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5 Healthy foods that have been demonized

Healthy foods

With the recent increase in health awareness among the general populace, food has become a very contentious topic. Everyday mainstream media bombards us with articles talking about some study mentioning how a particular food is bad for you. Things have come to a point where barring fruits and veggies everything else has been shown to be poisonous for you some way or the other. Infact a lot of fruits and veggies have also been shown to be bad for you.

We are now living in the times when people are avoiding the foods that humans have consumed for thousands of years. It is strange to see that people are ready to discard the knowledge gained by our ancestors over thousands of years for some scientific study that they have not even read. What you need to understand is that scientific studies are never black and white. No scientific study will straight away mention that a particular food is good or bad for you. There are a lot of nuances surrounding the results of scientific studies, which mainstream media cuts out to make the results more digestible for common population. Add to this the sensational element that mainstream media has to add in order to get people to read their articles and you can understand where things will head. There are a lot of great foods that have come under attack in the recent years. In this article we will talk about 5 popular foods that humans have been consuming for thousands of year, which have suddenly come under a lot of attack. Most of these foods are animal based and part of the reason for their criticism also comes from the animal rights community.

1. Milk

Humans have been consuming milk of other animals since the Neolithic times more than ten thousand years ago. Milk is a wholesome food, which means that it contains all the three macronutrients that our body needs. This makes sense as infants survive just on milk and hence milk has to provide all the nutrients necessary for the growth of the infant.

The biggest criticism for the health benefits of Milk has come from animal right activists such as PETA, who have an interest in discouraging milk consumption to stop animal cruelty. We should respect and honor their effort regarding the animal cruelty however their recommendations about the nutritional benefits of milk need to be taken with a grain of salt. If someone does not want to consume milk because of their beliefs on animal cruelty then that is their choice, however it is always wrong to spread misinformation and the truth is that milk is a great source of protein and calcium.

If you feel that consuming milk that should have gone to the calf is unjustified then let me clarify that traditionally the farmers first used to let the calf drink its milk and then milk the cow. If you feed a cow well, it can produce far more milk than the calf needs. I know this because my family has owned cows. I cannot say anything about industrial dairies though, but demonizing milk because some people are abusing cows is not justified.

2. Eggs

Humans have been consuming bird eggs since prehistoric times. Chicken was first domesticated about 9000 years ago for its eggs and since then Chicken eggs has been an integral part of human diet. Recently though eggs have been attacked for high cholesterol and fat content in the yolk. Again the biggest criticism comes from the vegan and animal rights community so caution must be used before you decide to remove eggs from your diet.

Eggs are a great and cheap source of protein. Moreover egg protein is of very high quality as our body can digest almost all of it. In other words if you take 1gram of egg protein your body will make use of the whole 1gram of that protein as opposed to the protein you get from beans, where your body will only be able to make use of 0.75grams of that protein.

With regards to the criticism with high fat, keep in mind that fat is not a bad thing if taken in moderation; it is when you take excess fat that it becomes a problem. For high cholesterol, there is no clear indication that ingestion of moderate amounts of cholesterol increases your overall cholesterol levels. Considering the fact that humans have been consuming eggs for thousands of years, there is no need to worry that eating eggs in moderation is going to lead to cardiovascular diseases. Some people have started just eating egg whites to avoid the fat and cholesterol of the yolk. This is an appropriate approach if you are eating a lot of eggs. If on the other hand you are just eating one or two eggs, you should eat the full egg, as the yolk contains a lot of vitamins and minerals that are good for your body.

3. Red Meat

We have been consuming red meats since prehistoric times. Red meat is a great source of iron and protein. It is also an excellent source of minerals such as zinc and phosphorus and B-vitamins. Research literature however is full of the association between red meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer. To really understand the reason for all the bad press that red meat has gotten we need to make a distinction between processed meat and unprocessed red meat. If we make this distinction then the evidence suggests that it is the preservatives that are added to the processed red meat, which cause these diseases and not the red meat itself.

The effect of unprocessed red meat and disease are still being investigated, however it is suspected that the correlation with diseases may be due to the inherent fat levels and cholesterol of the meat rather than the meat itself. FDA recommends limiting the consumption of red meat to two servings in a week. If you consume lean cuts of red meat two times a week you should be making the use of the health benefits of red meat while avoiding the harmful effects if they are there.

4. Butter

When we talk about butter, the first thing that comes in mind is that butter is pure milk fat and contains a lot of calories, so consumption of butter will make us fat. Now consider this, France is the biggest consumer of butter per capita and still has the lowest rate of obesity amongst the OECD countries. This observation indicates that the truth about butter is more complicated than what it appears. Butter has been a staple food for people around the globe for centuries and has even been considered as a sacred food, which is good for your body. It is only in the modern times that butter has suddenly become an unhealthy food.

Butter is rich in vitamin A, acts as an antioxidant and is great for joint health. Many studies are even indicating decreased cardiovascular diseases with the consumption of high fat dairy. Now this does not mean that you should start eating lots and lots of butter. Butter indeed is high in calories and excess consumption will cause you to gain fat, however removing it all together from your diet is a mistake.

5. Salt

Nutritionists have traditionally emphasized that salt will raise your blood pressure, cause obesity and heart diseases. This has been used as the reason to minimize salt from our diet as much as possible (less than 2.3 grams/day). Keep in mind that salt is an essential component of diet as it plays a critical role in the functioning of our body. If you completely eliminate salt from your body your nervous system will collapse and you will die. Recent scientific studies in fact are indicating that we should consume 3-6 grams of salt/day. A lot of communities around the world have traditionally been eating a lot more salt than 2.3grams/day for centuries with no clear indication of hypertension. It is now becoming clear that it is not the absolute amount of sodium but the ratio of sodium to potassium that is more important for proper functioning of your body, with higher potassium over sodium being beneficial for you.

As you might have noticed in all the foods discussed in this article the trend has been that a few studies came out mentioning the bad things about certain foods and we started avoiding those food, then the later studies started to emerge and mentioned that maybe those foods are not as bad. This clearly shows the limitations of scientific studies and how little we understand about our food. If I had to choose between the results of recent studies and the empirical human knowledge over the centuries from our ancestors, I will go with the latter.

Old teachings from Epicurus emphasize the virtues of moderation in life. The same concept applies to our food as well. It is not that most of the foods are bad for us, it is their excess consumption that is bad. We should consume everything in moderation to really enjoy the benefits of all the good things in our life including food.

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