9 Steps to Perfect Health – #3: Eat Real Food

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This content is part of an article series.

Check out the series here


In the first article of this series we talked about the negative impact of 4 common food toxins: wheat, industrial seed oil, fructose and processed soy. In the second article we discussed which fats, carbohydrates and proteins are the best source of fuel for your body. In this article we’re going to importance of eating real food.

“Real food” is:

  • Whole, unprocessed and unrefined
  • pasture-raised (a.k.a. grass-fed) and wild
  • local, seasonal and organic

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Whole, unprocessed, and unrefined: if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it!

The introduction of industrial food processing has without a doubt had the most detrimental effect on our health of any other factor in the last few hundred years – and possibly in the entire history of humankind.

Food refining has brought us all four of the food toxins destroying our health: white flour, white sugar & HFCS, industrial seed oils and processed soy products. It has also brought us chemical additives and preservatives, some with known negative effects and others with effects still unknown.

New research is revealing the harm these newfangled processed foods have on us almost every day. Just yesterday a study was published demonstrating that emulsifiers used in packaged foods ranging from mayonnaise to bread to ice cream increase intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) and cause a chain reaction of inflammation and autoimmune disease.

Another study showed that diet soda consumption increases your risk of stroke and causes kidney damage, possibly because of the phosphoric acid used as an acidifying agent to give colas their tangy flavor.

To avoid the harm caused by processed and refined foods, a good general rule is “if it comes in a bag or a box, don’t eat it.

Of course not all foods that come in bags and boxes are harmful, so this isn’t meant to be taken literally. It’s just a helpful guideline. Butter is often packaged in a box, and Trader Joe’s (for some strange reason) packages vegetables in sealed plastic bags. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat butter and vegetables.

But in general, if you follow this guideline, you’ll avoid most common food toxins. And that’s more than half the battle.

Pasture-raised animal products and wild-caught fish: as nature intended

While the reasons to eat pasture-raised animal products and wild-caught fish span social, political, economic and nutritional considerations, I’m only going to focus on nutritional factors here. For a more comprehensive discussion, check out Eat Wild.

Several studies have been done comparing the nutrient content of pasture-raised (PR) and grain-fed (confinement animal feeding operations, or CAFO) animal products. PR animal products are superior to CAFO in 2 primary respects: they have a better fatty acid profile, and higher levels of vitamins and other micronutrients.

Omega-6 ratio
If you remember from Step #1: Don’t Eat Toxins, for optimal health we want to consume a roughly equal amount of omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-6) fats. This ratio, referred to as the n-6 ratio, should be as close to 1 as possible. Studies have shown that grain-feeding animals depletes their omega-3 levels, thus raising the n-6:n-3 ratio. The following chart from Eatwild depicts the effect of grain-feeding on the omega-3 levels of cows:

omega-3 levels of cows

Ducket and colleagues studied the omega-3 and omega-6 content of both pasture-raised and grain-fed animal products. They found that grass-fed beef had an n-6 ratio of 1.65, whereas grain-finished beef was 4.84. They also found that grass-feeding decreased total fat content by 43%.

Rule and colleagues found an even more significant difference. They looked at the n-6 ratio of several different types of meat, ranging from pasture-raised bison and beef to wild elk to chicken. They found the following ratios:

  • Range-fed bison: 2.09
  • Feedlot bison: 7.22
  • Range-fed beef: 2.13
  • Feedlot beef: 6.28
  • Elk: 3.14
  • Chicken breast: 18.5

What is apparent from both Ducket and Rule’s studies is that pasture-raised beef has approximately three times the amount of omega-3 than grain-fed beef, and is much closer to the ideal n-6 ratio of 1.

In fact, grass-fed beef has a superior n-6 ratio to even wild elk. This means that grass-fed beef falls within evolutionary norms for the fatty acid content of animals that humans have eaten throughout our history. Grain-fed beef does not.

