Thursday, October 31, 2013

Examining The Advice: "Shopping The Perimeter"

Have you ever been advised to “shop the perimeter” of the grocery store in order to make the healthiest food choices when procuring your weekly food bounty? I see this bit of advice given frequently—by respected nutrition professionals as well as the nutrition-expert-next-door alike. While I understand the idea—that some of the freshest, most wholesome foods are usually located around the edges of the supermarket (such as fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products)—it simply doesn’t pan out in the real world for a couple reasons.

A simple Google search for recommendations on healthy grocery shopping invariably leads to the “shop the perimeter for health” advice, accompanied by one of these warnings (taken verbatim from various health websites):

“The higher-calorie items lurk in the center aisles...”

“Because the ready-to-eat foods are usually lurking in the middle aisles...”

“Avoid center aisles where the junk food lurks.”

First, I must say that there seems to be a lot of lurking going on in the middle of the grocery store, but that’s beside the point. So, all of the above statements are pretty true—quite a bit of the higher-calorie, ready-to-eat, highly processed, and junky foods do “lurk” in the interior aisles. On the other hand:

1. A lot of great and healthy stuff “lurks” in the middle supermarket aisles, too 
Nuts, nut and seed butters, and olive oils (and even coconut oil for the cavemen) are located in the middle. Canned legumes, diced tomatoes, pumpkin, tuna, and salmon are just a few of the many healthy minimally-processed items that you aren’t going to find on the outskirts. Some of the most important cooking ingredients—spices—which impart amazing flavor complexity to dishes are most always located in the middle. Dried beans and grains, which can be part of a balanced eating style—barley, farro, bulgur, oats, wild rice, millet, quinoa—are all found in the center lanes. Same with frozen fruits and vegetables. Cooking and baking staples for me—chicken stock, a variety of vinegars, and whole grain flours—yup, you guessed it—are also in the middle.

2. There’s plenty of questionable stuff on the outskirts
Since I love food, grocery shopping, cooking, and eating, I’ve spent an obscene number of hours wandering through supermarkets in various regions of the country. Like you and me, they’re all a little different; however, most stores have a prepared deli foods section and a bakery on the outskirts—clearly plenty of chances here to go wrong. Some stores have their processed meat section right next to the dairy section—another example of a perimeter option that certainly isn’t a free-for-all. Indeed, the dairy section itself is full of sugary or artificially-sweetened (pick your “poison”) yogurts, high-sugar fruit juice-yogurt drinks, highly processed, artificial margarines, and so forth. Then there are the stores with all the carbonated beverages and sodas piled up on the edges or the ones with the frozen section (and dizzying array of highly-processed, packaged goods and ice cream products) lining the perimeter. And let's not forget about some of the deluxe supermarkets which have mini-liquor stores on the outside edge.

I’m not saying ice cream, an occasional bakery cookie, or your favorite cognac can’t be part of your healthy eating style—they can—but as you can see, the “shop the perimeter for health” advice is really only a nice idea in theory.

In summary, there are better and less-optimal food items located all throughout the grocery store. Use your common sense, pick fresh, whole, and minimally-processed foods most often, and you’ll come out on top, without the overly-simplistic perimeter-shopping advice. If you really want bonus points, an even better place for food procurement is the farmers market or your own garden. ;)

In the meantime, I’ll be lurking in the middle aisles. We’re out of toilet paper. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

{Recipe} African peanut stew

This is just an incredibly good stew. Of course, as a self-described peanut butter fanatic, I may be just a LITTLE biased, but I still think you might agree. ;) 


Yield: makes about 7 (1 1/2 cup) servings

1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
16-20 oz extra lean ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger root
1 T curry powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 med-large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1 (14 oz) can lite coconut milk
1 T brown sugar

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1/2 T olive oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking up clumps, until the turkey is cooked through. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Remove from heat. 

Heat remaining 1 T olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for about 6 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, ginger, curry, and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute.

Stir in sweet potatoes, chicken broth, tomatoes, and remaining 1/2 tsp of both salt and pepper; bring soup to a boil. Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the peanut butter and coconut milk. Add the cooked turkey and the brown sugar to the soup, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes or so.

