For the sake of completeness, I think I should finish this before writing a different article. Bear with me.
6. Dark Chocolate. When you eat dark chocolate, you are eating a gosh darn health food. Let that good news soak in. Here’s why. It’s packed with antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and most importantly, chocolate. As I write this, I am eating a delicious 90% cocoa dark chocolate bar with my coffee. The bar is big (100 grams), like the size of a legal letter. I may eat the whole thing. But Dr. Jimmy, what about all the sugar? Easy, I’d have to eat 6 servings to get the sugar we get from one banana. Also it’s loaded with healthy fats, which helps offset the sugar content a bit.
Also chocolate is a fermented food. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. Fermented foods are generally super good for you and should be consumed regularly. If you eat processed milk chocolate like the kind in a Three Musketeers Bar (probably the weakest candy bar on the market today, in my opinion) then obviously these benefits don’t apply as you are getting a giant load of sugar in your mouth from the milk chocolate and the “whipped center.” Did anyone else ever think that the name, “Three Musketeers Bar” doesn’t really make sense? I did some research and found out that it got its name, because they used to have three candy bar flavors in one package. During WWII, manufacturers couldn’t get the ingredients for all the different flavors, so they just made the one flavor they could get. To save money they altered the recipe and added sugar to liquified elementary school gym mats to create the “whipped center” to fill the bars. The cost savings were so huge, they kept the recipe after the war. Here’s another fun fact. Only part of that story is counterfactual. Here are the ABC’s of buying chocolate.
Avoid Dutch Chocolate. I love the Dutch, and not just for their pancakes, their painters, and their progressive customs regarding women picking up the check on a date, but the chocolate in American stores that is labeled “Dutch” goes through an alkalizing process that dramatically lowers it’s antioxidants. So avoid it.
Bring your recycled shopping bags to the store.
Cocoa powder should be the first ingredient. 75% cocoa and higher is best to keep the sugar content low and the antioxidants high. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the lower the sugar.
Dark chocolate only. Milk chocolate is a sugar bomb, with less antioxidants. White chocolate is worst of all.
Eat organic and fair trade chocolate whenever possible.
Freely share my website with your friends on Twitter, Instagram, and Tinder.
7. Coconut Oil. I just wrote about this in a rant about the American Heart Association. I should have included this meme in the article. Here is the link.
8. Eggs. In the 1980’s eggs were put in the same health category as cigarettes, butter, and cocaine. Later, eggs were given a pardon and a media frenzy followed…
Thankfully the nutritional community has pulled its head out of its ass regarding eggs, and butter is also now getting some traction. Science has yet to go full circle and re-endorse the use of cocaine, but that’s a later post.
Despite being given the green light nutritionally, eggs have failed to be given the respect they deserve as one of the most delicious, inexpensive, and nutritious foods at our local mega-mart. It kills me when people order egg white omelets, which is a less healthful and less tasty version of a regular omelets. Ordering an egg white omelet is like fishing without beer. I suppose you’re still technically fishing, but I don’t see the point.
Most vegetarians don’t eat eggs, but they should. During medical school, I had friends who raised chickens as pets and regarded the eggs as a thank you present from their birds. They didn’t eat the chickens (they’re pets), but they damn sure ate the eggs. It’s like having pets with benefits. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.
Eggs (specifically the yolk part) are high in omega-3 fats and protein. Also eggs have very little sugar, gluten, and high fructose corn syrup — none to be precise.
9. Cheese. Is cheese a health food like kale, eggs, or salmon? Probably not, but good cheese is delicious. Admittedly, commercialized cheese has it’s blemishes, but on the bright side, cheese is low in carbs and high in fat and protein. Cheese has a few beneficial micronutrients like calcium and is a great partner with veggies. Hard, organic, grass fed, and local are generally good adjectives to seek out when buying cheese, but not required. Also traditional cheese only has 4-5 ingredients, so keep an eye out for processed fillers and chemicals. Bad adjectives include: lowfat, government surplus, mystery, canine, American, and “not for human consumption.”
Is Kraft American “Cheese” good for you? Uhh, no. Also it’s not cheese. What about Velveeta, Cheez Whiz, EZ Cheeze, or that cheese that comes in Kraft Mac’n Cheez? Also not cheese. Always avoid “cheeses” that are powdered, spelled with a “Z,” or can be squirted out of a can, unless you are in a zombie apocalypse survival situation or very very drunk.
Lactose intolerant people can be sensitive to cows’ milk cheese, but usually goats’ cheese is OK. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Because cheese is mostly fat and protein, it’s actually low in lactose and therefore shouldn’t be as intestinally disruptive as milk, yogurt, and ice cream. I am sensitive to dairy and get a pretty bad rash from cheese, but only when applied directly to the skin of my inner thighs.
10. Beef. Here are some outrageous claims that you may not believe. Grass fed beef (GFB) is better for you than chicken. My junior high school shop teacher was caught on America’s Most Wanted. Peanuts aren’t really nuts. All of those statements are true, except for the one about my shop teacher, but he did bear a strong resemblance, and I am very sorry for any suffering that my anonymous tip may have caused #seesomethingsaysomething.
GFB is high in omega-3 fats, because grass fed cows eat grass which contain omega-3’s. As we’ve discussed before, we want a balance between our omega-3’s and omega-6’s in our diet. Almost every American has way too many omega-6’s in their diet, this imbalance is pro-inflammatory. Chickens are fed grain, even the organic ones. Green leafy grassy stuff is better than grain. I’m going to get that last sentence tattooed somewhere.
Organic, sustainably raised chickens are fine on occasion, but the conventional poultry industry in America is a horror show, and neither organic nor conventional chicken can compare to GFB. Americans have drastically increased their chicken consumption since the low fat nutritional movement. This was bad for human health and even worse for the health and life expectancy of chickens. Meat is a healthful (but not required) food choice for humans. We are just doing it wrong for the most part. The more we demand responsible and healthful meat choices, the cheaper and more prevalent it will become. Sorry I got all preachy. To be clear, I never eat chicken nuggets, but I still eat regular chicken when I’m having Hooters Wings or a bucket of the Colonel’s Extra Crispy. I just feel bad about it, and now you can too.
