Nutritional Guidelines – Where Are We in Early 2015?

The last several years have been a wild roller coaster for the nutritional hobbyist. So many ideas that seemed like solid advice fell apart. Everywhere you look there are divided camps on what is good and what isn’t. I thought I’d put together a quick post on how I am personally resolving the debates. I am not a nutritionist, but instead, approach these questions with an Investor’s Mindset. This means hedging risk and accepting that our knowledge base is likely incomplete.


Carbs are fine. People benefit from higher carbs post-workout and for those with higher activity levels in general. Carbs can benefit those with a low metabolism. Real food sources of sugar, such as real honey, sugarcane, or real maple syrup are preferred over processed sugars due to higher nutrient levels.

Simple narratives that demonize carbs are falling apart. Plus simple observation shows billions of people can live long healthy lives on high levels of carbohydrates. Whether some caveman 100,000 years ago did isn’t relevant when countless modern examples exist.

Favor starchy root vegetables, fruit, real food sugar, and then rice. I’m still not a fan of cereal grains, especially wheat.


I am not a fan of high protein diets for bulking, but higher protein diets are probably the best path to fat loss due to their high satiety. I suspect the success of many low carb diets is due to higher protein levels, not reduced carbohydrates.

The book that makes the most sense to me on protein is Death By Food Pyramid by Denise Minger. Instead of treating all protein as the same, she dives into the amino acid ratios of the different parts of the animal. From my review:

Eat the whole animal. Nose to tail. Organ meats. Bone broths. Marrow. Traditional cultures knew this (WAPF), now science can see the different distribution of amino acids and how eating the entire animal balances those ratios. Most people today just load up on muscle meats and discard the rest of the animal. This presents a problem we can have too much methionine and not enough glycine.

This a nutritional approach to financial portfolio theory.

Death By Food Pyramid also explores how we cook our protein is an important factor. Slow and lower temperatures are preferred to the charring that comes from cooking quickly with high temperatures.


Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health by Denise Minger

The takeaway lesson here is to eat less muscle meat, more broths, more seafood, more offal, dairy if you can, and grill less.


Some of the smarter PubMed warriors out there point to research stating we should get 1/3 of our fat from saturated fat, 1/3 from monounsaturated, and 1/3 from polyunsaturated. I disagree. Not because I understand science better, but because I understand math. We live in a world awash in PUFA and it accumulates in our fat cells. And it doesn’t leave right away.

To me, it makes sense to follow a restrictive PUFA diet at least for a while to reduce the PUFA load in our body. I cover this in the post Quantifying PUFA, Expert Opinion and My Conclusion. And PUFA from nuts is likely far less damaging than vegetable oils due to Vitamin E.

I am not sold on Fish Oil. I am sold on eating more fish.

High-fat diets seem to be a rage with many, but because it would be hard to create a diverse nutrient-dense diet that keeps PUFA low (4 – 9 grams on a 2000 kcal diet), I favor more carbohydrates.

Density and Diversity

I like the concept of eating foods that are more nutrient-dense. The Superfoods. That was the idea that rekindled my interest in nutrition back in 2007. The idea that 100 calories of one food provides greater benefit than 100 calories of another food appeals greatly to my inner economist.

A lot of people talk about nutrient density, but few mention diversity. Diversity addresses two points. One is that our needs change and that moving onto the next food is more likely to yield benefit than continuing to eat our current staples, regardless of how nutrient-dense they might be. The second point is we are still learning more about food and how different preparation techniques yield different nutritional benefits. So mix it up. Change the foods you eat on a regular basis.

Avoid or Reduce Intake of Nutritionally Poor Foods

I have harped on the PubMed warriors for their half-ass defense of wheat as not understanding risk. But even if bread doesn’t cause your skin to break out, gut to leak, and headaches, it still is nutritionally a weak source of calories. There are better choices to be made. Stating that is not a statement of orthorexia nervosa. It is being a good nutritional economist.

There are other foods that fall into the nutritionally poor camp. Most are less than 100 years old.

Last Words

I dated this post because I expect new information will change my opinion at some point. Unlike many of the nutritional zealots out there, I don’t have a financial stake in defending a narrative, even when new evidence surfaces. I’ll change my mind. Have before. Will again.


Add yours

  1. I agree!
    … for now. HA!

    I loved the Death By Food Pyramid book! I don’t remember the protein points you make though… so, I guess it’s time to re-read it again. 🙂

    My current nutrition know-how is pushing me to eat a greater variety of seasonally available whole foods… with the emphasis being on VARIETY and WHOLE.

    Synthetic supplements just don’t do it for me anymore… I think there are too many interactions among micro-nutrients and also un-documented benefits from the precursors and intermediates formed when your body takes raw material and makes the substances it needs to thrive – i.e. vitamin D3 drops are NOT the same as vitamin D (in any form) made by your skin when in good sunlight… there are other things beyond D being made & used that I think also are beneficial.