Like a lot of dishes I make, this one is pretty "all-inclusive" -- containing a balanced mix of carbohydrate, protein, and fat while also including a hefty dose of always-good-for-you vegetables. Unsurprisingly, this stew is quite satiating with fiber-rich sweet potatoes, high-protein turkey, healthy fat from peanut butter, as well as the stew liquid.  ;)

Each serving contains ~365 calories.

Pro Tips
Feel free to use the "lean" ground turkey vs the "extra lean"--I usually prefer the "lean" but could only find the "extra lean" at the time (although the "extra lean" still worked very well here). Also, if you'd prefer to use regular vs lite coconut milk, that's fine too. Just be aware that you'll be adding more calories to my per serving calculations.   

Enjoy ;)

{Recipe} spinach, mushrooms, walnuts, & Swiss with poached egg

A seemingly "different" combination here turns out to be a wildly savory dish. You get it all right here, folks--some of the best veggies, healthy fat, protein, and certainly not least, decadence. ;)  


Yield: makes 4 servings

1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
~ 2-3 T fresh thyme leaves
~1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 (8 oz) package cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
2 T red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 (10 oz) bag baby spinach
2 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
8 cups water
2 T white vinegar
4 large organic eggs

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Add shallots and garlic; saute about 3 minutes. Add thyme, basil, and mushrooms; saute about 7 minutes, or until mushrooms are getting soft. Add in red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, and cook until vinegar evaporates a bit.

Stir in walnuts; cook about 1 minute. Add spinach in intervals, letting each bunch wilt and then mixing in. Stir in cheese until just melted. 

Combine water and white vinegar in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Break each egg gently into pan. Cook 3 minutes. Remove eggs using a slotted spoon.

Spoon 1/4 of spinach & mushroom mixture onto each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 poached egg. 

Spinach, mushrooms, garlic, fresh herbs, shallots, walnuts, eggs, olive oil, & a little cheese. What else do I need to say? ;) 

Each serving contains ~350 calories.

Pro Tips
To round out the meal, serve this with some apple slices or baked sweet potato.  

Enjoy ;)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Diet Guru Top 100

As frustrated as I get by diet gurus, it sure is nice to have a little comic relief interspersed into the madness. Hence, this post. Hey, I know the gurus get just as sick of science-based health professionals as we get of them--the exasperation surely goes both ways. And while it's fun to laugh a bit at the absurdity of diet guru tactics, the underlying seriousness of their actions remains and I do not take lightly to it.

You might be wondering what I consider to be a "diet guru." I wrote an earlier post on how to spot one, but here's another quick (though not all-encompassing) primer. A diet guru:

  • Cherry-picks and interprets data to support their beliefs
  • Sells and promotes unsubstantiated dietary supplements
  • Buys into and actively promotes unnecessary fad diets
  • Shuns dietary moderation in favor of extremes
  • Promotes treatments and therapies (ie cleanses, detoxing) with no published evidence to support them
  • Is highly dogmatic and asserts a one-size-fits-all diet approach
  • Relies heavily on testimonials and anecdotal evidence instead of peer-reviewed science
  • Offers quick-fix, simplistic solutions to complex problems like obesity
  • Purports to be promoting health, but upon closer inspection, is actually mercilessly marketing their diet book, products, services, and dietary supplements
  • Thrives on sensationalism and fear-inducing messages about food and nutrients
Now, if you are a diet guru or really like diet gurus, you may not enjoy the creativity that follows so much, but that's ok. As many diet gurus and their brainwashed followers have told me when I challenged their beliefs, "You're entitled to your opinion." Finally, diet gurus speaking the truth! There might be some hope after all.

