Don Bennett's Blog
January 30, 2016
Recently, I received an email saying, "Don, look
at this! Doctors in New Orleans are being taught about food, it's called
"culinary medicine". Maybe there is hope for doctors."
Culinary medicine! A medical school added a class to its curriculum where doctors-to-be take cooking classes. The video shows one of the organizers of the program a doctor saying, "I'll write you a prescription for a cooking class, and insurance will pay for it."
First of all, if insurance will pay for it, there can't be much benefit to the class. Let's remember that in the U.S. it's a for-profit ill-health management system where more illness equates with more profit, which is the goal of any industry. The doctors may have the best of intentions, but they are not the ones running the industries that make up Organized Medicine. And in the video I saw lots of food, but no fruit. The most helpful dietary recommendation an MD can give is simply, "Eat more fruit and greens and less animal products". It's not, "Here's how to cook sautéed shrimp and onions."
Personally, I think this course is in response to the growing criticism that doctors know nothing about diet. It's like, "Okay, so now we're doing something about it and doctors will be trained." And I wouldn't be surprised if the course is influenced in some way or outright sponsored by the dairy or pharmaceutical industry to ensure that the most helpful dietary advice is not included (like cut down on animal products).
So while some may see this as a step forward, I see it as continued subterfuge, misdirection, and misinformation, misleading both the doctors and those they counsel.
Don Bennett's Blog
December 26, 2015
A Raw Food Diet is Not for Everyone
A raw food diet is not for everyone. It's not for people who don't care to have the best health their genetics will allow. It's not for people who care more about "fitting in" with their family or existing social circles than they do about achieving optimal health. And it's not for people who prefer to do what they'd rather do rather than do what's best for their body (the Self-Indulgent-Pleasure-Seeking-Behavior folks).
The healthiest of the raw food diets are for those who truly care about their future health; it's for those who realize that every day they are alive they will have a level of health, and they possess the foresight to want to have the best health and quality of life for each and every one of those days. They have high levels of wisdom, can think for themselves, the ability to do skeptical interrogation, and they have an intolerance for misrepresentation and misinformation; these are necessary because of all the inaccurate information out there regarding the raw food diet, courtesy of those folks who care more about making money than they do about your health, and those who allow their personal biases and philosophies to color their otherwise good judgment.
And then there are people who will embrace the healthiest of the raw food diets to deal with a serious diagnosis, but when they resolve their malady and are "cured", some go back to their normal lifestyle, seeing a raw food diet in much the same way as the gen pop sees their cures. The folks in this category who do not see their sickness as a wake-up call do not have the wisdom to make prudent investments in their future health. Many have the "it's all good" mantra... but in reality, it's not all good.
Oh, and yes, a raw food diet is for those wanting increased athletic performance, but this relatively small subset of raw foodists are often willing to sacrifice optimal health for high levels of achievement whether they realize this or not; they don't have the same priorities as health oriented raw foodists, or if they do, they have, for the time being, fooled themselves into believing that they can have both maximal performance and optimal health... at least until they "crash and burn" and experience the payback for overworking their body, but this can take decades, and due to endorphins, they feel GREAT during this time, and this can color any good judgment they do have. This is why I am not only an advocate for appropriate diets, but also for appropriate physical activity (and sunshine, and sleep, and hydration, and nutrition).
Now let's look at those who are at the other side of dietary issues. Promoting an all-raw fruit-based diet is also not for every health educator. Some health educators who are avid vegans for ethical reasons seem to care more about getting people to switch to a vegan diet than they do about promoting the diet that is best for people's health; subconsciously they know that the healthiest diet won't be embraced by as many people as a vegan diet that contains cooked food, and turning more people to veganism is their ultimate goal and thus their priority. Unfortunately some of these educators because of their concern for animal suffering have convinced themselves that a vegan diet that contains cooked food is superior to a vegan diet that is all raw. But since humans have the ability to perceive reality as something other than it actually is, these otherwise well-intentioned educators unintentionally mislead people while doing great work for the other animals. Ironic.
And we can't have a proper discussion of this issue without visiting the less-than-altruistic side of human nature. Some health educators are doing what they're doing solely as a business, and employ the ubiquitous "profits-before-people" business model, and therefore will promote the diet that stands to get them the biggest piece of the pie within their market. We recognize these dishonest people in the cooked animal food industry ("butter is back!" Dr. Perlmutter), but they also exist in the raw food industry because raw food has become an industry too. The diet humans are best suited to eat is not rocket science, so there is no excuse for teaching inaccurate dietary information. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts, and the healthiest diet for humans is a matter of fact even if it's portrayed as an unsettled issue or one with multiple hypotheses.
Fortunately these health educators are the exception and not the rule, but unfortunately they don't play by the same rules as honest people, and they are often seen as sincere, caring, honest, and well-intentioned when in reality they are not, and they employ this persona for the same reasons all corporations that engage in underhanded things do... marketing. But when they are good at what they do and most are it is, for most folks, difficult to tell them apart from the truly sincere, caring, honest, and well-intentioned educators, and as such, these charismatic miscreants will have hordes of ardent fans and followers who will support and defend them when those who can see through their BS call them out on it (one of my endeavors). This is a really sad state of affairs because most if not all of their followers truly want optimal health and will not end up getting it (unless they can eventually see these people for who they really are). But since less-than-optimal health will not be obvious for a very long time, these reprehensible folks will be responsible for much pain and suffering way down the road, but because of their sociopathic tendencies, they don't care; specifically, they care more about themselves than anyone else. (And this is not "bad behavior shaming", it is an attempt to raise awareness of a profoundly influential problem.)
I know that you may find it difficult to relate to people I've just described, and you may believe that while they exist in some of the mainstream industries, surely not in the raw food community. But it's a sad fact of life that they are everywhere, and this is why it's important to know about, not only dietary info, but also about the educators themselves and their motivations so you can better vet their info (assuming you want the best health your DNA will allow).
