news-feature

WTF Can I Eat?

Follow Me –

Lately, a lot of writers have come to me to validate (or discredit) a lot of nutritional information. Leading market publications have asked me to examine claims about everything from fruit protein powder to just fruit. This is mostly because I am vocal about nutritional scare tactics and “research” used to ward off certain foods. My perspective is always one of logical and scientific objection, not fear and paranoia. While everyone has a bias on some level, I try to find the balance and see all sides of things.

Did You Know?

1. I don’t hate the Paleo diet, I just don’t agree with the technical term or religious dogma surrounding it.

2. I believe in the use of low-carb diets.

3. One of my good friends runs one of the best CrossFit gyms in the country.

4. I regularly email one of the top nutrition professors in the country who happens to be a connoisseur of clean eating and loves his no grain-no fruit diet.

5. I am a vegetarian and have been for a while now.

6. I am a member of a pretty forward thinking environmental organization that pushes for changes in food distribution and laws.

I mention these things because I try not to allow my personal agenda to cloud the research and findings I read and study. I may not eat certain foods, but that doesn’t mean I tell other people they can’t eat them. Though I may believe in one aspect of nutrition for the majority, that doesn’t mean it’s suitable for everyone or even for myself. It doesn’t mean I am going to manipulate research in order to support my personal dietary habits. It doesn’t mean I am not passionate; trust me, passion is not something I lack. Still, I expect that a majority of people reading this who have been following me for years would be surprised to learn some of these things.

I have caught myself trying to find the one study out of 100 that proved the view I felt was right in my gut was correct. It is difficult to resist the sweet lure of laying out the one abstract study that “refutes” something. These studies usually predate the 50s. The problem is that valid research does not work that way. Searching for the one out of 100 studies to prove a point is not working for science, it is working for ego or fear.

What I find even more ironic is that I am one of the few people who has existing health-related issues with certain food products. I am a person who believes in being a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. Go figure, I would be the voice of reason amongst others on their witch hunt. I don’t pick up the pitchfork; I build a soapbox. So let’s see if the following falls on deaf ears.

The Damnation of Food

At any given moment, anyone can visit the website of a “health expert” and find a food item they are not supposed to eat. Recently, I decided to take a closer look and tally the foods put on “don’t” lists and who was doing it. Sadly, I was not surprised to find that there was not one food I couldn’t find a person damning as something that shouldn’t be consumed. From celery to lamb, I can point to a site that recommends against it’s intake. This includes the usual suspects—dairy, meat, gluten, fruit, and grains. Green non-starch vegetables and wine are the least attacked foods. Ironically enough, people who are usually against eating fruit are the people who recommend a daily glass or two of wine.

Overall, I found more websites discussing the foods people should avoid rather than discussing the foods people should eat. It is a common occurrence for humans to focus on the negative so that is no surprise.

Top Five Reasons Food Is Deemed Uneatable

Every so often certain “experts” deem a food, or group of foods, “uneatable” for some reason or another. This will continue to happen until enough knowledgeable people come along and explain the faults in the “expert’s” reasoning or show the lack of scientific evidence. When more people say it’s safe to eat foods than people saying it’s not, the general public will open up to consuming them again. For some foods this will never happen; there will always be the ones stigmatized as just bad. One such example is dietary saturated fat.

In the 80s and 90s, dietary saturated fat had a really hard time and was essentially the whipping boy for a lot of problems. Bacon still can’t be mentioned without hearing a tired joke about having a heart attack. The same is true for eggs, fatter cuts of meat, and more. Over the years, a truckload of scientists and researchers have come out to show that saturated fat is not the evil we once thought it was. In moderation, it’s even a positive thing. It is funny that the same people “freeing us from the chains” of fat, are the ones pointing their fingers in other directions. “We shall overcome!” becomes “What’s next?!”

There is some food that is incredibly easy to target over others. Though I have seen people violently attack bell peppers, it is much harder to take them down versus grains. Still, let’s look at why and how these foods usually take a hit.