  2. Sorry, low carb still really makes sense to me, to the point that I am pretty much following a Keto diet, which also makes sense. Why isn’t what we were designed by God to eat, relevant?? But I wont discount the benefits of leafy green plants as being THE most nutrient dense food or plants in general. But high carbs/glucose? How high are you talking? I’ll go 50-100 grams max….

  3. I don’t think you need to be sorry, Gtex.

    We’re all unique individuals with different genetic foundations due to evolution (something the Pyramid book talks about)… so what works for you can be completely different that what works for me – at the biology and chemistry level.

    For example, some people have more amylase variants (AMY1) which allow them to digest starches better. You might be a low-AMY1-variant person, so you do better avoiding them (like many people – me included).

  4. @Gtex – One of the things I see paleo getting wrong is their belief that whatever humans ate 10,000 or 100,000 years ago was more natural and therefore better. This is called the naturalistic fallacy. Humans have and continue to evolve. Our ability to tolerate and thrive on animal dairy is a classic example of a “recent” evolution. The book The 10,000 Year Explosion covers this.

    We live in a modern world that is full of chronic low level stress. IMO keto diets compound that stress, by telling the body we are surrounded by scarcity and our survival is threatened. This stress is inaccurate and self inflicted. Thyroid function decreases and metabolism drops. Carbs signal abundance and shut down stress hormones. The post FreeTheAnimal did on honey documents traditional cultures that thrived with diets high in real food sugars.

    There are billions of examples of people living long healthy lives that exceed 100 grams of carbs every single day. Mark Sisson was wrong. The paleo meme that glucose is bad is short sighted. Some of the misconception comes from this belief that we need to deplete our glucose levels to become “fat burners”. This is not true. The body is always burning fat.

    When you really dig into the criticisms of carbohydrates, you discover they are really criticisms of excess calories.

    And I consider beef liver to be the most nutrient dense food on the planet.

  5. “Mark Sisson was wrong.’

    Let’s back that train up a bit. Akin to the media hanging on the silly narratives (“Paleo means a carnivorous diet!”), or you dating your post so that you can revise your opinion later, let’s give Mark credit for revising his opinions over the years, including the OK for things like Quinoa or rice IF everything else is in order or you’re a athlete.

    It’s the Cordain head-in-the-sand thing, that’s for sure. I would argue that the one true god of the “people-who-used-to-be-paleo-but-now-hate-it-because-of-themselves” Peat does the same head in the sand thing by missing the sociological forest for the physiological trees.

  6. @Sklyler – Easy. Sisson states on his site and in his book:

    150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone.

    There are billions of examples disproving that ludicrous statement. Excess calories – regardless of form – lead to weight gain. I’ve updated my opinion on carbs and posted as such. Sisson still has a direct link to this chart and has not released a revised edition to Primal Blueprint, so I’ll stand by calling him wrong.

  7. Somebody once said . . .
    “The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.”
    Somebody else said . . .
    “Those who fail to learn from history will be forced to repeat it.”
    So what does history teach us?
    Remember that history leaves clues.

    Clue 1: The living world does not provide any link between man and beast.

    Clue 2: There is not enough fossil material to take our theorizing out of the realms of fantasy.

    Clue 3: We have no evidence for biological change in brain size or structure since Homo Sapiens appeared in the fossil record

    Clue 4: There is no evidence that Neanderthal man was in any way inferior to man today.

    Clue 5: Radiocarbon dating has been concluded faulty, even by experts!

    Clue 6: Many of these so-called “prehistoric” men were not a “low” type at all. Of those who are called “Cro-Magnon” a university professor stated: “The Cro-Magnon race . . . are conservatively appraised as on a par with the finest stock today intellectually and physically.”

    MAS is correct….Paleo is a naturalistic fallacy… simple arrogance and a lack of humility on the part of human nature.

    On a sad note, I pointed this out on the BBS site many months ago….along with the limitations of Superslow. Although I spoke the truth about naturalistic fallacy diet paradigms and SS exercise limitations, I was promptly rewarded with banishment by the author of BBS.

    Caveat emptor


  8. @Marc – Although I was never banned from the BodyByScience website, I have had two comments blocked. Once a site blocks my comment, I am gone forever. That is why you will never see me link to that site or recommend it. Still love the BBS book though.

  9. Asceticism, which can involve extreme self-derivation….. takes on a form of rebellion in today’s dieting fads… and, can be seen as an exodus against the many pleasures that modern civilization has brought on society in the 20-21st century.

    The idea of a obtaining an ideal positive body is, in fact, something of a contemporary fallacy by practicing ascetic ideas, such as totaling eliminating certain food groups in one’s diet that may bring pleasure in the pursuit of extreme health.

    I love bread, beans, milk, ice cream, chocolate, potatoes, and meat…. thus, I will not listen to the loquacious “chants” of the rabble.

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