Meal Comparison, Part 1: Breakfast

Over the last year, news headlines showcased that saturated fat is not dangerous, animal products are not inherently unhealthy, and most of our health problems stem from over-consumption of refined carbohydrates.

However, change takes time. For the last 50 years, the public has been taught to fear fat and cholesterol, and to eat meals built around dense sources of carbs – particularly grains.

The science is now widely available showing that grains disrupt healthy gut function, provide an enormous carb load with few nutrients, and are inflammatory. But even with this information, many people are bewildered by recommendations to choose healthier options.

I can post in-depth articles discussing anti-nutrients, biological mechanisms, and studies…but sometimes a side-by-side comparison is more effective.

So, today I will post part 1 of a series comparing the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) with a grain-free approach. Each post will compare two meal options, starting with breakfast!

Since I clearly favor a grain-free approach, I have taken the following steps to ensure objectivity:

I picked the healthiest standard breakfast options doctors and dietitians recommend. This includes:

oatmeal1 cup of oatmeal (not instant; fortified and enriched)

1 cup of orange juice (not from concentrate; fortified)

½ cup of skim milk (fortified with vitamins A & D)

1 handful of raisins

For the grain-free breakfast, I picked foods that conventional wisdom would classify as too “high calorie” or “unhealthy”, including:

omelet1 omelet made with 4 whole eggs, spinach, and sweet red peppers

1/2 avocado

1 tomato

2 slices of bacon

Both meals provide 600 calories and take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

After running all the foods through a nutrient spreadsheet, here are the total offerings of each meal:

Meal Carbs Fiber Protein Sat Fat Mono Fat Omega 3 Omega 6
Standard Breakfast 136 9 15 1 1.5 50 2000
Grain-Free Breakfast 25 13 35 10 20 1300 3500

The oatmeal breakfast provides a major carb bolus, with very little fiber or fat to mitigate the resulting blood sugar spike. At over 100 grams of sugar per meal, it’s no surprise that almost 30 million Americans suffer from diabetes.

These carbs also increase small, dense LDL, causing atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, the grain-free breakfast provides 13 grams of fiber, along with 10 grams of saturated fat and 20 grams of monounsaturated, both raising HDL, or “good” cholesterol.

I included a column for omega 3 and omega 6. These are both essential fats, but O-3 has an anti-inflammatory affect while O-6 causes inflammation, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Historically, humans consumed a 1-to-2 or 1-to-4 ratio of O3-to-O6. The oatmeal breakfast skews this massively, with a ratio of 1-to-40, while the omelet and guacamole is more ideal (1-to-3).

Clearly the grain-free breakfast is healthier in terms of cardiovascular function, inflammation levels, and blood sugar control. But what about vitamin content?

Meal Vit A Vit C Vit D Vit E Vit K Vit B6 Vit B12 Folate Choline
American Breakfast 2700* 125 50* 0.4* 3* 1 0.5 280 70
Grain-Free Breakfast 10000 250 70 8 184 2 3 330 560

Once again, the omelet, bacon, and guacamole trump the oatmeal and fruit in every category!

You’ll also notice an asterisk in the vitamin A, D, K, and E categories. The oatmeal breakfast offers less of these vitamins but also lacks the fat and cholesterol necessary to activate and absorb these 4 fat-soluble vitamins.

The American breakfast offers far less B vitamins, and folate, which is problematic since carbohydrates use up B vitamins in their processing. It is common for Americans that don’t consume enough animal products, yet eat a large amount of grains, to require vitamin b supplements and sometimes even injections.

Finally, let’s look at the minerals offered by each meal:

Meal Calcium Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Zinc Copper Manganese Selenium
American Breakfast 500* 160 590 1300 2.9 0.5 2 24
Grain-Free Breakfast 170 120 600 1700 4.4 0.8 0.8 75

The oatmeal and fruit offers more in 3 categories! Grains are an excellent source of magnesium and manganese, while dairy provides a substantial amount of calcium.

I have once again put an asterisk next to calcium. Dairy and grains create a very acidic environment in the body, potentially leaching calcium from the bones.

The omelet and guacamole offer more minerals in total…but a daily serving of nuts may help shore up the few shortcomings.

As evidenced by this side-by-side comparison of a Standard American Diet breakfast, and a breakfast based around plants, animal products, and healthy fats, grains are not necessary.