1. The food is a high-allergy risk.

Foods like eggs, wheat, and nuts are just a few examples. People with allergies to these foods make up an extremely small percentage of the overall population. But because there is an allergic expression in some, it leads to a rally against their use for all.

2. The food is connected with an ethical dilemma.

Most vegans and vegetarians deal with ethical issues. It can also be connected to environmental or economic issues. When people are making their “to-do” list, they turn to quantity, not quality. To me, this weakens the argument and only gives power to the other side. Sometimes it is okay to say that there are only a few reasons not to do something and let those reasons shine. For example, hurting a living creature seems to be a pretty strong argument so stick with that instead of waging a science war that will not end. It also shuts people up pretty quickly and shows their true ignorance.

3. The food is connected to a disease in a small population.

When a person has an illness or disease that strongly affects their quality of life, we want to find answers to fix the problem. We will desperately search in any direction for help to aid suffering people. While that is a noble thing, it sometimes leads to grasping at straws or misplacing them all together.

If we look at something like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), we have yet to determine the optimal course of action or the cause of this disease. We do have drugs which aid symptoms, exercises that help, and dietary recommendations that lead to less aggravation. But, we can’t say that food is the cause of the problem. We can’t say that food will cure the problem either. What we can say is that food can help or hurt the problem.

With all illnesses, I have seen quack professionals speak about extreme dosing of fish oil or complete removal of macronutrients which only leads people to injury or illness. Even holistic approaches can have consequences. The point is, a serious medical condition can’t be fixed with supplements and the proper breathing techniques. If an extreme medical problem could be cured with some supplements and a little breathing, then the problem wasn’t the illness initially claimed. However, symptoms can decrease with natural or holistic practices, and that is an extraordinarily real thing. With RA (as an example), there is a lot of research that shows appreciable benefits to ketogenic style diets and cycling calories.

Every case and body is different. While the laws of energy are not to be ignored or disposed of, optimization can be applied to everyone.

4. People can’t control their food intake.

I don’t think I need to elaborate more on this than to say—it isn’t the food’s fault that people shovel it in their mouths faster than the speed of light. Your lack of control doesn’t mean you have a right to damn certain foods. A misery loves company attitude is your way of spoiling the party for everyone else. Some people can eat. Some people can drink. Some people have better self-control than others. Not everyone is lucky enough to be one of them. When that is the case, it’s time to look inward, not outward.

A proper example for comparison is the use of alcohol or marijuana. I find it ironic that, usually, the cleanest of eaters and organic supporters are pro marijuana legalization. I think we all know drinking isn’t just fun nights involving a few glasses of wine; marijuana isn’t just for Grateful Dead concerts and brings no consequences or gateway.

What about gun control, do we remove use for all because some can’t handle them?

These are rhetorical questions to ask yourself. I have no public stance, but in the end it is always us not the object.

5. The food is associated with a lack of social cool.

Food, as much as clothes, music, and location enters into “cool wars.” The right branding, hype, and advertising can raise one food to glory while equally demolishing another. Honestly, it is a lot easier to belong to the “in” crowd than not. Popularity contests are all around us on a real level and help determine our choices. Everyone at your gym is eating a “slow-carb diet” and kipping. You can’t be the only person on the message board who hasn’t gone Paleo, could you? All your friends gave up meat, why shouldn’t you do the same?

Social status and eating can consume the decisions you make on a daily basis. Finding reasons to justify your actions, just so you don’t have to label yourself a follower, is not the right thing to do.

Are There Bad Foods?

I believe a lack of variety and nutritional value is awful. I don’t think having a soda is going to kill you. I don’t think bread is the enemy. I don’t believe smoked ribs are going to send you to your grave. I think the lack of nutrient dense foods is the problem. There is a significant difference there.

I don’t agree with using fear and shock value to change minds even though I understand it is a tactic that works. Even some of the people and organizations I support use it at times. While doing that can have short term positive effects, the lack of trust and science will be the downfall. Playing the cards you have is better than speculating. If you must speculate, state it as such. Do not try and support it with research that may mislead the less informed because in the end those who are informed with truth will prevail.

