It’s January, which means millions of people are either already on a weight-loss diet or considering one. If you watch TV this time of year, you can’t help but see ads for Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers and all the other usual suspects. So many options out there … which one should people choose?
Well, let’s suppose you were offered these choices:
On one plate, you’ve got a slice of grass-fed beef, some eggplant and green vegetables drizzled in olive oil, and perhaps a small sweet potato. On the other plate — wait, make that in the other glass – you’ve got a brew of FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, FRUCTOSE, GUM ARABIC, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID.
That brew in the glass contains 18 grams of sugar, by the way.
So which meal should you choose? Why, the glass of Slim-Fast, of course. (How many of you guessed it from the list of ingredients?)
I know the Slim-Fast is a better option because a group of (ahem) experts says so. Here are some quotes from an article on the NPR site, and from an article in U.S. News:
Despite the buzz about paleo and raw food diets, a new ranking of the 35 top diets puts these two near the bottom of the list.
I’m guessing it’s because the list was created by a bunch of nutritionists who still believe the same old anti-fat, anti-salt, hearthealthywholegrains nonsense they’ve been preaching for years.
The U.S. News & World Report rankings are based on evaluations by a panel of doctors, nutritionists and other health experts. For each diet, the experts evaluated short-term and long-term weight loss, ease of adherence, and how the advice stacked up against current dietary guidelines.
… and how the advice stacked up against current dietary guidelines. In other words, the diets may as well have been ranked by the guiding lights at the USDA.
One expert concluded that “a true paleo diet might be a great option: very lean, pure meats, lots of wild plants.” But the problem, according to the report, is that it’s too difficult to follow in modern times.
Well, yes, if you tried to go out and track down a Megaloceros giganteus, you’d be sorely disappointed. But the paleo diet is about eating nutrient-dense whole foods and avoiding Neolithic foods, not recreating the exact diets of our caveman ancestors.
The experts say that in avoiding dairy, grains and other mainstays of the modern diet, paleo followers may miss out on key nutrients.
Yeah, that’s why Custer kicked ass at Little Big Horn. The Sioux and Cheyenne were perpetually weak and sick from a lack of dairy, grains, and other mainstays of the modern diet.
The paleo diet, by the way, was ranked 35th out of 35 – you know, because it lacks those mainstays of the modern diet. The Slim-Fast diet – which requires consuming shakes that contain all those ingredients I listed above, including hydrogenated soybean oil –was ranked 13th.
Meanwhile, a vegetarian diet was ranked 11th … because while we shouldn’t give up grains and other mainstays of the modern diet, giving up a mainstay of the modern diet is fine and dandy if the mainstay is meat. And while the paleo diet was ranked last largely because it’s “too difficult to follow in modern times,” apparently switching to a vegetarian diet isn’t difficult at all.
Here’s what the U.S. News article said about the vegetarian diet:
As a health diet, vegetarianism is solid. It’s decent at producing rapid weight loss, according to experts, and is strong in other areas, such as heart health and nutritional completeness, that arguably are more important.
But if you take a vegetarian diet and remove the grains while adding meat, it’s no longer nutritionally complete, according to the (ahem) experts.
As for heart health, well geez, that must explain why vegetarians don’t die of heart disease. No, wait … I seem to recall that they do. As I recounted in a previous post, Bill Clinton’s own vegan-promoting doctor warned him against eating bread:
When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: “I’ll remind you one more time, I’ve treated a lot of vegans for heart disease.”
And in another post, I quoted from a study titled Mortality Among British Vegetarians:
The mortality of both the vegetarians and the nonvegetarians in this study is low compared with national rates. Within the study, mortality from circulatory diseases and all causes is not significantly different between vegetarians and meat eaters.
Hmmm, kind of makes you wonder if these diet rankings are a bunch of poppycock.
The U.S. News article included a link to the panel of experts who ranked the diets. I’ve never heard of most of them, but I have heard of Dr. David Katz. He created something called the NuVal system, which is supposed to help shoppers choose healthier foods at the grocery store. Foods are ranked from 100 (excellent) to zero (might just kill you.) I wrote about NuVal in a previous post. Here are how some foods rank on Dr. Katz’s NuVal scale:
Post Shredded Wheat ‘N Bran – 91
Silk Soymilk Light – 82
Silk Soy Milk Chocolate – 68
Chicken Breast (boneless) – 39
Turkey Breast – 31
Ham – 27
Coconuts (husked) – 24
So according to Dr. Katz, a big bowl of wheat is an excellent choice. A cup of chocolate soy milk containing 17 grams of sugar is a good choice. But a chicken breast, a turkey breast, a slice of ham or a coconut is a bad choice. No wonder he thinks Slim-Fast is better for you than a paleo diet.
The #1 ranked diet was the DASH diet. Here’s what U.S. News has to say about it:
DASH was developed to fight high blood pressure, not as an all-purpose diet. But it certainly looked like an all-star to our panel of experts, who gave it high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health.
The theory: Nutrients like potassium, calcium, protein and fiber are crucial to fending off or fighting high blood pressure. You don’t have to track each one, though. Just emphasize the foods you’ve always been told to eat (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy), while shunning those we’ve grown to love (calorie- and fat-laden sweets and red meat). Top it all off by cutting back on salt, and voilà!
But if you take way the whole grains and low-fat dairy and add in some red meat, it’s now a paleo diet and the ranking drops from first to last — 22 spots lower than the Slim-Fast diet. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And the extremely low level of salt allowed on the DASH diet is not only unnecessary for most people, it might actually be bad for your health, according to a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.
So here’s what we’ve got with the U.S. News diet rankings: the same group of idiots who’ve been pushing low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets for decades were asked to rank diets and – surprise! – they chose the low-fat, low-salt, low-meat diets as the best … which means ordinary folks looking for advice to help them fulfill that New Year’s resolution to lose weight will read that a diet of meats and vegetables isn’t good for them. Nope, a decent diet is based on meal-replacement shakes that include FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, FRUCTOSE, GUM ARABIC, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID.
Head. Bang. On. Desk.
And that’s why the same people will be making the same weight-loss resolution next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.