So even though everyone deserves to reap the benefits of the healthiest of the raw food diets, it's clearly not for everyone. And advocates of the healthiest of the raw food diets would do well to acknowledge this so they don't come off sounding like this diet is for everyone even though everyone is designed for this diet.
Don Bennett's Blog
December 18, 2015
OP ED DEPARTMENT
Who represents veganism?
In the vegan community, we have many representatives. Some are ardent fans who blog about it for ethical and health reasons, and some are health educators. Health educators should be held to a high standard because unlike those who simply chat about it health education is a profession. But not all health educators are professional. And who would be a better representative for the raw vegan diet; what kind of person would you want the world's healthiest diet associated with? Someone who was professional and who truly cared about helping people, or someone who was unprofessional and who only cared about helping him or herself.
More people going vegan whether raw or not is important if we want to have a habitable planet to leave to future generations. An animal-based diet is popular and profitable, but not sustainable when we're talking about billions of people. But fortunately, the vegan diet is the diet we're best suited to, physiologically. And what about the moral and ethical issues regarding the eating of animals? So eating a vegan diet is best for people, the other animals we share this planet with, and the planet itself. The only ones who would suffer from the eating of a vegan diet are those whose first priority is profit.
In general, when a person or company (which is made up of people) has a profits-before-people business model, the public will not be best served. We only have to look at the for-profit health care systems (ill-health management systems) to see how the winner is Organized Medicine (pharmaceutical, medical, and health insurance industries) and the losers are the folks who put their health in the hands of those who see people only as revenue generating units (I'm not talking about the nurses and doctors).
So it's fair to say that insincere marketeers; those who in reality care more about profits and popularity than they do about the people they supposedly serve, are "bad", all things considered.
Let's look at an example of someone who represents the vegan diet. He started out promoting an all-raw vegan diet, unapologetically banning from his website anyone who dared to express an opinion that some cooked food might be okay or that it's not as bad as people are making it out to be. But it appears that it might have become obvious to him and his partner that there was a bigger market out there... he could be more popular if he gave a pass to some cooked food because this would be an "easier sell" than an all-raw diet. And we're not talking about the least offensive cooked food, like steamed sweet potatoes and steamed veggies. No. If we're going to give a thumbs up to cooked food, it should be more popular, like pasta and white potatoes. It almost doesn't matter as long as you carb-the-f--k-up... and keep it vegan of course.
Was this approach just a transition to an all-raw diet? A way to make it easier for people to adopt the raw vegan diet? No. Let's take a transition tactic, like eating all raw until the last meal of the day, and make it into a diet plan, complete with a catchy name, T-shirts, and events. And because we want to be the most popular people out there and garner the largest market-share, let's allow the meme to circulate that you can be just as healthy eating a "high-raw" diet as an all-raw diet (because who in their right mind would eat all-raw if they could be just as healthy eating a diet that included some cooked food!) The fact that this meme is untrue is meaningless. What's true is what you can get people to believe. Does this sound like unprofessional behavior to you? If you want to excuse it in the name of promoting veganism, read on.
Now let's give the impression that we are sincere, down-to-earth people who don't care about what our detractors say and who only care about the truth, and let's drop the F bomb every five seconds to prove this is so. And because some people think that the most popular health educators have the most accurate information (not true BTW), let's show off the proof of our popularity with grandiose proclamations like "we created the world's largest raw vegan website" (no you didn't, the members did), and let's flash around our monetary bounty, proving how popular we are.
And when confronted with those who call into question any of our teachings, let's simply say untrue things about these people in order to discredit them and therefore their information. (Easy to do if you're unprofessional and unethical.) It doesn't matter that what these people are saying is true, truth is what we say it is, and we'll punctuate our truth with vulgar language proving that we have the moral high ground.
And then let's employ forms of sensationalism to get more Youtube views, like making inflammatory statements (easy to do if you don't care about what other people say because you have an overinflated opinion of yourself). But let's try not to say things that could land us in court (again). How about saying something about domestic violence that is sure to get lots of hits on our monetized Youtube channel. Here's an excerpt from a recently published article about vegans and their bad behavior.
The article by Ruby Hamad in DAILYLIFE entitled, "When is being vegan no longer about ethical living?" opens with a photo...
...and then goes on to say...
If you want to read the rest of Durian Rider's comments and his defense of his comments, they are here.
If you want to read the whole story about Ashlee's attack...
...and how the police botched the investigation, it's here.
Some would say that it's high time that followers of insincere health educators pull their heads out of their butts and start thinking for themselves and stop following charismatic people who appeal to them because those people say things like, "I don't tell you what you want to hear, I tell you what you need to hear" and then proceed to tell you what they know you want to hear, knowing that this is a way to "hook" you. Pompous, arrogant, self-important people who act sincere and caring in order to garner your support aren't doing you any favors, and these personality traits should call into question the veracity of their information... unless, of course, you like what you hear.
The two blog posts following this one are recommended reading if you care more about your health than you care about following someone who may not have your best interests at heart, and someone who in reality isn't really a good representative of the vegan community, all things considered.
UPDATE: It should be no surprise that others have commented on Durian Rider's statements, and this is an example of how he responds to these folks...
...I feel slighted that I haven't received a similar response. And BTW, it is ridiculous for someone wanting to sue a person to ask that person for their snail-mail address... that's what attorneys are for. This is an obvious scare tactic to get the person to take down their comments, but as this is the same as trying to stop the person from exercising their right of freedom of speech, it is, in legal parlance, "lame". It would appear that Durian Rider doesn't know what kind of speech rises to the level of slander and what qualifies as defamation of character; if he did, he wouldn't be making such a ridiculous and ineffectual ultimatum... unless he's simply trying to use threatening scare tactics to bully the person into submission.
So again I ask: All things considered, is this the type of person who is a good representative of veganism? And does this type of person deserve your unwavering support?
Don Bennett's Blog
May 27, 2015
Better or Best - Which Health Information
Do You Want?
This is a very important question because in addition to the "poor" health information which is out there (which this article doesn't address), there also exists better and the best health information. How do I qualify these categories? The best health information assuming you follow it and don't cherry pick which aspects of it you'll do and not do will allow you to be as healthy as your genetics will permit, and will give you the best odds of avoiding degenerative disease and a diagnosis of a serious condition. The better information will not; it's just better than what most people are following, and it may help you resolve a non-serious health issue, and survive better than the general population, but surviving no matter now well relative to others is not the same as thriving. Your health is your wealth, and from my experience, most people don't value their health until they lose it. The approach I advocate is valuing your health before you lose it, so that you don't.
When you truly value your health and take it seriously, you'll be better equipped to do the things necessary to have robust health, and to make investments now for your future health. What's "future health"? Every day that you're alive you will have a level of health... what do you want that level of health to be when you're in the last one-sixth, one-seventh, and one-eighth of your life? How you live now will affect your future quality of life regardless of the quantity.
Okay, so you've come to realize just how valuable your health really is, and how important your future health depends on how you live today. But how you live now is largely dependent on what information you decide to take to heart and follow. If you follow what everyone else is doing, you will likely get what everyone else gets. So the first thing to acknowledge is that we can be a lot healthier than the general populations of most countries, and there is a goodly amount of hard-science reasons for this, but this information is not known by the general public. But luckily there are "unconventional" health educators who teach health creation information.
With human nature being what it is, this guarantees that there will be different kinds of health educators. In-other-words, all health educators are not cut from the same cloth. In this article we won't be talking about the health educators who promote "woo-woo" practices like wear a crystal around your neck to heal your cancer; we'll be focusing on those who teach about the raw food diet, the diet that all human beings' physiologies are best suited to eat. All species of animal have a species-specific diet, and humans are no exception. And I'll just add that it doesn't matter what blood type, metabolism type, eye color, or Zodiac sign you have; we're all designed to eat the same diet if optimal health is the goal. We can survive on many different diets, but we can only thrive on one.
Just as there are different types of diets being taught, there are different types of health educators teaching the different raw food diets (there is more than one version of the diet). I've written many articles and books about the raw food diet, but this article will concern itself with the different types of raw food diet educators. And you need to know about them if optimal health is your goal. If you just want slightly better health, almost any raw food health educator will do, however some of their information will likely have you doing worse decades down the road than when you started. So even when it comes to health improvement information, the expression, "Let the buyer beware" applies.
Before a health educator teaches information that he or she has learned, they should vet the information, meaning they should verify and check for accuracy to make sure the information is correct. It is true that no one health educator has all the answers, but all the answers a health educator has should be correct. This is because health educators are not teaching pottery making, they are teaching things that can affect people's most valuable possession; their health. So all health educators take an oath of "First, do no harm". And whether they raise their hand to take an official oath or take an implied oath, this is the most basic tenet of health education they should follow.
Some health educators don't vet the information they teach for two basic reasons: 1. they assume the information to be correct, 2. they care more about teaching what will be popular than about teaching what's correct. Here are the reasons behind these two scenarios.
First let's look at the number one reason above. When a person who has health issues finds out about a better way of dealing with them like a raw food diet and they find and follow a program (usually one of the more popular ones) and they improve their health, they naturally assume that the information they followed is correct. And some people are so joyous about their improved health, and are also passionate about what they've found, that they decide to share this with others by blogging about it or by becoming a health educator themselves. What nobler a vocation to have than to help other people reclaim their lost health.
It should be understood that, more likely than not, these people are not researchers, so they don't understand that any information they acquire should be dispassionately interrogated to insure that it is completely correct, and that what they learned or are being taught has no misinformation or important missing information... they shouldn't assume what they're learning is 100% accurate. Instead, many of today's health educators learn as students, and although a student may ask questions of clarification, they will usually not question what they are taught, and will certainly not question their teacher's motives. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, some health educators' motives should be questioned. Am I saying this just because of what human nature has taught us over the centuries? No, not just because of this, but also because of my inquiries and research over the last 40 years, with special attention being paid to those who teach what I teach. After all, I started teaching about health improvement because I hated seeing people being taken advantage of, for the sake of profit, at the expense of their health. And it was disheartening to see that this also took place in the health improvement community, and among people who should be considered my colleagues.
So if someone who becomes a health educator bases their program on teachings that contain some flaws or have some important missing information, and they never thought to check for this, they will be teaching the same flawed information. And even though these educators may be truly well-intentioned and sincere, their teachings may help people improve their health, but it will not likely result in long-term optimal health, and they won't realize this for a very long time.
Now let's look at the number two reason for teaching health related things that don't square with Nature (reality). When something goes from being a fad to a trend to a market and then becomes an industry like the raw food diet it will be seen as a business opportunity by some people. If the person creates and manufactures a healthy raw food snack that they're passionate about, that's great. But if the person wants to follow the all too typical profits-before-people business model, and cares more about becoming popular and financially successful than about their consumers, that's where people will be taken advantage of, for the sake of profit, at the expense of their future health. This is a sad scenario, but a very realistic one, and one that we all should be aware of and acknowledge. Every industry has these people, and the raw food industry is no exception.
But it is very difficult for most folks to know just who these people are. They know that to become popular and successful they must have a public perception of being very sincere, well-intentioned, down-to-earth, honest, and caring. Most every corporation in any industry works very hard to have this public perception even if they are engaged in practices that poison the planet and drag down the health of those who buy their products. So how can you tell which health educators are really sincere, well-intentioned, down-to-earth, honest, and caring, and which ones only appear to be sincere, well-intentioned, down-to-earth, honest, and caring? It can be very difficult, but not impossible. And it's very important that you know who you're getting your information from, because the quality and veracity of that information is dependent on the person or people giving it to you.