So, WTF Can You Eat?

I believe the following is a sound list. The foods listed below are selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Amount of nutrients per caloric value
  2. Ease of access (note: I live in North America, so this may vary in other countries)
  3. Research on nutrient and mineral digestion

Leading in Protein – Any meat, period. Eggs. Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese). Protein powders (check for quality companies).

Leading in Fat – Oils (olive, coconut, etc). Nut butters (almond, peanut), avocados. Whole nuts. Seeds.

Leading in Carbs – Any vegetable, period. Any fruit, period. Beans/lentils.

Restrict – Moderately intake high-density caloric items like nut butters, grains, alcohol, high-fat meats, etc. This is merely to arrive and complete your nutritional profile. Once arrived, enjoy indulgences where caloric intake allows. Consuming these items more frequently causes the need for more focus on energy balance. A handful of almonds or a scoop of rice easily becomes 200 calories.

If you have a variety of intake in all three categories and are a healthy individual with no odd ailments, there is nothing wrong with any of these foods.

The only foods I think may lead to problems for some individuals is dairy due to lactose intolerance issues. While it doesn’t seem to hurt people (according to research), it can cause discomfort. However, enzymes can be taken to help aid digestion. Hard cheeses are usually less of a problem too, keep that in mind. There are also goat based dairy options available.

But There Are Exceptions…Right?

In the future, I will release more information on what can be problematic for people and who. What is optimal and for who. Not only that, I will explain how to deal with these issues in a manner that complies with solid research to help you determine what is right for you instead of a one-size fits all bashing. In the meantime, you can also get more information in The Fat Loss Troubleshoot.

I encourage you to look at food for the nutrients it provides and then enjoy it where you have room. Keep an open mind and take an objective look when things are presented to you. Look for contradictions that don’t add up or make sense. Lastly, focus on what food does for you, specifically you, to determine your diet and lifestyle. Anecdotal doesn’t equal the answer for all, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the answer for you.

Follow Me –

  • Dustin says:

    Leigh I have just found your work through The Fitcast recently and I am impressed with your style. The video is the best thing I have seen in a long time!

    A few questions?

    Does Fat Loss Troubleshoot talk about workout nutrition?
    Are there any nutritional reasons to not eating meat?
    AM I right that you support crossfit?

    Thanks!

    • Leigh Peele says:

      Does Fat Loss Troubleshoot talk about workout nutrition?

      Yes and quite detailed. There are a few small changes I am making, but still provides good information.

      Are there any nutritional reasons to not eating meat?

      For select individuals, I think so. For the majority, no. I think you will find more than not, it is easier to maintain a healthy and balanced diet being a meat eater. I think there are pretty strong physical arguments for being a meat eater. Our bodies were made to eat it. I think it is more of an ethical choice and one that shouldn’t be taken likely or with fad.

      AM I right that you support crossfit?

      I support good coaches and trainers. I can’t back the organization as a whole for a lot of things the main company promotes. We talked about this on the Fitcast, you might enjoy that episode (Ep-198). That doesn’t mean there are not good crossfit gyms. It is a franchise. I think it has it’s pros and cons.

  • karlita says:

    excellent article leigh – i really enjoyed reading it. I allready knew most of it (having read your ebooks 🙂 – but once again you put it into words very well!

  • Jen says:

    I know you are the last person who would want praise from something like this, but I love that fact that you are a vegetarian! I still think there are bad foods, but I get your point. I think this is a case of you say tomato and I say tomato 😛

  • Calvin says:

    I will read the article later BUT I had to show my appreciation to the maxium overdrive shout out. WE MADE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

  • karlita says:

    ha ha, i forgot to watch the video, it’s hilarious (and so recognisable)

  • Markku says:

    I took a couple of items from your writing..
    Is there a contradiction?


