I know Attack of Killer Tomatoes left the common man afraid of nightshades but I really hoped that is where the fear of food would stop. As I mentioned in my post that started this month-long review of Becoming Raw there are a lot of mixed messages about food and what is best for our health. I recently attended a workshop, during which the instructor talked a lot about being “fat phobic”. She suggested that people eliminate fat from their diets as much as possible.
I didn’t stay quiet because this is exactly the type of messaging that propelled me toward orthorexia. I know that I’m not the only “health nut” who’s wellness has been compromised by strict adherence to guidelines that are based on misconceptions about science and nutrition. Instead, I waited for an appropriate opportunity to share a few words about the benefits of avocados, nuts and seeds.
I have a lovely friend who joined me for dinner recently and shared that he is feeling increasingly “afraid of food”. He said every time he reads another study or article about nutrition he finds himself limiting his diet more and more. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for education. I think we need to access whatever information is available to us in order to make the best decisions we can, but food is essential for our existence. I think being afraid of it is a symptom of trouble.
If you’re allergic to something then I think fear is a protective mechanism. But the food messaging around fat in our society is vilifying food that is required for our health. The media campaigns against fat have been powerful – remember when fat-free chips hit the U.S. market and even with the “may cause anal leakage” warning they were being consuming at a rate that compromised health. We were obsessed with anything that said “low-fat”. In the raw movement the ultra-low fat proponents are very vocal. The research has shown low-fat diets are powerful for reversing disease -but these strict dietary limitations can compromise our health over the long term.
After avoiding fat as much as possible over the past three years, the authors of Becoming Raw really opened my eyes to the deficiencies that had resulted in my own body. The most obvious symptoms was dry skin, lips and nails. The vitamins that help to keep our hair and skin looking beautiful requires fat for our absorption. Fats are also extremely important for maintaining joint health – as a runner I don’t want to compromise my knees – I might need them to get up a hill or across a busy street!
After reading the research, my take is that it isn’t so much about the amount of fat but the source that matters. This deduction is similar to the conclusions reported for the health benefits related to the Meditterranean diet. Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina further this argument by pointing out that if you try to find a single study that suggests that avocados, fresh nuts and seeds and olives are harmful to your health, you’ll likely come up empty handed. However, there are thousands of research studies that the attest to the powerful health effects of these foods and some risk associated with removing them from your diet.
Ultra low-fat diets can:
1. Fall short of our requirements for protein and a variety of trace minerals
2. Reduce our absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and phytochemicals
3. Provide insufficient essential fatty acids
I’m not suggesting that you consume a bowl of nuts for dinner but they should play a role in our diets just like any other nutrient dense food. I feel best when I use fats in their whole forms rather than from extracted oils. I think we all need to listen to our own bodies and do what makes us feel fantastic. As a general guideline a total fat intake between 15 and 30 percent of calories has been suggested by researchers, doctors and dieticians around the world.
The Macaroons in Becoming Raw celebrate cashews and coconut. Both delicious treats to be enjoyed in this special sweet! I altered the recipe by adding a few chocolate covered goji berries and a few drops of peppermint oil. The results taste like holiday magic.
I got a 6 km run in last night and raced through it, maintaining about a 4:30 min/km pace. Today has been really busy. I tabled at the Green Living Show, went to a 1st birthday party, grabbed groceries, paid bills and submitted my taxes. I know none of that will prepare me for my next race but it exhausted me enough to forgo my brick training tonight. Instead, I’m going to bed early, with clean laundry and no dirty dishes in the sink. Tomorrow I’ll go for a long run and if I feel like a bike ride in the afternoon then I will.
How do you feel about fat?
Are there things that scare you but you do them because you know they’re good for you?
What do you do when you’re in a meeting and the presenter says something you disagree with? I need to work on staying quiet sometimes (not always)…maybe that comes with maturity.