This sort of thing infuriates me.
In the first half of 2016 the UK Government released their updated Eatwell Guide (previously the Eatwell Plate).
And it disgusts me.
Maybe I still view my home-land with rose-tinted glasses…
But on the back of Sweden being the first Western country to remove the ridiculous low-fat dogma from their national dietary guidelines (and I love their guidelines title is “Find your way to eat greener, not too much and to be active!” – simple but perfect!), and the USA unclenching a little over cholesterol…
Could the UK make a similarly progressive step forward?
Could they review the evidence based lessons we’ve learned over and over that grains create inflammation, adrenal and thyroid disfunction, IBS and more…
That a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet leads to dementia, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, weaker bones…
And that ‘choose low-fat, low-sugar options’ is the World’s most ridiculous oxymoron…?
The latest UK Eatwell Guide is just as, if not more, driven by protecting industry coffers rather than the actual health of the population of the UK.
So much so that upon the change of the old section that was ‘Foods High In Fat and Sugars’ being replaced with a new section called ‘Unsaturated Oils & Spreads’ a mega-food-manufacturer that produces highly toxic, refined margarine took out a full page ad in the national press celebrating their ‘dedicated section’!
I’m sorry but how freaking backwards is that!
It just infuriates me that a food so horrible for our health can be painted to be so beneficial. And millions believe it. Why wouldn’t they?
It’s so abundantly clear that when you look at the ‘guide’ it is filled with the biggest contributors to government coffers, the biggest lobby groups:
– wheat & grain
– spreads (margarine etc)
In what absurd world should the bread, bagels, pasta section be as big as vegetables (fruit should be a separate section).
In what absurd world are we being told that saturated fats should not be eaten at all.
In what absurd world are we still being told low-fat, high-carb is the way to go?
No Evidence-Based Research
The irony is not lost on me. The media, Govt., old-school doctors, the mainstream will tell you – the alkaline diet is false, there is no evidence to back it up.
There is overwhelming evidence that eating an alkaline, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet will lead to abundant health.
But there is not a jot to suggest the UK Gov. has ever researched or trialled their guidelines.
How can they be mandating 64.1 million people to eat this way without ever even running a single trial on it’s effectiveness?
Money, money, money.
If they told us to eat grains in moderation, to throw out the toxic spreads and cheap vegetable oils, to make fresh vegetables 70% of the diet, to stay away from refined, packaged foods and so on (i.e. eat an actually healthy diet) – the industry behemoths would revolt.
There is no question, the big food manufacturers have got the govt. in their pocket in the same way big pharma does, and these guidelines reflect that so clearly.
Really? This Eatwell Guide is to the benefit of industry? How can you prove this?
In 2014 the reference group who would be meeting over several months to formulate the guide was announced.
The members that make up that group is public knowledge.
And on paper it reads well:
First let’s look at the more innocent sounding representatives:
- Association for Nutrition: sounds good, but was represented by Anne de Loy who is the writer and publisher for the sugar industry including this ludicrous weight loss guide from the SUGAR NUTRITION GROUP! I can’t even believe that group exists let alone that it dares to pretend it cares about people’s health.
- British Dietetic Association: again sounds good…until you realise their main sponsorship and interest is with Danone and Abbot Nutrition (who make baby formulas and protein/shake products.
- Institute of Grocery Distribution: who’s members include interest groups from across the retail world – and what is their intrest…? Selling stuff – not making people healthy!
- British Nutrition Foundation: ah, of ‘giving McDonalds a healthy heart tick’ fame – clearly not swayed by the good old dollar are they? (I still wonder how much McD’s had to pay them to give them that tick). Their members include Aldi; ASDA; Birds Eye; British Sugar; Coca-cola; Co-Op; Danone; General Mills; Greggs; Heinz; Kelloggs; KP Snacks; M&S; Mars; McCain; McDonalds; Morrisons; Nestle; PepsiCo; Quorn; Sainsbury; Slimming World!; Tate & Lyle; Unilever; United Biscuits; Waitrose; Warburtons; and Weetabix. – not a health-first company in sight!
And then it starts getting even more shaky with representatives from the British Retail Consortium, Food & Drink Federation, Association of Convenience Stores (hang on, why are retail groups in here? To help us decide what is most healthy for the nation?)…
And then finally some good news: ONE member from the UK Health Forum, ONE member from the Royal College of Nursing (who didn’t actually attend the meetings), the Associate Director of Public Health (who also didn’t attend any meetings)…
So it was just the member from the UK Health Forum then…
And then it gets bad again, with a member from the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board who represents the pig meat, milk, beef & lamb, cereals, oilseeds and potato industries (weird that I don’t see anyone representing the coconut oil industry.)
I feel sorry for Modi Mwatsama from the UK Health Forum who must have been fighting a one-person battle against all of these mega-corporations and industry groups.
So tell me: who is representing the health of the public – apart from poor old Modi?
The representatives from the British RETAIL Consortium? The Association of Convenience Stores (those well known health food shops like 7eleven) and The Food & Drink Federation who represent the worst of them…?
As Zoe Harcombe points out here – The Food & Drink Federation represents a who’s who of the industry that is in no way interested in your health:
AB sugar; Association of British foods; Allied Bakeries; Alpro SOYA; Batchelors (premier foods); Border Biscuits; British STARCH industry; British oat and barley millers’ association; British sugar; Britvic; Burton’s Biscuit company – that’s just some of the companies under A and B. You can work through C to Z if you like! I highlighted SOYA and STARCH, as they will be especially thrilled with the new plate.
Weird how “Soya Drink” suddenly appeared on the guide.
Not ‘non-dairy drink’ or almond drink, coconut drink…specifically Soya drink – with Alpro – one of the UK’s biggest soy food manufacturers having a say on the decision making board.
