The World Health Organization recently shared a food advisory, detailing some “easy-to-follow” nutrition tips to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The list lacked quite a bit of context, and glossed over some crucial facts when it comes to nutrition and disease. We interviewed Dr. Benjamin Bikman, leading metabolic research scientist, author of Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease – and How to Fight It, and founder of HLTH Code shares important thoughts on what actually can help reduce the risk of disease.
Dr. Bickman’s mission is to shed light on preventing some of the most prevalent diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and others – especially when it comes to the foods we’re eating. Keep reading to learn more about what is missing from The World Health Organization’s most recent food advisory.
Here’s What Foods Are Missing from the WHO’s Recent Advisory
1) Cutting Back on Salt and Sugar
There’s an ounce of truth in this—cutting sugar is a very good way to control blood glucose (“sugar”) levels. Even further, this will help lower the hormone insulin, which is an important step to improving overall metabolic health. Interestingly, cutting salt too much can create its own metabolic problems. If salt is cut too much, insulin levels climb and the body becomes more insulin resistant, which is the foundation of poor metabolic health.
2) Watch Your Fat Intake
Our world war on fat since the 1960s hasn’t helped much. Even as fat has been cut (think of all the low-fat foods people eat), incidence of every NCD has spiked, including heart disease and diabetes. It’s an inconvenient truth, but dietary fat is essential to humans—we have to eat some. The war on fat has focused on saturated fat, which is implicated in heart disease (an idea that’s never been proven in humans). Unfortunately, these are the fats that we humans have been eating for millennia—fat from animals (e.g., dairy, meat, eggs) and fruits (e.g., olives, coconuts).
All of these fats contain a variety of fats, including saturated fats. The vast majority of fat people consume now is from refined seed oils, such as soybean oil, canola oil, and more. These are very high in pro-inflammatory and damaging oils. So, in principle, I agree with the recommendation to “watch your fat intake”, but I’d suggest this should mean: “be liberal with natural fats and avoid refined seed oils”.
3) Think About a Balanced Diet
Unfortunately, this advice includes a diet that is heavily based on carbohydrates, low in natural fats, and low in healthy proteins. A balanced diet is one that follows these tips: 1. Control carbohydrates (i.e., consume natural fruits and vegetables); 2. Prioritize protein: liberally consume natural proteins daily (i.e., meat, eggs, dairy) to help maintain muscle and bone mass; and, 3. Don’t fear fat: fat and protein always come together, and that’s how we should eat it.
Stop throwing out those nutritious egg yolks and buying skim milk. When fat and protein are ingested together, our intestines are able to digest the protein better, and the combination stimulates greater muscle growth.
4) Be Mindful of What You Drink
We should never drink fruit juice and soda. Water, water, water!
Meet Our Expert:
Benjamin Bikman, Ph.D. is lead scientist and Co-founder of HLTH Code, a renowned metabolic research scientist, Professor at Brigham Young University, author of Why We Get Sick: The Hidden Epidemic at the Root of Most Chronic Disease – and How to Fight It, speaker on human metabolism and nutrition. Benjamin Bikman earned his Ph.D. in Bioenergetics and was a postdoctoral fellow with the Duke-National University of Singapore in metabolic disorders. Why We Get Sick (released in 2020), offers a thought-provoking and real solution to insulin resistance.
In his book, he shows how with proper management, someone can reverse a pre-diabetic state, improve brain function, lose weight and prevent diabetes altogether. Dr. Bikman relies on scientific research to show that prioritizing protein and healthy dietary fats and limiting consumption of refined carbohydrates can help optimize metabolism and resolve insulin resistance.