Another interesting thing to note, which I mentioned in Step #2: Nourish Your Body, is the high n-6 ratio of chicken. In fact, it has about 14 times more n-6 than pasture-raised beef. This is why I recommend eating mostly beef, lamb and pork, and limiting chicken to the occasional meal (assuming you like it, that is). And when you do eat chicken, it’s best to choose skinless breast and cook it in a healthy traditional fat like butter or coconut oil, because the dark meat with skin has the highest concentration of n-6 fat.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Meat, fat and dairy from pasture-raised animals are the richest source of another type of good fat, called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

CLA may have anti-cancer properties, even in very small amounts. In animal studies, CLA at less than one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of total calories prevents tumor growth. In a Finnish study on humans, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. In another human study, those with the highest levels of CLA in their tissues had a 50 percent lower risk of heart attack than those with the lowest levels.

Pasture-raised animal products are the richest known source of CLA in the diet, and are significantly higher in CLA than grain-fed animal products. When ruminant animals like cows and sheep are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from 3-5 times more CLA than products from animals fed grain.

Minerals, vitamins and micronutrients
The Ducket study I mentioned above also found that pasture-raised animal products have much higher levels of several vitamins and minerals, including:

  • 288% greater vitamin E content
  • 54% greater beta-carotene content
  • Twice as much riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Three times as much thiamin (vitamin B1)
  • 30% more calcium
  • 5% more magnesium

Grass-fed products also have a lot more selenium than grain-fed products. Selenium plays an important role in thyroid function, has antioxidant effects and protects the body against mercury toxicity. Grass-fed bison has 4 times more selenium than grain-fed bison.

Pasture-raised eggs
We see a similar difference between eggs from hens raised on pasture, and those raised in confinement. Pasture-raised hens contain as much as 10 times more omega-3 than eggs from factory hens. Pastured eggs are higher in B12 and folate. They also have higher levels of fat-soluble antioxidants like vitamin E and a denser concentration of vitamin A.

Wild-caught fish

Farmed fish contain excess omega-6 compared to wild-caught fish. Tests conducted in 2005 show that wild-caught salmon contain 10 times more n-3 than n-6, whereas farmed salmon have less than 4 times the amount of n-3 than n-6.

Another study found that consuming standard farmed salmon, raised on diets high in n-6, raises blood levels of inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Wild salmon also contains 4 times as much vitamin D than farmed salmon, which is especially important since up to 50% of Americans are deficient in this important vitamin.

Organic, local and seasonal: more nutrients, fewer chemicals

More nutrients
Organic plant foods contain, on average, 25 percent higher concentrations of 11 nutrients than their conventional counterparts. In particular, they tend to be higher in important polyphenols and antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and quercetin.

Even more relevant in determining nutrient content is where your produce comes from, and in particular, how long it’s been out of the ground before you eat it. Most of the produce sold at large supermarket chains is grown hundreds – if not thousands – of miles away, in places like California, Florida and Mexico. This is especially true when you’re eating foods that are out of season in your local area (like a banana in mid-winter in New York).

A typical carrot, for example, has traveled 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table. Days – maybe more than a week – have passed since it was picked, packaged and trucked to the store, where it can sit on the shelves even longer.

The problem with this is that food starts to change as soon as it’s harvested and its nutrient content begins to deteriorate. Total vitamin C content of red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, peaches and papayas has been shown to be higher when these crops are picked ripe from the plant. This study compared the Vitamin C content of supermarket broccoli in May (in season) and supermarket broccoli in the Fall (shipped from another country). The result? The out-of-season broccoli had only half the vitamin C of the seasonal broccoli.

Without exposure to light (photosynthesis), many vegetables lose their nutrient value. If you buy vegetables from the supermarket that were picked a week ago, transported to the store in a dark truck, and then stored in the middle of a pile in the produce section, and then you put them in your dark refrigerator for several more days before eating them, chances are they’ve lost much of their nutrient value. A study at Penn State University found that spinach lost 47% of its folate after 8 days.

This is why buying your produce at local farmer’s markets, or even better, picking it from your backyard garden, are better options than buying conventional produce shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Fruits and vegetables from local farms are usually stored within one or two days of picking, which means their nutrient content will be higher. And as anyone who’s eaten a fresh tomato right off the vine will tell you, local produce tastes so much better than conventional produce it might as well be considered a completely different food.