The first thing needed is to be able to vet the health educator dispassionately and without biases. It can be very hard for someone who has had their health issues helped by following a particular health educator to turn around and cast a questioning eye on the very person whose information helped them... you will usually feel like you owe them a debt of gratitude. But if you care more about long-term optimal health than you do about initial improvements, and you acknowledge that there are some disreputable health educators out there who do have some great health information that will allow you to experience initial improvement, you owe it to yourself not to let your otherwise good judgment be colored by any positive experiences you've had so far, and you'll take a "better to be safe than sorry" approach and make absolutely sure that whomever you're following is "the real deal", and that they are the real deal not just because they say they are.
Here are some tell-tale signs that a health educator has their best interests in mind instead of yours.
1. Look at how open they are to discussing what they teach. If they truly are wanting to teach reality-based health information that is 100% accurate, they should have no problem allowing people to shine a light on what they are teaching, and to question it. They should not be deleting posts and banning people who call into question what they are teaching. Banning internet trolls is one thing, but censoring posts that would get people thinking about what's being taught because there are some things that don't quite add up is something else entirely.
2. Search for any published information that specifically applies to who you're following or considering following. If health educators have been teaching any incorrect information, and they've been around for any length of time, there will certainly be some "fails" and accounts of poor outcomes. And if they have been behaving badly as far as how they treat people, there will be some discrediting information to be found. And don't bother looking on their website, or in any online groups that they moderate or are moderated by ardent followers; these may be called "forums" or "discussion groups", but they are not because there is a lot of censorship taking place that you are not aware of. And if you find there has actually been a website created for people who were banned from some health educator's website so that they could publicly post their deleted comments and have an open, honest discussion about the disreputable and irresponsible behavior of a particular health educator, that can be a red flag too. By example, you will never find an AnneOsborneSucks.com or a RobertLockhartIsBad.com.
3. Seek out information that conflicts with what you've been led to believe. Your knee-jerk reaction to me saying this may be, "Ugg, I don't want to!" but if you want to follow correct health information that will allow you to thrive and not just survive better than the general population, this is something you should want to do. And along the same line: if you come across any conflicting information, be glad, because you are now very likely in possession of both some correct and incorrect information. Think about it, this may result in you discovering that what you've been following is indeed the best information available today, so you can not only be confident in following it, but also be comfortable recommending it to others, or teaching it yourself. But if you discover that there's something fishy going on, and you have been following some incorrect information, or worse, have been duped into following some incorrect information from someone who cares more about their popularity than your health, wouldn't you want to know this? Especially if you're recommending this person or people to your friends and family! When recommending someone or some program, your integrity is at stake. And if you hold the lives of children in your hands, you have a huge responsibility to apply information to them that is in concert with reality (which is the same huge responsibility that health educators have; some take that responsibility seriously, and some only appear to).
4. If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be. Being told that all you have to do is eat fruit and green leafy veggies and you don't have to worry about nutrition is a red flag. And that's because this is simply not true. We need to deal with reality and with how our foods are grown today. And being told that you can have the same robust level of health eating a "high-raw" food diet as you can eating an all-raw food diet (implying that you don't need to eat an all-raw diet to be optimally healthy) is another red flag, and a reason to be suspicious of this information and its source. And this is because this is also not true. But it is also a very popular and attractive notion, and that's why it's taught. It comes under the marketing tactic of "you can have your cake and eat it too". An example of this would be to take a tactic used to transition from a mainstream diet to a relatively healthier diet like eating all fruits and vegetables until the last meal of the day and turning it into a program in and of itself, complete with its own festival. In my opinion, the turning of a transitioning step into an actual program is at the least disingenuous and at the worst irresponsible. And the notion that is associated with this "program" that is currently circulating that cooked food can be a part of a diet that results in optimal health is not only ridiculous on its face with what we know about diets and their affect on human health, but it could be said that it is simply an inducement to get more adherents. I have a lot of respect for George Malkmus who recommended people to eat a diet comprised of 80 percent uncooked vegan food and 20 percent cooked vegan food, but he always in the same breath said, " but 100 percent uncooked is best." He was fond of teaching the truth. It's unfortunate that other educators don't have his high level of ethics.
But don't misunderstand, I realize there are people who can't eat the best diet, either because they can't financially afford to, or because they're on the way but they're not there yet. But some people want the best diet as their diet for life, and to have it, they need to know the difference between a better diet and the best diet, and not be fooled into thinking that a better diet is the best diet. So the "Eat all raw until the last meal of the day" approach is good if you can't financially afford to eat all-raw all the time (although pasta and potatoes should never be mentioned in the same sentence as if they're equal because they are not in the same health category, and when mentioning potatoes, it should be sweet potatoes, not white potatoes... and these are red flags too).
5. Multi-source education is best. Because there are some health improvement programs that do not consist of 100% correct information (for the various reasons mentioned above), it is best to research (not study) more than one program or repository of information because this will make it easier to find the conflicting information I spoke of earlier. The sooner you find this information, and the sooner you discover which is the best information to follow, the better it will be for you and your future health. I have counseled many people who had diligently followed a particular popular program, and followed it to the letter, and who either failed to resolve the health challenge that brought them to the program in the first place, or who initially improved but went downhill after a number of years. And when they found out specifically why this happened, it was a rude awakening. I only wish more of these people would blog about their experiences, but in reality, only a tiny handful do; most are either just relieved to have finally found the truth, or are afraid of being bashed online by the mighty armies of devoted, ardent disciples who have been deluded into following a particular program often led by charismatic people who couldn't care less about "First, do no harm".