In conclusion, I hoped to shed some light on a few delicious foods that aren’t considered healthy. All of which are more healthful and way better tasting than mainstream health foods like whole wheat bread, Nutri-grain bars, Cheerios, chicken breasts, orange juice, and bananas. I know that I tend to ramble. I will work on my brevity in the future. My website keeps track of how many people read these things, so let me take this opportunity to give a special thanks to those of you who made it through the entire list. I appreciate you both.
Why are they doing it? It’s about the money. There’s a lot of money in keeping Americans sick, fat, and requiring surgical and pharmaceutical interventions. There’s a lot of money in selling processed sugary cardboard breakfast cereals, and unfortunately there isn’t much money in selling coconut oil or running a snarky, but honest, health website.
Just because I’m against the American Heart Association, doesn’t mean I’m against conventional medical advice. I happen to be a physician. If your doctor tells you that you need a medication, I am inclined to agree with your doctor, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ask why or what you need to do to get off the medication. Patients who change their lifestyle by following my advice get off meds for cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes, but you can’t just stop taking your heart meds because you ate a little kale and went for a jog. Also, I prefer yoga and weights. Don’t get me started. My point is that you have to do it with the help of a medical professional, like me.
First let’s discuss Coconut Oil. This stuff has been on a roller coaster of public opinion. Coconut oil was blowing up like Michael Jackson after the Thriller album, but haters gonna hate, and the next thing you know coconut oil and MJ get labeled with embarrassing nicknames like “Wacko Jacko,” “Pure Poison,” or “Accused Pedophile.” USA Today did a hit piece on coconut oil that had my coworker (Let’s just call him Eric.) questioning my enthusiasm for coconuts and the delicious healthy oil they produce. Here’s a link to the bullshit article that Eric was referring to.
First off, how is USA Today still in business? It’s claims to fame are that it’s printed in color, written at a pre-K reading level, and given out free at La Quinta Inn and Suites. Their crossword puzzle gives hints like “this spicy country rhymes with texico.” Speaking of spice, if The USA Today was a spice, it’d be flour. Here are some ridiculous posts from the USA Today.
Back to coconut oil and it’s many detractors. The guy who is behind the aforementioned, well publicized anti-coconut oil article is Dr. Frank Sacks, and when he’s not clubbing baby seals (joke) and serving on the American Whole Grain Board (not a joke), he writes the dietary guidelines for The American Heart Association (AHA). I dislike the AHA, and to a lesser degree Dr. Frank Sacks and I don’t believe a word he says. Here’s why. First, he was the guy who put the “Heart Healthy” label on Cocoa Puffs, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms and a bunch of other terrible breakfast junk foods.
To be clear, he’s not an idiot (He went to Harvard.), and any nutritional scientist who went to Harvard who tells you that Lucky Charms are good for you, probably lies about other things too. He’s a smart guy, and he gets paid very well to spew this non-sense. In his defense, he probably doesn’t even like telling these lies. He must have a balloon payment coming on his summer home or something.
I’m sure if the coconut farmers would pony up some dough, the AHA would endorse coconut oil as well. Based on their track record, the AHA would put a heart healthy stamp on McDonald’s fries, my couch, or pure uncut Colombian cocaine if provided with the prerequisite monies required for said stamp. To be clear, I’m not saying that the AHA are prostitutes dressed as scientists who sell out the health of the American public to make a buck, but I don’t know how to finish this sentence.
So how does the AHA pretend that coconut oil is bad for us? By ignoring current data and instead using biased and cherry-picked research from the 1960’s to conclude that saturated fats cause heart disease (They don’t.). Coconut oil is mostly saturated fat, as is human breastmilk.
Below is research compiled from this century (no big deal) by Cochrane, aka the gold standard in research (also no big deal), that shows that the AHA’s stance on fats, and especially saturated fats, is about as current as the pants that Hammer used to wear, I forget what they were called.
This is a Cochrane meta-analysis (lots of studies data compiled into one article) about butter, (saturated fat), and this article briefly breaks down the top five saturated fat studies of the last ten years. Be sure to send this link to someone who still is afraid of coconut oil.
I spent half of a day on the AHA website, and I will never ever get that time back, but I kept finding more and more bad advice. Here are some of my favorite terrible pearls (in italics) along with my snarky critiques (not in italics):
Choose Margarine over butter. This is ridiculous and even worse than the Lucky Charms thing. The AHA is the lone holdout defending the Alamo of margarine against an overwhelming onslaught of scientific data. But why? Oh, they get money from margarine manufacturers. They support the use of canola and corn oil for the same reason, but margarine is so stupid bad for you I had to lead with that.
Eat fruits, whole grains, and low fat dairy over protein. I like most fruits (not bananas), but this advice to prefer grains and low fat dairy over protein is how you get diabetes. This advice will keep you hungry, sick, and tired. Please ignore. If you’re gonna eat dairy, get the full fat organic kind. It tastes better and lacks the extra antibiotics and hormones that can lead to early puberty, cancers, and increased breast tissue in men.
Eat non-fat sour cream. Regular sour cream has one ingredient and it’s delicious sour cream. Fat-free sour cream has 18 ingredients (I used Kroger brand as an example.). One of the ingredients is propylene glycol monoester which sounds like lighter fluid and anti-freeze. The AHA can politely f*** off with that fat free Frankenstein sour cream. I’m good with the original and delicious full fat sour cream, thanks.
Drink Soy Milk. Soy milk is not good for you. See my food rants article. If you must drink soy milk, get the organic kind, because conventional soy is about as bad as conventional cow’s milk. I feed my kids almond, flax, or whole organic cow’s milk.
