On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, the White House held a Food, Nutrition and Health conference. As a nutritionist that does not advocate for MyPlate recommendations (the USDA’s dietary food guidelines), or a plant-based diet, here are some thoughts that I took away from the conference and the upcoming Hunger, Nutrition, and Health Strategy.
At the core of it, we can make noble efforts to help the poor and underserved communities, but it is a fruitless effort unless we change the U.S. nutritional recommendations.
President Richard Nixon hosted the only White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health in 1969. This conference influenced the U.S. food policy for the next 50 years. Some outcomes from the first White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health:
- Expansion of food stamps
- Rise to Women, Infants, and Children’s program (WIC)
- Food stamps, currently known as SNAP: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- Increased outreach for breastfeeding support, parenting advice and food assistance
- Changes to food labeling
The conference’s overarching goal is to “end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.” (Source)
As part of the conference, the White House released the “Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” and a fact sheet on the $8B commitment that is part of the strategy.
The plan to meet these goals by 2030 is by committing $8 billion to the following five pillars.
- Pillar 1—Improve Food Access and Affordability: End hunger by making it easier for everyone—including individuals in urban, suburban, rural, and Tribal communities and territories—to access and afford food.
- Pillar 2—Integrate Nutrition and Health: Prioritize the role of nutrition and food security in overall health—including disease prevention and management—and ensure that our health care system addresses the nutrition needs of all people.
- Pillar 3—Empower All Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices: Foster environments that enable all people to easily make informed, healthy choices, increase access to healthy food, encourage healthy workplace and school policies, and invest in public education campaigns that are culturally appropriate and resonate with specific communities.
- Pillar 4—Support Physical Activity for All: Make it easier for people to be more physically active—in part by ensuring that everyone has access to safe places to be active—increase awareness of the benefits of physical activity, and conduct research on and measure physical activity.
- Pillar 5—Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research: Improve nutrition metrics, data collection, and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity, access, and disparities. (Source)
The White House brought attention to concerns of food insecurity and families struggling to feed their families. Per the White House, in 2021, 1 in 10 households experienced food insecurity, yet 33% of all food in the U.S. is uneaten.
Shedding light on this topic is very much needed.
The White House attempts to include more whole foods–albeit plant-based foods–and less processed foods in schools and governmental food assistance programs.
It’s a step in the right direction.
They are adopting “nutrition is medicine”–albeit plant-based foods– and it is better than ultra-processed, packaged foods.
But digging deeper is where the concerns arise.
Diet-Related Diseases and MyPlate
The White House explains that most Americans are sick partly due to poor eating patterns, excess caloric intake, and failure to partake in regular physical activity.
- “The vast majority of Americans do not eat enough vegetables, fruits, or whole grains and eat too much saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- …only 23% of Americans meet physical activity recommendations.” (Source)
However, it is not because of saturated fats that we suffer from obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune, or gut dysbiosis.
Don’t blame the fat for what the sugars and vegetable oils did.
The foundational premise of healthy nutrition for the White House’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health is based on MyPlate. MyPlate is USDA’s nutrition guide based on U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
MyPlate is very heavily plant-based and promotes proteins mostly from plant-based varieties.
While I’d love to break down every facet of what’s less than ideal of the MyPlate dietary recommendations, I’d be rewriting my Carnivore Cure book. Instead, I will share specifics that The White House Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health brings up.
A low salt diet is a bandaid for hypertension. It is a terrible bandaid.
Excerpt from Carnivore Cure: “Salt is beneficial to our brain, as sodium helps move vitamin C into the brain. Salt can promote insulin sensitivity, improve metabolism, reduce stress hormones, and support overall hormone balance. It is also a natural antihistamine and critical for good digestion. The chloride from salt makes strong hydrochloric acid, and the calcium from some natural salts will support the acid release in the stomach. Sodium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body and supports the body’s fluid balance…
Consuming too much salt does not raise blood pressure and then increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies show no evidence that limiting salt intake will lower the risk of heart disease. The one caveat is individuals diagnosed with salt-sensitive hypertension that might benefit from monitoring salt intake. (Source)
A 2011 study found that lower salt diets may actually increase the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes. Most of all, it did not prevent high blood pressure. (Source)
Processed foods do not use natural salts with minerals. Instead, they use iodized salt processed with synthetic chemicals that is toxic to the body. Natural salt is not white.