    . I am a vegetarian and have been for a while now.
    …….
    So, WTF Can You Eat?
    Leading in Protein – Any meat, period. Eggs. Dairy products (Milk, yogurt, cheeses). Protein powders (check for quality companies)”

    • karlita says:

      markku, i think she is not talking about herself but about the general population – so i don’t see a contradiction. It says WTF can YOU eat – not can I eat :), YOU being the general public, exceptions excluded because like she says there will always be people that cannot or don’t want to eat certain things but she also says we may not generalize these exceptions.

    • Calvin says:

      Yeah, I think you need to re-read what Leigh wrote. If that is all you took from it, I don’t think you read it properly. The point is jsut because Leigh has bias and personal opinions, Leigh isn’t pushing them on you. I think it is pretty bad ass when someone can understand a moral law for themselves but be honest about how things help others.

      I liked the video Leigh, but the article more. I have a feeling you are going to be mistaken if people see what the above poster saw.

  • JacIu12 says:

    “Anecdotal doesn’t equal the answer for all, but that doesn’t mean it can’t mean the answer for you.”

    It is such a relief to read this. I get so frustrated when people bash what I do, when I am not pushing it on them. I do follow a high carb diet and people think I am a freak or treat me as if I have no discipline. I am at 6-8% body fat, yet I have no discipline? Please. And do I ever say anything about their diets? No, I don’t say anything about their diets. Great article! Passing it around for you.

  • Markku says:

    So does it mean tha Leigh does NOT eat mea but suggest that people can eat meat?

  • Lori says:

    Love the video… great article.

  • Karen says:

    Love Love Love this article Leigh! I will be sharing this with family and friends.

    Oh and hilarious video!

  • Markku says:

    I wonder how a person can have a low carb diet and not eat meat..

  • clement says:

    Hey Leigh,

    I’m surprised you haven’t spoken with John Barban yet. Your nutritional views are very similar in that both of you believe, as everyone else should, that calories in vs calories out is the be-all and end-all for fat loss. The only things you both differ on are that there are foods that you “should” and should not eat (you) and that a healthy-looking body is a healthy one, so it doesn’t matter what type of foods you eat – as long as you are lean, you are healthy (Barban)

    Merry Christmas! I hope to read more of your no-BS articles soon,.

  • Leigh, my Christmas wish is for a cloning machine to produce more of YOU 😉

    You totally ROCK! I have always appreciated your no B.S. approach and your intense passion for helping others.

    It’s pretty ironic that I was just about to record a video showing that according to research there is nothing that I can eat and no exercise that I can do. What sparked that idea was that I was called out on my blog for performing cable crunches when there is research that shows how bad crunches are for your neck and back. According to some research I should have a broken neck, herniated discs in my lower back, blown out knees, tendonitis in my elbows, a frozen shoulder, and placed on bed rest for the remainder of my life.

    …But, that’s not the case. I’m healthy, strong, and look great (not ashamed to say that :D)

    If we gathered all the healthy, strong, and fit people around the world and all the people who released a significant amount of weight, we would find that they arrived at their goal through a huge variety of ways. We would find people who were low carb, high carb, paleo, vegan, no fat, high fat, sugar free, 6 meals per day, 1 meal per day, jogging, intervals, MRT, bodybuilding style workouts, circuit training, crossfit, aerobics classes, exercise dvd’s, yoga, Pilates, and hundred, if not thousands of different ways. Plus there are people who released weight without following a specific diet or exercise routine. They simply ate less and moved more.

    With the growing obesity rate we should be embracing many forms of movement and many nutrition options, instead of taking dogmatic approaches and bashing any other form of movement or eating that is not in-line with your beliefs. We’re all individual and unique. What works for me may not work for you.

    When you find something that really resonates with the core of your being and feels natural to you… embrace it. Encourage others to discover for themselves, the forms of movement and nutrition that resonate best with them.

    Keep ROCK’n the great content Leigh. I certainly appreciate the work that you do.

    Scott Tousignant

    PS I really think that you should eat some Turkey this Christmas… the protein will do your body good… hehehehehehehehe! Just kidding of course 😉 I couldn’t resist

    • Leigh Peele says:

      Scott, I hope you still write that article, I bet it will be a great read. Make sure to pass it along to me when you do.