Fewer chemicals
Another important benefit of organic produce, of course, is that it’s grown without pesticides, herbicides and other harmful chemicals that have been shown to cause health problems – especially in vulnerable populations like children. A study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides at levels typically found in conventional produce are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

A panel of scientists convened by President Obama to study the effect of environmental toxins on cancer released a report in 2010 urging Americans to eat organic produce grown without pesticides, fertilizers or other chemicals. The report states that the U.S. government has grossly underestimated the number of cancers caused by environmental toxins.

The report especially highlights the risk of toxins in conventionally grown foods to unborn children. Exposure to harmful chemicals during this critical period can set a child up for lifelong endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances and other problems.

Supporting local economies and preserving resources
Aside from having more nutrients and fewer chemicals, there are other non-nutritional reasons to eat local produce. These were summarized well in Cornell University’s Northeast Regional Food Guide:

Community food systems promote more food-related enterprises in proximity to food production, marketing, and consumption. Such systems enhance agricultural diversity, strengthen local economies (including farm-based businesses), protect farmland, and increase the viability of farming as a livelihood. Local food systems mean less long-distance shipment of the produce we enjoy, which means decreased use of nonrenewable fossil fuels for food distribution, lower emission of resulting pollutants, and less wear on transcontinental highways.

I’ve also found that forming relationships with the people that grow my food leads to a greater sense of community and connection. In an increasingly technophilic, hyperactive world, that is especially welcome.

78 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Chris,
    The problem isn’t just “white flour” buddy, it’s any grain at all. Grains (grass seeds) are the natural food of insects, rodents, and birds. Not fit food for mammals in general. So unless you are a bug, a rat or a bird you should avoid them like the plague they are.

  2. Thanks for another article jam-packed with lots of advice that can be applied right away. I’m surprised that the difference in omega-3 between eggs laid by hens raised on pasture, and those raised in confinement can be so drastic. Looking forward to the next one in the series!

  3. “I think that combining strong epidemiological data from multiple populations …with well-established physiological mechanisms … is quite a potent argument in this case. It’s enough for me at this point. It may not be enough for you – that’s fine.” No, no that’s precisely why I ask, because I want to isolate matters of judgement from matters of relative certainty and fact. So that if i know we agree on the classification (fact vs attitude/educated guess), then I can trust your much more experienced judgement with confidence.
    I think this satisfactorily takes care of the issue of the second parallel under (1b) and (2b) in my earlier message, we seem to agree on what the facts of the matter are and I am more than happy to rely on your call for the rest.

    I wonder if you would have any comments to make or references for the issues I raise in connection with the apparent partial parallel in (1a)/(2a) though, if you can bear to look at that message again. Anyway, the relevant claim to make our previous agreement operative in defining diet behavior, is that long term raw nut consumption (forget chicken) has demonstrable hard end point risk and/or will demonstrably raise tissue omega6/3 ratio or oxidative PUFA levels. It is clearly your view that it will, all I’m asking is whether there is further argument/evidence/support. Again I am happy to trust your judgement and act accordingly once I am confident that I see things well enough to take the same things to be established and the same ones as open as you would. Thanks again.

  4. Lacy, Chris, Brandon and finally, Jack (with the thorough statement of good advice to Glenn):

    I agree. I have confronted Chris, to an extreme degree on a minor issue. To me the issue is important, but the only way I am content with the result is that some few people may have dived in and learned a little more. I’m afraid though that for the most part, people may have become more confused, and almost certainly, many people are stressed – probably way more than those of you who happened enter the discussion or suggest that it be ended. I am definitely sorry for that result.

    Chris has a wonderful idea here to present his ideas and allow discussion. I am definitely grateful for that. I’m also grateful that all of those responses I’ve read here are attempts at opening up the doors to truth. This is a health forum and I’m thankful for being allowed to be a part of it. In the future, if I have something that I think might be disruptive to the forum, but needs to go to Chris’ attention, I’ll take it to him directly, and not through the forum. On the forum I’ll try only to be making additions, not divisions.

    Chris, thanks for the discussion. I’ve decided not to continue it regarding omega’s, etc., to save the “family”, but I appreciate your replies, as well as those of all the others. Enjoy. You do great work and you will be far more productive not being pestered with conflict. If I had known there was going to be a conflict as opposed to a sharing of ideas, I would not have spoken. The others are so right, that I should bow out of anything resembling a conflict, as it is your site to administer, and you deserve the time and respect to do just that. Total peace to you and here’s to harmony for the family of your audience.