Don’t skip breakfast or lunch. This will be the subject of my next article, because this is an important point, and it’s a little confusing. Also there’s a lot of potential for jokes. All the studies that show eating breakfast is good for you have two things in common. They use questionable methods (small samples, observational data, etc), and they are funded by the people who make breakfast cereals. Time restricted eating (not eating breakfast) and fasting continue to show benefits without downside in waves of unbiased new research. More to come on this, but here’s a snippet. The AHA is just trying to feed you Lucky Charms and give you diabetes. Do they get money from diabetic pharmaceutical companies? You already know the answer.
Organic food is no better than conventional food. Let me guess. There are no organic farms financially supporting the AHA. Yes, that’s correct. The AHA sited a lack of evidence for organic foods’ benefits. I guess there are mountains of data supporting the consumption of Lucky Charms. In my opinion, we should eat organic as much as our budget allows but especially with regards to the dairy we feed our kids and the fruits and vegetables that have edible skin like grapes, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, etc. More on this soon.
You can use sugars to help enhance your diet. The AHA message to monitor and limit “added sugar,” but to not worry about “naturally occurring sugar” is reckless. So the ridiculous amounts of sugar in orange juice is healthy but the solitary sugar cube in my Old Fashioned is not? Wrong. They’re both bad. The only difference is that OJ producers fund the AHA. On yet another side note, my Old Fashioneds are amazing. I may or may not be having one right meow. Hint: I am.
The more time on the AHA website, the more I laugh and drink and then cross-reference their corporate donors. Everybody needs a hobby. In the spirit of transparency, my website continues to operate without any corporate sponsors, unfortunately.
I’m going to wrap this up with some positivity. Coconut oil is proven to increase HDL cholesterol (the most important cholesterol marker for heart health) and decrease inflammation. There is a long list of other reported benefits. Here’s a link to a long list, not all of the benefits have been proven definitively but many have. In my opinion, the really great thing about coconut oil is that it is mostly (66%) made up of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs are a rare type of fat that are the perfect size and shape for our liver to use for energy. To utilize other fats as energy, our liver must break them down into just the right size and then turn them into ketones (Ketones are the energy molecules derived from fats.). This takes time which reduces the amount of energy we receive. MCTs are already the right size, so breaking them down into ketones is easy which is why MCTs are an amazing energizing fuel for our bodies that we can feel working right away. MCTs are especially great for our brains because our brains are pound for pound the largest energy utilizers in the body. Also, MCTs are incapable of being stored as fat. So even better. MCTs are used today in treatments for Alzheimer’s, seizures, Parkinson’s, cancer, and obesity.
Pure MCT oil can be purchased online and at health food stores but I find that in addition to the energy it gives me, I experience extreme gastrointestinal urgency sometimes bordering on an emergency. This is due to the liver not being able to handle a big dose of MCT which results in it returning the oil directly to the intestines. I’m told that I just need smaller doses and for my GI tract to get used to the MCT oil, but so far it’s been a series of close calls. For this reason I prefer pure coconut oil or MCT powder mixed with my coffee which has no such effects. More writing to come on this later.
In conclusion: Coconut oil is great, the AHA are corporate puppets whose recommendations are hurting Americans, and I’m still searching for non-porn sponsors for my website. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
Patients, friends, and guys I meet online often ask me how they can lower their cholesterol levels. Most the time they say that they’ve been watching their cholesterol intake, or cutting back on their saturated fat, or they send me an inappropriate picture of themselves. In all cases, they are wrong to do so. I will now take a minute to explain how cholesterol works. As a side note, I encourage all my patients to get their cholesterol levels checked before starting a high fat diet, so that they can see for themselves that their numbers really do get better. Also, if possible get a “particle size” included in your cholesterol test. Also, get a hemoglobin A1c, testosterone (for males), chemistry panel, CBC, vitamin D, and an iron level while you are at it.
Just to show you that I’m not that far out on a limb here, as of 2015, even the U.S. Dietary Guideline association (DGAC) agrees with me in the belief that the cholesterol that is in your bacon and eggs does not affect the cholesterol levels in your blood. In their most recent recommendations The DGAC said that cholesterol “is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption” and eliminated their 2010 guideline recommending less than 300 mg daily. When the Federal Government reverses its dietary stance on something, it’s usually 10 years too late and after there is way more evidence than needed to support it, and this U turn on cholesterol is no exception. I predict that fats and even saturated fats will be officially exonerated in the near future, the way that cholesterol was in 2015.
How Cholesterol Works
Our body’s cholesterol is made by our liver. Our liver makes cholesterol when it senses high blood glucose levels, and not as a result of how much fat or cholesterol we eat. Some cholesterol is good which is called HDL(high density lipoprotein) and some cholesterol is not good like LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Essentially, all cholesterol is the combination of a protein (which are dense and hard) and a lipid (fat), which is light, think fat floating to the top of gravy, which is why it is called a “lipo-protein”. The role of cholesterol is to take fats to the parts of your body that need them. Where is fat needed you ask. All sorts of things in your body require fats to function correctly, and cholesterol are the Uber drivers who take the fats to and from their intended destinations. LDL or bad cholesterol Ubers have a passenger (fat) and HDL’s are empty Ubers looking for fat particles to pick up.
Fat is needed almost everywhere in your body, but there are some places it shouldn’t be like our bellies and stuck to the walls of our arteries. Almost all of our cells need fats to coat their outer shells. Our hormones like testosterone, estrogen and the nerves and neurotransmitters responsible for our happy thoughts and feelings require fats. When there is an overproduction of bad LDL cholesterol because of persistently elevated blood glucose, and all of the body’s fat needs have been met, these Uber drivers don’t have any place useful to bring the fats and end up taking them to your body’s version of a dirty Tijuana strip club*. When deposited at these inappropriate places, your body pays the price, and not just for the cover charge and the watered down drinks, but for some really shady stuff. I think this analogy has run its course, but one of the shadiest places LDL cholesterol gets dropped off is into the tiny coronary arteries, which are tasked with providing the muscles of the heart with proper blood flow. To make matters worse, the LDL cholesterol are also dropped off in the even smaller arteries responsible for the blood flow to your favorite male reproductive organ. If my innuendo wasn’t clear enough, I’m talking about the penis. These deposits can result in decreased flow and eventually no flow at all #frownyface emoji, and when all blood flow is suddenly stopped to an area of the heart, this is called a heart attack or in medical speak, a myocardial infarction (MI).