      Obviously, I couldn’t agree with you more with your statements. When I see people prattle on about obesity in this country they always miss the big flashing neon signs of movement patterns and emotional dependence. I realize it is not Dr. Oz sexing, but boy does it have teeth.

  • Nice. A lot of useful clarity and an elegant conclusion:

    “I think the lack of nutrient dense foods is the problem.”

    I like this principle, especially customized with a little experimentation. If you get what your body needs most of the time, then it is probably a lot easier to resist the excesses associated with obesity and poor nutrition. Figuring out what your body needs is part science education and part personal experimentation I think. A lot of the mistakes I’ve made in nutrition have involved going too far into extremes that worked in theory but didn’t satisfy or just weren’t practical. Finding a strategy that provides nutrient dense available foods to satisfy us seems like a solid theme to me, especially combined with a lot of activity.

  • Markku says:

    Nutrition dense is a good idea but there are other things to consider; allergies, variety, glycemic effect, etc. Grains are problematic, for example.

  • Dave says:

    I found your site after reading your comments on Tim Ferris’s blog post about feces.

    Your comments there were like a shining beacon in the thread. I have the utmost respect for your sanity and honesty, and your quest to help eliminate the stigmatization of foods where the end result is usually earning the author money or attention.

    Too many intelligent people are victimizing the general public, claiming to have found the one-size-fits-all secret they’ve been looking for to become/stay fit and live a long life/avoid disease.

    It reminds me of the cure-all medicines from the 1800s that contained arsenic, cocaine, and mercury until the FDA shut them down in the early 1900s. But now instead of cure-all drugs, we have cure-all books.

    I hope you persevere in your quest and I hope you figure out how to earn just as much money debunking these scam artists as they are earning with their tailored truths designed to sell.

    • Leigh Peele says:

      I appreciate your comments. There is a line drawn in the sand between the mythmakers and the mythbusters. The problem I think is the classic reasoning that states – “Don’t come to me with your problems about my solution, if you don’t have your own.” It is important that the critical thinkers create solutions, not just whine or troll/ I am trying to be apart of that movement and solution. I believe in success and sure this is my angle, but I am hyper aware of my own agendas and do the best I can to do right by people.

  • Ildi says:

    I love your approach – it just makes sense!

  • Kim Frazier says:

    Amen, sister. Leigh, you are my favorite discovery of the past few months! What took me so long to find you is beyond me. Your knowledge and candor are refreshing in the confusing wilderness that is the world of fitness and nutrition. And as a fellow native of NC, you get bonus points for that, too!

    Keep lighting it up,

    kim

  • Covermea says:

    Haha this is fantastic! Sometimes, even for myself, it is hard not to get swept up in the hype and make yourself feel guilty about the foods you eat that are “bad”. I love it when you write articles like these Leigh because I feel like it gives me back my freedom.

    Oh and that was the first one of those videos I found funny.

  • Clairebare says:

    I just bought the FLTS recently and became a member to your site and I have to say that you delivered! I really love your way of relaying information and I am so excited about the upcoming challenge. I read through the old challenge “threads” and am so inspired. Thanks!

  • Fran says:

    So you are saying it is okay to have a doughnut or sweet treat as long as we hit our macros?!!! IF so think you just made my Christmas!

  • Tracey says:

    Good stuff!
    Leigh, can you please email me what you posted in regards to Tim Ferris?? I was starting to think I was the only person that doesn’t think he’s a god..lol

  • Natalie says:

    Interesting reply – LP: There is a line drawn in the sand between the mythmakers and the mythbusters.

    I appreciate the value in thinking critically yet providing a solution. But where is the line between solution and myth? What is a myth? A story, a frame, a perspective that sheds light. I guess in my definition a solution is a helpful type of myth, a story that helps you function. Too often, I think, mythmakers and mythbusters take up opposite poles. Actually that’s really what I admire about your blog- you bring the full critical mythbustin’ chops, yet are always concerned with how this impacts people and offer empathy, support, motivation, whatever it takes. You know how to be critical in a way that’s creative rather than destructive and that’s truly a skill I admire.