Table salt is colored with bleach. Much of table salt is the flaky residue from oil digging. Crude oil extract is one way we produce table salt. Table salt can also cause headaches with high sodium in the blood and dilation of blood vessels, as the cells won’t let water in because they are protecting the cell-to-salt ratio.” (Excerpt from Carnivore Cure)
We are not obese because of salt. We can easily resolve high salt levels by drinking more water. Our kidneys do a lot of the balancing. Look into Dr. Richard Johnson’s work on sodium and hypertension. What’s key is to have your kidney’s be healthy.
What causes kidney issues?
Excess carbohydrates. Ask Dr. Jason Fung.
What does MyPlate look like? At least 75% carbohydrates.
You can read more about salt here.
2. Added Sugars
While I agree that added sugars are not ideal, it’s only part of the story. All carbohydrates are broken down into some form of sugar. For example, excess glucose converts to fructose via the polyol pathway.
Excess fructose increases the risk of non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a preventable illness rising in children.
Sure, we can assume that some sugar is not absorbed because of fiber, but that’s not a safe bet when you have diabetes or suffering from NAFLD.
Does a Type I diabetic eat all the fruit they want without added insulin?
I doubt it.
Orange juice hits the liver the same as Coca-Cola. Sure, orange juice has some nutrients, but as Dr. Robert Lustig says, vitamin C doesn’t make fructose good. Ounce to ounce, orange juice has more sugar than Coca-Cola—even if it’s natural.
This doesn’t even consider the addictive side of sugar. Sugar has been shown to stimulate the brain more than cocaine.
The White House should have advocated for no added sugars. Less added sugars is still too much sugar. In July of 2019, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) recommended Americans have no more than 6% of their diet from added sugar. The final dietary guidelines set the added sugar amounts to 10%.
The sugar lobbyists are very powerful.
Currently, the recommendation is no more than 10% added sugars for anyone over the age of two. There is no dietary need for added sugar. Why not make the number 0 when we have 37.2 million American adults suffering with diabetes and 96 million American adults suffering with prediabetes?
3. Saturated Fats and the Importance of Fats
Excerpt from Carnivore Cure: “The brain is the most energy demanding organ, and the brain needs fat for survival. The brain is more fat than any other macronutrient—about 60% fat. The powerhouse of cells is the mitochondria, which convert what we eat into energy. Ketones are an energy source derived from fat. The mitochondria prefer fat as energy (ketones) because turning ketones into energy costs the mitochondria half the effort of using sugar (glucose) for energy. (Source)
The brain needs fat-soluble vitamins and cholesterol for cognitive function, memory, and proper nerve function. Most individuals fuel the brain with glucose from carbohydrates, but their long-term effects are damaging to the body. Yes, this runs counter to everything you thought you knew about nutrition. If you want to know why this happened, read Nina Teicholz’s The Big Fat Surprise.
All the cell walls in the body are made up of fatty acids. The better the quality of the fats, the stronger the cell walls are for bringing in nutrients and removing waste. What goes out of the body (energy and cell waste) can be only as good as what the body takes in (food). Because every cell structure is made of fatty acids, fats essentially control everything. If you don’t have the right fats, you don’t have properly functioning cells. Function starts at the cellular level. If you eat highly processed carbohydrate foods made of inflammatory oils and processed sugars, that’s what your body has to work with for function. How can the body function properly if it is on a diet of processed, nutrient-poor foods?
Source: Carnivore Cure
Not All Fats Are Created Equal
Healthy good fats are essential for heart health, hormone production, brain function, tissue development, appetite control, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D,E, and K.