Disclaimers: I'm sure diet gurus are nice people. I do not profess to be better than diet gurus. There are people who shouldn't eat gluten, etc. and I am not discounting you. I am discounting gurus who make narrow-minded and unnecessary (for the the majority of the populace) dietary prescriptions. I hope this list of songs doesn't age me too much. Inflammation and insulin-resistance are real and serious conditions. Coconut oil is cool but it's not a magic panacea. Low-carb diets are great if you like them and they work for you, but they aren't necessary for everyone. I really love fat so don't accuse me of promoting low-fat diets. Calories matter for energy balance but no one is saying all calories are qualitatively the same. Not all diet gurus are trying to milk you for money but many are. Give me an 8-hour road trip with my ipod and a cat and what do you think you're going to get?

The Diet-Guru Top 100  
  1. Hustler's Huckster's Anthem - Busta Rhyme
  2. Sexual Alternative Healing - Marvin Gaye
  3. Cocaine (i.e. Sugar, Wheat) - Eric Clapton
  4. Dancing Detoxing Queen - Abba
  5. Fallin' (For My BS) - Alicia Keys
  6. You Know I'm No Good (At Interpreting Research) - Amy Winehouse
  7. (This Cleanse Will Get) Better In Time - Leona Lewis
  8. (Your Metabolism Is) Dead and Gone - T.I. feat Justin Timberlake
  9. Dirty Diana Diet - Michael Jackson
  10. Empire Charlatan State of Mind - Jay Z feat Alicia Keys
  11. The First Cut (Into Your Wallet) Is the Deepest - Cat Stevens
  12. The Fear (Carbs & Insulin Mash-Up) - Lily Allen
  13. Gluten-Free Fallin' - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  14. Hold On, We're Going Home Grain-Free - Drake
  15. (My Diet Is The) Holy Grail - Justin Timberlake
  16. Don't Matter (Calories Remix) - Akon
  17. I Will Wait Hate Calories - Mumford & Sons
  18. (Wheat Is) Killing Me Softly - Fugees
  19. If I Were A Boy Paleolithic Man - Beyonce
  20. It's My Life (n=1) - No Doubt
  21. Magic Stick Schtick - Lil Kim
  22. Naughty Girl Insulin - Beyonce
  23. Don't Do Me Like Eat That - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  24. Please Don't Leave Believe Me - Pink
  25. Ready Research Or Not - Fugees
  26. Take It Diet Restrictions To The Limit - Eagles
  27. Your Body Is A Pseudoscience Wonderland - John Mayer
  28. Can't Fight This Feeling Primal Instinct - REO Speedwagon
  29. Against All Odds Grains - Phil Collins
  30. Sexy Scammin' And I Know It - LMFAO
  31. P.Y.T. P.F.C. - Michael Jackson
  32. Get Low-Carb - Lil Jon
  33. Blame It On The Rain Mainstream Medical Community - Milli Vanilli
  34. Nothing Compares To You My Diet Book - Sinead O'Connor
  35. She Blinded Me With Science Pseudoscience - Thomas Dolby
  36. Eternal Flame Inflammation - The Bangles
  37. A Whiter Shade of Pale Paleo - Procul Harum
  38. California Kerrygold Butter Love - 2pac
  39. Daydream Coconut Oil Believer - The Monkees
  40. Get Rich (Hawking Dubious Supplements) Or Die Tryin' - 50 Cent
  41. Girl You Know It's True Not Evidence-Based - Milli Vanilli
  42. Blurred Lines Professional Boundaries - Robin Thicke