Recently, we are starting to learn that a myocardial infarction seems to be also related to inflammation that can make cholesterol deposits, (cardiologists call them plaques) unstable. These unstable plaques leave the walls of your larger arteries and travel downstream to smaller arteries where they create a blockage or a myocardial infarction (MI), AKA heart attack.
How do we positively affect the plaques characteristics, so they don’t cause MI’s? The answer is two-fold and leads us to the definition of High Density Lipoprotein or good cholesterol. Good cholesterol (HDL) is almost all protein and no fat, which is why it is very dense, hence the name “high density lipoprotein”. Think of this guy as the Uber driver, riding around in an empty Prius, looking to pick up fats from places they shouldn’t be, like the Tijuana Strip club (coronary arteries) and take them to be recycled in the liver. Obviously, the more of these good Samaritans you have driving around in your blood the better, because they are cleaning up the streets, AKA your arteries. Now what does that have to do with plaques? It seems that if you have a plaque that is soft and fluffy and full of squishy soft fats AKA LDL (bad cholesterol) it is more likely for part of that plaque to fall off and end up causing a heart attack than if it is a hard “stable” plaque. The way plaques get hard (I’m skipping the obligatory erection joke here) is by HDL Uber drivers showing up and pulling some of those fluffy fats out of the plaques, thus firming up and shrinking that plaque and making that plaque unlikely to break off and cause any troubles.
In the light of this information, it is no wonder that, recent research has shown that HDL (Good Uber drivers) to be a much more important predictor of heart health than LDL. A recent study involving 135K patients who had recently had a heart attack showed that over 75% of these heart attack patients had normal LDL (bad cholesterol) but less than 5% of them had achieved a recommended level of good HDL cholesterol. So why do we care so much about bad cholesterol and talk so little about good cholesterol? I’ll get there but first I’ll give you another example.
Case Study I had a patient a few years ago, 52 year old male let’s call him Max Powers. Using my diet he lost 20 pounds in 10 months and was able to go off of his blood pressure meds but was disappointed that his cholesterol went up. Here are his numbers before and after starting his journey to get Healthy As F**k.
Before Total Cholesterol 192 HDL 38 LDL 146 **
After Total Cholesterol 195 HDL 60 LDL 148 **
When Max told me his cholesterol numbers went up, I was disappointed too, and my initial reaction was to blame him, I certainly can’t blame myself, but I had him come to the office and take a closer look anyway. First of all, he looked great. He had a fun summer cut and was wearing a tasteful cardigan with sassy lobster print pants. When I put his numbers into the ASCVD risk calculator (a tool doctors use to determine your risk of a heart attack or stroke) he was looking even better. I found that his 10 year risk went from 9.2% to 3%! This was an incredible improvement. I had to check my math and as always, it was correct. Part of the reason his risk went down so much was because he had better control of his blood pressure, so I put the numbers in again, but this time not accounting for his blood pressure improvements and his risk still went down by more than 50% from 9.2% to 4.5%. He was shocked that even though his bad cholesterol and total cholesterol went up, he was way less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
So why do we always focus on lowering cholesterol? Because the things that raise HDL effectively are not drugs but lifestyle stuff. A colleague recently reminded me that niacin helped HDL a little but didn’t change heart attacks significantly, so that’s out. We have many expensive drugs that can lower your LDL. Drug companies make billions of dollars per year lowering your LDL without a huge impact on your overall health. While I on the other hand, am trying to get you to raise your HDL, and I am doing it for free, so would it kill you to sign up for email updates?
In conclusion, bad cholesterol is predominantly made as a result of too much sugar and not too much fat. So, never order an egg white omelet, eat the yolks too. They are full of healthy fats, nutrients, and according to my daughters are home to the “dippy part” of the egg. Keep your blood sugar low, by avoiding most fast and processed carbohydrates and your cholesterol will get better without medications and your risk of MI will go down, but please also listen to your doctor.
Good cholesterol (HDL) can be increased with exercise, healthy saturated fats like coconut oil and grass fed beef, and some alcohol consumption, specifically red wine. I recommend all of these things, especially exercise. The complicated part is that sometimes the bad LDL is raised a little by healthy saturated fats as well, but the good HDL is raised more, creating a net positive effect, just like we saw in Mr. Max Powers. My cholesterol numbers were poor in my 20’s but have been exceptional since starting this diet and have gotten better every year. Many patients are afraid of all the butter, eggs, bacon, and butter that I recommend, but are elated when their cholesterol improves dramatically. When you get your numbers back, feel free to share them with me on the site. Mine will be measured next month and I will be sure to post them as well.
*Also, you should know that there are no clean or classy Tijuana strip clubs, I checked. Some references are listed below.
** There is a third cholesterol component known as VLDL that wasn’t mentioned in Mr. Max Powers’ lipid report but it can be calculated by subtracting the LDL and HLD from the total.
REFERENCES: Our findings suggest that reduction in serum cholesterol does not prevent the risk of AMI. There was a significant increase in systemic inflammation in AMI patients, inversely correlated with HDL levels, suggesting an important role of inflammatory mediators in AMI. Thus, a decrease in serum HDL and increase in hs-CRP strongly predispose the risky individuals to the event of AMI. We emphasize the importance of HDL and hs-CRP measurements in the assessment of a combined lipido-inflammatory risk factor for the screening of high risk individuals and the prognosis of AMI. Lipid Profile of Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction and its Correlation with Systemic Inflammation Haseeb A. Khan,1Abdullah S. Alhomida,1 and Samia H. Sobki2
The well-known “HDL hypothesis” suggests that therapies aimed at raising HDL-C concentrations will lower the risk of CAD and MI. In a widely cited meta-analysis of four large studies (total number of individuals studied: 15,252), a 1 mg/dL increase of HDL-C levels was reported to be associated with a 2%–3% decreased CVD risk
These aren’t all “health foods” in the traditional sense. The point of this article is that these foods are better than most people think, and that’s really good news because all of the foods on the list are delicious. These write ups ran a bit long, so I will only post the first five now and then another five in a few days. I hope you like it.
