Breaking Up with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines

Five years. Numerous new scientific findings. Zero progress.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans launched last week and the bad advice continues. It encourages multiple servings of refined grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein and limiting saturated fat.

Here’s the recommended Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern: in 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Let’s break it down:

Six servings of grains are recommended per day, with three of those coming from refined grains. I have nothing against whole grains but to suggest that we consume the refined variety is one of the reasons we’re dealing with an obesity epidemic.

Refined grains are white flour and white rice that have been processed to remove the most nutritious parts of the food. These are metabolized immediately in the body as glucose, spiking insulin levels. The day-after-day effects of this can and will eventually lead to diabetes. And the government wants us to consume three serving of these foods every day. In order to learn a few more tips about loosing some weight, visit Discover Magazine.

Full-fat dairy is healthier, and more nutrient-rich than low-fat. Yet the US Guidelines strictly recommends the later.

When you consume a whole food, you get the whole package of nutrients working together. Whole dairy contains butyrate, phytanic acid, trans palmitoleic acid, and conjugated linoleic acid that have beneficial effects not found in low-fat dairy. Low-fat dairy is basically skimming off all the good stuff our body needs.

High-fat dairy is less likely to contribute to obesity than low-fat and No studies point to low-fat dairy being healthier.

The Guidelines include this false statement:

“Fat-free and low-fat (1%) dairy products provide the same nutrients but less fat (and thus, fewer calories) than higher fat options, such as 2% and whole milk and regular cheese.”

A low-fat recommendation is done primarily to reduce the high saturated fat content. I’ll discuss this next.

Now this category is most concerning. The government suggests only oils be consumed and all saturated fats be limited to under ten percent. I wrote a detailed post on the benefits of animals fats verses the harmful effects of seed oils here.

It is alarming to see statements such as this in the Guidelines:

“Strong and consistent evidence shows that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, is associated with reduced blood levels of total cholesterol and of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol).”

This is contradictory to current studies showing that seed oils actually reduce HDL cholesterol (the good stuff) when they reduce LDL cholesterol. So they do more harm than good. Saturated fats boost the good cholesterol in our bodies.

For more convincing evidence, read the work of Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise. She explains how our 30 year low-fat craze is based on very week epidemiological studies.

But there is a victory to celebrate. Trans fats are on the outs for good. The FDA has banned them and is giving food companies just three years to remove them from their products. Woohoo!

  • Until 2019, avoid these items:
    crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
    snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
    stick margarines
    coffee creamers
    refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
    ready-to-use frostings

The egg is back on the good food list. Scientific findings are too strong for the Guidelines to ignore this one. As far as cholesterol goes, the limit has been lifted. Hopefully this means bland egg whites and egg beaters will hit the road. Good riddance.

Only two and half cups of vegetables are recommended per day. Two and half cups is equivalent to one bell pepper and four spears of asparagus. That’s it. Per day.

We can do better than that.

Vegetables are our top defense against illness. They are packed with phytochemicals that are vital for optimal health and disease prevention. Plants protect against DNA damage, oxidative stress (which is fought against with plentiful antioxidants), reduce inflammation,  slow cancer growth and many other benefits. And plants high in chlorophyll, like dark leafy greens, have protective properties that counteracter the effects of red meat’s carcinogenic proteins.

In order to fight illness and disease, studies show we need at least five servings of vegetables per day to begin seeing decreased risk. The government’s guidelines are half of the beneficial level.

If you really want improvements in your health, up those veggies to 8-9 servings.

Yes, the guidelines actually advocate for a reduction is sugar. In the 2010 document, it vaguely suggests reducing intake of added sugars but does not set a percentage. Now it recommends,

calories from added sugars do not exceed 10 percent per day.”

Ten percent is still a hefty amount though. That’s 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugars per day. Say you have one bottle of vitamin water (125 calories from sugar) and one Cliff Bar (80 calories from sugar), you’re already over the limit. And that could just be lunch. 

The Word Health Organization also calls out to reduce added sugars to less than ten percent. Although they go one step further, advocating that below five percent (25 grams of sugar) will offer more health gains.

