• High cholesterol is an indicator of a problem, it is rarely the problem.
  • The safest way to lower cholesterol is to lower blood sugar levels and lower inflammation levels through a change in diet. Less carbs = less sugar. Less seed oil and less grain fed animals = less inflammation.

The Story – It’s the Burns not the Band-Aids.

Once upon a time there was a man who loved lighters.

This man really, really loved lighters. He had hundreds of lighters.  Everyday, three times a day, he sat down to play with one, or two or all of them.

Every time he played with a lighter, he burned himself. Every time he burned himself, he put a band-aid on the wound. He had a lot of wounds covered by a lot of band-aids.

When the man died, a famous doctor performed the autopsy. The doctor was astounded at the number of band-aids but not the cause of death. He was seeing more and more men and women with the same symptoms.

“Yes, I know what causes this disease.” The famous doctor proclaimed.

“Yes, I have a recommended cure for the disease.”

“The disease is called ‘Syndrome Z’. As you all are aware, Syndrome Z is on the rise. Syndrome Z is responsible for the death of more and more Americans every year. We need to put an end to Syndrome Z.”

“I have determined that Syndrome Z is caused by excess band-aids. Every autopsy I perform on a victim of Syndrome Z reveals the same characteristic indicator of an excessive amount of band-aids. I propose that we educate the public on the danger of excess band-aids.”


Ancel Keys declared in 1956 that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. According to Dr. Keys, individuals should do everything they can to reduce cholesterol and individuals should replace saturated fat from animals with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from vegetable oils.

Cholesterol is used by the body as a building block and a band-aid.  Cholesterol is the base for many important hormones and cholesterol is used to shore up weak cell walls and repair damage in inflamed tissue.  Cholesterol is vital for life and we would die without it.

High cholesterol is an indicator of a problem (it’s the body producing and using a lot of band-aids), cholesterol is rarely the problem.

While some individuals do need to eat less cholesterol, lowering blood sugar and lowering inflammation will lower cholesterol levels by getting at the root of the problem – inflammation.

Blood sugar can be safely lowered by lowering the amount of sugar in the diet by reducing or eliminating flour, sugar and potatoes.  There are no critical nutrients in flour, sugar or potatoes.  Chronic consumption of excess carbohydrates will generate nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, and chronically elevated blood sugar.

Inflammation levels can be safely reduced by eliminating seed oils and improving the quality of meat consumed.  Seed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Grain fed livestock (beef, pork, chicken) are also high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are used like smoke alarms in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids are unsaturated which causes them to be highly reactive. When the omega-6 fatty acids react or oxidate, it triggers an immune response (calls the fire department). If there are 12 smoke alarms in the house and one goes off every time someone burps, no maintenance on the house is getting done because the fire department keeps knocking down the front door and putting hoses through the windows.

There are no nutritional requirements for consuming concentrated seed oil. There is increasing evidence of the negative effects of consuming concentrated seed oils (canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc). Seed oils are cheap to produce and are present in a wide variety of commercial products. While a small amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are required in a diet – the required amount is significantly exceeded in a typical American diet.

There is no debate on the health benefits of reducing blood sugar and reducing inflammation.


Targeting cholesterol shoots the messenger, it doesn’t fix the problem.  Cholesterol is the band-aid, not the burn.



  • Gary Taubes does a fantastic job of explaining how the Fat Hypothesis came to be the accepted dogma in his book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’.
  • ‘Perfect Health Diet’, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet has the best explanation I have found on how consumption of concentrated seed oils increases inflammation.

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“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”  -Otto Von Bismarck

I am not a wise man.

There have been more mistakes related to nutrition than I care to admit.  The first ‘diet’ I can remember going on was Bill Phillips’ “Body for Life.”  I started the diet sometime in the late 90’s when I bought into all the before and after photos.  I bought the protein powders, bars and meal replacement drinks.  I enthusiastically embraced the once a week cheat day where all bets were off and I could eat anything I wanted. The cheat day and protein powders are all I remember about the ‘diet’.  My focus during that first diet was to gain muscle, I wasn’t too concerned about a few extra pounds.

After stumbling through ten years of different diets, my concerns had changed dramatically.  I was completely focused on losing extra pounds. I’d tried being a vegetarian, I lived the Mediterranean diet, I tried the zone, and I tried tracking glycemic index and glycemic loads. Lots of work, not much return.

By the Spring 2007 Navy physical I was carrying an extra 25 pounds – and it wasn’t muscle.  The extra weigh was frustrating. The Navy Physical Readiness Test has two parts – a height vs weight measurement and a performance test of pushups, situps, and endurance (run or swim).  I’ve always been active and I have never had a problem passing the performance portion of the test.

When I stepped up to get measured in May 2007 I was heavier than I had ever been.  I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath as I stepped out from beneath the ruler.  It was the first time I had really sweated the height vs weight measurement.

I wasn’t exactly sure where the weight had come from, the pounds had snuck on, little by little. In addition to the consistent increases I was seeing on the scale, I kept having the rug ripped out from underneath my food pyramid.

I’d be feeling pretty good, even excited, about a new diet. The next day, I would read a headline story about how the scientifically proven diet I was on had been scientifically proven to kill me.

I can understand arguments about a diet being hard, or not efficient, but how can a diet go from being the best ever to responsible for certain death?

‘Scientifically Proven’ was an addictive idea for me. The idea that all essential nutrients had been identified was comforting. Having the recommended daily allowances for every nutrient precisely measured and available in a vitamin, pill or powder is an awesome idea.  Knowing what all the nutrients are and what the nutrient RDAs are would cure cancer, solve world hunger, bring us halfway to world peace, and give everyone a new puppy.

A ‘scientifically proven’ healthy diet is a great concept but we’re not there yet.