There are saturated fats (butter), polyunsaturated fats (salmon), monounsaturated fats (olive oil), vegetable oils (canola oil), and hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats like soybean and vegetable oil). Hydrogenating vegetable oils—this is how they become solid (margarine)—turns them into trans fats.
You can see why canola oil is not ideal here.
Fat is also needed for hormones. The steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and these support production of our sex hormones (testosterone, DHEA, progesterone, etc.) and stress hormones (cortisol).
Why Plant-Based and MyPlate Don’t Work
- Our bodies want to run on cleaner fuels that take less effort. Ketones are ideal. If we are metabolically healthy, switching from fat-burning and sugar-burning periods is normal. When we feed our bodies constant carbohydrates, our bodies stop using fat for fuel. We become insulin-resistant and begin to store more of our energy in ways we can’t access.
The brain thinks, “Why access our fat when we can eat more?”
Type 2 diabetes is an illness of blood sugar dysregulation. The Diabetes Association recommends low carb as a therapeutic tool for Type 2 diabetes. Remember, blood sugar isn’t only dysregulated because of sugar.
It’s all carbohydrates. The dose makes the poison.
1. In terms of plant-based diets, many nutrients are lacking then just vitamin B12.
A recent rodent study showed that plant-based meats weaken gut function compared to real meat. It may be why Beyond Meat’s stock has dropped below $100. You can read about my breakdown on Beyond Meat here.
2. Protein from plant-based foods doesn’t consider the required amino acid profile. All proteins are not created equal. It doesn’t matter if there are X grams of proteins in a food. How many of the required amino acids are part of the food? Are there any limiting amino acids, meaning the food has limited amounts of a specific essential amino acid?
Most protein scoring systems will score 0 when food is low or missing an amino acid. Many plant-based proteins are not complete proteins as they lack a required amino acid.
Not all proteins are created equally.
3. Humans aren’t meant to eat plant-based. Most plants are toxic to humans. We don’t eat mushrooms or berries without knowing if they are safe. We eat a very small subset of the plant kingdom, as most are toxic to the human body.
We call these plant toxins antinutrients. Gluten, lectins, phytates, and oxalates are some of the more commonly known antinutrients.
4. Some toxins can have a hormetic effect, where the good outweighs the bad. But when you eat a primarily plant-based diet, the hormetic impact is no longer beneficial. You can read more about plant toxins here.
5. What did our great-great-great grandparents eat? Vegetable oils or high fructose corn syrup didn’t exist then, and they didn’t consume as much sugar as we eat now.
They mainly ate meat, some vegetables and fruits, and occasional grains, yet heart disease was uncommon.
Veganism was coined less than a 100 years ago. It’s a blip in time compared to the history of man.
6. Regarding climate concerns, cows are not killing the planet, but the monocropping of genetically modified soy and corn is killing the planet. You can read more here.
Now that you understand why MyPlate and plant-based foods aren’t ideal, we can discuss the White House Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.
Pillar 1—Improve Food Access and Affordability
“Improving food access and affordability, including by advancing economic security; increasing access to free and nourishing school meals; providing Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children; and expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations.” (Source)
The discussion of SNAP access, as well as the Child Tax Credit are discussed in this pillar.
Per the White House, food insecurity (not enough food to meet the needs of all the family) remains high in the U.S., with a slight downward trend from 2021. Last year, 40 million people received SNAP benefits, the largest anti-hunger program in the U.S.
During the pandemic, the federal government made SNAP easier and more accessible. They even increased the benefit amounts. In 2021, the federal government also increased the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,000 or $3,600 per qualifying child.
While food insecurity and lack of access to real foods are problems, they are not the causes of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, or mental illness.
More resources were provided to people during the pandemic, and a slight decline was seen in food insecurity.
Yet, preventable disease and illness increased.