  43. (Take My Advice And Hope You) Get Lucky - Daft Punk
  44. Won't Go Home Gluten-Free Without You - Maroon 5
  45. Papa Guru Don't Preach - Madonna
  46. I Get Lonely Leaky Gut - Janet Jackson
  47. Let Me Love Brainwash You - NeYo
  48. (I'll Give You) Something To Believe In - Poison
  49. Gin Supplements and Juice Juicing - Snoop Dogg
  50. Drop It Like It's Hot A Hot Cup of Bulletproof Coffee - Snoop Dogg feat Pharrell
  51. Another One Fad Diet Bites The Dust - Queen
  52. Baby Haha I Got Your Money - Ol' Dirty Bastard
  53. Bottoms Butter Up - Trey Songz
  54. Careless #CalorieMyth Whisper - George Michael
  55. Chasing Cars Carbs Away - Snow Patrol
  56. Emotions Hormones - Mariah Carey
  57. Grind (Your Upgraded Coffee Beans) With Me - Pretty Ricky
  58. Hips My Diet Book Don't Lie - Shakira
  59. Heat Of The Moment Inflammation - Asia
  60. I Like That (Insulin Hypothesis) - Houston
  61. My Boo Wheat Belly - Usher & Alicia Keys
  62. In Insulin The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
  63. Isn't It a Pity: The Poor Misunderstood Calorie - George Harrison
  64. Invisible Insulin Touch - Genesis
  65. Juicy Juicing - Notorious B.I.G.
  66. Let's Twist (The Science) Again - Chubby Checker
  67. Maneater Meateater (Caveman Mix) - Nelly Furtado
  68. Murder Was The Case (The Trial of Wheat & Sugar) - Snoop Dogg
  69. Nuthin' But A "G" (Grain Brain) Thang - Dr. Dre feat Snoop Dogg
  70. One And Only (Way To Eat) - Mariah Carey feat Twista
  71. Only Sixteen (Supplements You Need To Buy From Me) - Sam Cooke
  72. Pumped Up Kicks Claims - Foster The People
  73. Raspberry Beret Ketones - Prince
  74. Remember The Name: Taubes. Gary Taubes. - Fort Minor
  75. Return Of The Mack Atkins Diet Version 348.0 - Mark Morisson
  76. Rock The Casbah Smash The Fat - The Clash
  77. S & M (Superfoods & MiracleRemedies) - Rihanna
  78. The Search Is Over (Mine Is The Last Diet Book You'll Need!) - Survivor
  79. Say #SANE It Ain't So - Weezer 
  80. Send Me Some Lovin' Testimonials - Sam Cooke
  81. Sex Gluten Bomb - Tom Jones
  82. So Fresh So Clean (My Diet) - Outkast
  83. Space Paleo Cowboy - Steve Miller Band
  84. Still On My Brain GrainBrain - Justin Timberlake
  85. Tearin' Up My Heart Gut (Legumes Remix) - NSYNC
  86. We Be Burnin' (Inflammation Extended Version) - Sean Paul
  87. Where Do Broken Hearts Metabolisms Go? - Whitney Houston
  88. You Be Killin' Em (Wheat & Sugar!) - Fabolous
  89. Black & White (Thinking) - Michael Jackson
  90. Don't Stop Believin' (Me) - Journey
  91. Big Pimpin' Dupin' - Jay Z
  92. Bad (Carbs, Carbs, Carbs) - Michael Jackson
  93. Don't Forget About Us (In 3 Years When The Next Fad Diet Is In Place) - Mariah Carey
  94. How Many Licks Tricks (Does It Take For You To Finally Believe Me) - Lil Kim
  95. Call Me (Out) Maybe - Carly Rae Jepsen
  96. Magic LivinLowCarb Man - Heart
  97. Please Mr. Postman Strawman - The Marvelettes
  98. Green-Eyed Coffee Bean Extract Lady - Sugarloaf
  99. Dream- Delusionweaver - Gary Wright
  100. What's Love Science Got To Do With It - Tina Turner