Added sugars like refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup are 100% empty calories, with zero nutrition. They only harm your body. Two-thirds of the US in overweight, and much of that blame is pointed at sugar.  How can the guidelines be so lax on something that is sickening it’s population?

Americans like salt. A lot.

We have the processed food business to thank for supporting this addiction.

Salt prevents foods from spoiling and makes it irresistible to our taste buds. Chips, “cheese” products, frozen dinners, many restaurant meals and most of the items you find in the middle of the grocery store are overloaded with salty appeal.

Take a look at this chart. The last line demonstrates the level of sodium intake. Close to 90 percent of the population exceeds the recommended level, consuming an average of 3,440 mg per day. The guidelines sets the limit to 2,300 mg per day. This is one recommendation I can support since it is pointed to a reduction in processed foods.

Graph in 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans


“Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods.” I agree 100 percent with this statement in the Guidelines. Real nutrition comes from whole foods.

Yet the actual recommendations are for few real foods. Refined grains that have been fortified with essential nutrients are ranked higher in priority than vegetables. And to still advocate for seed and vegetables oils is to blatantly ignore current scientific findings. 

Michael Pollan gets it right in his new In Defense of Food documentary. The science is presented accurately, with weigh-in from credible nutrition experts. It is a Must Watch. Then recommend it to everyone you know. I would love to see this shown in every high school across the country. 

In an idealized world, we can push politics and big food lobbying aside and focus on the ingredients of a healthy diet. Until then, steer clear of government nutrition recommendations.

2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Government’s Bad Diet Advice

Still Think Low-Fat Dairy is the “Healthy Choice”? Think Again!

Why Full-Fat Dairy May Be Healthier Than Low-Fat

Current Eating Patterns in the United States

New Diet Guidelines Urge Less Sugar for all and less meat for boys and men.

The Link Between Meat and Cancer

The Amazing World of Plant Phytochemicals: Why a diet rich in veggies is so important!

Science Compared to Every Diet and the Winner is Real Food

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines, at long last by Marion Nestle

WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children



Wellness Beets – Episode 1: Meeting Your Hosts, Emotional Eating, Dry Skin, and Kelp Noodles

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About Brittany and Alex

Read all about Brittany by clicking here.

Read all Alex by clicking here.

Our Whole Health Philosophies

We’re believers in whole body, big-picture health. We’re convinced that the connection between the mind and the body is inarguable and stress management is as important as what’s on your plate. Additionally, we agree that both alternative/function medicine and conventional medicine play a role in disease management and overall health.

Much more on this in future episodes!

How to make good food choices and emotional blocks to eating healthy

There are lots of factors that play a role in our food choices. Bad decisions can stem from habits, a history of wrong choices, a sense of failure, a lack of impulse control, and family/peer pressure.

That’s why having tools to help you with your decisions are is important!

Brittany’s Tools:

  1. Ask a list of questions before you eat anything. ►Is this food rich in nutrients? ►How will I feel after I eat this? ►Is this food a part of my health values?
  1. Food Journal – list what you’re craving and the emotion tied to it.
  1. Breath, Meditate, Affirmations – an example: “I accept how important it is for me to eat healthfully in order to feel my best.”
  1. Remember how you felt after you ate the unhealthy food last time.
  2. Have an alternative snack ready that you know will keep you distracted from the unhealthy food. Dark chocolate, plantain chips, homemade treats, apple chips.

Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

Homemade Marshmallows

Chocolate Meringues


Alex’s Tools:

Details are up on the blog: 5 Questions That Can Help You Make Better Daily Food Choices

  1. Did I eat a variety of colors at each meal today?
  2. Did I have some carbs/fats/protein at each meal? Good balanced meals set you up for feeling full and satisfied.  The ratios you need are so individualized…pay attention to what feels best for you.
  3. Did I eat something that benefited my gut?  Examples include sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha. 4. Have I eaten the same stuff over and over for the past several days? And what could I be missing?
  4. If I eat a treat, am I crowding out other better food choices?

Other considerations:

►Food cravings as a sign of nutrient deficiencies

►Decide whether it’ll work best for you to go cold-turkey or to transition to more healthful dessert options before decreasing.

