Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

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March 17, 2024 | Max Jenkinson

Turning The Food Pyramid Upside Down

There are countless examples of great people throughout history who have gone against the status quo to further their vision of a better future. Often they did this despite facing immense resistance, ridicule and some even death.

Socrates lived in a commitment to truth. He questioned everything and everyone, engaging in philosophical debates with anyone willing to speak with him.

He was certain that the collective search for what was true was so important that he died for the cause. In 300 BCE, he was sentenced to death for allegedly corrupting the youth.

Socrates’s work laid the foundation for Western philosophy. His commitment to open dialogue, rational discourse, and the pursuit of truth underscores the importance of informed citizenship and democratic values in our society.

Another important, yet somewhat unknown man is the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis. In the 19th century, he worked as an obstetrician. Little did he know that he was going to revolutionize childbirth.

During his time working in the hospital, he hypothesised that doctors’ failure to wash their hands after performing autopsies was responsible for the transmission of disease to women during childbirth.

His ideas were met with resistance and ridicule. Semmelweis’s advocacy for handwashing led to his ostracism from the medical community. In 1865 he died at the age of 47, largely forgotten and marginalized. His contribution to medical science was not recognized during his lifetime.

However, the implementation of simple sanitation during childbirth was one of the most important findings that would lower infant mortality. He will never know it, but his renegade spirit making him go against established dogma saved millions of lives.

Now, why am I telling you about the sad but also inspiring story of Doctor Semmelweis?

Today, we think we are beyond stupidity like the one Semmelweis faced. But, what makes us think this? In his time they probably thought so too. It is one thing we humans do well, thinking we know more than we do.

We cannot seem to escape the emergence of established dogma. In all disciplines of science it has a firm grip on what is assumed to be correct, and thus also what is — automatically — assumed to be incorrect.

Now, it might not be this bad — but I think it is similar to this within the health space. The established dogma we have could very well do more harm than good.

Today I’ll give alternative advice to some of the most prevailing health advice out there — the food pyramid. And if I am correct, even only to a certain degree, we need to rethink some of the base assumptions we have, at least when it comes to health.


Food Pyramid Redefined

The food pyramid was first developed in the US in 1992 and has largely remained the same. It is also very similar all over the world.

Healthy Eating Pyramid, Department of Nutrition Harvard School of Public Health

  • We are to get most of our calories from grains (whole grains).

  • Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and vegetable oils.

  • Eat some milk products and get our protein from fish, poultry, nuts and beans.

  • Limit red meat, animal fats, refined grains, sugar and salt.

I’ve said before that if we were to do the opposite of the recommendations we’d be better off. I say this to be provocative but also because it is true to some degree.

So, let’s turn it somewhat upside down and see how we fare.

I made this in 5 minutes… Don’t be so judgemental.

As you can see I’ve made some modifications. Refined grains are alongside whole grains with vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and beans.

We’ll start at the base of our new pyramid and work our way up.

1) Do Not Limit Salt

Salt has long been demonized for long enough that it has become common knowledge that it is “bad”. But, salt contains minerals and minerals are vital for a functioning biology.

Our bodies are exceptionally suited to regulate the internal salt balance and unless we are very sick eating more salt should not be a problem. In fact, eating more salt is probably better for most people as argued by cardiovascular scientist James DiNicolantonio.

Instead of ignoring your salt cravings, you should give in to them – they are guiding you to better health. […] Most of us don’t need to eat low-salt diets. In fact, for most of us, more salt would be better for our health rather than less.

James DiNicolantonio

Let’s just say his book was met with resistance and ridicule from the medical establishment.

As long as you eat real food, salting to taste is a good place to start. Our love for salt is there for a reason.

2) Sugar is Fine, Fruit is Better

Sugar, aka white death, is something we’ve all been told since we were children that we should avoid. It’s seemingly obvious as most terrible foods contain sugar.

But, a lot of scientists began to ask a reasonable question.

“If sugar is bad, then why are fruits good?”

Dr. Robert Lustig, a prominent nutrition scientist who dove deep into this question has done his very best to prove that fruits are bad with the conviction that sugar is bad. And he makes a good case…

But, an almost mythical man in the health space online by the name of Ray Peat has questioned this notion. He takes the opposite approach, which to me is more logical.

“If fruits are good, then why would sugar be bad?”

To me, it seems as if we are designed to eat fruit (I wrote about this here). It’s easy to digest, absorb and metabolise. And, not surprisingly, the same goes with white sugar.

However, there is one caveat, sugar has no nutrients so we need to get them from somewhere else if we are to eat sugar. Therefore, I will always recommend people get their sugar from fruit and honey instead of pure white sugar.

3) Red Meat is a Superfood

When it comes to protein there is nothing better than ruminant (red) meat.

Paleoanthropologist Miki Ben-Dor (link) has done a better job than anyone trying to understand what the human diet looked like throughout history.