1. Bacon. I love bacon and it’s statistically likely that you do too. I know there’s been some bad bacon press recently, and a lot of people, namely my unpaid editor/website designer/mom are concerned about the reports of increased cancer risk associated with smoked and/or processed meats. As a side note, I recommend and eat organic and/or humanely raised and sustainable pork because it’s healthier, tastier, and better for the environment. I like Niman Ranch or small locally farmed pork products for this reason https://www.nimanranch.com/. I also avoid turkey bacon because it doesn’t taste as good as regular bacon, also it looks weird, like cartoon bacon but in real life.
While there are a lot of high quality studies that show that eating meat is not harmful to your health, there are two recent studies that show increased risk of stomach cancer and colon cancer associated with eating smoked and processed meats like bacon. These recent reports regarding bacon are reasonably well done but the media reporting of these studies are examples of how easily we are misled by scientific data, special interest groups, and the media.
I am not a big fan of hot dogs, corndogs, bologna, and other processed commercialized cold cuts and mass produced meats, partially because almost all of these animals came from CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operations) which pose many health and environmental risks to America. I could go on and on. But high quality bacon, yeah I like that. So these studies concerned me. https://www.sciencealert.com/yes-bacon-has-been-linked-to-cancer-again-here-s-how-bad-processed-meats-really-are-for-you So I looked a little deeper and applied some of the principles I learned in medical school with a little bit of 5th grade math. Here’s the truth. First off, even if these studies are completely true and these meats really do cause an 18% increase in stomach and colon cancer, as they claim, what does that really mean? I know 18% increase sounds like a lot. Also, I’m a doctor and I know stomach cancer is very bad.
Uhh, Dr. Jimmy, I thought this article was going to be good news. WTF?… I’m getting there. Also you are coming off a bit aggressive. In the U.S. you have a 0.8% lifetime risk of getting stomach cancer. If you’re math challenged, that’s less than one in 100. This study finds that eating bacon raises your risk by 18%. What’s confusing is that this study doesn’t mean your new risk is 18.8% (that would be bad) because an 18% increase on 0.8% is 18.8%. Actually, your lifetime risk becomes 0.94% (0.8 X 1.18= 0.94). So
your risk was less than one in 100 with no bacon in your life, add some bacon, and it’s still less than 1 in 100, in fact it barely goes up at all, less than two tenths of one percent. Uh, I can live with that if it means I get bacon too. The longer you live, the higher your risk of stomach cancer, perhaps the reason bacon eaters stomach cancer risk is slightly higher is because bacon is healthy and making them live longer, thus increasing their risk for stomach cancer. I think I just broke the matrix. Actually, this is not how statistics work, but I almost had you buying that circular logic. “Your risk of cancer goes up less than two tenths of one percent” is not an exciting headline, so the media and special interest groups try to fool us with statistical terms like relative risk and tell us that our cancer risk goes up 18%. If you were single in the 90’s and early 2000’s, every sexual encounter put you at risk for HIV/AIDS which was a death sentence back then (unless you played point guard for the Lakers). What’s worse, those encounters, unlike real bacon, were probably devoid of any smoky baconey goodness, unless you were having sex with Emeril Lagasse.
Incidentally, I found a way to increase your chances of winning the lottery by 100%! All you have to do is buy 1 more ticket. Unfortunately, your odds remain low at 0.000000006% but it’s up from 0.000000003%! This is an example of how deceiving relative risk statistics can be.
One thing that people lose sight of, is that when we decide not to eat a food for health reasons we have to eat something in its place. So you don’t eat bacon because of the 0.14% absolute increase in risk of stomach cancer. What do you eat in it’s place? If your choice is kale or low carb pancakes/ fine, you right, good choice. If the answer is cereal, pop-tarts, waffles, or bagels you just spiked your glucose, increased insulin, worsened your cholesterol profile, and gained weight. These foods can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, all of which are much more likely to cause harm than that statistically insignificant bump in your stomach cancer risk, also all of those foods aren’t nearly as tasting or filling as bacon.
So, when your publicist/unpaid editor/website designer/Mom tells you to stop eating bacon because it’s bad for you, you should stop eating bacon in front of her because she’s your mother, but then later you can enjoy some secret bacon, because it’s actually fine for you health-wise. I think “Secret Bacon” would be a great name for a band. So go forth and enjoy your bacon without guilt or regret, just don’t go nuts.
2. Nuts. Many people read food labels, or listen to incorrect diet advice and conclude that things like chips, crackers, and pretzels are healthier than nuts because they contain less fat and calories and they are all found in the junk food aisles of the grocery store. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nuts have healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. They help promote healthy gut bacteria and help fight diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even breast cancer. While many of you know of the virtue of eating almonds and walnuts, you probably don’t know that there are a pair of even tastier, healthier, and sometimes saltier nuts. The amazing pair of nuts I’m referring to are pistachio andmacadamia nuts. These two tasty nuts have more healthy fat, less carbs, and a lot more nutty flavor for your mouth.
I know macadamia nuts are pricey but if you get them from the bulk bin at the supermarket or from Costco, you get more nut for your buck. Did I mention how good these nuts taste in your mouth? So good.
In Sicily, pistachios are sacred like potatoes in Idaho, vodka in Russia, or meth in Reno. They’re not just delicious, but they contain a magical compound called nitric oxide that helps improve blood flow to our nether regions making for better and more robust erections which is probably why the Sicilians put pistachios on everything.
Interestingly, French men note a significant but temporary increase in height when they eat pistachios, other foods containing nitric oxide and Viagra. This allows them to look even farther down their noses on us Americans when we struggle with their ridiculous language on vacation in France. If you make it to France, be sure to include a visit to the graves of our fallen soldiers who died liberating their overrated country. I propose that if we have to go in there again, we keep the Southern half of their country and turn it into a redneck vacation paradise, just to piss them off. I apologize for this rant. I’m a little cranky. I need some coffee.