In conclusion: Human nature is responsible for all the kinds of people in the health creation movement, most good, some not so good. Getting your health restoration information from people who truly care more about you than their profits are the ones you want to work with if optimal health is your goal. The best health information is out there, you've just got to get good at recognizing it from the better information. And, yes, I do get criticized for talking about the negative side of the health improvement community, but I'm not a pessimist, and I'm not an optimist, I'm a realist, and I believe in looking at things on balance, all thing considered. If we want the truth, we need to stop optimistically focusing only on the love and the good, and acknowledge that, in life, both the positive and the negative exists, and a balanced approach requires taking both into consideration if you want to know the better from the best.
Don Bennett's Blog
March 2, 2015
"But he/she/they have done so much good for the vegan / raw-vegan movement; can't we overlook their failings!"
I often hear from people who, whether they realize it or not, are apologists for some popular health educator who has come under fire for one thing or another. To defend someone's bad behavior or irresponsible actions by pointing out all the good they've done, isn't looking at the issue on balance, all things considered.
If there were two surgeons, both with a high degree of saving people's lives, and both with some "fails" where people died on the operating table, but the fails of one surgeon were due to negligence, ego, or a faulty education, and the other surgeon's fails were through no fault of his/her own, would we focus on both surgeons' positive outcomes, giving a pass to that first surgeon because of them? I think not. There are enough truly good surgeons that we can do without the bad ones. And let's take the analogy a little further. If a surgeon literally saved your life, you'd no doubt feel indebted to him/her, and would certainly have only good things to say about the surgeon. But what if you then discovered that he was surgeon A above the one where the people who died on his table died from negligence. Would discovering that fact change your feelings about him? Will you still be an avid supporter, or will you dial down your high praise for him, or will you treat him as he deserves to be treated regardless of the fact that he did right by you?
So just as there are enough good surgeons that we can do without the bad ones, the same can be said for the raw food health creation arena, especially considering that the most popular educators aren't necessarily the ones with the most correct information (and when it comes to health creation as opposed to pottery making, correct information is vital). And let's consider that there are truly sincere, well-intentioned, honest, caring, health educators who are toiling in obscurity because they aren't into marketing, and they base their teachings on the ethos of science: open questioning, no authorities, honesty, transparency, and reliance on evidence, and the requisites for their inquiry are respect for rational and honest discussion, and an intolerance of distortion and misrepresentation. These are the folks that should be popular, but there are reasons that they're not.
No one health educator has all the answers, but all the answers a health educator has should be correct because we're talking about impacting people's health here. And accordingly, those answers should pass the "First, do no harm" test. When, in the past, I've attempted to mention, on some popular educator's website, some inaccuracies in the information being promulgated there, I was admonished to not say such things or I'll be banned, and my post would be summarily deleted, or I'd simply be banned with no discussion at all. Something billed as a "forum" or "discussion group" that censors free speech (the respectful, dispassionate, critical thinking kind) is nothing more than a comment section monitored by admins with a biased worldview. So a website that exists essentially to promote opinions masquerading as facts as decreed by someone who will not tolerate anyone disagreeing with their teachings, well, let's just say that this behavior doesn't square with a well-intentioned, sincere, health educator, and in a perfect world it wouldn't be tolerated once discovered (but then again, in a perfect world you'd never come across it).
So how about promoting educators who do fit this description? We do a disservice to the health creation community to give passes to educators who won't revisit their teachings even in the face of acknowledged fails because of their "good works". Would we speak highly of McDonalds for the good works of Ronald McDonald House? Let's call a spade a spade, and let's see folks like those who have a profits-before-people business model for who they really are, and not for who they appear to be or who we believe them to be, and treat them accordingly. Let's also consider the unnecessary fails of those folks who follow their advice both past and future whose fails result from teachings that contain egregious misinformation. Am I being too harsh here? Keep in mind how many fails I've seen of people who diligently followed a popular program because the advice they followed contained incorrect information that the program's authors would not address (either because of ego or because the misinfo was deliberate in order to garner more market-share). The raw food diet is now an industry, and as such, there will be some who behind the scenes treat it as a revenue generating opportunity. And there are also some educators who are well intentioned but never-the-less miseducated. We need to be mindful of both if we want information that will allow us to live to our health and longevity potentials.
Don Bennett's Blog
February 20, 2014
Why do greens play the role they do?
Regarding greens in general: The reason we are admonished to eat a "fruit and green leafy" diet is because of the poor quality soil that these foods are grown in (and picked early), not because this is what we're designed to eat. But most people are not aware of this fact, and many raw food educators don't explain the reason why greens are included the way they are because they simply were never taught the reason.
In general, greens are a higher source of minerals, pound-for-pound, than fruits. And since the fruit most of us are eating is grown in nutritionally sub-par soils and picked before they're ripe, and therefore aren't as good a supplier of minerals as their more mineral-rich counterparts that most of us don't get to eat, we turn to greens to increase the odds of getting enough minerals hopefully. I say 'hopefully' because those greens we're eating are grown in the same sub-par soil the fruits are grown in.
So that is the reason for the emphasis on greens. But the diet we're biologically adapted to eat does not contain as many greens as most raw foodists are eating. So the upside of eating all these greens is the increased mineral content, but there are downsides too. Greens are harder to digest than fruit. Now, it may be hard to think of greens as something hard to digest because we're told a raw, vegan diet is waaaay easier to digest than any other diet that humans eat, and it is. But the fact remains that more energy is needed to digest a meal of greens than a meal of fruit. And the less nervous system energy (nerve energy) you spend on digestion, the more is available for healing, or if your body has finally dealt with all that was ailing it (most of which you had no idea about), now the less nerve energy you spend on digestion, the less sleep you'll need, and the less you sleep the more you're awake. So if you make changes to your lifestyle habits that allow for less sleep being needed, you've just added more "life-time" to your life (and this is in addition to the longer life you'll likely have from no longer burdening your body with the things that cause premature death, and from supporting your body's efforts at keeping you as healthy as your genetics will allow).