Rock on gurus! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

{Recipe} Indian-spiced pumpkin soup with bacon

Rich, delicious, and comforting--this soup may be one of my new favorites. It's a cinch to prepare and every spoonful is a delight to the senses. Enjoy on a brisk autumn evening. ;)  


Yield: makes about 6 (1 1/2 cup) servings

5 slices bacon
2 T olive oil
1 medium-large yellow onion, sliced or chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your heat preference)
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 (15 oz) cans pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish, optional

Cook bacon in a large saucepan or medium stock pot. Remove bacon from pan. Soak up all but about 1/2 tsp of the bacon grease with a paper towel and discard. Let bacon cool a bit and then break into pieces. 

Heat olive oil along with the remaining bacon grease in the pan. Add onions and cook until soft and just starting to turn brown. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant. 

Add bacon pieces, curry powder, garam masala, cayenne, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly until coated. Quickly add about 2 cups of the chicken broth. Stir in pumpkin and then add remaining 2 cups chicken broth and 1/2 cup water. 

Bring mixture to a boil and immediately reduce to a slight simmer, stirring occasionally. Stir in whipping cream.

This soup is packed with nutrient and fiber-rich pumpkin and contains just enough bacon to add some great flavor along with a little heavy whipping cream for satiety and a beautiful mouthfeel. 

Each 1 1/2 cup serving contains ~240 calories.

Pro Tips
Although it clearly shines in this recipe, canned pumpkin is one of my favorite "secret" ingredients in my tomato sauces, soups, and stews because it adds such a robust texture and brilliant color (not to mention boosts the nutritional profile) without too much distraction.  

Enjoy ;)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wise Words On Our Quest to Healthy, Balanced Living

Healthy, balanced living is about so much more than what you do or don't put in your mouth. I find words to be incredibly therapeutic in the never-ending quest to find balance, be healthy in both body and mind, and to live with purpose. For me, wise words can provide a breath of fresh air and feeling of relief, serve as a reminder of our actual brevity in the larger scheme of things, give me some much needed comic relief during tense times, and can even push me to work harder towards my goals.  

A thoughtful and wise platitude, a simple and straight-up common sense quote, or a funny and true thought about the perils of the human condition that gives you pause, gets your brain gears turning, tugs at your heart, or maybe even helps motivate you to some action, is a beautiful thing.

So, naturally, I LOVE good quotes! ;) While I have a plethora of my favorites stashed away, I want to hear your favorite quotes and sayings related to the banalities of life in general, balanced eating, living healthy in both body and mind, making changes, achieving goals, working through the hard times, or being persistent when it matters most.

Think of this post as merely a quote repository--drop off your best and take a minute to refresh yourself with what others have shared. I’ve started it off with a *few* of my favorites. ;) 

"The time came when to remain a bud was more painful than to risk to blossom."
 --Anais Nin

"The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely." 
--Carl Jung

"You can't expect to change your life without a few minor adjustments."

"Comparison is the thief of joy."

"If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you're not hungry."
 --Old wive's tale 

"At birth we come. At death we go. Bearing nothing." 

"Health, contentment, and trust are your greatest possessions, and freedom your greatest joy." 

"To change your life: start immediately; do it flamboyantly; no exceptions." 
--William James 

"Nobody is getting out of here alive." 

"Cellulite is a telltale sign that life is a crapshoot."

"He who wants a result must accept the means of obtaining it."
 --Leo Tolstoy 

"Accept your irrelevance."

"Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, lost souls mourn beauty, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea."
 --Murial Barbery 

"People are too durable, that's their main trouble. They can do too much to themselves, they last too long."
 --Bertolt Brecht

"Eat well, exercise, and die anyway." 

Now it’s your turn--share your best quote related to this wild life or to healthy living in the comment section!  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fed Up with Food Fear-Mongering

If you haven’t heard lately that carbohydrates and sugar are deadly poisons, consider yourself lucky. As a registered dietitian who stays immersed in both research and popular diet/food trends, a day does not go by that I don’t see single foods or nutrients being demonized and falsely labeled as evil, disease-causing, or even toxic. 

That’s right, eating a slice of bread will now KILL YOU (or at least eat through half of your brain) according to numerous supposed health and fitness authorities—including doctors, registered dietitians, personal trainers, and nutritionists—as well as your run-of-the-mill diet gurus, countless bloggers-turned-nutrition-experts, and, of course, big and small media outlets, reporters, and writers. And, if that single dietary constituent somehow doesn’t kill you outright, you can be sure it will hold you hostage, force you to eat it to the exclusion of all other foods, mercilessly addict you, make you obese, and THEN kill you.

Vilifying individual foods or nutrients in the name of feigned health promotion, or food fear-mongering as I call it, is a big, big problem. It does NOT make people healthier, nor does it promote the healthy relationship with food that is so crucial for long-term success with dietary health and weight control. For reasons I will discuss in a minute, I believe that food fear-mongering makes people much less healthy in body and mind, more likely to engage repeatedly in cyclical dieting and other unhealthy eating behaviors, and far less likely to be able to derive pleasure and enjoyment from eating.

