Ask anyone around you and I’m willing to bet the majority will tell you that organic is somehow superior to conventionally grown crops. Whether it be the taste, the micronutrient quality, the overall freshness and safety, or the gaping hole it burns into your wallet, organic foods have been touted as “nutritionally superior” almost everywhere you look.
But is this true? Is there really any benefit from eating organic as opposed to conventionally grown crops? I hope this blog post will help shed some light on the topic and hopefully by the end of this, I’ll be able to answer those questions. Let’s jump right into it.
Most people preach going organic for the simple reason that there aren’t any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, food additives, GMOs, etc. used when growing them . Conventional crops, however, allow for growing out of season, greater resistance, and a much higher yield of crops.
If you don’t think that “buy organic” is a marketing ploy to take more of your money then you need a serious wake up call. Don’t be sheep when it comes to your health.
Let the take away from the post be about how there is negligible difference in nutrient composition, but a major difference in price. Being healthy isn’t costly. Understand that you’re paying for the word “organic” being on a product.
Don’t like the article? Read the studies (like you should be doing) and develop your own opinions. Don’t be sheep.
Alan, what is your general philosophy on food sources regardless if the individuals is in a caloric surplus or deficit, the phrase “Clean Eating” is thrown around a lot. Could you shed some light on research or any information regarding utilizing different sources that may be considered bad and the impact it may/may not have on body composition?
You know that the cleanest food in the world is? Hydrogenated vegetable oil. It was originally developed for the purpose of making soap. Pretty damn clean, I’d say. On a more serious note, the “clean” label is very misleading when applied to individual foods. There’s no way a food can be judged in isolation from the rest of the diet. To give an example, most people would call celery a “clean” or healthy food, and ice cream a “dirty” or unhealthy food. In the far-fetched/hypothetical scenario of being forced to choose only one of those foods to survive on, guess which one would sustain your health (and ultimately your life) longer? Hopefully you chose ice cream over celery, unless you’re anxious to knock on Heaven’s door. The point is, labeling foods as clean or dirty ignores context, and ignoring context is just plain dumb. I think that’s it’s intuitively obvious that the diet should consist mostly of whole & minimally refined foods. But still, it’s not all that simple, since certain foods are significantly altered from their original state (i.e., whey protein powder), but still have positive impacts on health. I wrote an in-depth article on the “clean eating” topic here. It’s a long article but worth the read for anyone interested. I think it’s been very amusing to see the definition of “clean” vary widely according to highly subjective criteria.
Read more of the interview at Machine Muscle.
Click the link above to read the study put out by Stanford University.
Organic food is not more nutritious than conventional food, but it does make people more pompous acting. Ever met someone that talks about eating only organic? Do they ever shut up about it?
Yes you are exposed to less pesticides eating organic produce, but guess what? Even with some organic produce you are consuming pesticides.. just at a smaller percentage. It’s not harmful to you either way, so I wouldn’t worry about it.
Organic is not better than non-organic in regards to being more nutritious. The same goes for gluten-free being any better for you than foods containing gluten — the only exception here would be those people with a food allergy or celic disease being medically advised to avoid gluten.
Eat the food that fits your budget and nutritional goals.
edit: Please take note of this form if I have offended you.
The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.- Oscar Wilde
In keeping with the theme of evolution and nutrition, today’s article is going to be the first installment of a two-part series on the Paleo diet (also called hunter-gatherer, Stone-Age, or ancestral dieting). Even if you are not familiar with Paleolithic nutrition per se, you most likely are familiar with Atkins, The Zone, or South Beach, which are essentially less-strict versions of ancestral eating. However, given their differences, we won’t concern ourselves with them and will therefore just stick to looking at Paleo. Part 1 will solely place emphasis on the Paleo diet and some of the inherent biases/contradictions it contains. Part 2 will strictly be reserved for a research review on the literature supporting the Paleo diet, wherein I will make some final comments and sum things up. My goal for today is to show you all why Paleo is a flawed and inflexible diet system comprised of ideologues who cement themselves in assumptions while blindly disregarding scientific literature that opposes their own views about nutrition. So, without further ado, let’s begin by taking a look at what Paleolithic nutrition actually is.
Enter Paleo: Society’s Stone-Age Solution
In essence, the Paleolithic period – some 2-million years ago – marked the start of humanity, most notably, with the advent of stone tools in order to facilitate food consumption. During this time period, it is assumed that grain and sugar consumption (other than fruit) was virtually nonexistent, maybe except for occasional honey here and there. Taking this into account, Paleo dieters believe that the Paleolithic “style” of eating – i.e. a diet devoid of grains, starches, sugar and dairy – is best suited to our current genetics because we have changed little – if at all – since the emergence of agriculture and its products some 5,000-10,000 years ago. To quote Dr. Loren Cordain – “the world’s leading expert on Paleolithic diets” – directly from his book, The Paleo Diet:
Literally, we are Stone Agers living in the Space Age; our dietary needs are the same as theirs.”
