: Hello everyone, this is Mike Adams, the Health Ranger. I'm here with Ben Kage, and we're going to have a discussion and Q&A session about the Honest Food Guide
. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it is available for free downloading at HonestFoodGuide.org
. You can download it, and take a look at and learn quite a bit about nutrition and food recommendations from various sources. So thanks for joining me today, Ben.
Ben: Thanks for joining me too.
Mike: This is the first time you've seen the guide yourself, and I understand that you have some questions?
Ben: Yes. This is the first time I've seen the guide. I didn't necessarily follow the original food pyramid when it was out there, but I always had a basic idea of what it was. I've noticed that lately the USDA has come out with its own new food pyramid. So, with this new food pyramid out, why would anyone need to follow the Honest Food Guide or even look at it?
Mike: Excellent question. The first part of that answer is that this is a replacement chart for the USDA's official food guide pyramid, and as most people know, in the spring of 2005, the USDA came out with a new food guide to replace the old food groups/food guide pyramid that had been around for decades. But what most people don't know is that the USDA paid $2.5 million to a PR/marketing group to help design this new food guide pyramid, and that group is best know for doing work for the dairy industry. By some amazing coincidence, taxpayer dollars have gone to create a guide that basically says everybody should drink a lot more milk. It's all about milk. In fact, historically, the food guide pyramids that the USDA has created have always been about eating more food, drinking more milk and basically consuming larger and larger quantities of everything that the American food industry has produced.
Now, if you study the history of the USDA and where it came from, it's quite fascinating. In the post World War II era, say the 1950s for example, this message from the USDA was quite useful to the population. Most of the diseases in those days were based on malnutrition. People didn't have enough calories; they didn't have enough fat. People were physically smaller than they are today, even though they have virtually the same gene pool that we have. They were smaller, and people suffered diseases of malnutrition -- things like rickets, lack of Vitamin D and so on. So the message from the USDA at that time was very much aligned with the message of all the food producers. The grain farmers were happy because the USDA said, "Eat more corn and wheat and rice." The beef industry was happy because it said, "Eat more beef." And, of course, the milk industry was happy because everybody said, "Eat more butter, drink more milk." The message basically was, open your mouth and stuff as much as you can down that throat. That was the government position.
Ben: Which was fine for it's time.
Mike: Absolutely. It served a purpose. Now, fast forward to the 1980s, and especially into the 1990s, and now you have a population that is not suffering from malnutrition.
Ben: On the contrary.
Mike: We have plenty of food and plenty of calories, but what we have are empty calories. We have a lack of nutrition even while we are suffering from over-consumption. We have too much food and too little nutrition. We see a lot of chronic disease in this environment -- diabetes, cancer, heart disease, you name it. Unfortunately, these diseases are very often associated with the over-consumption of nutritionally depleted foods. If you take corn or wheat out of the field and refine it, you strip away all the good nutrition. You're left with this empty carbohydrate, and it still fits the food guide pyramid to say, "Eat more grains."
Ben: What makes a company do this? What is the motivation to strip away those healthy nutrients?
Mike: There are a couple of reasons.
Ben: Does it taste better?
Mike: Oh, it does taste better. When the fiber, essential oils, proteins and so on are stripped away, it does taste better because it has a higher glycemic index, so that carbohydrate turns into sugar very quickly -- beginning in your mouth. Your saliva starts to digest this, and you start feeling the effects of it right away. So it is taste, but more than that it is shelf life. Food companies want ingredients that will sit on the shelf for six months or a year without going bad. The only way to do that is you have to take the essential oils out of the grains. You see, when something comes out of nature, it's healthy. You mess with it, you refine it, you process it, and suddenly it's a disease-promoting ingredient.
But getting back to the USDA, its message today is really founded in the past. Its message continues to be, "Eat more of everything." It does not have the courage to stand up and say, "Eat less of a few things." It won't even say, "Eat less sugar." Why? It's because of the corrupt influence of the big sugar industry. It won't say, "Eat less red meat or eat less saturated animal fat." It's utterly ridiculous that it won't take that position because we know -- it's not even debated -- that high, frequent consumption of saturate animal fats is strongly correlated with heart disease and nervous system deterioration, accelerated aging and even obesity and weight gain. It's well established, but the USDA won't say, "Eat less meat."
Essentially what has happened is that the USDA has become a government-approved industry lackey. The agency has no courage. It has no political will to actually tell anybody the truth about nutrition anymore. It can only say, "Eat more of everything." It can never say, "Eat less of some things."