There are a few minerals that are more abundant in grains which may support an argument for their occasional inclusion, but the idea that we should eat 6 to 11 servings a day is ludicrous.

Whether we look at carbohydrate load, inflammatory factors, or nutrients, grains clearly are not the “heart healthy” option we have been told.

Next time you’re contemplating what to make for breakfast, crack a few eggs and fry up some bacon – I’ve never heard someone complain that these foods aren’t more tasty…and now we know they are healthier too!

3 News Articles

I know I reviewed a news article just last week, but this week I wanted to try something new and discuss multiple articles at once.

My hope is to provide more information at a time. Reviewing multiple articles also means I won’t get into the same level of detail – but this may make my postings easier to get through (I know not everyone is as interested in the scientific details and mechanisms).

The first article is about the updated F.D.A. guidelines recommending women that are pregnant or breast-feeding consume at least 8 ounces, or half a pound, of fish a week. This is a major shift in our nation’s guidelines.

Some fish, such as albacore tuna, have high levels of mercury that can be dangerous to women and infants. However, sardines and salmon (that happen to have the highest omega-3 content), will have much lower mercury because they simply do not live as long. As previously mentioned, mercury binds with selenium (found in high amounts in fish) so our bodies will not absorb the mercury.

An interesting thing I learned back in college: in the U.S., we recommend women avoid alcohol and eat vegetables while they are pregnant. However, in France, pregnant women used to be told to consume wine and to avoid certain vegetables such as spinach and broccoli.

As with everything, our knowledge is constantly changing and food producers are powerful enough to influence health recommendations.

Just consume the foods humans were meant to eat, in the quantity that is realistic in nature, and be aware of food sources. This way you will know if it contains more of something (mercury) or less of another (magnesium) than it once did.

The next article goes along with the typical understanding we are slowly coming around to – that saturated fat has no correlation with heart disease.

By now, we know that the science to vilify saturated fat and cholesterol was falsified:

“But as Tiecholz and other critics point out, Keys cherry-picked the seven countries he visited: the United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece and Japan.
Noticeably absent? Countries well known for their rich fatty foods but without high rates of heart disease, like Switzerland, Sweden and West Germany.
Based on his study, Keys promoted the Mediterranean diet: a diet high in fruits and vegetables, along with bread, pasta, olive oil, fish and dairy. But Teicholz pointed out that Keys visited Greece during Lent, a time when people abstain from eating meat, which in turn skewed his data.”

But, I also wanted to share this article for another quote:

“Take the 30-year follow-up to the landmark Framingham Heart Study, for example. It is one of the largest epidemiological studies evaluating the roots of heart disease in our country.
In the follow-up, scientists found that half the people who had heart attacks had below-average cholesterol levels. In fact, scientists concluded that “for each 1% mg/dL drop of cholesterol, there was an 11% increase in coronary and total mortality.””

This shows that lower total cholesterol levels increases ones risk of death!

I still think triglycerides, carried by oxidized (small and dense) LDL particles, can be a good predictor of inflammation and cardiovascular risk. However, high total cholesterol, with high HDL and fluffy and benign LDL, is actually protective for the body.

And, finally, the last article I’ll share with you today is comparing the sugar content of fruit juice and sugar.

Sound familiar? Scroll back a few months on my blog and you’ll see a post I had detailing how drinking orange juice is the same as drinking a coke, taking a fiber pill, and a multivitamin. Well, now the mainstream is coming around!

I always stay open to new information, and love to learn when I’m wrong, because it means I’m learning something new…but I do have to pat myself (and my “nutrition guru” peers) on the back occasionally.

Not that staying more up-to-date on research and delving into biological and chemical mechanisms more often than CNN, New York Times, and NPR is any amazing feet – things only make the news when there’s a catchy headline, photo, or agenda!

Well, I hope these 3 articles were interesting and helped provide just a few more reasons to move away from a diet based on processed foods and towards a lifestyle based around nature.

See you next week!

Orange Juice vs. Coca-Cola

How’s everyone’s week so far? I’m taking a recovery this week so, without the high intensity workouts or morning coffee, my energy levels aren’t as high as normal. However, my energy is much steadier all day and my anxiety is less severe without the stimulants from coffee and espresso.