  5. Man you guys are ruthless. As Lacey noted so eloquently, if you want to write full essays on these topics, start your own blog. Glenn, you bring up fantastic points, with a very intelligent twang to your writings, but I must agree with Lacey. You are bordering on the ‘out of line’ in your comments here. Chris has answered your questions and concerns multiple times. You know where he stands. If you’re not settled with that because you still think trying for a balance is so dangerous that you need to warn everyone here in these forum comments, then you may do well to start your own site. Argue these points in your own format, and then let Chris come back and dialogue with you. If he continued to disagree with your stance on a particular subject, I doubt very much that he would write these novel length commentaries on your site. I’d wager a fair sum that he’d just say his piece and use his forum to express whatever viewpoints he has. Insight from readers is very valuable, and we all appreciate it, but only to an extent. But I’m sorry mate. I must say that your tone and combative approach has gotten a bit disrespectful, regardless of the validity or possible lack thereof behind your points.

  6. I think that combining strong epidemiological data from multiple populations (i.e. lower CVD risk with higher n-3 LCFA tissue concentration and better n-6 ratio) with well-established physiological mechanisms (i.e. higher tissue concentration of n-6 PUFA = inflammation, and inflammation = increased risk of CVD) is quite a potent argument in this case. It’s enough for me at this point. It may not be enough for you – that’s fine.

    Getting to 100% certainty with any of these questions is a lofty goal, and unlikely to happen anytime soon. The operative question is, how certain do you need to be of the data before changing your behavior? 70%? 90%? 99%? It comes down to a cost-benefit analysis for me. The potential cost of eating too much chicken and too many nuts is higher (in the form of increased risk for all chronic, degenerative diseases caused by inflammation) than the benefit I’d get from eating a lot of chicken and nuts. Likewise, the trade-off is relatively minor. Your mileage may vary.

  7. Chris, I appreciate the fact that you reacted and immediately to boot. But please do read my message before you answer. Many thanks.

  8. and one last clarification to glenn. i don’t weigh and measure anything…especially n-3 and n-6…as i agree with you…how would you even begin to do such a thing when you look at all the variables (where did you get your meat, what did it eat? how much of the skin is on it? etc). but i do enjoy knowing what the total content of each could be in a certain food and what the ratio is (and which foods might make it easier to get our ratio in line and which will make it harder). i’ve never seen where chris has recommended measuring, or searching for foods with a 1:1 ratio…he just advocates awareness. from his fish oil series…he pretty much just said keep your 6 low if you can…and that bringing your 3 up isn’t going to get it done. so i don’ think that makes him in any way like the fish oil “you must balance” folks. i still believe it’s prudent to be mindful of it…i don’t count but i pay attention. that’s all.

  9. Donat: the main problem is with your #1. Lowering LDL does not reduce CVD risk. That has never been proven. I’ve written about that extensively in my special report on heart disease. Please start by watching these videos, and then read this. Lowering triglycerides, lowering small, dense LDL (a sub-class of LDL) and raising HDL are all associated with a reduction in CVD risk. But more than 40 trials have been performed to see if lowering TC and LDL reduces heart disease risk, and when all the results were taken together, there was no difference between the control groups or the groups that had their TC/LDL lowered.

  10. Chris, I am a novice here and seriously confused. Look at this argument in (1) which we doubless agree is wrong, in fact *the* wrong argument in this corner of the woods:

    (1) (a) Reduce SaFATs in diet to reduce LDL, because (b) lower LDL lowers CVD risk

    now look at your argument:

    (2) (a) Reduce omega 6(or better: PUFA in general) in diet to ensure optimal omega 6/3 ratio because (b) lower tissue omega 6/3 ratio (better: lower tissue PUFA with good 6/3 ratio) lowers CVD risk

    Please believe me, in making the parallel I’m not at all trying to be combative. I’m just trying to be clear as to where I seriously need clarification.

