The World’s Shortest Nutrition Guide
By Michael Kauper,  © Jan. 2000

  Teach good nutrition early. These guidelines can help prevent overweight, heart disease, overweight, cancer, overweight, diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer's Syndrome.

The Three Rules
1. Get half or more of your calories from unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Not white,wheat, or multigrain bread; not breakfast bars; not apple juice.

2. Get most of your protein and fat from plant sources, such as beans, split peas, lentils, nuts, soy products, whole grains, and vegetable oils. The rest of your fat and protein (the lesser part) may come from animals. Food from animals is a modest fraction of good diet.

3. Less processed is better than more processed. Less added salt, less added sugar. Whole grain rather than white flour. Choose baked potatos over fries; fruit over juice; oil over hydrogenated fat.

   NOTE: You do not need to meet these 3 guidelines with every meal. Make up for one meal where you eat meat or cheese with another meal where you eat vegetarian.

Most meals eaten by most people in the USA fail all three guidelines.
Many people who feel they eat well actually never eat any meals which pass.

How to Apply the Rules
   Applying these guidelines requires a little information and a little thought, partly because they are so short. Here are a few examples.

   A Big Mac or Whopper is no good, even with lettuce and tomatoes. These burger bombs get 80 to 90% of their calories from the fatty meat and sugary sauce, not from complex carbohydrates. Not acceptable. The bread is not whole grain. Also unacceptable. Finally, they are very salty. Fails on several counts.

   White bread, “wheat” bread, white rice, white pasta, added sugar, corn syrup; they all cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

   Sweetened “fruit” yogurt gets over half of its calories from added sugar, not from complex carbohydrate. Fails numbers 1 and 3.

   Low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt with added real fruit is excellent.

   Most delivery or store bought pizza fails all three guidelines:  cheese with pepperoni is the worst. Pizza gets 80 to 90% of its calories from the cheese and meat, not complex carbohydrates. The crust is white flour, not whole grain. They are very salty.

   Home made pizza, on whole wheat crust, with moderate cheese and loaded with vegetables, will generally pass the guidelines. Added meat pushes the calories to over half from animal sources, but you can make it up by serving fruit or vegetables with the pizza.

   Breakfast cereal with milk may or may not pass. A white-flour, sugary cereal topped with whole milk fails on all counts. Low sugar, whole grain cereal with fruit, sliced almonds, & low-fat milk nicely passes all of the guidelines. And so on and so forth...

In Defense of the World’s Shortest Nutrition Guide
   People would rather die than eat well. We seem to use any excuse to avoid healthy food, and eat what we like instead.

*  For most of Americans their top nutritional concern is food that tastes and feels good.
*  Some Americans may compromise taste (a little) to look better, not be overweight or fat.
*  A tiny fraction, perhaps 1%, use nutrition to have more years of healthy active life.

    The super-popular Atkins Diet demonstrates these priorities. The Atkins Diet feeds our meat craving inner hunter-gatherer. The emphasis on fat and meat is attractive to the typical fat and salt addicted American. The diet also works to help us look good. By inducing a sort of artificial renal failure, this high meat diet really does burn fat.

    The Atkins Diet also kills you off early. By promoting early heart disease, cancer, and actual renal failure, Atkins helps us "save money" which might otherwise be wasted caring for old people. (Our cigarette companies can fill you in on this theory...)  Vegetarian humans have six more good years than carnivorous humans. That is an even larger difference than the years added by not smoking.

    The World’s Shortest Nutrition Guide is based on hundreds of articles about nutrition. I especially rely on those powerful studies which follow thousands of people over many years. Laboratory studies and clinical trials suggest eating strategies. Long term studies show what really works.  
    People who are worried about poor nutrition seek the easiest and most comfortable solutions, and that does not always provide the hoped for results. Take oat bran. When researchers suggested that oat bran might prevent heart disease, people started taking oat bran pills. These people missed the point.

   The reason that oat bran consumption appears to help with heart disease is that people who cook and eat oatmeal are generally more active, eat more fruits and vegetables, less meat, less sugar, and so forth.

    Taking an oat bran pill or a fish oil pill is not a life-style. Taking the time to cook and eat a nice hot whole grain cereal for breakfast, or steaming some marinated salmon for dinner, now that’s a life-style. Short cuts don’t cut it.

    Nutritious food has a complex flavor, often strong or bitter. Unless we are raised on whole and natural foods from a very early age, eating well can be difficult or impossible. Ironically, a great diet is quite pleasant. I enjoy my whole grain hot cereal, my veggie burgers, whole wheat pancakes covered with fruit and plain yogurt. I love this stuff.

    The children in my child day care home all eat vegetarian whole wheat pizza covered with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, green peppers, mushrooms, and cheese. They all eat spinach and cabbage salads with carrots, broccoli, sliced almonds, and whole wheat croutons. They love baked beans;  fish fillets (with no breading); brown and wild rice;  oatmeal with almonds and cranberries; whole-grain pasta topped with chunky garden-style tomato sauce, pinto beans, and collard greens;  whole wheat cake and cookies are considered to be wonderful treats.

    The issue here is not taste. These good eating habits and the enjoyment of healthy food is a matter of training, acclimatization, environment, and self-discipline. Nearly everyone can eat well, if they choose to do so. But that’s a very big “if”.                          

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Rev. May 24, 2003