The Health 101 Newsletter

Issue 4
Your Questions Answered
 In each of these newsletters I will address one of the issues you have
 asked me to write about, and that's what this column is devoted to.

A High-Fruit Diet Can Be Both Bad or Good,
Depending on Who You Talk To

By Don Bennett, DAS

Q: I have been told by many raw vegans and some regular vegans that following an all-fruit diet with very little fat is bad for my health. They say it leads to premature aging and all sorts of health issues. There is just too much conflicting raw food diet information out there to know what is good and what is bad.

A: First, it's important to understand that much of what you hear from your peers is information they've heard from other laypeople, and from health educators. But it doesn't matter where the information came from, if it's incorrect, it's obviously not information you want to follow. This article will help you to be able to distinguish the correct from the incorrect. It will also explain why there is all this conflicting information.

It should be noted that most "raw foodists" do not eat just fruit; they eat some leafy greens too, but since fruit makes up the majority of their diet, these folks get the incorrect label of an all-fruit eater, when it should be called a "mostly fruit" diet or a "high fruit" diet. And they don't eat just sweet fruit, they eat non-sweet fruit too (cucumbers, red bell peppers, tomatoes). But nevertheless, those eating a low-fat, vegan, raw food diet are thought to eat only sweet fruit, when this is not the case. But sweet fruit is indeed the mainstay of the diet from a caloric standpoint, so the label of "all-fruit" diet is understandable even though it's not accurate.

That said, fruit gets a bad rap, mostly because of erroneous information. And that info comes from two places: misunderstandings about human physiology and nutrition, and from those who purposefully disseminate falsehoods about fruit for "business purposes". The misunderstandings category also has in it such notions as, "you can't get enough protein from a plant-based diet" which is easily dispelled one of two ways.

1. Empirical Evidence: If someone has been eating a plant-based, high-fruit diet for a long period of time (say, 19 years), and is still alive and in good health, with lots of energy and strong hair and nails, then he or she has been getting enough protein.

2. Hard science: It is easily shown what our protein needs are and what can be provided from a high-fruit diet, assuming the foods consumed aren't cooked (because cooking makes much of the protein unusable, which is why people who eat cooked food need so much protein in their diet so that they can get enough usable protein).

But the question was about fat. A diet high in fruit will be naturally high in carbohydrates and low in fat. But that "low" is only bad if it's too low. I mentioned above about how we can get enough protein from a plant-based diet if we don't damage the protein by cooking the food, and the same holds true for fat. If you cook food that contains fat, most of the fat becomes unusable (and it actually becomes sticky and hard for the body to deal with, and it also becomes an "oxidant", and since we know that "antioxidants" are good, oxidants must be bad). So if you were eating a high-fruit diet, and you were cooking most of what you ate, then yes, you would come up short on some of the Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). And even though you'll see suggestions to cook fruit, those who eat a high-fruit diet do not cook any of it, so all the fats (and proteins) are "usable".

In an effort to provide a public service, this store suggests different ways in which to use their products. This sign reads:

"Did you ever think of grilling fruit? Cut nectarines in half lengthwise, remove the pit, lightly coat nectarines with melted butter, grill eight to ten minutes until fruit is hot throughout."

Unfortunately this diminishes the fruit's nutritional quality, not-to-mention adding damaged saturated fat and IGF-1, a growth hormone.

Some of the misinformation about there being or not being enough fat in a high-fruit diet comes from an honest misunderstanding of the facts. But there are some health educators and health education businesses who don't have a thorough understanding of the facts. And in my opinion, if you're teaching health information and counseling people, you have a responsibility to know the facts about what you're teaching and to teach them. And we're not talking about opinions here; nutritional science is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of fact, and although everyone is entitled to their own opinions, everyone is not entitled to their own facts. But some educators and businesses would not do as well as they do, financially, if they spoke the truth. If there's one thing I've learned over the last three decades it's that there's a lot of misleading information being taught by people who know that it's misleading.