    So a problem with (a) is that harm with hard end points has not been demonstrated except for a subset of relevant items ( trans-fats in (1a), extracted seed oils in (2a) –I know it’s a different molecule in the former case, but whether that is indeed going to be a crucial difference here needs to be properly demonstrated, while quite possible, it is really very far from being a priori necessary; –after all molecules, like atoms, act in a context-sensitive fashion). Secondly, also the long term correlation is similarly uncertain for both general statements (see eg. Stephan’s blog for (1a), and similarly for (2a): no studies on long term high PUFA vs low PUFA diet with correct 6/3 ratio from natural sources).

    The problem with both (1b) and (2b) is epidemological data, ie. correlation does not entail causation. We do not want to address a signal instead of the cause of the problem.

    I do not mean to imply in the least that I think the current status of the two arguments is the same. There appears to be a reasonable hypothetical causal mechanism underpinning (2) unlike for (1). Perhaps even more importantly, for many years great effort and energy has been invested to demonstrate (1), but to no avail; while (2) is a highly sensible hypothesis avaiting (perhaps some combination of partial ) confirmation and/or refutation.

    Having come from a different field I spent quite some time educating myself in these matters, but I am painfully aware of the lacunae in my erudition. So let me know where I misunderstand, or if that requires unjustifiable investment of effort, just point me to relevant references. Oh, and thanks for your excellent blog (not just being polite or trying to humour you (well ok, partly that)) .

  11. Glenn, you need to start your own blog instead of hijacking Chris’s. I was interested in what you have to say, but enough is enough.

  12. Brandon,

    Thanks for the thoughtful look at what I actually said, and the well thought out questions!

    I was busy hiking yesterday, and have a full slate of things to do today, so I have only so much time to converse now, but I will try to respond to at least part of your issues, as you have an open mind. Chris will have to wait, even though he replied earlier, as he continues to evade issues and put words in my mouth to discredit me instead of tackling the issues. I’ll pick up with repeating my words to him that he needs to address later.

    As to your restatement of my idea “at first it seemed to be that an n-6 molecule from chicken or nuts will behave differently or produce a different outcome in our bodies than seed oil that’s processed “, yes, I was saying that the investigators never use food in its raw state, and gave examples of nuts to indicate raw, not to indicate that they were a better source as a species. Notice that Chris still has not acknowledged my clarification as you have, and continues to use is original misrepresentation of my words as a basis to debunk me.

    As to your question about the cooking of chicken (or any meat) possibly ruining the delicate omega’s oxygen carrying properties, I happen to have a great answer for your very astute question. I was just responding on a different forum this morning and for some details, searched and found this article, which, among other great information, happens to have the test results to show that “Although PUFA
    are the most sensitive FA to oxidation, it seems that they have a high durability and low susceptibility to thermal oxidative processes at mild temperatures.” Please read this article for a lot more on the omega content of chicken meat, and how it can vary widely depending on the feed used:

    http://ps.fass.org/cgi/reprint/83/7/1155.pdf

    As to your similar question about the effect of heat on nuts, I don’t really feel it necessary to seek out those answers, as most people are much happier eating just raw nuts, whereas they have an aversion to raw meat. I would always push for “the fresher and rawer the better” as I think the Healthy Skeptic advocates, so I don’t want to recommend eating roasted nuts, even though they may maintain most of their nutrients at the time of heating. I think that the heating will definitely shorten their shelf life, and that in itself is a complicating issue, as it makes one have to eat the nuts closer to the roasting time. Just my belief on this. I don’t have a study to prove that.

    As to keeping the “must we watch our intake ratio’s of n-6:n3” issue open: I admit that it was only in a followup attempt to explain my position to Chris that I realized and pointed out that seeking to eat only “balanced within themselves (as to omega’s)” foods is ludicrous. But I stick with that point. All living matter has omega-6 and omega-3 content. As you see if you read the study I referenced in the link above, Chicken can range, depending on the feed, from a n-6:n-3 ratio of 7:1 to an amazing 1:1.65. Yes, more omega-3 than omega-6. The change is mostly in the omega-3 content, as the physiology requires a certain omega-6 content of cells to process the oxygen. In this study though, the omega-3 content went from only 2% of total fat, to over 26% of total fat! So, just as Chris’s quoted beef study shows, only more extremely in my study, you would have to really know a lot about the growing conditions of the meat you buy than is possible to determine JUST WHAT YOU WERE GETTING FROM THE MEAT in the way of omega. Then you would have to get the measurements of all the veggies, nuts, etc. and then weigh everything, and then near the end of the day, if you didn’t like the ratio you were coming up with after sitting at your calculator for an hour and a half, you would have to run to the kitchen and start eating some compensating food, being careful of course, to measure it in grams as you had every other food you had eaten all day. Just to make sure your omega’s were in balance. And this assumes that you have no other diet balancing concerns that others have, like balancing fats/proteins/carbs, getting enough vitamins, and total calories. And on and on.

