someone else that my way is best for them. This is a journey for me, which is why I put the date in the title of these posts. I fully expect in two years to add a 2016 edition. If the past is any predictor, it is likely to have a few changes.

    Be well.

  3. Big Tex

    I cannot disagree with anything you have posted, but even though you say you are
    not Paleo…you a pretty close…as a person that started with Mark’s Daily Apple and
    I believe I found your website cause he recommended it in one of his postings, I find the differences pretty minor.
    It was interesting to see the diet the hospital and my rehab center is still pushing is the same old food pyramid of old…all fats are bad and must be limited, grains(especially whole wheat) are good, and saturated fats are bad.

  4. Big Tex

    I really can’t rule out that I have been a victim of PUFA…one thing I have done for
    sure over the last 10 years and for sure the last 5 years is eat out a bunch more…like I may have been living in PUFA heaven….that and eliminating grains is my real focus now…

  5. Marcelo

    I’m pretty happy with a two meal a day system. I’m gaining muscle and not fat with bodyweight exercises, and i don’t restrict a single food (if i want it). But pursuing muscle growth, i tend to eat healthier because i focus primarily on protein and good fats, and good carbs.

    But i lost fat just eating two big and fat sandwiches (hamburger + eggs + cheese + ham + salad) plus orange juice a day just to prove myself that calories is what matters when fat loss is the target.

  6. Big Tex

    Yea well I used to eat a huge amount of ice cream…no more…except on a rare occasion….it all really points to how bad processed/man made foods are for us coupled with over eating….but when you are young all this has less of an effect on you but when you get in your ’60’s…you can’t afford the recklessness…

  7. Inclusive eating is SO much more enjoyable. I used to be “primal” and spent lots of energy avoiding certain foods. Now I eat more of certain foods and less of others… but overall eat everything. I’m happier and feel healthier this way.

  8. Marcelo

    @Big Tex: it’s only after my training, once or twice a week. I feel that ice cream helps with my recovery and muscle growth, because i tend to eat clean most of the time.

    @Becca: i tried paleo (carbs of salad only) in the past (2010) and lost lots of fat and water weigh, gained a six pack (training everyday) but a (more even) gaunt face (people asked me if i was sick). When it messed with my sleep (i could not sleep due to adrenalin: heart pounding, clenched jaw, hot flashes, extremely high cortisol) i found the “solution” eating 5 straight honey tablespoons before bed, that gave me carbs that my body was needing. Now i don’t even think in live without carbs (a good quantity).

  9. @Marcelo – Thanks for sharing your story and how you resolved it. The “sugar is toxic” people would be wise to read your words.

  10. Rick

    I feel best when I leave the bulk of my carbs to the evening. This advice is as per Dr. Sydney Baker author of The Circadian Prescription. His diet is based on our 24+ hour physiological rhythm which we all have in common. During the day he emphasizes protein and fat intake with most of the carbs eaten with the evening mea (to fuel the liver for all the myriad of things it has to do while we sleep). He also advises caffeine intake be moved from the morning to late afternoon so as to be close to circadian neutral. Dr. Baker also outlines what is the best way to prepare for air travel between time zones to mitigate severe jet lag.

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