But first, let’s make sure we're clear about a couple things. As a dietitian I’m well-aware of diet and weight-related diseases. I understand that limiting certain foods and nutrients (trans fat, excess added sugars, for example) and emphasizing others (fruits, vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, for example) all the while taking into account the context of an entire diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in positive health outcomes. I agree that there are better and worse food choices when it comes to our eating habits, but I also realize that diet and health are never black and white, don’t exist in a vacuum, and are not nearly as simplistic as the gurus and "experts" who tell us that fructose is POISON (context and dose-dependence be damned) would have you believe. 

I mention this because the last thing I want is people taking from this post that I think loads of sugar is good for you or that I’m a staunch advocate for eating wheat by the bushelful every day--that's just not the case. But what I do hope will be taken from this post is that consuming sugar or wheat or ice cream or pretty much ANY FOOD (barring you don't have an allergy or intolerance) once in a while will not have a significant negative impact on your health, if done in moderation, let alone be the sole cause of your death!

So let’s do a quick recap: sure, there are health problems related to overconsuming just about any food. Sure, we’d be better off with much fewer sugary treats and junk processed foods and much more whole, unprocessed real foods, all in moderation. Sure, there are probably plenty of people who could lay off some of the wheat or sugar in their diet, lose weight (as a result of creating a caloric deficit), and feel much better as a result. But deeming wheat a “dietary poison” and blaming it for all our ills...WHY??

Alright, before we go any further, I want to show you some of the food fear-mongering I see and hear on a daily basis. I’ve compiled a list of actual, recent examples—from popular diet book quotes to tweets to conversations to news media headlines (the names of misinforming "experts" have not been spared, identities of misinformed laypeople have)—that will hopefully bring you up to speed on the food fear-mongering hysteria that is going on. I must warn you, it is obscene—pure theater at times—and there is death. So. Much. Death (and carnage)!

Does eating grains destroy your brain? More from Dr. David Perlmutter on his new book, Grain Brain.” (followed by link to promotional website for Dr. David Perlmutter’s new book) 
Tweet by Professor Tim Noakes (@proftimnoakes, exercise science professor, author, and paleo-diet proponent).

Does eating bread, pasta, or potatoes make you feel better if you’re in a bad mood? You might be a sugar addict! #thesugardetox to the rescue.” 
Tweet by Brooke Alpert (@bnutritious, Registered Dietitian and author of The Sugar Detox).
You might have also just been hungry, but what do I know? In any case, the resolution to this problem—buy the book of course!

Brain attack from grains!” (followed by link to promotional website for Dr. David Perlmutter’s new book). 
Tweet by William Davis (@williamdavismd, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly).
Is this real life?

Whole grains are the worst possible foods you could put in your mouth” 
Tweet by Jimmy Moore (@livinlowcarbman, Atkins/Paleo/low-carb diet advocate*, author of Cholesterol Clarity). 
That's funny, I could think of a few worse foods, Jimmy, and I bet you could, too, if you didn't have an extreme low-carb image to sell. 

“Freed from the tyranny of wheat and freed from snacking, cravings, and needless tummy fat!” (followed by link to Wheat Belly testimonial)
Tweet by William Davis (@williamdavismd, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly).
The tyranny of wheat! Lol! Move over Stalin and Mussolini, Wheat is after your spot in history!

How Grains are Killing You Slowly” 
Blog post headline by "Wellness Mama" (wife, mom, and "real food crusader"), recently promoted on Twitter by a low-carb-advocating Registered Dietitian.
Fear-inducing and completely nonsensical.

“4 Common Foods That KILL 15 Million People Per Year” 
Blog post headline by Kris Gunnars (personal trainer, student, and “authority” nutrition blogger).
In this post, Gunnars inferred from his reference that sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and vegetables oils are directly causing the 15 million deaths (since the top two causes of death worldwide are lifestyle and diet-related). Really?!

“Things as simple as carbohydrates are devastating for the brain and...things like Alzheimer’s are preventable” (followed by link to Robb Wolf’s (author of The Paleo Solution) Paleo Solutions podcast) 
Tweet by Professor Tim Noakes (@proftimnoakes, exercise science professor, author, and paleo-diet proponent).

“Wheat incites violence! ‘An hour-long prison riot involving up to 50 inmates was triggered by a disagreement...’ ” (followed by link to an article about a sandwich-provoked prison riot)
Tweet by William Davis (@williamdavismd, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly).
I sure hope Doc Davis was trying to be funny with this one!

" 'Sugars and trans fat are the KILLERS and can create poor heart health. Inflammation is a ticket to poor heart health.' --@SinatraMD"
Tweeted by Dietitian Cassie (@dietitiancassie, Registered Dietitian and purveyor of dietary supplements, low-carb advocate). Quote by Dr. Sinatra (@SinatraMD, author of The Great Cholesterol Myth, and BIG-TIME dietary supplement salesman).
It's all in the dose, though that's never mentioned. Call me optimistic but I don't think anyone's going to drop dead on the spot from either "killer" substance. 

“ ‘Gluten represents the greatest and most under-recognized health threat to humanity...’ David Perlmutter, Grain Brain 
Tweeted by Tom Nikkola (@tomnikkola, personal trainer, Vice President of Business Development for a dietary supplement manufacturing company, and low-carb proponent).
As a pal of mine so eloquently said a while back, that's the kind of statement that gets you a book deal. And indeed it did.

“Right. Eat more grains and sugar. Enjoy killing people with your advice.” 
Message I got in response to my Butter Coffee blog post.
I could almost smell this man's fear of grains and sugar through my computer. Sad, really.

“Gluten is our generations tobacco.” 
Quote from David Perlmutter in his book, Grain Brain.
Another classic alarmist authority quote--sensationalism at its best.

“Sugar is addictive and ‘the most dangerous drug of the times’ ” 
News headline from The Telegraph quoting Paul van der Velpen, a Dutch health official.
Is that so? Any heroin, meth, cocaine, or alcohol abusers and their families want to weigh in on this one?

"Thanks @Dietitiancassie 4 teaching me this months ago! '@Drudge_Report: Sugar is most dangerous drug of the times...' " (followed by link to The Telegraph article mentioned above)
Tweet by Identity Withheld. 
Clearly showing how easily these fearful messages are absorbed by laypeople. 

“She dodged the dietary poisons, lost 69 lbs!” (followed by link to Wheat Belly testimonial) 
Tweet by William Davis (@williamdavismd, cardiologist and author of Wheat Belly).
The "dietary poisons" obviously being wheat in this case. Sigh.

*Note: I point out whether someone is a "low-carb advocate" not because I have any issue with eating low or lower-carb--if that's what you like, go for it--but rather because my observations indicate that many of these food fear-mongering messages seem to be coming from those whose views are decidedly "anti-carb." that we’ve got those out of the way...

If you’re still with me and not engulfed in a fit of laughter, let’s move on and talk about what I believe to be the top two reasons food fear-mongering is so prevalent:

1. A sensationalistic message sells--we've known this forever. 
Even more profitable? A feigned revelation about the dangers of a certain food spread by an alarmist “authority” in the field. As evidenced by the examples above, many of the extreme food fear-mongering messages come from people with something to sell you—in the nutrition field, that usually equates to a book, a diet/service, or dietary supplements.

2. People need something simplistic to blame for their weight or health problems
Instead of realizing that most diet-related chronic diseases result from a combination of repeated suboptimal nutrition and lifestyle choices and caloric excess over time, it is far easier to point the finger at one food entity, slap on the blame, and then attempt to abstain from that food completely. It is unfortunate but many people just CANNOT grasp, let alone utilize, the concept of moderation with eating, and by putting unnecessary limits on their diets, they can stay on the straight and narrow, though usually not for long. 