This week, I wanted to exemplify how marketing by food companies have blinded the general public. Before I jump in, a little back-story explaining my motivation for this post:

I was having Christmas brunch with my family and, when asked why I was eating grapefruit but passing on the orange juice, I replied: “Orange juice is the same as soda, chemically speaking.”

Now, this statement sounds completely absurd based upon what we’ve been told our entire lives. How could the natural juice, squeezed fresh from an orange, be anywhere near as problematic for the body as a man-made liquid consisting of chemicals and corn syrup?

Now, of course, I was speaking casually and merely thinking of the actual breakdown of the sugars within the two beverages. But, due to how emotionally charged personal nutrition choices are, and how long we have been brainwashed to “start our day with a tall glass of orange juice”, my statement was met with hostile denial.

For all my followers trying to improve their health, I wanted to present the solid facts about how the body metabolizes these two liquids.

First, let’s look at a simple comparison of the nutritional content of the two drinks side-by-side.

Orange Juice

Coca-Cola

Calories

117

98

Total Carbs

27

25

     Sugar

24

25

     Fiber

0.8

0

     Other Carbs

2

0

Protein

1.7

0

Fat

0.4

0

Vitamins

     Vitamin A

9%

0%

     Vitamin C

125%

0%

     Folate

15%

0%

Minerals

     Magnesium

6%

0%

     Potassium

13%

0%

At first glance, we can see that orange juice has more calories per serving. I personally think other things are more important than number of calories but, usually doctors and dieticians prefer “low calorie” options…hence their aversion to fat which has twice as many calories per gram as carbs, yet offers better fuel for the human body.

We also see that orange juice has more sugar per serving. Maybe not according to how the labels are presented…they specify the grams of sugars and fiber but leave the remaining carbohydrate content unaccounted for. If you’ve read my post on carbs, you’ll remember that ALL carbs (besides fiber), have the same effect on the body. So, in essence, orange juice has 26 grams of sugar while Coke has 25 grams.

What about the trace amounts of fiber and all the vitamins and minerals in orange juice?

Well, first off, these facts are for juice with a medium amount of pulp. I personally loved the “lots of pulp” orange juice when I was young but, from what I’ve seen in the marketplace, the “no pulp” is more popular, negating the fiber content.

This brings me to my next issue with orange juice – the process of pasteurization.

Orange juice is heated to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all the living enzymes, thereby extending its shelf life. This heating separates the pulp (fiber) from the juice. The fiber in fruit mitigates blood sugar spikes and is one of the key elements that make such a high-sugar food healthy.

This pasteurization process also destroys most of the nutrients in juice which is why producers add synthetic vitamins to their products. Take a look at the ingredients in orange juice…I can almost guarantee “ascorbic acid” will be on the list.  This is to add vitamin C back into the drink after it was destroyed during heating.

For the sake of full disclosure, I left out about a dozen more vitamins and minerals that orange juice provides because it fulfilled less than 5% of the recommended daily values. And also, very few sources will be upfront when listing the nutrients that remain after pasteurization.

Maybe I’ll have a full post on pasteurization later because I feel myself getting off on a tangent. The takeaway point is that pasteurization takes a living thing (fruit and its juice) and damages everything in it…including beneficial bacteria, antioxidants, and nutrients.

So, to be fair, I should have stated that “Drinking orange juice is like drinking soda and taking a multi-vitamin and fiber pill at the same time.” Hahaha.

I certainly prefer a client drink orange juice rather than soda. But, at the end of the day, the profits are going to the same companies (for example, Coca-Cola owns Minute Maid) and the sugars are equally as damaging to the body.

To avoid sounding like a complete fanatic, I’d like to mention that I eat an orange, and plenty of other whole fruit, almost every day. This is a much healthier and more satisfying option. An orange is a natural, living thing from the earth that we were meant to consume.

If you really need your juice, try making your own either by squeezing or blending the whole fruit with a little water or ice. This will provide you with plenty of vitamin C and fiber, along with plenty of other nutrients and antioxidants.

I hope I didn’t scare anyone away from fruit with this post – just keep in mind that any packaged product will never be as healthy as the food it is made from.

So, enjoy a Navel or Valencia orange, especially before or after a workout, but skip the liquid sugars!