I recently spent some time at a hospital with a family member who had a heart attack. And Iâ€™m shocked to be reminded of the mainstream medical establishmentâ€™s attitude toward food.
This is what a cardiologist said about his patient at one of New Englandâ€™s â€œfinestâ€ hospitals:
He certainly seems to enjoy his food! [Snicker.] Well, I think we know what caused this heart attack, donâ€™t we? [Wink, wink.] Probably not much chance of a heart-healthy diet for him, is there? All that fat…. [Shaking his head.] Well, weâ€™ll just make sure he takes lotsâ€”and I mean lotsâ€”of lipitor. [Smiling as he moves on to the next patient-victim.]
Classic food puritanism mixed with backward nutritional advice. What a doctor.
His first mistake: Assuming that the enjoyment of food is inherently unhealthy. (After all, pleasure is a sin, isnâ€™t it?)
His second mistake: Defining a â€œheart-healthyâ€ diet as low in fat but not necessarily low in sugar. (None of the hospitalâ€™s nutritional literature mentioned the relationship between blood sugar and heart disease.)
His third mistake: Declaring that thereâ€™s no use bothering with a patientâ€™s diet when you can prescribe medications instead. (Especially medications with dangerous side effects.)
Absolutely infuriating, this cardiologist.
My boyfriend says I â€œshouted him down.â€ Not quite, though I might have been a little sharp. After all, he was a condescending twit.
Iâ€™m not going to go into all the details of why the conventional â€œheart-healthyâ€ low-fat diet is wrongheaded. For that, you might check out Nina Planckâ€™s Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
But I will say this: Doctors seem to be most comfortable condemning and blessing foods in categories: butter is bad, olive oil is good; beef is bad, fish is good. But really itâ€™s not like that at all. Itâ€™s a question of what kind of butter or olive oil, beef or fish. Conventional feedlot beef and butter are straight-out poisonous, itâ€™s true. But grassfed beef and butter contain Omega-3s and CLAâ€”truly â€œheart-healthyâ€ fats. Likewise organic extra virgin olive oil and wild-caught fish are great for your heart, but solvent and pesticide-laden â€œpureâ€ olive oil and antibiotic-laced farmed fish are not.
So the challenge for this family member of mine is not to eliminate all fat from his diet, but to learn the difference between butter and butter, between fish and fish, between olive oil and olive oilâ€”to learn the difference between modern industrial foods (refined sugar and flour, hydrogenated oils, fake sweeteners) and real, nutritious foods (traditional fats, grassfed meat, fermented whole grains).
(Oh, yeah, I can’t even begin to write about the food they fed him in the hospital. Are they trying to murder people, or what?)