It is from this rationale that Paleo fanatics believe that obesity, diabetes and the other“diseases of civilization” are caused from the consumption of grains – or as they like to call them, “the double-edge sword of humanity” – because these diseases were not a problem back then when grains were unavailable. However, today, both an overabundance of grains and diseases are available. Therefore, no post-agricultural foods are to be consumed because they somehow contradict our genetic disposition. As extremist as this is, many people are taken in by this philosophy because it does offer a very logical explanation for the current health crisis we are now witnessing. What most Paleo nuts choose toforget is that we also did not evolve with television, computer, cars, etc. that lowers our energy expenditure and potentially leads to weight gain and certain diseases when combined with poor dietary habits. Yet, most of them continue to use these things on a daily basis; hypocrisy? I’ll let you decide. That’s another article for another time; today’s focus is strictly nutrition.Now, I have to say that I am in agreement with the idea that a diet which is full of McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and other processed foods is not the healthiest diet to consume; no argument there. However, if you’re trying to debate that oatmeal, milk and a little bit of sugar here and there are bad for me, then Ihave a problem. But, before I get ahead of myself, let’s see if we can actually quantify what a “caveman” actually ate all those years back.
What did a Caveman Actually Eat?
In a few words: we can’t be sure and probably never will. However, even crazier than the people themselves are their claims that they, the Paleo proponents, actually know what a caveman ate. In one of the first papers talking explicitly about Paleolithic nutrition, authors Eaton and Konner provided some general ranges for the types of food sources a person might have eaten back then based off of some more recent hunter-gatherer societies which lasted into the late 20th Century . Although this serves as a rough estimate for Paleolithic nutrition, one must keep in mind that a hunter-gatherer culture living in the 1960’s is extremely different from that of a Paleolithic society living hundreds of thousands of years ago. Any suppositions made from these observations are purely speculative and far from conclusive. Nevertheless, using these contemporary hunter-gatherer societies (living mainly inland and in semi-tropical climates), Eaton and Konner saw that anywhere from 20-50% of their diet was obtained from meat and anywhere from 50-80% of their diet came from vegetation. However, populations in artic regions – like that of the Eskimos – derive as little as 10% of their diet from plant-based sources. Therefore, if my calculations serve me right, the ranges of nutrients potentially run anywhere from 20-90% meat-based and anywhere from 10-80% plant-based. To me it seems as though there was not one single hunter-gatherer-type diet. In fact, a well-written review by evolutionary archaeologist, John Gowlett , argues that in no way there could have been only one “Stone-Age diet.” This is due to various geographical limitations, such as food variety and climactic changes, which would require various nutritional adaptations to be undertaken in order to survive in a given region. Therefore it can be determined that humans did not evolve eating any one type of diet, but rather an all-encompassing and extremely varied diet that would allow for adaptive survival given their geographic location/conditions. This is exactly what was seen in our more recent hunter-gatherer proxies. But does that stop the Paleo zealots from prescribing strict nutritional guidelines?
Read the entire article at Dylan Klein’s Blog: A Science-based Approach to Nutrition.
There are a lot of questions and concerns that surface when talking about dieting in general. Then once you start talking about eating foods you enjoy in moderation while dieting it seems like people can only see that concept in black or white. Well, that’s the exact problem. Moderation is not black or white.. it’s a combination of both.
Dieting for fat loss is fairly simple. The basic principles are as follows:
- The key to losing weight is a caloric deficit.
- The key to better body composition is eating the right food.
Let’s make a definition for “right food” first.
An assortment of foods that gives your body an adequate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients that are not able to be produced on it’s own in the body. Once the two requirements of adequate amounts of macro and micronutrients are met any additional food that is consumed may be deemed acceptable as long as the rules of the desired direction of body composition (fat loss, muscle gain, etc) are adhered to.
What does that definition say in it’s simplest (although this requires extensive explanation) form?
The “assortment of foods” for better body composition that should be consumed fall into these three rules:
- Protein for the building and repair of body tissues plus it produces enzymes, hormones, and other substances the body uses. It regulates body processes such as water balancing and nutrient transportation. Prevents one from becoming easily fatigued by producing stamina and energy and also is beneficial in the health of skin, hair and nails.
- Fats to keep hormonal balance, protect organs and absorb nutrients.
- Carbohydrates to provide body with extra energy, fiber and to protect muscles.
Once those three goals are met if your desire is to lose weight then your goal should be to adhere to a caloric deficit that is under your TDEE [total daily energy (caloric) expenditure]. However, if the caloric deficit is too steep muscle loss can happen as well as unwanted developments in hormonal levels and metabolism efficiency. If the desire is muscle gain then the requirement would be a caloric surplus over your TDEE without pushing the surplus into a degree which can cause rapid fat gain. However, small amounts of fat gain often occurs with any caloric surplus when building muscle, but the degree at which fat is gained varies person to person.
At this point you might have a few questions. I will do my best to answer what I feel would be the most common to surface.
