Everything I’ve Read about Food, Summed up in One Graph:

A few years ago I went through a nutrition kick and read about a dozen books about food. Today I came across a graph that perfectly represents what I learned:

Basically, everything will kill you.

There are three major schools of thought on what’s wrong with modern diets: 1. fats, 2. carbs (sugars,) or 3. proteins.

Unfortunately, all food is composed of fats+carbs+proteins.

Ultimately, the best advice I came across was just to stop stressing out. We don’t really know the best foods to eat, and a lot of official health advice that people have tried to follow actually turned out to be quite bad, but we have a decent intuition that you shouldn’t eat cupcakes for lunch.

Dieting doesn’t really do much for the vast majority of people, but it’s a huge industry that sucks up a ton of time and money. How much you weigh has a lot more to do with factors outside of your control, like genetics or whether there’s a famine going on in your area right now.

You’re probably not going to do yourself any favors stressing out about food or eating a bunch of things you don’t like.

Remember the 20/80 rule: 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the effort, and vice versa. Eating reasonable quantities of good food and avoiding junk will do far more good than substituting chicken breast for chicken thighs in everything you cook.

There is definitely an ethnic component to diet–eg, people whose ancestors historically ate grain are better adapted to it than people who didn’t. So if you’re eating a whole bunch of stuff your ancestors didn’t and you don’t feel so good, that may be the problem.

Personally, I am wary of refined sugars in my foods, but I am very sensitive to sugars. (I don’t even drink juice.) But this may just be me. Pay attention to your body and how you feel after eating different kinds of food, and eat what makes you feel good.

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18 thoughts on “Everything I’ve Read about Food, Summed up in One Graph:

  1. Steve Sailer has suggested that different folks will respond differently to different diets. Seems reasonable to me.

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    • It’s almost guaranteed to be true because of divergent evolutionary histories. Milk (lactose tolerance) is the classic example.

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    • Of course. I know an Asian woman who spent years suffering intestinal distress before realizing these episodes followed eating bread. She’s just fine if she eats rice.

      (Complicating factor for figuring it out: white bread is less irritating than wheat bread. People tout wheat bread as a health food and white as unhealthy, but wheat bread has more of the seed’s outer layers which contain more irritants for people who aren’t adapted to eating lots of wheat.)

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  2. Bruce Ames, inventor of the Ames test for carcinogens, has pointed out that almost all plants have toxins that are aimed at herbivores, and that many of these toxins are mutagenic and/or carcinogenic.

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    • Yes, toxins or irritants. Take apple seeds. Don’t eat ’em.
      Animals are much less likely to be toxic than plants.
      Herbivores adapt ways of counteracting or avoiding toxins, but the introduction of novel foods can be problematic.

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  3. Nassim Taleb stated that he would not eat anything that did not have a name in either Arabic, Hebrew or Phoenician, because if there was no word for it in any of those languages, his ancestors probably didn’t eat it. As with a lot of Taleb’s stuff, he takes it a bit too far, but he has a point.

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  4. So, sort of on topic… I saw an ad for a farmshare type place, and one of the things they advertised was delivery of “farm-fresh” with a list following, including the usual suspects like no-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, and then… paleo.

    Farm-fresh paleo.

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  5. I think it’s less about what you eat and more about activity level. Even the folks who work out tend to think one hour of movement counter acts 23 hours of sitting on their ass/ sleeping

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  6. This guy has some interesting info on diet. What’s strange is people seem to do well on a high fat diet with low carbs or low carbs and no fat but the American diet of high fat high carbs is horrible. He calls it pig slop diet.

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  7. Sorry, you are an extremely smart person but you are employing silliest fatlogic here. Industrial type dieting does not work but having a conscious diet does, CICO is real, and people can control their weight by controlling their caloric intake. If they also care about their macros, and try to keep protein high, to not lose muscle, fat about moderate (drinking full milk but not bingeing on bacon) and carbs low, that is even better, and adding a lot of vegetables is generally a good idea too. Lots and lots of people lost it AND kept it down by dietary and lifestyle changes. The only thing even worths arguing that the kind of discipline and willpower it requires, that itself may be outside one’s control.

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    • To be honest, the idea of being fat is as alien to me as American class norms are to you. I put effort into weighing enough, not losing weight. Why anyone would waste time (and money) eating more calories than they need is a mystery.

      I agree CICO is a thing–people get very thin during famines. But the difference between me and a fat person definitely isn’t “willpower” or “discipline” or whatever, because I have none of that. I don’t think my diet and lifestyle are all that different from everyone else’s, either (though my inability to eat a lot of sweets may have a bigger effect than I realize.) I probably just don’t get as hungry as normal people.

      If appetite is genetic (or at least not under conscious control,) then it’s not fair for me to criticize others for not having the “willpower” to be as thin as I am when I myself don’t have it. Sure, some people successfully fight their basic inclinations, but most skinny people are probably genetically inclined to be thin and don’t have to do this.

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