Most ideas we have of what humans ate come from reasoning from analogy or disparate samples that we derive broad conclusions from.

What Ben-Dor did was take 25 lines of evidence, from human physiology and genetics, archaeology, palaeontology, and zoology to conclude that humans are hyper-carnivorous. This means we got more than 70% of our calories from animals during our evolution.

It is highly nutrient-dense, easy to digest, protein source, making it a staple in the human diet.

But, before the emergence of factories, we did not have the luxury to only eat the muscle meat. We ate the whole animal. Eating the organs, and connective tissue is important as they contain different molecules that we need to thrive.

Organs are especially missing in our modern diet. The most nutrient-dense foods by far are organ meat. Check out this study if you want to up the nutrient density in your diet.

4) Eat Saturated not Unsaturated Fats

On the subject of dietary fats, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I have been deep-diving into this subject for the better part of a decade. My thesis is even on the subject.

First fats in general were demonized, and after that, a low-fat craze followed. It took decades before we finally realized fats were not a problem, but then we ended up blaming the wrong fats.

Instead of blaming the 100-year-old vegetable cooking oils, we blamed the 400,000-year-old animal fats. Something that had been a staple in every single human that had ever lived before that point was demonized.

In 2015, Chris Ramsden, a scientist revisited some data from an old, but exceptional, study to find that the diet-lipid-heart hypothesis did not hold up to scrutiny.

The history of the war against saturated fat has been documented in Nina Teicholz’s book The Big Fat Surprise. Along with her, others have played a vital part in illuminating not only the benefits of animal fats but also the dangers of seed oils.

I won’t dive deep here but I’ll send you to some people that have gone deep into this subject. Below I will also link to their websites so you can dive deeper, if you so wish.

5) Vegetables Are Overrated

Vegetables are the thing we are all certain are healthy, right? Well, a lot of people have seemingly solved insolvable health issues by removing them entirely.

This is what is known as the carnivore diet. The ultimate elimination diet. Some of us are prone to autoimmunity which is triggered by seemingly random foods. Most of us are not. Removing all plant foods removes almost every single potential trigger food.

Vegetables are quite new in our diet. A wild human does not eat the vegetables we eat. And as a biologist, I must say that vegetables are not a biological category.

Plants, like animals, don’t want to be eaten. Plants usually protect themselves by producing defence chemicals. It is those chemicals that make some plants taste bitter.

All parts of the plants we eat contain these chemicals to a certain degree. The general rule is: The more protected the part is the more defence chemicals it contains.

I’ve gone over this before but the most protected parts are the seeds (nuts, legumes, grains), then roots, stems and leaves, and lastly the fruit.

Almost all vegetables we eat are roots, stems or leaves. They are, to a certain degree, protected. But, they are also often somewhat nutrient-dense.

If you enjoy vegetables, eat them, and when it comes to vegetables you now have a reasonable understanding of why variety matters. It ensures a variety of nutrients and defence chemicals.

Paul Saladino was the man who had the largest impact on me when it came to understanding the nuance of plants as food.

On social media, he is less nuanced and more provocative (it’s what gets views). But, he has an excellent podcast. It’s for the nerds though — I recommend the ones pre-2023.

We are not meant to eat the reproductive part of plants

In my pyramid nuts, seeds and legumes are to be limited. They are all the seeds of plants and are thus highly protected.

Seeds are the fertilized eggs of plants — if animals digest them there will be no next generation of the plant. Plants, thus, do a lot so that animals won’t digest their seeds.

Seeds (as a group) are not easy to digest, not nutrient-dense and contain a lot of defence chemicals that cause issues in all people to some degree.

I do not think they should be a big part of anyone’s diet. Now, there are ways to make them less damaging. Cooking, sprouting, soaking, and fermenting all lower the level of defence chemicals.

Despite this, today’s food pyramid wants us to get most of our calories from grains. I do not understand the logic at all.

If you are as healthy as you want to be keep eating your bread, cereals, nuts and seeds. But, if you want to try how good you could feel, go without them for two weeks and see how you feel.


If you are using a solution to a problem but are not getting the desired results, then maybe you should look for a new solution.

The more complex a problem is the more solutions move us in the direction of problem solved.

Health is complex. Solving health issues (problems) is hard but our solutions only need to be more right (correct) than our previous ones to push us toward solved.

I often tell people that the guidelines are terrible. So terrible in fact, that if you were to do the complete opposite — you’d be better off.

That might be a slight exaggeration, but you now know it’s closer to the truth than you might have thought.

Take some inspiration from Socrates and don’t accept the established dogma. It is your job as a conscious human to seek truth and to help others do the same.

In health, you are the one that lives with your body. Be a scientist with you as your subject. Take in information, define a hypothesis of how things should go, and then test it out on yourself.

Until next Sunday, do what makes your future self proud.

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Shatter Your Entire View Of Health

Join others getting their entire idea of what health is shattered every Sunday while reading Health Decoded.