Ben: Well, I remember the original food pyramid didn't specifically say "eat less candy," it just had candy, sugars, and sweets on the lower end of the spectrum, as the products you should eat the least of, but it still gave "permission" to eat them. So when and why did the USDA make this leap from, "Eat lots of food, because that's what our culture needs right now," to, "Eat lots of food because our industry needs lot of money?"
Mike: This happens essentially because of the cross pollination of the USDA and the industry it is required to regulate. There's an old saying in terms of being an observer of the way governments work. Any organization that regulates an industry, if it exists for long enough, eventually becomes an extension of the exact industry that it was supposed to regulate. The USDA today is really just a marketing arm of the industries that it's supposed to regulate. It's the marketing arm of the farmers of America, the cattle ranchers and the dairy industry. In fact, this isn't even debatable. It is part of the mission statement of the USDA to promote the interests of agriculture and these various industries in the Untied States. That's in its charter, so we shouldn't be surprised when this group -- this government group -- tells us that we should eat more of all these foods and ingredients.
The mistake, historically speaking, is allowing the USDA to have any say whatsoever in terms of dietary guidelines or nutrition, because nutrition is not compatible with the idea that everybody should eat more of everything. That is not nutritionally sound. What the USDA says, and what many companies say -- especially junk food manufacturers, soft drink manufacturers and so on -- is that any food can be part of a healthy diet. That's their statement. That's their common defense. If you became overweight drinking soft drinks and eating Big Macs at McDonald's, and you try to sue McDonald's, the restaurant's defense will be, in part, based on the idea that McDonald's food can be part of a healthy diet. Now, I disagree with this because if you look around, every company is saying this. You have 400 food manufactures lined up, and they're all saying, "Our foods, soft drinks, donuts, candy bars, sugary breakfast cereals and margarine with hydrogenated oils can be part of a healthy diet." By the time you have listened to everybody, you have a system of food that can kill you. Every one of them has said, "It can be part of a healthy diet."
Ben: Very few of them talk about how it can ever be part of a healthy diet.
Mike: Well, the only way it can be is if you have a perfect diet, you're perfectly healthy, you exercise and you get outstanding nutrition. You avoid all the dangerous ingredients, but once a week you drink a soft drink or once a week you have a Big Mac or something like that. Yes, that's not going to kill you, you see what I mean? But nobody does that.
Ben: Right. That's not what people consider a diet
Mike: No, not at all. So the idea that any food can be part of a healthy diet is really absurd. It's just a defense. The USDA food guide is essentially promoting this idea that any food can be part of a healthy diet. There's an interesting book called "Food Politics" by Marion Nestle. Marian used to work at the USDA, and she was part of the process of creating the original food guide pyramid. She has fascinating accounts of how this was done. For example, they would get information from doctors and nutritionists, and they would decide, within their own group, that they were going to have a statement that said, "People should consume no red meat." That's a nutritionally sound position.
Mike: But then, as soon as industry got word of that, lobbyists came in, and there was a lot of political pressure applied. Senators, congressmen and congresswomen were suddenly getting calls from their constituents, which included cattle ranching companies and meat packers, and they were putting pressure on this group at the USDA, so this original statement that said, "People should eat no red meat" went though this really interesting evolution. They decided to tone it down, and they changed it to say, "People should eat less red meat." Then they decided to change it even further to say, "People should eat more lean meat." So the science supports the idea that people should eat no red meat or very little red meat if any, but the ultimate statement that came out of the USDA was, "People should eat more red meat, as long as it's lean meat."
Ben: Then it's "safe."
Mike: Right. So this is how the scientific truths of health, nutrition and dietary choice get distorted and twisted by the political process -- the corruption of the collusion between the USDA and the very companies that it's supposed to be regulating -- and end up becoming a statement that is a great disservice to the health of the American people. This is how the entire food guide pyramid was created, and this is why it needs an honest alternative. The Honest Food Guide that I've created here is the honest alternative. Again, it's HonestFoodGuide.org, and you can download it free of charge. This is the only guide that gives you an unbiased view, with no under the table corruption, of what you should eat and what you should avoid.
Ben: What does the Honest Food Guide have that the current, or even the previous, USDA pyramid didn't have, other than honesty?