3. Coffee. You may have heard that you shouldn’t drink too much coffee but the overwhelming majority of new evidence supports coffee as a health drink. The Finnish people drink more coffee than anyone else on earth. The average adult male in Finland averages a ridiculous nine cups of coffee per day (their cups are a little smaller than ours, but still). They are also a super healthy group of people.
I know what you are thinking. You are going to say that it’s because of their cross country skiing, their saunas, their fatty fish intake, polar bear plunging and their rampant inbreeding. You may be right, but one of the things you can do when you are measuring the effect of a variable is to measure the “dose dependent response” by that I mean, you can ascertain if people who drink 12 cups are healthier than those who drink 8. You can then find out if those people are healthier than those who drink 4, all the way down to the one Finnish guy who only drinks Monster Energy Drink and Blue Mountain Dew. P.S. He’s super unhealthy. It turns out, that in the Finnish study there is a dose dependent response and the heavier coffee drinkers were the on average the healthier people. So assuming you don’t have any negative side effects, coffee can be considered very healthy.
Because of a sub-par national diet, coffee is the major source of anti-oxidants for a lot of Americans but studying coffee in the U.S. population is tough because we don’t drink that much when compared to those cousin loving Fins. Also, we mix in all sorts of unhealthy shit like sweetened creamers, caramel syrup, and whiskey. Whiskey being the most healthful of the three unless you fly commercial airliners for a living. Also, our serving sizes are so variable, a serving of coffee to some Americans is a 72 ounce trucker sized plastic mug and to others it’s a tall latte, which is Starbuckian for small. Incidentally, if you go to Italy and order a “latte”, they will give you milk. If you order a cappuccino, you will get a Starbucksesque latte, and if you order a machiatto, you will get a Starbucks-like cappuccino, but I digress. Lucky for us, the Finnish people have pretty much standardized their coffee cup serving size, thus making studying them a lot easier.
The bottom line is that as long as you don’t put a bunch of unhealthy crap in your coffee, you can expect to experience better glucose control, more energy, better mood, better athletic performance, lower risk of parkinson’s, alzheimer’s, many forms of cancer especially colon cancer, stroke, heart disease, also it really helps your poop come out smooth and easy like butter.
4.Butter. I’ve been told that butter makes you fat. Butter gives you heart disease. Butter should be replaced with vegetable oils and unsaturated fats like margarine. Butter doesn’t taste good. False, false, false, and sofa king false. Sofa King Healthy was one of the proposed titles of our book, by the way. I thought it was funny but misleading, and by that I mean perfect. Back to butter, it is obviously delicious and if you read my previous posts, you know that margarine and most refined vegetable oils are processed poison https://drjimmywestbrook.com/2019/01/08/food-rants-the-10-health-foods-that-are-making-us-fat-and-memes/.
A recent study showed that people with higher butter fat levels in their blood had huge reductions in their risk of type 2 diabetes (30-40% which is a real difference because type 2 diabetes is super common these days) and there has never been a well documented link between butter and heart disease. In fact, the countries that consume the most butter seem to have some of the lowest rates of heart disease, France being first on the list, despite high rates of smoking and the fact that French gyms are reserved for tourists use only.
Organic grass fed butter has almost no carbs and is environmentally sustainable. It’s delicious, and high in very healthy omega-3’s, and rich in buttery goodness. If that’s wrong I don’t want to be right. So start finding ways to get more healthy butter into your meals and get rid of the processed vegetable oils. I’ve mentioned how much I love vegetables and how healthy they are for us. This isn’t news but you should still check out my top ten reasons to eat more veggies for more information. One thing I left out is how there are a lot of vegetable eaters who don’t absorb many of the healthy vitamins that are in their veggies. Vegetables contain fat soluble vitamins and if you are eating your veggies without fat then you are likely just pooping out those important nutrients. If we cook veggies with fats like clarified butter, our bodies are more able to absorb the fat soluble vitamins the veggies contain and we are also much more likely to go back for seconds. Please stop steaming your veggies.
Bonus cooking tip: You can make clarified butter by melting and filtering butter, thus removing any milk protein that can burn and smoke. Clarified butter has a very high smoke point, around 460 degrees, which means you can use it to cook vegetables, seafood, and meats at high temps. When you use oils with lower smoke points like olive oil, high temperatures can cause the oil to break down and create unhealthy byproducts that can cause increased inflammation. To be clear, it’s OK to cook vegetables with olive oil, just not at those high temperatures. Clarified butter is also safe for people with lactose intolerance, and dairy sensitivity because the lactose and problematic proteins have been removed. You can make clarified butter in advance and keep it in the refrigerator in a jar. If you don’t have a jar, just use whatever you have lying around the house.
I average eating a little less than a stick of butter per day, usually I cook with it but if I am hungry and lazy I will salt it a bit and eat it straight like cheese. Don’t judge me until you try it. It goes great with red wine.
5. Red Wine. Red wine has been one of the most controversial topics in nutrition for many years. There are many reasons for this controversy. First, doctors and nutritionists are really scared to recommend any alcohol because of all the potential hazards associated with it’s use. I don’t blame them. Second, there is a strong association between red wine and other healthy lifestyles like eating vegetables, yoga, and McDonald’s avoidance which can make the data less conclusive whereas things like Busch Light, Sailor’s Choice Vodka, and Four Loko are associated with unhealthy lifestyles, specifically high rates of sexually transmitted Diseases, truck related accidents, and truck related Sexually transmitted diseases. So, many experts dismiss red wine health claims as hype and association bias. I respectfully think these experts have their heads up their asses because there’s a mountain of evidence to support red wine’s many health claims. Longevity data shows that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers, and alcoholics don’t live that long at all. Of all the alcoholic drinks, red wine shows the most benefit by a wide margin.