    So you can maybe now see why I push for, as Chris originally did before getting off onto a discussion of omegas, just KISS. Keep it simple, and eat unprocessed, unrefined foods, mostly uncooked, mostly organic foods. The results will be, not just better health, but less worry (because the decisions are easier — no more reading every label of every box you pick up), less supplement needs, and less time spent making food decisions. One route through the grocery, hit the produce, hit dairy and meat, and never even enter the catacombs of those packaged food aisles. This is really what I am in favor of when I try to get the attention OFF omega’s. And its why I originally asked Chris, several newsletters ago, to just emphasize the dangers of processed oils (which he does beautifully), but not start calling for counting or restricting omega-6, as that is wasteful of time if one doesn’t do processed oils and the foods containing them! That alone (avoiding all processed oils and containing foods) will take the adulterated oils out of the diet, and at the same time take your omega-6/omega-3 balance way down to some normal level. It might be 4:1, it might be 1:1. The important thing is that the dangers of the adulterated oil diet will have been eliminated. That is all I ever wanted to emphasize.

    So you are right, its not right to say what is right for other people, as to how much complication can be handled in looking at the details and making health decisions. That is a very good point. Some people may be able to compute, not just calories, but carbs, and omega’s as they eat through the day, and I’ll leave that up to them. It is totally my lack of time and ability than makes me want to simplify the food choices as to content. I’d much rather go into the produce section, because I know its safe, especially if all organic and fresh, and then chose what looks tasty and juicy. And so on, through the meat section. That happens to be my personal, ideal limit, on “measurements”. But I won’t decide for others. But as a result, if there are those who eat chicken, for example, I do recommend the above link, so that you can see what you are up against in determining omega content. To me it demonstrates that there’s no way to know what you’re getting in the chicken. Its all up to the feed being used, or the range being grazed, etc.

    I hear what you say on shooting for excellence and not trying for perfection. And of course I agree with Chris when he clarified that he’s not asking people to avoid chicken. And its probably good that he even raised the issue of omega content of beef and chicken. I only hope that some people can see that the best reason though for looking at fatty acid intake is to realize the dangers of commercial seed oils, to realize that omitting them from the diet will take care of the “unnatural” n-6:n-3 balance that we have (as high as 20:1), compared to all other animals eating normal diets, and that once we return to a much more Paleo type diet, or even a diet of the 19th century, we will be fine and can forget about omega content. The ladies at the Weston Price foundation talk about fats all the time. They are mostly interested in insuring that we understand that saturated fats are needed in our diets. That’s understandable, as that foundation is funded in large part by the dairy and cattle associations. They never put any emphasis on omega balancing at all. But if you read about omega’s from what is offered by the fish oil industry, its all about balance. They don’t guide to reduce your consumption of ugly commercial vegetable oils though, they try to sell you omega-3 to “balance” the omega-6. That is unscrupulous. No matter how “balanced” you get by taking extra omega-3, you are not going to get ride of the damaging effects of adulterated oils. So it pays to be skeptical. It pays to read different opinions, and it pays to read and contribute to “The Healthy Skeptic” and other forums.

