I wanted to elaborate on my thought process behind the World Health Organization’s Instagram post a few weeks ago. This is strictly my opinion on all of this based on recent research behind it. My goal is always to educate myself and in turn educate our athletes. I hope you enjoy it and learn something you can apply to your life!
Many of you may have seen my Instagram story a few weeks ago when I reposted the dietary guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO). In hindsight I’m thinking you all may have had some questions like “why don’t you agree with this Kyle?”, and “what the heck is a PUFA?!” (Don’t worry we will get to that) It’s my job to bring clarity to these types of things, so let’s break it down!
First let’s look at the foods the post is suggesting we consume more of during these times.
The list with the check mark included fish, avocado, nuts, olive oil, soy, canola, sunflower and corn oils.
For starters (in my opinion) the only items you should eat off this list are fish (ideally types that have low levels of PUFA’s), avocado, and nuts (again, only those that contain low PUFAs!). The one thing all of these foods have in common is that they are high in or have some levels of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA).
What are Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) and why are they not the ideal thing to eat?
Simply put, there are 2 types of fats: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are the fats that are solid at room temperature (red meat, whole milk, butter, etc.) and have for a long time been regarded as “not the best for you.” The truth is, they have more benefits than you may realize! We will come back to this later. Within the category of unsaturated fats you will find two types; monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA’s) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFA’s, although thought to be beneficial to the body in some respects, they are highly unstable and cannot sustain under high temperatures. What does that mean for when we eat them? Our body can’t really use them to its advantage due to its high temperature, and therefore the body’s inability to metabolize PUFAs leads to lipid toxicity process called peroxidization. This then leads to cell suffocation and cell death. This toxic matter builds up in the tissue and causes “age spots” or “liver spots” called lipofuscin aka yellow fat disease. Over time, consuming high levels of PUFAs has shown to cause damage to the pancreas as well. The main role of the pancreas is to convert the food we eat into energy for the cells that make up the body. If the pancreas isn’t doing its job this will block the absorption of sugar from getting into the cell, which could cause a resistance to insulin, resulting in diabetes and many other diseases. Society is quick to point a finger at sugar as a main cause for diabetes when it could very well be high levels of PUFAs causing the insulin resistance.
In addition to the negative metabolic effects PUFAs can have on the body, imagine what happens to movement as well. If these fatty acids are sticking to and suffocating the cell, getting into the tissues, they are dehydrating your fascia. This will result in even more fascial adhesions, disrupting your movement quality. All of this combined is a recipe for a weakened immune system, not a stronger one.
So what should you eat?
I hope that cleared up a little confusion with the Instagram post from the WHO. The question now is, what should you be focusing on to strengthen your immune system and give yourself the best chance at staying healthy? The first thing is to substitute your vegetable oils with grass fed butters, ghee, or coconut oil, which are saturated fats. These fats are stable, can sustain the high temperature of the human body and can be used efficiently by the body without turning into a toxin.
In general you should focus on eating a well-balanced diet. Whole foods like eggs, meats (grass fed/organic if possible), fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes, quinoa, oats, sprouted breads and other grains should be a goal for everyone! It goes without saying that minimizing snacks like chips, cereal, and really anything in a box or a bag will eliminate much of the “bad stuff” from your diet while minimizing the PUFA intake. Your fat intake should be coming from the butter, ghee, avocado, eggs, certain fish, olive oil (a monounstaturated fat, more stable than poly) and some nuts (I’d suggest only almonds due to their lowish level of PUFAs).
My only other suggestion of what you should consume at each meal is to eat a carbohydrate, fat and protein. When combined will slow the digestion of all three which will in turn won’t cause spikes in energy followed by crashes in energy. This will ensure your body won’t be in a stressed state which will happen if you eat one of these by itself. Less stress equals a stronger immune system, and after all that is what we are all after during this time.
In this most recent post I really believe the one thing the WHO got right is to avoid Trans Fats. Simply put, those are bad for you and should not be eaten under any circumstance.
I hope this prompts you to do your own research instead of blindly following some suggestions you saw on Instagram or the internet.