If you take all the anthropoid primates and put them on a graph with the least intelligent species on the left end and the most intelligent on the right end, you'll also find that greens eating is highest on the left end of the line, and gets lower the farther to the right you go. And fruit eating is lowest on the left end of the line, and gets higher the farther to the right you go. So going by this, we should be eating even more fruit and less greens than our nearest cousin, the Bonobo. And to drive this point home, the Howler monkey and the Spider Monkey are the same size, but the Spider Monkey eats way more fruit and way less greens than the Howler Monkey, and has a brain twice the size of the Howler Monkey. I won't go into the anthropological reasons for this, I just wanted to point out that technically we should be eating a diet of mostly fruit, and very little greens, and if you ate nutrient-rich fruit, you could eat this way and get enough minerals. And there's another way to bolster the mineral content of a raw food diet that will enable you not to have to eat so many greens, but that's a topic for another blog post.
Another downside of greens is that many of the ones people eat contain goitrogenic properties, more accurately called, "iodide transport/utilization inhibitors". These greens interfere with the thyroid getting enough iodine, which is not good for a whole host of reasons, the most popular ones are: being somewhat overweight, hypothyroidism, and thyroid cancer. But let's not do what we often do and take an isolated view of things... not enough iodine also contributes to breast conditions like Fibrocystic Breast Disease and cancer, and since all glands and organs need iodine, your "immune system" which is made up of many glands and organs, will not function at its best without sufficient iodine... and "best" is what you need if you want the best odds of never getting a diagnosis of something serious. So this is why I don't like to use the term "goitrogenic properties" when referring to greens because it refers to the thyroid (more info on iodine here).
So it would be wise to steer clear of the cruciferous veggies, and leafies like kale, especially if you have an iodine deficiency and/or any conditions that have as a contributing factor insufficient iodine. And yes, I know, we've all heard that "the darker the green, the better it is for you", but this old adage doesn't take into account iodide transport/utilization inhibitors. And keep in mind that there is not one nutrient that we require that's in greens that can't be obtained from fruit, meaning that there is nothing special about broccoli or cabbage or kale, so we need to look past those articles that would imply that Brussels sprouts have some benefit that can't be found anywhere else in the universe. And even though dark leafy greens are better suppliers of certain nutrients than fruit grown in the same soil, their downsides tend to outweigh their upsides. It's far better to get the highest quality fruit (organically grown) than to add lots of greens to make up for the nutritional sub-par quality of conventionally grown fruit. And remember that the reason the gorilla reaches up and grabs a large leaf off a tree and eats it in the middle of his seemingly non-stop banana eating is because his body wanted some additional fiber to help regulate the uptake of sugar into the blood, and this is a role of leafy greens for those animal species eating a fruit-based diet (and one that you don't often hear about).
And those who advise cooking the greens as a way to lower their goitrogenic properties are obviously unaware that when you do this, you also lower the nutritional benefits of greens which is the reason they were being recommended to you! So when someone advises you to cook the greens, this is a case of "a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing". If they were knowledgeable enough to look at the issue on balance all things considered they wouldn't recommend cooking, and instead would recommend that you eat non-goitrogenic greens like the lettuces.
Being appropriately active is another way to get more minerals because the more active you are, the more fruit you'll eat. And as I said above, there is another way to ensure you're getting a goodly amount of minerals without having to pile on the greens, and you'll find that info elsewhere on this site. And, yes, as a food, it is an unnatural thing to consume, but all things considered, this is preferable to eating an unnatural amount of nutritionally sub-par greens (spoiler alert: it's a specific green "superfood", the only one I recommend).
It's a tenet of Natural Hygiene that if something doesn't taste delicious to you (assuming you have normally functioning taste buds), it's not meant to be your food. And some greens that we are often advised to eat simply do not taste "delicious" to me (and after 20+ years of eating an all-raw fruit-based diet, my taste buds are a very accurate indicator of what I'm designed and not designed to eat). And even the greens that taste "okay", I find I am not moved to make a meal out of them. And when I'm eating a diet that supplies me with a goodly amount of minerals, my desire for greens is way less than what it was when I first started eating this way (when I likely had a lot of catching up to do in the minerals department, and when I ate a diet that wasn't up to par minerals-wise).
And we can't talk about greens without mentioning oxalic acid. Is it bad, is it okay... we hear a lot of contradictory information. But what most conversations don't factor in, is quantity. And regarding greens, spinach is the only real "offender" (and sadly it also has some goitrogenic properties - interferes with iodine utilization). But if you were to eat spinach as a part of a normal amount of greens for a human being, you'd be eating very little of it (or none of it), so its oxalic acid would be a non-issue. And by-the-way, kale also has goitrogenic properties, but again, in a normal diet where fruit supplied enough minerals, you'd eat little or no kale.
So as you can see, there's a lot more to the "greens issue" than is talked about in raw food circles. You'll often hear these kinds of insightful and enlightening comments from those educators who obtained their knowledge from a lot of research and independent thinking, rather than from someone else's teachings. And the same applies to you guys: learn as a researcher and not as a student... take a multi-source educational approach while on your learning journey.
For more insight on the "greens issue", I'd get Anne Osborne's wonderful book, Fruitarianism: The Path to Paradise.
Don Bennett's Blog
December 13, 2013
A "backup plan"
One of the reasons for all the arguing that's been going on of late, is that many health educators who've been teaching for decades have come to recognize how certain ways of promoting a plant-based diet can affect how certain people do the diet as a way of life. How the diet and certain aspects of it are "positioned" can make a huge difference in how close a person gets to being as healthy as their DNA will allow them to be.