    I’m not sure I follow your analogy regarding the cigarette-test example. If its that you shouldn’t disregard studies on polyunsaturated fats just because they never do it “right” by my standards, then no, that is not exactly something I am saying. What I was trying to say about the studies never using natural foods was that either: 1) they, the testers don’t realize there is such a thing as adulterated fats and the damages they cause and so indiscriminately use those fats in the studies, or 2) they, the testers, are intentionally using the adulterated fats because they want a certain outcome. Just the fact that no-one is using naturally derived, and still healthy input is a great “warning shot” for me. I am so used to reading, and reading about thousands of (most of, really) scientific studies that are performed for, and at the direction of drug companies, that I read every study with tremendous skepticism (as should all professionals in the field of study). So I am not against studies. Nor citing them on this forum. I am saying that it is devilishly strange, statistically, to find that there are no studies using what we on this forum know is a healthy source of omega’s, as a feed or food given to the study animals. There are a lot of more interesting studies that remain to be conducted.

  13. glenn,

    i do see your points and they have evolved as you’ve continued to post. at first it seemed to be that an n-6 molecule from chicken or nuts will behave differently or produce a different outcome in our bodies than seed oil that’s processed and it seems that’s not what you meant. now you’re saying that it’s the state the n-6 is in that’s the problem (oxidized). i get that too and you’ll no doubt find much information on that on this very site…so that’s not really in question…but this brings up a few questions for me.

    unless you eat your chicken raw…isn’t it likely that it will be baked or pan cooked at a temperature high enough to oxidize the n-6? (and don’t say we should buy a sous vide and cook at 120 degrees) i would think this is almost certainly true with chicken…maybe to a lesser extent with nuts as you can soak and dehydrate them. but then even if that were the case…someone like chris would have to make a statement that perhaps nuts should be dehydrated not roasted…and that might make for unnecessary complication in your book…as it goes above and beyond just eating what is natural as the only non burdensome prescript. so it seems that in one shape or another we have to go beyond that in good conscience and yet you’ve argued against complicating things this far. where would we draw the line?

    even further to your point about how much n-6 really is too much…i see this one too. even if we are cooking the daylights out of our chicken and it’s oxidized…or if it’s not…if that’s the only source…is it too much? could it be that some ratio between 1:1 and 20:1 is still OK for us? but i look at it differently. you’re right…it’s hard to be certain…which, to me, is exactly why chris would err on the side of caution if anything. he’s looked at the data available to him and has made recommendations accordingly. so if he “thinks” it is worth being aware of and you “think” it’s not a big deal…but no-one can be 100% certain…to me, it makes much more sense to be conservative. and yeah, this might make it a little harder for folks. why would we worry that its relative inconvenience be more important than it being thorough? in this sense it almost seems patronizing to imply that it’s too much for people to handle or if it will complicate things too much for them. i believe it is up to that individual to decide the complication level for them.

    i feel someone has to try to look at what might be optimal to give us a goal to shoot for. when you factor in chris’ 80/20 approach etc…this makes it possible for and individual to “shoot for perfection” and knowing this is impossible (and doesn’t have to be attained) “hit excellence”. he’s reiterated that he’s not saying chicken should be entirely off the menu or that nuts should. but how is it harmful to say that there might be evidence to be mindful of this? personally, i appreciate it.

    your inquiry about a study showing all n-6 from natural foods makes me think of a scenario like this:
    to my knowledge there has never been a study showing smoking just 1 cigarette a day. there are many studies on the effects of smoking of course, but likely not one of this nature. and since one can’t be produced…does that mean that we should believe we won’t have any negative effects if we choose to just smoke 1 a day? it’s possible we won’t and we’ll live to be 100, but again…if we can’t be for certain…and the evidence about smoking in general is stacked up against it…it only stands to reason (to me) that even one cigarette a day wouldn’t be the greatest idea. even if it isn’t as bad as a pack a day. hell, even if it was shown that one smoke a day was only very slightly more harmful than none…wouldn’t that at least be worth someone stating in a blog…and being mindful of as health conscious individuals? or should that person say…just smoke less than a pack a day…in the interest of keeping it simple?

  14. That’s exactly right, David. I meant to mention that in my previous reply to Glenn, but it got too long. Studies have shown that fructose is well absorbed in the presence of equimolar glucose in the proximal small intestine. (Translation for non-science geeks: when glucose and fructose are present in a food in a roughly similar amount, fructose is well-absorbed.) But when the fructose content of a food – natural or unnatural – is higher than its glucose content, the free fructose (amount of fructose that is greater than glucose) is what causes problems. This is the reason why HFCS, which if 55% fructose, is more toxic than sucrose, which is 50% fructose.