If you don’t drink, good for you. I’m not trying to get anyone to start drinking, but if you already drink alcohol, then you owe it to your health to make sure that you are drinking some red wine. Red wine or “Mommy Juice” as it was known in my house as a child has been associated with preventing diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, inflammatory diseases, and gut health. The most important benefit is seen in your heart. Red wine seems to be one of the few things that will raise your good cholesterol HDL and lower your bad LDL. Red Wine also lowers blood pressure and lowers total body inflammation which is important for heart health and preventing myocardial infarction AKA heart attacks.
Red wine may help us achieve a healthy weight if we switch from a different higher carb drink like Rum and Coke, Gin and Tonic, or Red Bull Vodka Slushy’s. As a side note, many people do not know these fun facts about tonic water: It has as much sugar and calories as a Coke. It was invented as a way to get British Soldiers to take their malaria prevention medication (quinine) by mixing it with gin. It glows very bright when exposed to black light, like the remote controls at a Motel 6.
All alcohol is high in calories but red wine is fairly low in carbs (usually between 2-3 carbs per serving). Red wine has been shown to help your good gut bacteria flourish which is helpful for your metabolism. It has also shown to help convert your white fat cells into brown fat. White fat is the stuff we are all trying to get rid of while brown fat is the kind we all want, or at least we will want after reading this paragraph. Brown fat was previously thought to be only found in babies and functioned to help them keep their body temperature stable in cold because babies can’t shiver and are too lazy to clothe themselves. We recently found that adults have brown fat and it serves as a little furnace where we can burn excess calories without working out or storing them. More research is needed in this area but if scientists could get better at isolating this brown fat thing, we would all have a much easier time maintaining our ideal weight.
So if you’re drinking beer, Jaeger bombs, Vegas Bombs, Irish Car Bombs, or anything thing that has booze and comes out of a slurpy machine, do your heart, waistline and self-respect a favor and switch to a nice oaky cabernet or jammy zinfandel.
I’ll post five more Unhealthy Foods that aren’t, in the next week or so.
When I determine whether a food is healthful, I basically follow this flowsheet. I am sorry if some of your favorite foods made the list or don’t pass the flowsheet test. I am not trying to pee in your pool here. I just want you to know the truth and indulge on purpose. Here are ten foods that fail the test but most people think these foods are healthy or healthful.
10. Bananas and Other Tropical Fruit.
Yes, I know that bananas have almost 10% of your daily requirement of potassium but so do a lot of things. Avocados, spinach, Swiss chard, coconuts, and a Flintstone’s chewable vitamin all have way more potassium than bananas. You know what else bananas have? Sugar, a poop-ton of sugar, usually more than 20 grams per nanner, which is a lot. Bananas fail the above flowsheet and are not healthy. Bananas are making us fat. The only thing you should use bananas for is feeding monkeys and when you are showing 5th graders how to put on a condom in health class. It’s not just bananas, it’s almost all tropical fruit. Mangos, pineapple, papaya are all super high in sugar (pineapples are the worst of all BTW). Don’t eat them either.
9. Oatmeal. Yes, I know that all your favorite athletes eat this before their morning workout and it really helps you poop, but it’s not super good for you. If you run ten miles per day (you shouldn’t) and like to fuel up with oatmeal before your run, and you look super good in the shower, then fine, eat it. But most of us eat this before sitting in our cars on our commute and then sitting at our desks in meetings where the only thing we run is our mouths. There are some good things about oatmeal like the fiber and some nutrients, but it contains 70 grams of carbs, before you add raisins, milk, and brown sugar! If you are going to eat oatmeal, steel cut oats are the best, as they are more slowly digested, which is a good thing when you are talking about carbs because slow digestion reduces your glucose spikes and reduces insulin release.
Because of glucose elevations from cortisol (the stress hormone that gets us out of bed) we are especially sensitive to morning carbs and therefore should avoid oatmeal, breakfast cereals, bagels, pancakes, waffles and toast. Basically, you should eat some eggs, bacon, or coffee with butter, cream, or coconut oil (I’ll explain more in my breakfast post coming soon).
8. Bars. I don’t care what the bar’s prefix is. Energy, granola, Power, mountain, candy, …they’re all bad. Usually filled with processed crap, sugar, carbs etc. Don’t eat them. Eat some macadamia nuts, pistachios, or beef jerky.
7. Quinoa. Yes, this is a gluten-free complete protein that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Great. If you are a vegetarian endurance athlete and have a hard time keeping weight on, then maybe quinoa is a good choice for you. I don’t fit this category, and neither do most of my patients. Quinoa has 110 grams of carbs per cup. I’m not trying to get anyone into carb counting or nutritional data memorizing. I just want you to know that quinoa is way too high in carbs and will make us gain weight if we eat a lot of it. Furthermore, quinoa doesn’t taste good enough to make me go sploosh. Examples of things that make me go sploosh are pizza, beer, and a young shirtless Burt Reynolds. I’ve never gone sploosh for quinoa. If you claim to sploosh over quinoa, I’m gonna make three assumptions about you, at least one will be correct… You own a holiday themed bong. You have a riding crop and saddle, but don’t own any horses. You lie about other things too.
In a previous post, I mentioned how I think carrots and red peppers are good foods despite the fact that they have a little sugar, nobody ever became obese from these foods. I admit that it’s unlikely that anyone ever became obese from quinoa, but it’s not helping us lose those love handles and it doesn’t taste like a Meat Lover’s Supreme Pizza so who needs it?
6. Whole wheat anything. People think that whole grains are healthy. They’re not. Are they healthier than their more refined white flour cousins? Maybe, but it’s a close call. The NYT Best-selling book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, points out that whole wheat products are often more dense and higher in net carbs than white flour products. Whole wheat products usually have a couple more grams of fiber but that’s not a huge deal. Trying to figure out which is healthier is like trying to pick the best Police Academy sequel, they’re all bad, but Police Academy 3 Back In Training was probably the least bad of the six film franchise, excluding the original of course.