Here's how this plays out with the "fat" issue. It is well known among non-mainstream health educators that a diet that is both high in fat and high in carbohydrates is a recipe for disaster. A high fat intake will interfere with the sugar intake and will predispose you to blood sugar metabolic disorders like diabetes and candidiasis, and to things like cardiovascular disease, stroke, and a bunch of others. So no one in their right mind would say that it's okay to eat a diet that is high in both fat and simple carbohydrates. So it's got to be one or the other; either a high-fat-low-carb diet, or a low-fat-high-carb diet (and when I say "carb" I'm talking simple carbs, not the ones from grain or dairy products).

Now ask yourself, which diet sounds like the diet most people are used to? People eating a typical Western diet eat too much fat and not enough simple carbs (from fruit). So when someone wants to transition from an unhealthy diet to a healthy diet, it's easier if they switch from a diet that is high in unhealthy fat and low in unhealthy carbs to a diet that is high in healthy fat and low in healthy carbs; i.e. simply changing from unhealthy to healthier while keeping the same ratio of carbs to fats, which is still too high in fat. Although easier may be more doable, in this case easier does not get you the best results. And certainly, a high healthy fats / low healthy carbs diet is a better diet than what you were eating, but it's nowhere near the best diet you could eat. And the difference between best and better could be the difference between never getting a diagnosis of something serious, and getting such a diagnosis. And even though you might get it later in life than you would have if you hadn't made the dietary change, I'd rather not get it at all.

The fact that it's easier to switch to a diet that doesn't have a lot of fruit in it, and has more things in common with your previous diet (fat and complex carbs) is not lost on certain health educators. Part of their success is due to not recommending a totally different, very radical diet (like eating lots of fruit and little else). Another part of their success is that they do get good results... initially. But you will likely get good initial results when switching from an unhealthy diet to just about any diet, as long as it's a healthier one. But as I said above, healthier is not the same as healthiest (and keep in mind that some of the best health improvements have resulted from stopping eating altogether – called therapeutic fasting).

Besides teaching a less-than-healthy diet because you don't know what a truly healthy diet is, and teaching a particular diet because it's easiest to do and thus easiest to sell others on doing, a third reason why some health practitioners elect to promote a diet other than a high fruit diet has to do with teaching something that's safe. When most people cheat, they do so with the foods of their previous diet, and many of those foods are high in fat. So if you're on your new diet under the advice of your health mentor, and it's a high carb diet, and you then cheat and eat some high fat food here and there, this is the recipe for disaster I spoke about earlier, and it can make someone doubt the diet and the mentor. But if you're eating a low fruit diet and you cheat, you'll not likely have any complaints, and complaints are something that health practitioners like to avoid when it concerns their students and followers. So for many non-mainstream health educators, teaching a diet that is low in simple carbs is simply safer. But again, a safer diet is not necessarily the healthiest diet.

But what about results? If you try and decide which diet is best based on people's initial results, it can be misleading because there can be good results on both a high fruit, low fat diet and on a low fruit, high greens/fat/starch diet for the reasons I mentioned earlier. As far as results are concerned, I'm not just interested in great short term improvements, because this is meaningless if there aren't great long term results too. And a diet low in fruit and high in greens, with your calories coming from nuts and/or complex carbs is not going to provide great long term results... because it can't. But because we're talking about something way in the future, some health educators feel they can just deal with the here and now, and they don't have to worry about what happens many decades from now. But some day, the future will be our "today"... what level of health do you want on that day? If you want the best, most robust, most vibrant health you are capable of having, you've got to be working on that now, and that means transitioning to a diet that will serve you both now and in the future. And it means adopting a diet that you're designed to eat, not one that will just allow you to get improved health today.