    You’re exactly right about why fruit is generally benign compared to fruit juice and HFCS: the fiber in whole fruit makes it difficult to overeat it to the point where free fructose would be a problem, for someone with a normal metabolism. But the fruitarians try pretty hard to get to that point!

    Re: meat. My point wasn’t that we shouldn’t eat grain-fed meat (for nutritional reasons, anyways; I think there are many other reasons not to eat it), but instead that the fatty acid profile and nutrient composition of pasture-raised meat is superior.

  15. @Chris

    Right, that lower amount of total n6 in grain fed beef is what I was getting at earlier. It may have 3x or more the amount of n6 than grass-fed beef, but that ratio is misleading. It makes it seem more harmful than it really is, since the absolute amounts of n6 are so minuscule (for most breeds at least).

    Now, the amount of n6 in chicken meat however is quite shocking, and certainly (IMHO) a reason to adjust one’s diet.

  16. One should know that there is plenty of free fructose found in fruit. Apples contain quite a bit actually. So all the quibbling about free fructose in soft drinks vs fruit is really pointless. I suspect the fiber in fruit merely makes it impossible to eat enough fruit a day to contract liver disease, by the act of appetite suppression.

  17. Danny: even grain-fed beef, pork and lamb are relatively low in n-6. Grain-finished pork shoulder has only 1.7g of n-6, and grain-finished ground beef (25% fat) has only 1g of n-6. So you could eat a pound of beef and a pound of pork a day and still be under your 4.5g/d allowance (assuming a 2,000 calorie diet and limiting n-6 to 2% of calories).

  18. If you don’t have access to pastured dairy, eggs and meat do you think it will be better to reduce the fat intake and replace it with starchy vegetables?

  19. Chris: very good answer. Tissue concentrations would seem to be the best measurement, to the degree there is one.

    Reading your answer gives me confidence that my 2:1 ratio of 6 to 3 and supplementing with a moderate amount of fish oil leaves me in a pretty good place. I eat chicken twice a week, leave the nuts alone, and avoid seed oils like the plague. If I start having inflammation problems (symptoms of which are depressingly familiar from my high-carb/low fat days), I’ll reconsider.

    Thanks for taking the time to address this. It’s helped me.

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<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper qc_box_container_wrapper gform_legacy_markup_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_9' ><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' id='gform_9' class='qc_box_container gform_legacy_markup' action='/9-steps-to-perfect-health-3-eat-real-food/comment-page-3/' novalidate> <div class='gform_body gform-body'><ul id='gform_fields_9' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id="field_9_1" class="gfield field gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_1' >Email<span class="gfield_required"><span class="gfield_required gfield_required_asterisk">*</span></span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_1' id='input_9_1' type='email' value='' class='large' placeholder='Your Email' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /> </div></li><li id="field_9_2" class="gfield health-concern field field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_9_2' >I want to improve my...</label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_select'><select name='input_2' id='input_9_2' class='large gfield_select' aria-invalid="false" ><option value='' selected='selected' class='gf_placeholder'>I want to improve my...</option><option value='Weight' >Weight</option><option value='Energy' >Energy</option><option value='Digestion' >Digestion</option><option value='Brain' >Brain</option><option value='Overall Health' >Overall Health</option><option value='All of the Above' >All of the Above</option></select></div></li><li id="field_9_4" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_4' id='input_9_4' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='1271' /></div></li><li id="field_9_5" class="gfield gform_hidden field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible" ><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_9_5' type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' aria-invalid="false" value='Heartburn/GERD' /></div></li></ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_9' class='gform_button button' value='Download eBook' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_9"]){return false;} if( !jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity || jQuery("#gform_9")[0].checkValidity()){window["gf_submitting_9"]=true;} jQuery("#gform_9").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='9' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_9' value='WyJbXSIsIjVkYTAyNjYxOTg4ZDNhZGQwOTU0Yzc4NDcyNDk5YmM4Il0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_9' id='gform_target_page_number_9' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_9' id='gform_source_page_number_9' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='popup_name=Heartburn%2FGERD' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js" name="ak_js" value="3"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div>
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