In the minds of many health educators, people should follow a plan. Why? We're good at following a plan. We're wired to follow a plan. Children when being raised by their parents are actually being taught to follow a plan in a certain sense. So when it comes to diet, a plan is a good thing... if it's a good plan.
Human beings, when having more than one plan they can follow, will often be "directed" to follow the plan that the Self-Indulgent-Pleasure-Seeking-Behavior part of their brain prefers, and not the plan that the wisdom part of their brain would choose. So this is the problem with the wording "back up plan". And make no mistake about it, your brain influences your behavior based on how things are categorized, and things are categorized with words. (And you thought health educators were just about the physiology of eating). High powered ad agencies use very carefully chosen words to get people to do things, so how things are worded is very important. So let's follow one plan, a plan that takes everything into consideration (including there not being a one size fits all for daily carb minimums, and an acknowledgment that even a diet made up of the best foods might not supply our bodies with enough of all the nutrients it needs... let's deal with reality).
If the term that had been used instead was "back up foods" there wouldn't have been as much of an issue. But why not label those foods what they really are: "fallback foods" or "second-best foods" (and "third-best foods"). Wouldn't this be a more accurate description? But if these descriptions were used, wouldn't it be confusing to see people who had been eating an all-raw fruit-based diet now eating second- and third-best foods? And that's one of the three things that started the whole problem in the first place (yes, there were two others).
Here's a good question which no one is really addressing... the proverbial elephant in the room: Couldn't a health educator teach about the role of second- and third-best foods (when the best foods couldn't be had) without having to demonstrate what these foods were by eating them themselves? To use the existing terminology, why eat a backup plan when you don't really need to eat a backup plan? There are many health educators who talk about the role of second-best foods consumed during transition or when you can't get the best foods, but they themselves eat the best foods and eat them all the time simply because it's their diet. Yes, for some people, it's no biggie to eat an all-raw diet. And since these health educators are aware that they have a tremendous responsibility when they teach people a way to eat, they are careful to not be perceived as giving tacit permission to those who are learning from them to eat second- and third-best foods. They are careful to make crystal clear that to have the best health you're capable of having, you need to have a primary diet that consists of the best foods for your body, and that you need to eat them all the time, or as much as humanly possible. And this is the primary point, with the secondary point being that carbs are the body's fuel of choice. And those people who want to eat the healthiest diet they can eat find value in those health educators who demonstrate in their daily lives that this is indeed possible. We humans are wired to learn by example (another facet of human nature that is not lost on ad agencies).
So it's one thing for raw food health educators to acknowledge that there are people who find it difficult to transition to an all-raw diet overnight, and help them "get there" by outlining a program whereby they still eat some cooked carbs for a while. And they also teach which are the best second-best foods for those times when the best stuff can't be had for one reason or another. Raw food health educators who say that "all-raw is best" and who focus on saying that it's possible to eat this way, and that this is the way they eat, well, these educators are setting a good example, and certainly do not need to demonstrate in their own lives, on a daily basis, what a transition diet looks like.
And here's another point worth making: There's a big difference between second-best and fourth-best foods, and to lump both into the same category of "backup foods" when someone is well aware of the difference, is intellectually dishonest IMO. There's a big difference between the cooked carb foods that you could, sort'a, eat raw, like sweet potatoes, but are way easier for your body to deal with when steamed, and the cooked carb foods that you could never in a million years eat raw, like pasta or cereal (even its individual components). By not pointing out the differences, isn't it being implied that all these foods will have the same effect on the body from a "burden" perspective?
And if carbs are key, which in many ways they are, isn't there a healthier way to get more carbs into you than your fruit based diet can supply without resorting to processed, fractionated carbs (sugar from a package)? But when these carbs are also part of your backup plan, then it's okay. Not.
So let's be honest for honesty's sake and call foods what they really are. Let's use terms such as best, second-best, third-best, fourth-best, worst. True, this is not as easy as simply saying "best foods" and "backup foods", but easier is not necessarily better. And we're not even saying "backup foods", are we.
Another way to look at it...
My issue with the "back-up" plan is that it infers that it's something to do when the primary plan can't be followed. So a "fallback contingency" is a better name for this aspect of a plan which is designed to bring about optimal health. If we're talking about a different plan, such as a plan for that segment of the population who would never, ever consider eating an all-raw vegan diet under any set of circumstances (even a diagnosis of something serious), then that's great, and "raw until dinner" type plans are wonderful for those people who could do them.
The problem I have is when a plan that will result in improved health but not optimal health is presented as a plan that will result in the best health possible where "possible" infers the best health your DNA will allow instead of the best health you're capable of having based on your priorities, limitations, and willingness. Let's simply make a clear distinction between a vastly better way of eating that will result in improved health, such as the "raw until dinner" or "all-raw breakfast" or "60/40 cooked/raw" programs, and the programs that can teach those who desire the best health their DNA will allow how to achieve it (which naturally must include a transition diet). And, yes, this is a smaller segment of the population, but these people *do* exist, and are willing to do what it takes to "get there". So let's not paint a picture of impossibility, because it is possible... for those who want it.
If I'm someone who wants the best odds of never getting a diagnosis of something serious later in life, I want to be successful at an optimal diet plan, and not a plan that is easier than an optimal diet plan and results in improved health only. It's all about how healthy do we want to be, and what are we willing and not willing to do to achieve our goals. All I'm asking is that we not misrepresent our plans for the purposes of promoting veganism or ourselves, and I don't think that's an unreasonable request.
Don Bennett's Blog
December 13, 2013
"Do the best you can do"
I hear this phrase used a lot, and it sounds like it's good advice, and as a standalone piece of advice, it is. But sometimes it's used in conjunction with dietary advice, and that's where this advice may sometimes not be in a person's best interest, health-wise.