- What is a TDEE and how do I calculate mine?
Let me explain that your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is also referred to as your maintenance caloric intake level. Oftentimes you will hear someone say to make sure to eat below your maintenance level when talking about weight loss. What that means to make sure you are eating less than you are outputting. It’s the classic energy in versus energy out.
There are so many different ways through calculations, graphs, charts, formulas and methods for obtaining this information. The simplest way I have learned to get a good estimation for your TDEE, or what you know now is also called your maintenance calorie intake level, is to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 14 to 16 calories. This range of values will give you your estimated TDEE.
- Where does the calculation of multiplying bodyweight by 14 to 16 calories to get your estimated TDEE come from?
Instead of just copy and pasting the full article that is comprised of scientific detail that Lyle McDonald has written on why those are the most accurate values for ESTIMATIONS of your TDEE, I would ask that you actually go and read his article yourself titled: How to Estimate Maintenance Caloric Intake - Q&A
Are you feeling overwhelmed with calculations yet?
If no and you are wanting to follow a more detailed approach to your diet where you would track the details like calories and macronutrients so that you could fit some of those “dirty” foods you love into your diet then you should head on over to http://www.thespartanwarrior.com/iifym to spruce up your knowledge on the If It Fits Your Macros philosophy to dieting.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by calculations and details then I assume this would be your next statement and question:
- I don’t want to track my calories or macros. What do I do?
This might sound easier to you since you won’t have to do any calculations, but in reality this can actually be harder. The reason for this being a more difficult process is due to the degree of variables that you will now be experiencing. You will not know exactly how much you are eating each day. You will not know how much of what macronutrient you are eating each day. You will not be able to determine your proper TDEE based on the amount of food you are consuming and your weight changes. Without tracking your intake and how it effects your body you are going to put yourself in the position to rely solely on guesstimations.
Trust me when I say that I don’t blame you for not wanting to track every detail. Honestly, sometimes even I get tired of tracking everything I eat, but I do it because it’s what I’ve become accustomed to and I enjoy understanding the fine details.
Okay, so you still don’t want to track your calories or macros, huh? Well, that’s fine.
Let me introduce you to what I have named, Easy Mode Dieting.
Easy Mode Dieting
1. Consume an average amount (think just a little bit bigger than the size of your fist) of lean protein at each meal.
2. Get 2-3 servings of fibrous vegetables each day.
- dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc)
3. Get 1-2 servings of fruit each day.
4. Drink 1-2 glasses of water with each meal and in between meals.
5. Include small amounts of food that contain starchy carbohydrates, fats, protein, fiber, etc.
- sweet potatoes
- white potatoes
- brown rice
- cottage cheese
6. Include small amounts of “dirty” foods that you can enjoy in moderation.
WARNING! This is the step that is by far the easiest and most frequent for a person to mess up when trying to diet without tracking the details. What I mean by small amounts and moderation is that if you consume the things you enjoy in small portions on infrequent occasions then you’ll be just fine. It really is that simple. The problem resides within one’s ability to practice moderation.
What is a small portion? Think a serving size. Look at the nutritional information on the side of the box and look at what it details out as a serving size. With your best judgement follow that guideline for the amount. It may seem small at first compared to how you’ve been eating it before hand, but believe me.. down the road when you are sticking to a diet that is better for your overall health then those small portions become big and incredibly important. The following are examples of what many in the nutrition and fitness industry have deemed “dirty” foods.
- bowl of cereal
- Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
- baked lays chips
- anything that basically tastes like you shouldn’t be eating it all the time
Are you getting the big picture yet?
As long as your diet is comprised of 85% whole, nutrient dense foods then it will not matter what you eat for the other 15%.
The Easy Mode Dieting guideline is:
Eat what you should eat, when you should eat it. Eat fibrous fruits and vegetables. Drink enough water to stay hydrated. Fit in small portions of those “dirty” foods you enjoy on infrequent occasions. Moderation are king.
The title of “Easy Mode Dieting” comes from the concept of being easy to understand, easy to follow and easy to see results as long as a moderate approach to dieting is kept in mind. For anyone that would like to try another style to dieting with alternative philosophies and other details besides EMD or IIFYM then I would highly recommend checking out either LeanGains by Martin Berkhan or Cheat Mode by Kurtis Frank.
IIFYM stands for If It Fits Your Macros. The means basically, eat right, but don’t get all caught up in the whole ‘clean vs dirty’ food debate that seems to still go on. If you want to eat whole grain bread, oats, brown rice, etc. etc. Then do it. If you want to eat white bread, white rice, and pop tarts, as long as it fits in with your other macronutrients and your goals in terms of caloric intake then it isn’t going to make much of a difference in the long run. It all comes down to personal preference.
So, basically don’t get into the whole “If I have ice cream I’m going to get fat” or, “I’ll never have pizza again” mentality. If you want it, you can have it, just make sure it fits your macros.
This is not a diet. This is a way of life.