I should also say that there are some well-meaning but very misguided and miseducated health educators in practice these days, and they honestly believe they are teaching the best dietary information even though, in reality, they're not. And they themselves may have gotten some fantastic short term health improvements which accounts for their embracing their mentor's teachings, and their steadfast defense of their mentor's program. The reason these educators are on the rise is because the raw food movement became an industry, and when that happened there appeared some entrepreneurial folks who made a business out of teaching people how to teach others. This would be a great thing if the information they were teaching was accurate, but more often than not, it isn't. What's usually taught is a style of eating that appeals to those who want to be able to eat the things they always ate, just a healthier version of them. And, yes, these raw food recipes are healthier, but not by much. Yet the students are taught that this is the ultimate diet that will give people vastly improved health and the best chance for living a long and vigorous life; a well-intentioned but hollow promise.

Bottom line: If you eat a variety of fruits and green leafy vegetables, and if you don't cook them, and if you're active enough to warrant eating enough food to fuel your level of activity (not a couch potato), you will get enough of all the Essential Fatty Acids that you need for optimal health. And it isn't necessary to eat lots of natural high fat foods – such as nuts or avocados – to get enough fat. The eating of overtly fatty foods should be occasional and not daily.

A good science-based eight minute audio piece on fats and raw food vegans by Dr. Rick Dina can be heard here.



Featured Article
from the website

Dealing with Conflicting Information and Controversies

"At a very young age, I realized that there was "the truth", and there was "people's interpretation of the truth". I firmly believed that it was in my best interest to know the truth. So since I had a keen desire to know what was the truth (synonymous with "reality"), I had to come up with a way of discerning it..." (Read the full article)


A Highly Recommended Documentary

This film is finally making out to the general public.
I got to see it at a first-run movie theater in Sunrise, Florida. Even though it was 1:30 on a Wednesday afternoon, I was disappointed that my two friends and I were the only people in the theater, because this is a film that everyone needs to see; I look forward to the DVD being made available.

The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Unlike the film I reviewed in the last issue, this one was done in the typical documentary style: no entertaining, humorous moments, just serious but enlightening information. Quiet frankly, I am surprised that this film made it into mainstream movie theaters, because it does not speak kindly of the meat and dairy industries. Nor should it; those industries got what they deserved... the truth.


While the film does not promote a raw food diet, the people featured in the film are certainly aware of this way of eating. But they are also aware that a large portion of the population needs to go vegetarian before they can consider anything else. And even if they went no further than a vegetarian or vegan diet, their health would be greatly improved.

If this film doesn't make the case for switching from an animal-based diet to a whole foods plant based diet, I don't know what would. It did an excellent job of stating the facts, and even gave a spokesperson for the animal food industry an opportunity to weigh in.




  Quote of the Day


"We get rid of bad health by building good health, not by treating the symptoms of bad health." – Hilton Hotema




  Photo of the Day






  Video of the Day


Click the PLAY button above to view
a short video about a major cause of over-eating




Item of the Day


Showering in chlorinated
water is not good!

You know to remove the chlorine from your drinking water, but you are likely to take more chlorine into your body from your shower water than from the water you drink. In the shower the skin soaks up chlorine readily, and you breathe in chlorine vapor too. But a good shower filter protects you. Your skin, your hair, your eyes, and all your cells will thank you. This is the one I recommend. Go to their website here.




  Good Question &
  Good Answer of the Day


"Where do you get your protein from?"

"I don't know. I've been eating nothing but fruits and vegetables for the last 19 years, and my hair and nails are growing fine, and I've been able to increase my muscle mass during that time, and since we only get protein from the foods we eat, I must be getting enough from my diet, otherwise I'd have died years ago."

Even though you might not have been eating this diet for as long as I have, when you're asked this question, you can say that you know someone who has, and then relate my answer. I'm living proof that it is possible to get enough protein from eating only fruits and leafy greens.

For more info, see the "protein" video




  Book of the Day


"Barbara Stitt's book, Food and Behavior, is dedicated to the children and adults who have been mis-led and mis-fed. In other words, it is dedicated to America. In fact, even though Barbara became intimately involved with the relationship between food and behavior mainly through her work as a probation officer, most Americans could read this book and relate it to problems of their own or those of some friend or family member – even though these problems didn't necessarily lead to run-ins with the law." (read complete review...).




Click on Archives to the right
to view a list of back issues.




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