The differences are more significant when broken down by race and ethnicity. When comparing 2011–12 to 2017–2020 data, obesity rates increased from:
- 21.8% to 27% in Mexican Americans
- 19.5% to 23.8% in non-Hispanic Blacks
- 15% to 18.4% in non-Hispanic whites
If you compare socioeconomics, there is an even more significant disparity. Obesity and depression has risen in adults too.
Sixteen states now have obesity rates of 35% or higher. Four states increased in just one year. Many Americans have gained significant weight since the beginning of COVID-19, a deadlier virus for people with co-morbidities of obesity.
The WIC Program
The WIC program shares a similar story.
The WIC program has benefits, but eating the right foods is critical. In 2018, 14.4% of WIC participants aged 2 to 4 struggled with obesity. 17.2% of young Hispanic children and 18.8% of American Indians aged 2 to 4 were obese.
While the program also teaches nutrition, breastfeeding and wellness counseling, the foods that are approved can be lackluster, especially if advocating for a low-fat, plant-based diet: (Source)
- Peanut Butter
- Dried or canned beans
- Infant formula and medical foods
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Baby foods
While the WIC program spends money to educate the mothers to breastfeed, the results are lackluster.
- Infants eligible for and receiving the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are less likely to ever be breastfed (74.7%) than infants eligible, but not receiving WIC (85.6%), and infants ineligible for WIC (91.2%). (Source)
9 Million More Free School Meals
While it’s nice to offer 9 million more school meals and build out school cafeterias to cook meals from scratch, the MyPlate recommendations are abysmal for growing children. Children need fatty meats for proper brain and hormone function.
The brain is mostly made up of cholesterol, and when we limit saturated fats, we are doing a disservice to a growing brain. These children also need sufficient cholesterol for sex hormones. While cholesterol is produced within the body, an abundance of cholesterol with limited carbohydrates feeds a hungry brain and supports the steroid hormone pathways.
Every single cell lining is made up of fats, and your cell lining will be as good as the fats you consume.
Improve Transportation to Grocery Stores, Farmer’s Markets and Commercial Districts
This is a great recommendation, but what to buy when they get to the grocery store, farmer’s markets and commercial districts matters.
Pillar 2—Integrate Nutrition and Health
“Including by working with Congress to pilot coverage of medically tailored meals in Medicare; testing Medicaid coverage of nutrition education and other nutrition supports using Medicaid section 1115 demonstration projects; and expanding Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries’ access to nutrition and obesity counseling” (Source)
Expand Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries’ Access to “Food is Medicine” Interventions
This section discusses “Food is medicine” interventions—including medically tailored meals and groceries as well as produce prescriptions (fruit and vegetable prescriptions—can effectively treat or prevent diet-related health conditions and reduce food insecurity.” (Source)
Until we change MyPlate recommendations, these interventions will not move the needle enough to be food is medicine. We need proper gut function to absorb nutrients. A lot of people eating processed foods have poor gut function.
How will they break down vegetables to absorb the nutrients?
I was plant-based for 12 years, eating spinach daily. Why was I diagnosed with anemia when I was eating so much iron-rich spinach?
Because it wasn’t getting absorbed. Heme iron is very different than non-heme iron.
Pillar 2 also includes nutrition and obesity counseling. Any counseling on MyPlate recommendations is not ideal.
Pillar 2 also supports the prevention and management of diabetes. Whole grains and fruits won’t move blood sugar levels down enough for people with diabetes. Of course, this will be very individualized: how long you’ve had diabetes, if you’re on insulin, and how dysregulated your blood sugar is are some variables.
Context always matters.
Pillar 3—Empower All Consumers to Make and Have Access to Healthy Choices
“Including by proposing to develop a front-of-package labeling scheme for food packages; proposing to update the nutrition criteria for the “healthy” claim on food packages; expanding incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP; facilitating sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry; and assessing additional steps to reduce added sugar consumption, including potential voluntary targets.” (Source)
Develop a Front-Of Package (FOP) Labeling System to Quickly and Easily Communicate Nutrition Information.
The nutrition recommendations will be based on MyPlate. Front of Package may be a good change as it becomes front of mind.
Make sure that Foods Labeled as “Healthy” Align with Current Nutrition Science and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Healthy is determined by MyPlate. Some of the limits include:
- Limited saturated fat
- Limited sodium
- Limited added sugars
For cereals to use the label “healthy,” each serving would contain:
- ¾ of an ounce of whole grains
- No more than 1 gram of saturated fat
- No more than 230 mg of sodium
- No more than 2.5 grams of added sugars per serving
Most meats will not be “healthy.” The agency will also develop a symbol that depicts the federal guidelines for “healthy.” These “healthy” labels will help people to determine what to buy and consume.
- Does this mean avocadoes and nuts are unhealthy?
- Does this mean that artificially sweetened gummies are healthy?
- Does this mean low-fat, artificially sweetened yogurts are healthy?
What if we labeled packages with Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) logos? After all, Monsanto, now Bayer, has lost multiple lawsuits related to Glyphosate causing cancer.
Go 4 Green Nutrition Program
The Department of Defense will limit the marketing of unhealthy foods (e.g., high in sodium, added sugars, or saturated fats) and only market what fits the Go 4 Green program’s nutrition standards. Go 4 Green is a plant-based friendly diet.
They use a color coding system of green (good), yellow (moderate) and red (bad) to determine healthy foods.
- Baked chicken sausage patties are red but Asian barbecue turkey with added sugars is green.
- Baked potato and banana muffins are green, while bacon and all beef frankfurters are red.
- Bagels are green, but croissants are red (it’s the fat).
A low-fat, plant-based diet for our military is not a safe idea.
Pillar 4—Support Physical Activity for All
Including by expanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program to all states and territories; investing in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces; and funding regular updates to and promotion of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (Source)
Build Environments that Promote Physical Activity
I think this will be great if it can be achieved.
Part of pillar 4 is to create more parks near nature-deprived communities. In the book Chatter, people who walked around more trees and nature had better moods than those who walked along buildings.
More physical education and outdoor playtime for children would be ideal.
Pillar 5—Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research
Including by bolstering funding to improve metrics, data collection, and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity and access; and implementing a vision for advancing nutrition science. (Source)
The federal government spends approximately $2 billion on nutrition research each year, primarily through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They will allocate more resources to improve these areas:
- Bolster nutrition research funding to support evidence-based policies
- Implement a coordinated federal vision for advancing nutrition science
- Ensure diversity and inclusion in nutrition, health, and food security research
- Expand and diversify the nutrition science workforce
- Invest in creative new approaches to advance research regarding the prevention and treatment of diet-related diseases
- Bolster data collection to identify trends better
- Research the intersection of climate change, food security, and nutrition
If these commitments would be for valid nutritional science research, I think it’s a great opportunity. But with biased stakeholders and lobbyists, I’m not sure how different the research will be from MyPlate.
Fact Sheet: $8 Billion Commitments
$2.5 billion will be invested in start-up companies that are pioneering solutions to hunger and food insecurity. Two plant-based friendly companies, S2G Ventures and Food Systems for the Future, will lead the endeavor.
You can see the full fact sheet here.
Notable Pillar 1 Companies:
- Bowery – They are committing to create more salad kits to donate 10,000 pounds of produce
- Google – Google can be considered a pharmaceutical company
- Nayak Farms – will donate 1,000,000 pounds of sweet corn to food-insecure families and 50,000 pounds of green beans
Notable Pillar 2 Companies: Integrate Nutrition and Health
These associations follow MyPlate or are plant-based.
- American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) –donating $24.1 million to improve nutrition training for medical professionals. ACLM is 100% plant-based, and Belinda Fettke talks about their relationship with the Seventh Day Adventist Church here. The ACLM recommends adults and children should eat plant-based.
- Danone –will invest $22M over seven years to support Americans with reduced-sugar, low-sugar and no-added-sugar options for children. Danone is one of the main sponsors of Dariush Mozaffarian and the Tuft’s Food Compass Guide.
- Plant-Based Foods Association and Environmental Working Group – will work to encourage chefs, restaurant owners and operators to offer plant-based or vegetarian options on dinner menus. The EWG will track and report progress quarterly.
- S2G Ventures and Food Systems for the Future – will launch the Food, Nutrition, and Health Investor Coalition to catalyze the $2.5 billion in private investment. It looks like S2G is plant-based friendly and Food Systems for the Future is entirely plant-based. (Source, Source)
- Tyson Foods – will invest $255 million to share proteins and commits to reducing sodium in products. Tyson is the only company focused on meat.
Notable Pillar 5 Companies: Enhance Nutrition and Food Security Research
- Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association – of course, Rockefeller and his American Heart Association will help scale “food is medicine.” He will use food is medicine like he used petroleum for medicine. You can learn more about Rockefeller here.
White House’s Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health aims to “End hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”
But MyPlate will never solve this.
When President Biden suggests that government and corporate America play a more significant role in “food is medicine,” and label food packages accordingly, it’s highly concerning when our definition of healthy differs.
Nearly every single American already eats a plant-based diet. Corn, flour, soy, and wheat are all plant-based foods. High fructose corn syrup is derived from corn.
We are not metabolically unwell because of a lack of food or a lack of vegetables and fruits. We are metabolically unhealthy because MyPlate is not an ideal dietary recommendation.
MyPlate is primarily plant-based, yet heart disease, obesity, and diabetes are on the rise.
Maybe it’s because plant-based diets aren’t that different from processed-food diets, especially regarding carbohydrates. This matters for a person with diabetes.
If we don’t overhaul our MyPlate dietary recommendations, these White House Hunger, Nutrition and Health strategies will barely make a dent.
We can use the $8B for regenerative agriculture, save our soils, sequester carbon, raise animals humanely, and eat nutrient-dense meats humans were intended to eat.
And while there is no one perfect “diet” for everyone, MyPlate isn’t right for anyone.
Edit: A thoughtful reader, shared some recommendations and I wanted to share the ideas with my spin on it:
- Put the total percentage of sugar on food labels (that adds up all sugar varieties).
- Eliminate processed seed and vegetable oils.
- Eliminate epidemiology studies for food and health. Use scientifically-backed studies. Perhaps have guidance in place where cherry-picked results are not the only studies that are shared. Additionally, have more transparency around the funding of studies, and any conflicts of interest.
- Start implementing nutritional programs in medical schools where doctors’ successes are measured by the reversal of patient comorbidities (especially ones that are diet-related, and without pharmaceutical interventions as the first course of action). Or at least start with (non-MyPlate) nutritional recommendations before offering medications.
- Change standard of care practices (and insurance coverage) to go beyond bloodwork. Stool tests and other functional tests should be explored before medical recommendations are made.
- Allow farmers and ranchers to manage their own businesses without governmental assistance (e.g., no more corn subsidies).
While the White House’s efforts are grandiose, the results will be disappointing. For one, companies backing the mission are mostly plant-based. It is more critical than ever to share the healing powers of meat and the advocacy of fatty meat in our diets. The truth is, sharing about fatty meat (with limited carbohydrates) as medicine, would impact the trillion-dollar pharmaceutical business, as most people would no longer need prescription medications.
So if the White House and the dietary associations continue to share a plant-based diet, it is up to every single one of us to share the healing powers of a low carbohydrate, real foods, fatty meat diet.
As long as we eat the right foods, reversing metabolic disease is possible. And everyone deserves to live a life, symptom-free.
w️ith ♥ and hope for healing,
DISCLAIMER: The content is for educational purposes only. While I am a nutritional therapy practitioner, I am not providing medical advice. Whenever you start a new diet or protocol, always first consult with your trusted practitioner.