Other than saturated fat, I can’t think of a nutrient that’s been so universally maligned and demonized as salt. All the experts hate it and recommend that we get as little of it as possible. They even all seem to have their own little anti-salt slogans. The American Diabetes Association recommends between 2300 and 1500 mg of sodium per day (“Be Sodium Savvy“). The American Heart Association wants you eating less than 1500 mg per day (“Shaking the Salt Habit“) and claims that 97% of young people already eat way too much salt. The other ADA – the American Dietetic Association – also recommends between 2300 and 1500 mg, but their slogan is far inferior (“Slice Your Sodium Intake“). It’s quite the pile-on, isn’t it?
Why does salt strike mortal terror into the hearts of so many?
I get a lot of emails about the “Eat Right For Your Type” diet, also known as the blood type diet, which asserts that specific optimal diets exist for each blood type. In this post, I’ll take a look at whether there’s anything to this idea, and whether you should change the way you’re eating based on whether you’re Type O, A, B or AB.
The proposed diets all tend to be pretty decent, whole foods-based ways of eating, and they’re all better than the standard American diet of industrial processed junk, but differences do exist. Here’s the basic breakdown of all four blood type diets:
Type O (PDF): The “original” blood type and the oldest one, proponents claim it evolved among hunter-gatherers in response to their (Primal) diet of animals and plants. People with this blood type do best on meat, fish, and certain fruits and vegetables while limiting starches and omitting grains (especially wheat), beans, legumes, and dairy. It’s pretty much a strict paleo approach.
Type A (PDF): The agricultural blood type, proponents claim it arose after the advent of agriculture. People with this blood type do best on vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, legumes, and limited fish. They should avoid meat, wheat, and dairy. It’s basically a vegetarian diet.
We all have them – ”comfort” foods that feel like more than just food. Far beyond the random edibles of our day, these are imbued with the likes of positive memories, celebratory identities, nurturing associations. They’re the feel-good recipes or psychological standbys that satiate us on a deeper level. Irrational as it might sound (but isn’t really), food is more than function. It’s more than taste or even nutrition (gasp!). Food, specifically our personal list of comforting favorites (resulting from cultural and emotional experience), has the power to shift our mood as well as our physiology.
When we go Primal, we end up rethinking our relationship with these old standbys. In some cases, we cherish the memory but let them go for the sake of health goals. We might experiment with adapting them, or we might simply reserve the right to enjoy them in their original forms on special occasions. However we re-envision our favorites post-Primal, I’d suggest we don’t need to throw out the concept of comfort food itself. Though the actual preferences are personal, the impact of comfort food as a whole is real – and measurable. Research has shown that eating – or even writing about – comfort food actually blunts negative emotions like loneliness. As with any phenomenon, the more we understand it, the better able we are to use it for good in our lives and health.
I’ve been asked to comment on the latest media deluge to suggest that red meat is again the primary cause of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and your impending doom. At least this time they’re targeting something other than cholesterol: this time it’s carnitine.
Carnitine is found in red meat, mostly, as well as dairy, tempeh, and some other meats, and it performs a number of important roles in the human body, foremost of which is the transportation of fatty acids into the mitochondria for breakdown into useable energy. It’s so important to basic function that we make endogenous carnitine by synthesizing it from the amino acids lysine and methionine. Vegans and vegetarians, who tend to run deficient in carnitine, benefit greatly from supplementation (or a nice steak). It’s even been used to reduce atherosclerosis (albeit in rabbits), improve arterial function, and help heart failure patients recover. Carnitine is not some evil compound.
There’s another “meat is bad” study making the rounds, featuring such stellar prose as:
“Although causality cannot be established…”
“…further research is recommended.”
“…should still strive to reduce intake of red and processed meat, which tend to contain high amounts of saturated fat and sodium.”
And so on.
By now, we see these lines, roll our eyes, and keep on moving down the path that seems to be helping us. But that’s us, people who pay attention to nutrition news and stay abreast of the literature. We may be able to write off these breathless articles without thinking we’re going to die because we ate that bunless burger the other day, but our parents, our friends, our colleagues may not be so well-equipped. They’re worried about our health, and who can blame them? If you take mainstream health articles at face value, articles which confirm what your doctor is probably telling you, you would do the same.
© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple