Eating Trends Follow Guidelines

Americans have followed dietary guidelines. The USDA has recommended that Americans eat MORE of the following foods and data from the 1970-2005 period(1) show the extent to which this occurred:

Percentage of Actual Increases in Consumption

+91  Vegetable Oils
+41  Grains
+23  Vegetables
+13  Fruits

The USDA has recommended that Americans eat LESS of the following foods:

Percentage of Actual Decreases in Consumption

-73  Whole Milk
-17  Red Meat
-17  Eggs
-16  Animal Fats
-14  Butter

There has also been a 19 percent increase in sugars and sweeteners. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines will almost certainly suggest an upper limit on added sugar. Unfortunately, their messaging does not include significant warnings regarding sugar. For example, see The USDA Likes Pancakes Topped with Fruit and a Sprinkle of Sugar.

Carbohydrate consumption continues to increase, although this remains within the 45 – 65 percent guidelines recommendations. See More About Macronutrient Targets.

The chart graphs obesity data, but this is really just indicative of more serious issues of metabolic syndrome. Correlation is not causation, but there is plenty of science and other important types of information that strongly point to causes. To be healthy, Americans will need to stop following guidelines and rediscover the foods that were eaten before chronic diseases became epidemic. For more of what I think regarding the failure of dietary guidelines, see Comments for the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Chart by Jeffrey Willits

Chart by Jeffrey Willits

1. Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U. S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Economic Information Bulletin Number 33, March 2008.


Jeff Volek, PhD, RD – Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of LCHF

Good video… Prof. Jeff Volek gives an excellent lecture explaining metabolic benefits of low-carbohydrate high-fat (LCHF) ketogenic diets. He brings up some of the intricate details of the science of ketosis, but he makes it relevant with information about the health effects to individuals and the worldwide consequences of failed dietary protocol. He gives some statistics that show horrendous effects and predictions regarding the metabolic syndrome epidemic. Some of the promising science showing therapeutic use of ketogenic diets is also discussed.

Low carbohydrate diets are shown to improve a wide range of biomarkers. Although it is an inconsistent effect, carb restriction causes 15 to 20 percent of people to have increased LDL cholesterol. However, the size of LDL particles is probably more important than the concentration. Also, particle size consistently increases with carb restriction.

Volek points out the fact that there is no association between dietary saturated fat (SFA) and heart disease, while saturated fat in blood does correlate with incidence of heart disease. Although a low carb diet is typically higher in SFA, dietary saturated fat decreases SFA in the blood.

One of the points is that people’s tolerance to carbohydrates is widely variable. His summary:

Consumption of carbohydrates at levels that exceed an individual’s ability to directly oxidize them contributes to increased circulating SFA… …and exacerbates the features of insulin resistance.

Regarding carbohydrate levels, Volek notes that, eating a “heart-healthy” muffin and a banana for breakfast causes you to take on ten times the amount of glucose that is normally in your bloodstream.

Jay Wortman, MD on Diabetes, Blood Lipids, and LCHF Nutrition

Don’t bother with this video, if you absolutely know that you and your family are healthy with normal lipid metrics and have normal fasting blood sugar levels. You may already know the basics of low-carb high-fat (LCHF) eating. However, if you were given a prescription for statins or you were informed that you are prediabetic or diabetic, take the time for this 24 minute video. Andreas Eenfeldt, MD interviews Jay Wortman, MD, who tells the story of how he got rid of his type 2 diabetes and kept a healthy blood lipid profile by switching to a LCHF diet. The doctors discuss how and why drugs are commonly used for nutritional deficiencies. Perhaps you are researching whether LCHF eating is healthy and safe. If so, this worth watching.

See also Dr. Sarah Hallberg’s Excellent LCHF Talk – Watch This!.

More About Macronutrient Targets


Most health-conscience people have personal rules for eating. I have some thoughts about rules for healthy macronutrient percentages.

Except for the energy content, a calorie is not a calorie, considering that the body processes food types differently. Consequently, it is more important to avoid a calorie of high fructose corn syrup than a calorie of whole wheat. It makes a difference whether you get carbohydrates from nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits or from added sugars and grains. The USDA makes a big deal of favoring whole grains. While it is better to choose whole grains over processed grains, there really is not much difference in the glycemic index. Two slices of whole wheat bread will affect insulin production more than a typical candy bar. What we eat obviously matters.

Macronutrient ratios also matter. Just as a calorie is not a calorie in terms of how our bodies process food, macronutrients are also not the same in the way they are processed. For instance, a calorie from a carbohydrate will have a much greater effect on insulin production than a calorie from fat.