So, when I have to choose between unhealthy foods, I always go with the tastiest food. I choose crusty fresh French bread over the dense cardboard whole wheat stuff. In conclusion, I rarely eat wheat products but when I do; I want them to taste really good, so I don’t eat whole wheat, ever. Remember the flow chart at the top? You should. I worked really hard on that. If you prefer the taste of whole wheat, then by all means eat that, but only eat it occasionally, and don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s healthy. On an unrelated note, I’m pretty sure Jeffrey Dahmer preferred whole wheat bread over white too.
5. Yogurt. To be clear, unsweetened organic full fat Greek yogurt is fine, that’s not what I am referring to. I’m referring to the low fat, heavily sweetened, supermarket staple with the foil tops and all of their kissing yogurt cousins. I don’t care if the fruit is on the bottom, or the top, or if it’s spelled “Frogurt”, if there’s granola topping, if it’s your favorite fruity pebbles flavor, or if you have to suck it hard through a tube to get the yogurt to squirt into your mouth. This stuff is processed sugary junk. Stop eating it and stop feeding it to your kids.
4. Diet Sodas- Sugary sodas are terrible for us. You know this. Years ago, many of us (myself included) made the logical switch to diet soda from sugary soda because diet soda has no sugar and is therefore low in calories. If you drink two 20 ounce bottles of sugary sodas per day, and you switch to diet soda, then you save 210,000 calories per year. If you ask a dietician, they will tell you that 3500 calories is equal to a pound of fat and by that math, eliminating those 210,000 calories will cause an obese person to lose 60 pounds of fat per year. That’s great news. I think the soda companies have just solved the obesity crisis in America. What’s that? Diet soda isn’t new? People are still overweight? Damn.
Unfortunately, people don’t lose much weight (if any) when they switch to diet soda, because our weight is way more complicated than a calories in vs calories out equation. Researchers think that fake sugar (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin etc) trick our taste buds into thinking we are eating sugar, but also trick our pancreas. This triggers insulin and weight gain. Others think it negatively affects the gut microbiome, or the fact that soda seems to leech essential vitamins and minerals from the body, but in any case, switching to diet sodas doesn’t seem to have the effect on our weight that we would expect or hope for. So stop drinking any soda because it isn’t good for us. Also, stop counting calories, it’s pointless. Have some sparkling water, unsweetened coffee, tea, or bourbon.
3. Fruit Juice. I want you to compare these two nutrition labels and tell me which beverage is healthier.
The first label is unsweetened apple juice and the second is classic Pepsi. I would argue that apple juice is worse than soda in some ways, and I truly hate soda. First, apple juice pretends to be good for you, where Pepsi makes no such false claims. Second, the Classic Pepsi uses real sugar which is a healthier than fructose. I know that most sodas use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and not real sugar but even when compared to HFCS containing soda, apple juice seems like an equally bad choice. Apple juice is given to kids all the time. Orange juice isn’t any better either. These juices get kids hooked on sugar, inhibits learning, and leads to early obesity. We should stop feeding our kids juice and stop drinking it ourselves. My high fructose corn syrup rant is coming soon…
2. Breakfast Cereals
The phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was invented by ad men, not scientists to sell breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereal yields the greatest percentage profits to manufacturers in the whole grocery store. A five dollar box of Wheaties costs 24 cents to produce, the packaging costs 17 cents and the “Wheaties” in the box costs 7 cents. Kellogs spends more money lobbying the USDA to put “Heart Healthy” on the box, then they pay to buy the food that goes in the box. I have many problems with breakfast cereals, and not just the frosted, fruited, cocoa, and marsh-mellowed ones but also the cereals that are trying to sell themselves as a good nutritional choice. It’s not just that they are unhealthy, but they are also a huge rip-off. I feel like people are being manipulated and cheated both in terms of their waistline and their pocketbook. There’s a lot of money in getting you to eat cheap carbs, just remember that when you hear media reports about the dangers of eating “whole 30” or paleo or keto or whatever foods that don’t make huge profits for food manufacturers. Ask yourself who profits and follow the money. That’s often the best way to find the truth.
As a follow on question, if your breakfast consists of gas station donuts and cigarettes, is it really the most important meal of the day?
1. Margarine and Vegetable Oils. This stuff is poison and yet some people, not you, mostly idiots, still think they are making a good choice with margarine. This is partially because of dishonest marketing but also because people like the American Heart Association still want to throw shade on saturated fats like butter or coconut oil. Margarine is unsaturated and so it seems like the better choice to many Americans. It’s actually terrible. It’s made using refined vegetable oils that has been processed via “hydrogenation” to become solid at room temperature and resistant to spoilage. In that process, manufacturers have taken a moderately unhealthy food (refined vegetable oil) and created an incredibly unhealthy food (margarine). They then mix in some artificial flavors so that we humans can tolerate the taste. You know who can’t tolerate it? Animals. You can leave this stuff out in the forest and animals will starve to death before they eat this stuff.
But Dr. Jimmy, what’s wrong with vegetable oils, aren’t veggies good for us? Yes, veggies are good but these vegetable oils are not. P.S. nobody is making vegetable oil from kale it’s always heavily industrialized crops like canola and corn. All of these vegetable oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids (remember that omega-3’s are the good ones). These omega-6’s are pro-inflammatory and can lead to a multitude of health problems from eczema, obesity, depression, and anxiety.
What’s ironic is that margarine is sold to Americans as a healthy alternative to butter. Some of these butter substitutes are mono and di glycerides which makes them basically as bad as the trans fats. In reality, these products are a thousand times worse than butter and everyone knows it. So why is it still sold? I’m rubbing my thumb and first two fingers together right now. That’s right, money. Margarine is almost free to make and food manufacturers sell it at an enormous markup creating massive profits. Sam Elliot’s character in Fast Food Nation has a line that sums up the processed food manufacturers motives perfectly, “They (processed food manufacturers) would slit your throat for a nickel, but it’s nothing personal, they just really want that nickel”.
Other foods receiving votes as bad “Healthful” foods: Fruit smoothies, brown rice, and “gluten free” replacement foods..