Mike: Yes, honesty is one thing. It was not created by any industry, and I personally have no financial gain whatsoever from anybody for creating this guide. It's not just that I'm not getting money from these food companies. I'm not getting money from anybody. This is a non-revenue item. It's created entirely for the purpose of public education, which is one of my core missions. So, again, I have no financial benefit from it. But that's not what makes it useful. It's useful because it has the courage to stand up and say what you should eat less of. Again, this is what the USDA refuses to say. This is actually an inverted pyramid, and on the left hand side is the disease side, and on the right side, it's all health. You can look at the list of foods that are in this food guide, and you can decide really what kind of health outcomes you want as an individual, and then you can choose to eat those kinds of foods.
So, if you want to be diseased, for example, you go to the left side and say, "Okay, let's read the list. Let's eat a lot of red meat, carbonated soft drinks, donuts, high-salt canned soups, snack chips, candy bars, crackers, sugary breakfast cereals, processed foods, milk and dairy products and so on." It's easy to get diseased if you eat all that. You can give yourself cancer in no time if you really go down that path. On the right hand side, you have all the foods and ingredients that create health. Again, this is a recipe for health, so we list all the foods -- raw fruits, vegetables, berries, healthy oils, nuts and seeds, fish, certain sea vegetables and molasses, for example -- and we even mention things that aren't food, like sunlight and water, because they are essential nutrition. Basically, this is a recipe. We even show pictures here of an unhealthy person on the left eating all the disease foods, versus the healthy food on the right. Now, what's interesting about all of this, in contrast to the USDA's food guide pyramid, is that many of the food items that we put on the disease side are foods the USDA promotes.
Ben: I notice that milk is on the diseased side. For decades, we've been told that milk is healthy and that it promotes strong bones and is, essentially, good for you.
Mike: Absolutely. The dairy marketing industry has been very successful in getting across this highly distorted and completely unfounded message that human beings should be consuming a liquid produced by the mammary glands of a furry creature with four legs, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. No nutritional sense. It's completely nonsensical that we have any need whatsoever for this juice that comes from an animal. You don't see people going out there and milking horses.
Ben: Or dogs.
Mike: Right. Would you drink hamster juice?
Mike: People drink cow juice. They've been very effective at marketing it with all kinds of ridiculous claims like, "Milk will help you lose weight." Well, that's interesting. One-third of the calories from 2 percent milk come from saturated animal fat, a type of fat we know is strongly correlated with heart disease, arteriosclerosis and obesity. There are all kinds of problems with this type of fat, and yet the dairy industry has managed to convince people that it's healthy.
Ben: Is it the same story with skim milk? Are the benefits of something like that skewed at all?
Mike: The benefits are definitely skewed, even with skim milk. Even though it doesn't have the fat in it, it comes from cows that are milked under very unscrupulous conditions. There is a level of pus in all dairy products and cow's milk sold in the United States. There's a certain amount of pus that's legally acceptable according to the government regulations.
Ben: I'm guessing that number isn't zero.
Mike: No, I think it's a couple hundred thousand pus cells per ounce, which, from a microbiology standpoint, is not that high of a level, but most of the milk in this country exceeds that level. You know, cows get infections in their udders; they are given various hormones. They're artificially modified in terms of their endocrine system to make sure they keep giving milk and so they can produce more milk per cow. Then this milk is modified through a process of homogenization. Homogenization modifies the milk fasts to be an unnatural form of fat that the human body doesn't recognize. It is this homogenization that, I think, is partly responsible for the detrimental health effects of long-term consumption of cow's milk. Again, this is one item on the list. There are many items on the list and we could talk about each of them, but the big picture is that this is what's true and associated with disease. If you want heart disease, if you want colon cancer, if you want diabetes then just eat from this list here. It's very easy to accomplish.
Ben: Now, The Honest Food Guide doesn't just list items like the traditional food pyramids, but it actually lists things as they are associated with both health and disease. The old pyramids say you should eat more of this or less of this because we say so. The Honest Food Guide actually lists specific drawbacks and benefits.
Mike: That's a good point. That's the other thing that's unique about this food guide. It tells you not only what you should consume, but it gives you the benefits. For example, we talk about avocados, and avocados are really healthy foods even just eaten raw. In fact, raw is preferable.
Ben: Despite some newsmedia attention that says avocados promote cholesterol.
Mike: Oh yeah, there is so much ridiculous information out there. They said for years that butter was going to kill you so you should eat margarine made with hydrogenated oils, right? It's ridiculous. There's been a lot of bad publicity about avocados. Avocados not only have vital nutrients in them, they are also loaded with healthy oils. It's almost like a fat food from nature, but it's a plant fat. It has these omega-3 oils that everybody is talking about today. Avocados are really one of the best healing foods out there. They're not going to make people fat either. But anyway, getting back to the point, we list the benefits of these foods.
Ben: I also notice that we have something down here in the right hand corner that says, "Eat all the colors of the rainbow." What is this designed to promote?
Mike: Well, this is just an awareness section here where it lists various colors of the rainbow: Red, orange, yellow, green, purple and white. Now I know that's not a technical readout of the spectrum wavelength sequence or anything. They are just different colors. It's designed to teach people that they should eat foods that are different colors, not just because it makes food visually interesting, but because each of these colors is created by a vital nutrient or vital chemical created by the plant that produced these foods.
These vital nutrients have specific biological advantages that are very important for human health. Many of the colors are potent antioxidants and can help fight free radicals in the human body. Some of them protect the nervous system, for example, or can actually protect your eyes from macular degeneration. They protect your brain cells and all the cells in your nervous system. Some of them inhibit the growth of cancer tumors. Others enhance circulation, help enhance longevity and help turn back the visual signs of aging, as they say. These colors are medicines in the foods. If I say go out and eat some red foods, it would include tomatoes, peppers, cranberries, raspberries, apples and strawberries.
Again, this is information the USDA isn't telling anybody. They're afraid to even tell people the good news about some of these foods. In fact, they're so afraid to say anything that they took the foods off the chart. They don't even have foods on the chart anymore, just a bunch of colors. You have to log in on the website to find anything, and then it's pretty much drink more milk. I just can't stop laughing.
Let's talk about tomatoes. Most people who follow anything about nutrition know that tomatoes have a variety of vital nutrients in them -- most notably, lycopene, which is well known for prostate cancer treatment and prevention. But lycopene is just one of the many nutrients in a tomato, and, in fact, in isolation lycopene is not nearly as effective as the whole tomato. Then, it's not nearly as effective as a cooked tomato. In this case, a cooked tomato is far more potent than a raw tomato because of the way the lycopene is tied up with certain proteins. They are broken down by heat. By eating tomatoes, you are, in fact, preventing prostate cancer and many other forms of cancer.
If you go down the whole chart and eat the various colors, you will be preventing chronic disease in a powerful way. Blueberries, for example, are one of my favorite superfoods, I call them a superfood because they offer such high density nutrition. I eat blueberries by the pound. I spend a couple hundred dollars a month on blueberries. They are potent medicine; they lower LDL cholesterol even better than statin drugs, with no negative side effects. They have other benefits, such as the protection of the nervous system, protection of eye health, fighting of free radicals and so on. People need to know this information. They need to know that the colors in the food mean something and not the artificial colors that you find in all these packaged processed foods. They have FD&C Red No. 5, for example, in them. You know where artificial colors come from?
Ben: Where do they come from?
Mike: Coal tar. They are petrochemical products basically.
Ben: Like they use for the road?
Mike: Like they use for the road. If you modify those petrochemicals enough, you can create food colors. That's where they come from. The FDA allows certain food colors because not enough people have died from them yet to yank them off the market. There are some food colors that have been yanked and are illegal now, but there are many others still on the market, that are considered safe, according to FDA standards that can still be used.
Ben: I notice that the colors of this rainbow are all colors of fruits and vegetables that we've always know about -- like carrots are orange and tomatoes are red or green -- instead of things like meat, which I know a lot of times is red simply because that is more attractive to someone walking through a grocery store.
Mike: Very true. The color in meat is added with an ingredient called sodium nitrate, which is a cancer-causing chemical. That's how they make these meats look red on the shelf. If they didn't add these chemicals, they would look kind of a putrid gray color.
Ben: Orange gray. I've seen uncolored meat before straight from the cow, and it is not visually exciting at all.
Mike: No, and people wouldn't buy it if it wasn't red.
Ben: And that's the ultimate idea behind coloring these foods.
Mike: From the food manufacturer's point of view, yes. They color the foods with artificial colors to fool our senses, to make their foods look appealing and look fresh when they are not. They can be on the shelf for months and still have these same neon red colors, and something from nature doesn't last that long, so it's a pretty good hint that something artificial is going on there.
Speaking of food colors, if you look at the foods people consume around the world -- the cultural diets -- those cultures that have the healthiest diets make great use of colors in their foods. They go to great lengths to put different colors in them. I'm thinking in particular of food from Thailand. Thai food, when it is prepared in the traditional Thai format, is an absolute work of art. It's not just a taste masterpiece, it is also visually appealing, and again, it uses colors from nature, not a bunch of artificial colors. Thai food is glorious, and if you look at some of the medicinal herbs used in Thai food, it's rather astounding how healing Thai dishes can be.
Ben: I notice something really interesting right here, on both the health and disease sides of the pyramid. A lot of what we think of traditionally is just physical health when we talk about eating the right foods and eating the wrong foods. But I notice here we have some psychological and behavioral penalties and benefits from eating some of these foods.
Mike: Absolutely. There is a great disconnect in this country and our modern medical system in understanding the links between consumption of foods and mental health. We have now a quarter of our nation -- depending on who you ask -- of Americans suffering from mental disorders. With all the discussion about mental health and mental disorders, there's no discussion whatsoever about the true causes of it. There's all this talk about treating everybody and how we should get everybody into "treatment," which means jobs. I say that mental disorders are not caused by a lack of drugs, so why would you think that adding drugs to someone's brain would eliminate these disorders? What are they really caused by? Well, they are caused by nutritional problems. They are caused by the consumption of hydrogenated oils, for one big thing. This is poison for your brain and nervous system. It creates birth defects. It competes with the absorption of essential fatty acids.
There are other processed foods made from white flour and sugar that deplete nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your body that are crucial for brain health. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is largely a fictitious disease. One study I recall showed that 80 percent of children with ADHD are symptom-free within two weeks after transitioning to healthy foods and eliminating certain additives from their diets. So here we have the so-called disease that is really nothing more than the labeling diagnosis of a pattern of symptoms that are quite clearly created by food choice, and yet the USDA, once again, won't tell the truth and won't tell the parents of America that they should be feeding their children these healthy foods and avoiding these other ingredients if they want their children to be healthy mentally, physically and emotionally.
If you want to take your teenage boy, for example, and turn him into a violent, angry machine or a killer, it's actually very easy to do. All you have to do is feed him lots of soft drinks, snack chips, pizza and donuts and give him all these hydrogenated oils, food additives, monosodium glutamate and chemical sweeteners. Make sure he doesn't get any good nutrition, and then have him diagnosed with depression and make sure he gets dosed on antidepressant drugs. You do that, and you have created an angry, violent adolescent killing machine. It's a very easy recipe. The tragedy here is that parents, doctors and our society are all doing this every single day, unknowingly. They are following the recipe for creating a generation of violent youth, but they don't realize they are following a recipe.
Ben: No, but most of them are willing to say that it's movies or video games that are influencing this kind of behavior.
Mike: Right. Blame Hollywood for the diet these kids have. Look at what school lunches feed children. ThisHonest Food Guide should be a required course in all public schools. The teachers should know this, and the administrators should know this. In fact, doctors should be required to know this. Again, it's a tragedy in this country that physicians can be given licenses to practice medicine, while not having a clue about which foods promote disease and which foods promote health. I can't tell you how many times I've been in discussions with practicing MDs, and they would say something that's so utterly ignorant about nutrition that I was just floored. Of course, I would challenge them on the spot and say, "How can you say this? How can you even think that? How can you give your patients this information?"
Ben: Because that's what they learned in medical school.
Mike: That's exactly what they learned in medical school. All they learned, really, is how to diagnose diseases and treat them with drugs, surgery and radiation. They did not learn nutrition. Nutrition is not taught in medical schools today. Dr. Andrew Weil will tell you this. He says that doctors are "nutritionally illiterate." This is a direct quote from Andrew Weil. Dr. Weil, of course, is a real pioneer and has done outstanding work from within the system of organized medicine. He is a product of the medical industry, yet he was able to open his eyes and see beyond his training that there's a whole universe of information that people need to know to be healthy, and that includes nutrition. He tells the story that when he was in medical school, which was four years of training, he had, I believe he said, one hour of training on nutrition. Not one credit hour, like it was a semester course, or anything ...
Ben: Literally 60 minutes.
Mike: Sixty minutes! 60 minutes of training on nutrition. Now, I've spent 5,000 hours studying nutrition, health and the causes of disease. I poured those 5,000 hours into the creation of this Honest Food Guide. That's my background for understanding these cause-and-effect relationships. Your average doctor has spent 60 minutes. That is unbelievable. It shouldn't be allowed in this country. They shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine.
Ben: What do you think is the main reason people are more predisposed toward the diseased side of this pyramid, even those who truly know what is more healthy for them and what foods are going to benefit them?
Mike: This is the big challenge. That's an excellent question. The big challenge of public health is that, on one hand, you can give people knowledge of what foods they should consume. For example, you can tell people how good these healthy oils are for them, and you can name superfoods, berries, nutritional supplements and nuts and seeds, and people can intellectually understand this information, but when it comes time to decide what to actually do -- when it comes time to translate that model into action -- there's a great disconnect. People tend to go with the action that feels most comfortable to them. In the case of foods and beverages, it comes down to their habitual foods. Let's face it, a sugar donut is pretty tasty to most people. You're making faces -- you don't like donuts.
Ben: I don't like donuts, but I realize I'm one of the few.
Mike: No, I'm not a big fan of anything that's too sweet either, but I grew up on that. And if you'd asked me 10 years ago, I'd say, "Heck yeah, give me the donuts, the pizza, the soft drinks." I consumed all of that, and I can certainly understand how other people do too. The companies that make these foods know how to "hack" the taste buds of the human body. They know how to excite the tongue. They know how to refine sugars to give them a real kick, so you get not only a taste kick, but you actually get a blood sugar kick and a brain chemical kick from the consumption of these sugars. They know how to manufacture foods to tune into your senses and make them not just tasteful but addictive.
Did you know Kraft Foods -- which is owned by Phillip Morris, a cigarette company -- employs, I believe, nearly 10,000 food scientists? That's 10,000 people who are hard at work figuring out how to rearrange the molecules of food to make you, the consumer, want to keep buying it over and over again. There's a lot of brainpower going into this hacking of the human tongue, as I call it. You can't compete with that taste when you're taking something right out of nature that is not hyped up with chemicals and is not exaggerated with extra salt, chemical taste enhancers, refined sugars and so on. You can't compete with it taste-wise. That's why most people are purchasing and consuming all of these processed foods and fast foods -- because the taste feels good to them.
Ben: I know a lot of people come up with the excuse that healthier foods and vegetables tend to be more expensive than a lot of snack foods. You can go get a soda for 25 cents in some stores and then turn around and carrots are $1.50 a pound. Why do you think this is? Is it some sort of tax the food industry is trying to levy?
Mike: No. First of all, I disagree with that assessment. I understand that people say that, and they say it to me all the time, too. Here's my answer to that. If you think that health foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods, then you need to learn how to shop. Healthy foods are far less expensive. In fact, when I went out and actually bought some brand-name foods just to take some photographs for another project I'm working on, I was amazed at how much it cost me to buy this stuff. I was buying breakfast cereals, dinner mixes, instant foods, soft drinks and all these other things. I had a shopping cart full of these, and it was like $200. I was amazed because I usually spend a lot less than that -- usually $75 or $80 -- on a shopping cart full of food.
The difference is, when I go shopping, I'm buying food ingredients, not packaged food, so I'm buying quinoa by the pound. A pound of quinoa is only a couple of bucks, and that's 25 meals of quinoa. You add something else in it that you buy by the pound, like onions or eggs, and that's very inexpensive. That's a meal the Incas have traditionally eaten in the Andes Mountains, by the way: Boiled quinoa with onions and eggs. It's a wonderful meal. It's a delicious dish. Vegetables are not expensive either. Fruits are not that expensive. If you get into organic fruits and vegetables, yes, they can be more expensive. I always tell a person if you are making a choice between some processed food versus fruits and vegetables, and you can't afford the organic, go with the non-organic. You are still better off than buying the processed foods.
Ben: Right, so all the health detriments that a traditionally grown vegetable might have, it's still not as bad as red meat.
Mike: Absolutely. I'd take non-organic produce over packaged foods any day of the week, if I didn't have the funds or the choice of organic foods. Now, of course, I support organic foods very strongly. That's your best choice. But if you're on a tight budget and you need to make a choice, go with the non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Ben: Even if it were true that the healthy foods were more expensive, the amount that you save avoiding the medical bills that come from eating on the diseased side of the pyramid more than makes up for it.
Mike: When people consume unhealthy foods, there is a hidden cost. It's doesn't show up on your receipt at the grocery story. It's just like you said, the hidden cost is the long-term health cost associated with the consumption of these foods. If you consume soft drinks, canned soups, sugary breakfast cereals and peanut butter with hydrogenated oils in it, and you consume these for a period of several decades, you will be diseased. That's common sense now. We know this to be true; it's cause-and-effect. There will be a cost associated with that disease, and typically that cost will be in the tens of thousands of dollars, if not much more. I mean, six figures is not at all unusual.
Let's say you're diabetic. By the time you add up a couple of decades of insulin and diabetes prescription drugs that people tend to get on, and typically the heart disease associated with diabetes, the loss of quality of life, the loss of work productivity, the loss of brain function, the diagnostic tests that are required, the blood tests and the doctor visits, you're looking at several hundred thousand dollars.
Ben: At least.
Mike: At least. I say, for a couple of hundred thousand dollars you can buy a lot of fruits and vegetables, you know what I mean? You can load up on all the organic foods in the world with that kind of a bankroll. Then people say, "Well, my insurance is paying for my health care costs."
Ben: You're still paying for the insurance.
Mike: Exactly. Who's paying for the insurance? I mean, if you're going to make an argument like that, you're a fool. "I'm going to be sick because insurance covers that?" What kind of an idiot thinks that? But it's true; people do. I say that being healthy is very inexpensive. It's an inexpensive way to run your life. Do you know how much money I've spent on health care costs in the last three years?
Ben: How much?
Mike: It's very close to zero. The only money I've spent is getting my blood tested to prove my own health statistics. I spend money on acupuncture therapy, massage therapy and visiting naturopaths, but that's just maintenance. I don't go in there and say, "Gee doc, I can't get out of bed. I'm sleeping 16 hours a day, what's wrong with me? I'm hyperventilating. I'm feeling I'm going to pass out." I don't go into my doctors with complaints. I go in and say, "I'm in perfect health. Can you help me be healthier, or is there anything else I can do to have better nervous system function or better stamina?" I don't spend any money on treating disease because I spend my money on healthy foods, and thus I don't have disease.
Ben: And thus you save money.
Ben: I've noticed that the new USDA food pyramid guide has an emphasis on personalization. Their pyramid ostensibly works differently for each person. Now, the Honest Food Guide doesn't seem to have anything like that. It's more like the old food pyramid in that it looks like it should apply to everyone. Why would the USDA emphasize personalizing your food consumption?
Mike: They claim it's personalized, but no matter what you chose, it still says three cups of milk a day. So it's the illusion of being personalized. It is true that different people need different quantities of food. You know, a 120-pound female needs a lot less food than a 200-pound male. This is common sense. I don't think that we need someone to have to log into a website and put in their weight and age and sex to understand this point. People know that.
What people need to know is something that applies to all human beings, and that is which foods are healthy and which foods are unhealthy. People can figure out portions for themselves if they are eating healthy foods. It's very hard to become overweight consuming the foods I list on the health side. You can pig out on just about everything I list over here -- berries, vegetables and even nuts, although that's something I wouldn't consume pounds of a day. You can eat large, large quantities of these foods, and my guess is, if you're overweight, you'll probably lose weight, even consuming as much as you can handle.
The challenge is not trying to individualize it; the challenge is speaking the truth about foods. I think that we need a guide that is simple enough that people can hand it to their friends, and say, "Here's the food guide I'm using. You can check it out, too." People shouldn't have to go online and log in to get some dietary advice. The other thing that the USDA has forgotten is that some of the people who need food information and nutritional information the most in this country are low-income people. Low-income people aren't sitting around with a couple of PCs in their house just ready to log on so they can find out they should drink three cups of milk a day. That's not the reality.
Ben: They can listen to traditional media to find that out.
Mike: Sure, yeah. They can find plenty of milk ads on TV and radio. I think the challenge is not personalizing but rather giving people a fundamental basis of nutrition from which to personalize it on their own. As human beings, we are 99.9 percent identical genetically. The biochemical laws that govern the way we use foods are nearly identical. I know there is some variation. Some people handle carbohydrates better than others. Some people have a higher metabolism than others. There's some variation, but we are 99.9 percent the same. In fact, we are probably more than 99 percent the same as other primates, like monkeys and apes too.
The foods that I present on this guide, on the health side, are healthy for all primates. The foods that are disease-causing will cause disease for all primates. If you feed this stuff on the disease side to a monkey, you will kill the monkey. You will give the monkey diseases, and it's the same diseases we see today -- diabetes, cancer, heart disease. It would be animal cruelty, but human parents feed these same foods to their children, and it's not cruelty; it's popular culture. It's the American way. So my chart is based on the fundamental laws of biochemistry in human beings, and that's as personalized as we need to be. Make sense?
Ben: It makes sense. The only other question I had was this: Earlier you said that we can figure out portion size ourselves and that that's usually not an issue, but I believe the old and the new food guide pyramids have the portions laid out for you, at least . Does theHonest Food Guide have portion sizes?
Mike: No, but I want to get back to the portion sizes that you mention because some people will say, "I don't believe that people can control their own portions." The issue is what they're eating, because if you're eating processed foods then it's true: You can't "control your own portions." Processed foods give you too many calories in too small a physical factor for a person to effectively control portions. When you eat foods from nature, portion control is automatic. You know why? Because people's stomachs will physically fill up before they can get too many calories. When your stomach gets physically full, there are signals that go to your endocrine system that say, "Stop eating."
Again, you can eat, for example, 200 calories worth of grapes -- that's probably I'm guessing about a cup and a half of grapes, maybe two cups -- and physically, that's a pretty large mass but it's only 200 calories. You might say the same amount of mass could be found in one slice of pizza, but that one slice of pizza might have 800 calories. The person feels the same level of fullness but they've consumed four times as many calories because it's processed food, manufactured food. What I'm saying is that if you eat natural foods on the healthy side of this guide, then you automatically get full before you make yourself obese. That's one of the big secrets of weight loss, is to eat foods that have a lot of water in them.
Ben: And all these foods come with other nutritional benefits on the side, as well as being too filling to make you obese.
Mike: Absolutely. You know, it's funny; people out there are getting gastric bypass surgery, or bariatric surgery as it's sometimes called, in huge numbers. This is a procedure that can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. I call it a lobotomy of your digestive tract because they literally rip out a portion of your stomach and sort of rework your plumbing down there. You can save yourself all that money and all that scar tissues by consuming foods on the healthy side of my chart, because these foods will give you the effect of having a small stomach because you'll physically fill up before you have too many calories. It's food choice that's the problem, not that people's stomachs are too big. It is so ridiculous that modern medicine wants to go in and surgically mess with everything. Gee, does your arm hurt? Cut it off. Does your gallbladder have some pain? Take it out. Got a migraine headache? They're doing this now, they are surgically removing muscles from your head.
Ben: And your face.
Mike: Because your muscles are hurting. Come on.
Ben: That way you don't have to eat responsibly or make your own decisions as to what you eat.
Mike: I know. I was saying, in a previous report, that if you're a man and your prostate hurts, they just take it out. I read an article on women, especially women from the U.K., and 31 percent said they would have both breasts surgically removed if they had a history of breast cancer in their family.
Ben: Right. I read that too.
Mike: Healthy organs. The person doesn't even have breast cancer yet.
Ben: And may never.
Mike: They're going to do a double mastectomy because they might get breast cancer someday. Are you serious? And 31 percent of the women said yes.
Ben: Yet the same people won't eat healthier foods, and they'll probably get disease from the unhealthy ones.
Mike: I tell you what. There's some insanity out there, and part of the insanity is the USDA's food guide pyramid. It doesn't give people the information they need, and I believe this Honest Food Guide chart is one of the few that actually does. There's another one out there that I know of that's pretty good; I think it's called the Healing Food Guide. It's good as well. I encourage people to check out this information from several different sources. You'll find that you keep hearing the same truths over and over again. You should avoid certain foods and you should consume certain foods if you want to be healthy. You'll hear that there's a recipe for health and there's a recipe for disease.
No matter what you think you're doing, you are following some recipe today, every time you go to the grocery store and every time you order food from a restaurant. Every time you make a meal, you are following a recipe. That recipe will produce a result. The result is based on the recipe. The result can be disease or health or anywhere in between, but you, as an individual, have to decide what results you want and then modify your recipe to match those results.
Ben: Well, that clears up all the questions I had about the Honest Food Guide. It seems very clear and simple to use.
Mike: Thank you Ben. I appreciate your questions and I enjoyed the discussion, and I know we got off track a few times. It is a simple thing to look at and understand. We went through, I believe, 26 revisions on this to make it this simple. It certainly didn't start out this way, but the USDA spent $2.5 millions dollars, and we did this for $0, and ours actually makes sense. Imagine that.
Ben: And how much did you get paid for it?
Mike: I got paid another $0. Anyway, again, it's HonestFoodGuide.org. That's where you can download it or print it. You can copy it. You can give it away. You just can't sell it. Please don't. Give it away -- it's much better.
Ben: And you don't have to log in to anything to get it?
Mike: No. You don't have to give me your email address or anything. Just go to the website, and download it. It's yours to enjoy, so learn from it. Put it on your refrigerator, or print it out and take it shopping with you. Hopefully this will help people make some good healthy choices about food.