  • Niel says:

    “Carrots: They are orange and that crap is just weird.”

    Too good.

  • Dani says:

    Hi Leigh,
    Love the blog. Hope to read your books soon. What’s your take on following instinct with regards to nutrition?
    I have had an interest in nutrition for, well forever, and it seems one cannot stop learning more and more about it. As information constantly shifts and changes on what is “good” or “bad” to eat, certainly the old adage “Everything in moderation” seems to hold true. Over the years I have shunned certain foods only to pick them up again later — I was vegetarian for 22 years. Now I eat seafood on occasion, but still haven’t gone back to red meats or poultry and doubt I will. I subsist on a mostly vegan diet except for small amounts of wild, sustainable cold water fish. But I don’t rule anything out completely. Lucky for me, (or maybe it is bad luck depending on how you view it) I live in a part of the world where I can eat almost anything I want and am able to pick and choose. For the most part this new diet is serving me well, but it seems to me worth noting that one’s diet may best shift and change as one’s nutrition requirements do, and that instinct may play a big part in guiding this. I am a woman in her 40’s who recently (last few years) has taken up long distance running (ultramarathons). So I try to get as much nutrient-dense food for my calories as I can. (But then, I feel we all should.)
    That said, ultramarathoners tend to be the bottom feeders of the athletic world, and we notoriously nosh on salty and sugary snacks during long runs. What has been interesting for me is how this “junkfood” noshing has effected how I think about food. At first, I shunned these aid station offerings, sticking to my specialty “health” foods. But during a 50-mile race, at some point, instinct becomes very strong. It will tell you when to eat or not to, and seemingly, exactly what you need. At a time when concentrated sugar and caffeine will best serve the body, Christmas cookies and Coca Cola can suddenly appear as the best choice. (Even though maybe complex carbs would still be a better choice.) I guess my question here to you in this long rambling is that since nutrition requirements vary so much from person to person–and vary much for each of us depending on the time in our life, situation, activity level, etc., it seems to me that instinct should play a part in guiding us. I have finally for the most part learned to trust mine to tell me when to eat or not, and when I need more protein or carbs, etc. But it certainly can be just as misleading at times. I want to trust it, but can I? Sometimes it seems to be telling me to sit and eat an entire bag of cookies. What do you think?

  • Tammy says:

    Well, can’t expand much more beyond the praises others have offered, so I’ll just say – “Leigh, you da bomb!”

    When I start to get overwhelmed by analysis paralysis, you are there to save the day. Thanks for keeping it real.

  • […] This post was inspired by one of the greatest posts I’ve ever seen on the interwebs about what you “can eat” and the video at the beginning is amazing:  Leigh Peele’s WTF Can I Eat? […]

  • […] Can I Eat? from Leigh Peele WTF Can I Eat? | Leigh Peele One of the most awesome views on food that I've come across. So, WTF Can You Eat? I believe the […]

  • […] will be extensive. Previous examples are articles like – Body Fat Percentage By Pictures, WTF Can I Eat?, Does Age Hinder Weight Loss and Transformation?, and Defining Bulky (1 & […]

  • […] Peele (an article about food she wrote includes the video […]

  • […] encourage &#1091&#959&#965 t&#959 read Leigh’s entire eye opening post WTF C&#1072n I Eat? Leigh &#1110&#1109 d&#1077f&#1110n&#1110t&#1077l&#1091 &#1072m&#959ng th&#1077 top health &#1072nd […]

  • Crystal says:

    After reading this I think my stress level took a major dive! Thank you! Good to know I wasn’t the only one out there who was frustrated at all the fear based articles constantly telling you what to NOT eat leaving you empty handed with what TO eat.

  • […] put out an article discussing the topic of foods and the controversy surrounding what is safe to eat. In it, I featured an Xtranormal video I created as a satire on the topic. In the video, I take a […]

  • >