In sports, some athletic people are always trying to better their "personal best". They understand that their "best" at any given moment may not be the best they can do. But this has to do with physical activity, which is quantifiable, so realizing that you can better your best can be easy to see. But when it comes to the psychological, behavior is not quantifiable, at least not in the same way as in athletics. My point here is that we may believe we're doing our best when it comes to our behavioral lifestyle practices, when we're actually not. Another way to frame it would be to say that you can't really know when you're actually doing your best unless you try to better it. If you find that you can do better, well, then you really weren't doing your best.
One of the traits of human beings is that we can be really good at fooling ourselves into believing things that, in reality, aren't true. (And Madison Avenue ad agencies take full advantage of this.) And one of the things we can believe that isn't true is that we're doing our best. There are many reasons for this. Maybe subconsciously we simply don't want to take things up a notch because we think it'll be difficult, or because we'd have to leave some cherished things behind (like chocolate or scrumptious cooked meals that we've grown up with). Or maybe we're not fooling ourselves at all, and it's other people who are fooling us; maybe we're being led to believe that what we're currently doing sounds like it's the best we can do (done for the purposes of promoting something that's easier to do which will result in greater popularity which results in a larger market share, and this occurs in every industry, including the raw food industry).
So wouldn't it make good sense to try to better our best in case we really aren't doing our best yet? Well, if optimum health is your goal, this would be a very wise thing to do. And the not-so-surprising thing is, most people are capable of doing better. And here's the kicker: if they're not given good reasons to try to do better, they often won't. This is why many health educators spend a goodly amount of time talking about the benefits of optimum health; both the obvious ones, and the not-so-obvious ones. We do this to try and paint as vivid a picture as possible in an effort to incentivize people to try kicking things up a notch because we are well aware of the differences between surviving and thriving 30 years from now. And we know that most people who seek out health educators are not looking to simply survive better than those eating a typical Western diet; they want the best health they can have along with all the benefits that go along with it.
So if you honestly believe you are currently doing the best you can do, try and prove yourself wrong. If you can, it will have been one of those rare times when being wrong was a good thing.
Don Bennett's Blog
September 27, 2010
Durians and booze: worse than a hangover
According to Asian folklore, eating the famously pungent durian - known as the "king of fruits" - along with alcohol can kill you. Now intrepid researchers have confirmed there may be some truth in this supposition. It is the first time combining a fruit with booze has been scientifically linked to an adverse reaction.
John Maninang and Hiroshi Gemma from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, wondered if the reported side effects were due to durian's high sulfur content impairing alcohol breakdown. In test tubes they found that durian extract inhibited the activity of aldehyde dehydrogenase - an enzyme that clears toxic breakdown products - by up to 70 percent (Food Chemistry, DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2009.03.106).
Detractors complain about the rotting smell of durian, says Gemma. "Now we know that it may smell of danger too."
Needless to say, durian may only be dangerous to those who consume the poison ethyl alcohol. Durian by itself is a very healthful thing to consume; the same cannot be said for ethyl alcohol. But we might want to mention the above factoid to those we recommend durian to, in case they still imbibe. If their take-home point is, "Well I better steer clear of durian", instead of rethinking their drinking habits, this will be very telling.
Don Bennett's Blog
October 30, 2009
Fat vs Fruit
I was presented with this comment by someone who was defending a high fat low fruit diet...
> You either have to get your calories from fat or
Here was my reply...
I agree that eating 30 bananas a day may be a bit much. That would be approx. 3,000 calories, way more than I'd need, and more than I'd want to get from a singular food item in a typical day; that is way too narrow a diet, and we're designed to have variety. The question comes down to, "A variety of what?"
You need to keep in mind my perspective. I counsel people who have health issues, and people who don't have them (that they know of) and who don't want them. And since my research, my personal experience, and my common sense have shown me that a diet of all-uncooked food, that's mostly a variety of fruit (both sweet and non-sweet), with some green leafy vegetable matter, and an appropriate amount of some "fatty foods" is the diet that all humans are designed to eat (whether we all do well when adopting it or not), and accordingly, this is what I recommend to those I counsel (obviously with certain accommodations for any current ill-health conditions). And if this diet is done correctly, and if all the other requisites of health (all the "basics of health" like enough nutrition, sunshine, sleep, stress management, etc) are given equal attention and respect, I've found that, across the board, those I counsel always, eventually, improve their health (regardless of blood type, hair color, or zodiac sign). Yes, there may be some bumps in the road along the way, but there are reasons for those bumps, and when those reasons are understood, and when they are addressed (if they are ones that require addressing), health improves. It is when these bumps are not understood and therefore not addressed, and it is when the recommended diet is not adhered to fully, that people do not vector towards optimal health in my experience. And these observations and experiences are shared by those who make the same recommendations I do.
It's hard to argue with first hand empirical evidence and hard to argue with logic (but people do it anyway). If we're going to wait for multiple, long-term, double-blind, peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled studies comparing the diet I and my colleagues advocate with other diets and variations of other diets, we're going to be waiting a very long time. Until then there may be something that can be deduced from studies that have already been done (link appears at end of this post).
And I think that it's misinformative statements from the dairy, grain, meat, and various organizations like the USDA that do the most damage. And even irresponsible statements like this one from raw food advocates don't do anybody any good: "You can eat burgers, pizza, pasta, cookies, cakes and pies everyday on a raw food diet, and you never have to count calories, proteins, fats or carbs!" and "It's okay to eat whatever you want as long as it's vegan" and the equally unfortunate "It's okay to eat chocolate and gourmet raw foods as long as they're raw".
Between the sincere misinformation and the deliberate disinformation, and the "profits before people" folks (both in the raw and non-raw worlds), and the "I don't believe you (because deep down I don't want to believe you)" people, it's no wonder we're a very sick species, both physiologically and emotionally.