Optimum macronutrient ratios will always vary with people and conditions, although there is value in having approximate targets. Continually measuring the actual ratios would be tedious and impractical. However, it is a good idea to find out what your typical levels are. An easy way to do this is by registering an account on the USDA’s SuperTracker website. This is a good tool as long as you ignore the bad advice that is given there, such as suggestions to eat margarine and grains. Enter everything you eat for a week and create a report that includes your macronutrient percentages. I did this for eight days and found my average carbohydrate level was at 18 percent of calories. This surprised me. I thought I consumed fewer carbs, considering that I avoid sugars and grains. At less than 20 percent carbs, my diet can best be described as low-carb Paleo. I eat real whole foods and not processed food products.

So, in case you didn’t notice the graphic, here are my targets…

Fat should be more than 60 percent of calories.

Average protein and carbohydrate levels should each be less than 20 percent of calories.

This has worked well for me in terms of weight, reduction of visceral fat, energy, oral health, and blood lipid metrics. More about this is described in Jeff’s Basic Health Notes.

Enjoy your favorite dessert or alcoholic drink occasionally, but keep your blood sugar low for the long term. Effects of a low-fat diet take years to accumulate before they are devastating. A short carbohydrate binge is nothing to be concerned with. However, realize that consistently following the extreme high-carb USDA dietary recommendations (45-65 percent) is damaging. If you plan to consistently eat carbs to that level, at least get them mostly from whole fruits and vegetables and avoid sugars and grains. Effects of bad habits can easily accumulate. For instance, drinking one 12 ounce can of soda per day would typically result in an additional 28 pounds of sugar per year in your diet. The little stuff can add up.

There are exceptions to my less-than-20-percent carbs rule. If I was starting from a condition of obesity, diabetes, or if I was diagnosed with cancer, I would strictly follow a ketogenic diet. Carbohydrates would be no more than five percent of calories. I would continue with this even after the condition was resolved.

What are your targets?

. . .


1. Wright JD, Wang C-Y. Trends in intake of energy and macronutrients in adults from 1999–2000 through 2007–2008. NCHS data brief, no 49. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.

2. NAS. IOM. Food and Nutrition Board; Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients

[After making this reference, this was made unavailable as of January 23, 2016]

3. Paleo Leap: The Question of Macronutrient Ratios

4. My Fitness Pal: Ask the Dietitian: Is a Calorie a Calorie?

Nutrient-Dense Salad and Dessert

Kim and I made a salad without leafy greens because we didn’t have any leafy greens, but it made a tasty nutrient and energy-dense meal. Most of the ingredients came from Costco:

  • avocado
  • sweet peas
  • tomato
  • olives
  • artichoke hearts
  • capers
  • cheese
  • parsley
  • onion
  • brussel sprouts
  • sea salt & seasoning
  • olive oil (lots of it)

This was delicious!

Jeff's Salad

Jeff’s Nutrient and Energy-Dense Salad.

Costco does have a lot of whole real foods. Of course there is an entire section of the store devoted to grains and there are huge aisles of boxed processed foods to avoid.

After you eat this salad, you may want something that is a bit sweet. So we had some yogurt, mixing in berries and ground cinnamon. Unfortunately, the only yogurt stocked in Costco had the fat processed out of it. So, for convenience, I lowered myself to buying a processed NON-FAT food. Had there been added sugars, I would not have bought it. We mixed a few spoonfuls of coconut oil into it along with the berries and that made it taste really good.

Processed Fage Yogurt with Fat Removed

Processed Fage Yogurt with Fat Removed

A criticism of low-carb high-fat diets is that it can be difficult to get nutrient variety. Actually, getting variety is really easy, even when you shop at Costco.

Why I Avoid Canola Oil

I’m not aware of any scientific study that conclusively demonstrates either the health benefit or the toxicity of canola oil. However, with the exception of an organic cold-pressed canola oil product, I will avoid it because:

1. Most canola oil products are GMO. That probably has no effect on the safety of this product, but I have other issues with GMO foods.

2. The extraction process uses hexane, which is toxic. My concern is that traces of this remain in the oil.

3. Processing requires heat that alters the molecular structure so this results in unknowns. I am not willing to participate in a long term experiment to discover whether this is a problem. Also, the heating produces trans fat. This is definitely toxic and levels of trans fat have been found in canola oil products that far exceed what is reported by the manufacturers(1).

For more detail, see these articles:

Dr. Mercola: The Great Con-ola (Part 2)

Authority Nutrition: Canola Oil: Good or Bad?

The Environmental Working Group: HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT – Trans Fat Hides in at Least a Quarter of Supermarket Foods