I don’t fault individuals for this: moderation and balance with diet is not easy to come by as I've explained before. Indeed, I feel that demonizing single foods is actually a symptom of our culture’s desperation and desire to get healthier. At the same time, however, the food blame game is another embarrassingly obvious example of how we seem to be continually grasping for eating truths and absolutes in a society devoid of a food culture, yet overflowing with food.

This makes people all too vulnerable to food fear-mongering messages, and with no shortage of these terrifying warnings, an extremely harmful situation arises. 

So why is food fear-mongering so damaging?

1. Food phobias are created.
An authority figure saying that sugar is poisonous exploits people’s ignorance about diet, human physiology, and the long-term development of chronic disease and teaches them to fear food—this is no joke! I have seen the effects time and time again in my practice—people who are actually AFRAID to eat! They have listened to the simplistic, horrifying messages that x, y, or z food will maim you, induce mold growth on your upper lip, liquefy your insides after a bout of burning inflammation, and ON and ON and ON and have frantically boiled down their diet to a few fanatical food options. Then they wonder why they are tired all the time, sick, depressed, obsessed with food, and aren't getting any real pleasure from eating. Their dietary restrictions are totally unnecessary, but have been put in place because of false fears implanted by alarmist authorities trying to make a buck. This angers me to no end!

2. Food fear-mongering creates VAST confusion
How do I know this? Because I get asked the silliest things all the time, by well-meaning people who really think they’ve got things figured out with nutrition, but have really been duped by fear-mongerers. A few real examples:  

I was recently asked with disbelief: “Do you STILL eat grains?” I apparently missed the boat—eating grains was SO pre-Wheat Belly!

Since I do eat grains in moderation, I was once accused of “trusting in corn and wheat” (In Wheat I Trust???) and also informed that my stomach is a “gluten bomb” as a result.

Discussing the health benefits of legumes with someone a few weeks back incited this response: “Legumes = lectins = leaky gut = leaky brain. I’ll get my carbs and protein elsewhere.” This was a completely nonsensical, obviously fearful response. (Side note: the presence of lectins and phytates in whole grains and legumes is often used by low-carb proponents to deter consumption of these very healthy foods. I wrote about the lectin excuse here).  

Someone confidently and proudly told me the other day, “I rarely eat fruit due to the high sugar content.” She surely got Robert Lustig's "fructose is poison" memo.

I love playing dumb when I encounter self-made nutritionists so I can see what advice they have for me, and sure enough, I got schooled with this gem a couple weeks ago: “Nuts are dangerously inflammatory and should be avoided AT ALL COSTS.”

These instances make me want to laugh, cry, and pull my hair out all at once. And the worse part of this immeasurable confusion? Once this degree of food fear and brainwashing is ingrained, I’ve had little success helping people like this back to reality.   

3. Food fear-mongering messages are terribly counter-productive to creating health.
Because alarmist messages attract attention, people who are not educated in the science of nutrition and are actively looking for that one causative reason for their lack of health will easily take these messages at face value, not question them, or even realize that they should question them. They believe what these health authorities tell them and start to completely shun wheat or sugar or whatever the fearful food of the year may be. Eliminating a food or nutrient may provide a short-term benefit to their health in some way, but more likely than not, the avoidance tactic will not last, and old behaviors will return, leading again to a suboptimal health status. No progress is made as a result of food fear-mongering messages. No real, sustainable, healthy eating behaviors are developed. Time is wasted. Money is often wasted. Consequently, YES, PEOPLE ARE HARMED.

Final thoughts:

Promulgating these vastly oversimplified food fear-mongering messages (most of which lack support in the overall body of research evidence) as universal diet recommendations is not only incredibly irresponsible but also completely absurd.

I’m fed up with it. I see the devastating effects food fear-mongering has on individuals as well as how it contributes to our defective, unhealthy culture of eating. 

If you feel the same way I do, I challenge you to speak up when you see food fear-mongering happening. Make it clear that you DO NOT appreciate simplistic, fearful, out-of-context dietary messages and put a voice to your thoughts about how damaging they are. 

Food isn’t toxic. What IS toxic are fear-inducing, one-dimensional dietary messages being spread in the name of profit.