►A no-deprivation but nutrient dense dessert: Maple Encrusted Bacon Wrapped Figs

►Set your absolutes: Brittany can’t do nuts or dairy and Alex avoids gluten like the plague.

►L-glutamine supplement – Talk with your health care provider about it! But we each take about 1 gram in between meals for sugar cravings and gut health support.


Dry Winter Skin

►Hydrating from the inside out by drinking enough fluids, eating enough fats in the diet

►Omega 3s from fatty fish (sardines!), coconut butter

►Oil vs water hydration, use both water soluble and oil soluble things

►Details are up in the post How I Use Oils to Moisturize

►Best oils for providing nutrients: coconut, sweet almond, argan oil, etc.

►Best oils for sealing: coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and my favorite, castor oil.

►Homemade lotions: you can tweak the oil to water ratios depending on how much hydration you need.

►Find Alex’s favorite lotion recipe here

►Homemade Facial serums: Super Smooth Face Serum and DIY Skin Brightening Serum

►Best store bought lotions: Alaffia lotions and Jason lotions (have gluten free ones as well)



Food Swap Suggestion
What is the quickest gluten free noodle option?

Kelp Noodles and shiitake noodles. (Found at local grocery stores and Asian Food Markets.)

When transitions individually or for families: transitioning slowly is good! You can start with rice or buckwheat noodles before getting to the more veggie based ones.



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Not Going Nutty Over Nuts

Nuts generally fall under the health food category, touted for their healthy fat content and as a good source of protein. Then why do they make me feel bloated, gassy and sometimes itchy? Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and all other nuts may just be all hype.

Why to not to go nutty over nuts
Nuts are designed by nature to protect themselves, their function is to reproduce and keep their species alive. In certain animals nuts can even pass whole through their bodies to ensure reproduction. Because of this, they are quite difficult to digest.

What makes them so difficult to digest is their high levels of phytic acid and this leads to those uncomfortable gassy, bloated effects. Phytic acid is an antinutrient that interferes with enzymes we need to digest our food. Human’s lack the enzyme, called phytase, needed to break it down.  It binds to minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium in food and prevents us from absorbing them. It has also been shown that diets high in phytate actually cause mineral deficiencies.

1. Nuts are often as high or even higher in phytic acid than grains.

2. Nuts decrease iron absorption even more than wheat bread.

3. Nuts are high in omega 6, which causes inflammation in the body when not balanced properly with omega 3.

4. Phytic acid in nuts can impair digestion causing stomach upset.

5. Commercially packaged nuts are most often roasted in unhealthy oils like soybean, increasing the amount of omega 6 fats.

Preparing Nuts
It is possible to prepare nuts so that they’re easier to digest. Soaking, sprouting, dehydrating and roasting help to break down the phytic acid making their minerals more available to our bodies. You can soak them in water for about 8 hours and the nuts will actually begin to germinate. These may not be enough for some people with more sensitive digestive systems. Test yourself with a few at a time and take notice of how your body responds.

Nut Flours
Often used in grain free and paleo baked treats, nut flours do not contain as much phytic acid as raw or roasted nuts. Flours are made from blanched nuts, where the skin has been removed and phytic acid is found mostly in the skin. Because of the multiple stages of processing, the micronutrients are more easily absorbed.

Nut Butters
Commercially sold nut butters are made with un-soaked nuts. Alternatively, you can make nut butter at home. Soak the nuts overnight in salt water and then allow them to thoroughly dry by roasting at your lowest oven temperature or use a dehydrator. Once dry, process until smooth and creamy.

Limiting Nuts
Nuts are calorie dense and before you know it you’ve eaten an entire jar. At least that was my story… a little goes a long way so watch your intake. Another option is to limit their use as a garnish. For those with digestive issues it’s best to enjoy in small amounts and listen to how your body reacts.


Bioavailability of minerals in legumes.,

Zn and Fe biofortification: the right chemical environment for human bioavailability.,

Why Eating Nuts Upsets Your Stomach,

Another Reason you Shouldn’t go Nuts on Nuts,

Six Reasons I Don’t Eat Nuts,