Why on EARTH should anyone trust this list?
We are given the impression the Govt provides these guidelines to help us. Wrong. They provide them to keep the coffers of the big food and industry groups well lined. Simple.
If they really cared, they would consult with a wide group of nutritionists with zero financial interests and zero commercial links. That would not be hard and it would make so much more sense. Wouldn’t it?
So What SHOULD We Be Eating?
Look – I’m going to tell you to eat an alkaline food-based diet all day long.
Because it means you’ll be eating predominantly fresh vegetables, lots of greens, antioxidant-rich foods, anti-inflammatory foods, you’ll be getting lots of healthy fats, lots of fibre, plenty of protein (yes, you can still eat meat and fish)…
…while getting very little sugar, very little trans-fats, no refined, processed, packaged foods.
But let’s not go deep into the ‘alkaline diet debate’…
Let’s just focus on the foods, lifestyle choices, hydration and exercise that the alkaline diet consists of.
Foods to Focus On (aim to make these 70-80% of your diet):
- Green Foods: you should aim to eat a LOT of greens, especially leafy greens. Kale, spinach, watercress, Chinese greens, beet greens, herbs and even plain ol’ lettuce. These alkaline foods have been proven to be the most nutrient dense foods on earth.
- Other Vegetables:think carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini/courgette, capsicum/bell pepper and so on. These veggies should definitely be a big fixture in your diet. They provide a huge range of nutrients – both macro (fibre, protein, carbs etc) and micro (vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll etc).
- Low Sugar Fruits & Fruit in Moderation: low sugar fruits such as tomato, avocado, lemon, lime, grapefruit etc can be eaten with wild abandon. Higher sugar fruits – berries, oranges, banana, pineapple etc – should be eaten still, but not in unlimited amounts – keep these fruits to 1-2 serves per day. Why? They will easily push you over the recommended amount of sugar (fructose) you should be eating daily. And yes, fructose is the same as any other sugar (in fact, it’s worse when juiced and the fibre is removed).
- Healthy Fats: regardless of the absurd Eatwell Guide – you should NOT follow a low fat diet – you should be eating lots of healthy fats – namely omega 3 and the saturated fats from coconut oil (medium-chain triglycerides). These fats will NOT make you fat, they will NOT raise your bad LDL cholesterol, they will NOT cause any health problems. They will however lower LDL, raise the healthy HDL cholesterol you need for proper brain function, they will increase your metabolism, decrease inflammation, support the digestive system and so much more. Healthy fats are CRITICAL to your health – don’t skip them.
- Beans, Pulses etc. – a health addition, not in huge quantities, but in moderation – think lentils, chickpeas/garbanzos, kidney beans, navy beans and so on. They are a great source of protein, fibre, and all of the most alkaline minerals such as potassium, manganese, magnesium and so on.
- Gluten-Free Grain Replacements: that’s a weird way to describe this group of foods but we’re basically talking quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, chia, brown rice, oats – all of the foods you’d find in the ‘grains’ category that are not actually grains, do not contain gluten and are not inflammatory like grains are.
- Other Stuff:
this is really the nuts and seeds category and any of the other wonderful stuff that’s nutrient-dense, but not high in sugars, gluten or unhealthy fats.
Foods to Avoid:
This is easier:
- Refined & processed foods
- Junk food & fast food
- Microwave meals
- Pastries, biscuits, sweets
- Artificial sweeteners
- Grains & gluten containing products
- Fruit juices, sodas & bottled beverages (sports drinks, energy drinks etc)
- MSG containing products
- Basically – all the foods you already KNOW are bad for you!
Room to Manoeuvre:
There is always room for treats, cheat meals, meals out, cheat DAYS, holidays, birthday parties etc.
You should also continue to have meat if you like, dairy in moderation (not ice-cream!) and other things you enjoy.
We’re not trying to aim for perfection here – just focusing on making the right choices most of the time
You should aim to be drinking at least 2 litres, and preferably 3-4 litres of filtered water daily.
Don’t drink tea or coffee excessively and get lots of herbal teas.
Other Lifestyle Factors:
Don’t stress. Don’t be sedentary. Get a little sun but don’t get burned. Sleep well. Have lots of sex. Laugh lots.
Stress is especially important. Stress literally affects your body chemistry in as much of a powerful way than any food.
Research has shown that elevated cortisol (what your body produces when you’re under stress and anxiety) is a precursor to hundreds of serious conditions.
And as a related aside, research has also shown that chronic low-grade acidosis caused by an acid-forming diet creates constant, chronic elevated cortisol. But yeah, there isn’t any evidence the alkaline diet works or than an acidic diet is damaging, so probably ignore that right?
The Biggest Long-Term Health Problems and Trends We Are Facing Are All Caused By…
We are, as a population, getting sicker and more overweight year on year. The problem is getting worse.
But Govt. guidelines like the Eatwell Guide keep on saying the same thing over and over and over.
99% of the health issues we’re seeing today (that are determined by lifestyle & diet) – mass consumption of grains, mass consumption of sugar, low-fat/high-carb diets, not enough vegetables, too much processed/packaged/refined foods…
These are the big health friends we need to reverse.
But they are hard to turn around. Big marketing budgets, governments with vested interests, convenience and a lack of time in our lives, the addictive nature of grains and sugar and ingrained habits mean that turning round the ship is going to take a long time.
But PLEASE don’t be one of those trusting in the industry-influenced government for nutrition advice.
Eat greens, eat veggies, eat clean, natural foods. Eat fats, oils, nuts, seeds, oily fish. Eat everything else in moderation. Exercise well, live well, hydrate well.
THAT is my ‘Eatwell Guide’.
Props to Zoe Harcombe, who’s article first brought this to my attention and who runs a fantastic blog about the craziness of the food industry and public health.