Gary Taubes gave me the first peek behind the curtain. Gary Taubes is a writer who built his career covering science. He was interviewing a nutritional scientist one day and quickly realized the scientist he was talking to was positively the worst scientist he had ever interviewed.  So, Gary Taubes started pulling the string on the science behind the ‘Fat Hypothesis’. The Fat Hypotheisis states unequivocally that eating saturated fat & cholesterol is what makes us fat and causes heart disease.  According to the Fat Hypothesis, cholesterol was invented by the Nazi’s and it is the responsibility of every American to eliminate cholesterol in any way possible.  Replace steak with soy, substitute oatmeal for eggs, and eat it all on low-fat cardboard crackers.

If saturated fat and cholesterol are the problem, the solution is easy – eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol from your diet and everything will be peachy.

Losing fat and improving health wasn’t that easy.  Throughout the spring and summer of 2007 I got serious and eliminated fat and cholesterol from my diet. I had heart healthy oatmeal for breakfast, salads for dinner, low fat Subway sandwiches for lunch (hey, it worked for the other Jared…). I lost 3 pounds in 3 months.  I had borderline high blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol.

I was 179 pounds in August 2007 when I made it through enough of Gary Taubes’ 400+ page ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ to believe he was on to something. I cut out all the white stuff (sugar, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes) and by the end of the year I was down 19 pounds.  I hovered around 160 for a few months.

In the spring I tightened up more on the carbs. I stopped eating tortillas, throttled back on beans and switched from a beer with dinner to a glass of wine with dinner.  By May 2008, I was down to 148 pounds. I had lost 31 pounds in 9 months. Even though I was eating more steak and more eggs, my cholesterol was down and my blood pressure was down.

148 pounds is not a good look for me and I missed carbs, so I partied. Pizza was back, pasta was back, beer was back, cookies, sandwiches, brownies, ice cream all came storming back. The pounds came back with them. By August 2008 I was back up to 167 pounds.

By this time I didn’t need to be particularly wise to see the connection. More carbs equaled more weight, less carbs equaled less weight and “moderation” was a lot smaller portion than I had previously believed.  Yes, exercise levels had some impact, but exercise only amplified what was going on in the kitchen.  The food I was eating determined which way the scale was trending.

I yo-yo’d around for another couple of years until finding my ideal weight at 158. A funny thing happens below 160. Back in 2007/2008 I had been prepared to give up bread, pasta, rice and potatoes for good. But below 160, I found I had to keep some easily digestible starch in my diet or I would keep losing weight.  Above 160 my weight would start creeping up unless I was very strict with my eating habits.

For the past 3 years I’ve stayed at 160 +/- 5 pounds.  I’ve gone months at 158 +/- 2 pounds before slipping off the wagon, drifting above 160 then buckling down to get my eating habits back in order.  Managing the fat is simple, but not easy.  Our society doesn’t make it easy to maintain a healthy weight. Most of the readily available foods to eat are carbs.  Carbs are cheaper and have a longer shelf life.  Carbs are conveniently packaged and marketed as meal replacements for a life on the go.

There is still a lot of debate over how to manage obesity, but there shouldn’t be.  I was fortunate to be part of the 60% of the population that a simple reduction in carbs was all it took to get weight down.  For others, the initial weight loss can be a little more complicated. In addition to getting blood sugar under control, the gut has to be healthy and glands have to be working correctly for hormone levels to stabilize.

Whatever the steps, weight management is not easy but it is relatively simple. Nutrients are hard, but that’s another journey and another story…


The Good:

  • Tasty. Bread is tasty. Pasta is tasty. Tortillas are tasty. Pizza dough is crazy tasty.
  • Cheap. Wheat, corn and rice are cheap to produce in mass quantities.
  • Shelf Life & Transportation. Grains are a strategic commodity. Grains can be stored for long periods of time and easily transported over long distances.

The Bad:

  • Tough on the gut. Grains are tough to digest. Whole grains are tougher to digest than processed grains. Most grains which are bred or manufactured to be resistant to insects are also harder for humans to digest.
  • Possibility of auto-immune issues. There is a developing awareness of a correlation between a leaky gut, grains and auto-immune diseases. There are increasing numbers of individuals who have been able to reverse auto-immune symptoms and diseases by eliminating grains and healing the gut. Prolamins (gluten and others) resist digestion, resulting in amino acid chains passing through the intestinal wall. The undigested amino acid chains stimulate an auto-immune reaction in the body.
  • Pesticides and chemical additives. Bulk commercial farming and grain manufacturing involves pesticides for growing, shipment and storage and chemicals for manufacturing flour from grain. Additional information here.

Benefit vs Cost: Negative

  • The costs (digestive impact / possibility of generating an auto-immune response) outweigh the benefits (taste & convenience).
    • There are no grains required for a healthy diet. Humans have been around for the past 195,000 years, agriculture has only been utilized for the past 10,000.
    • While many people are able to tolerate and digest grains, it’s a matter of tolerating grains, not thriving because of them.
    • Tolerance of grains is dependent on inflammation levels, sleep, stress and gut flora.
    • Fiber is available from vegetables.
    • There is debate over the availability of many of the nutrients present in whole grains (nutrients are present but there is a direct correlation between the amount of nutrients present and ease of digestion – less processing equals more nutrients but tougher digestion).
    • Increased consumption of flour and sugar = More nutrient deficiencies.
    • The nutrients present in grains are readily available from other vegetables and fruit.
    • I eat sweet potatoes, squash and occasionally white rice for carbohydrates. (White rice is not perfect but white rice is easier to digest than wheat & oats and tends to have less of a chemical load. Brown rice is harder to digest than white rice).
    • While my goal is zero consumption, I do occasionally have bread, pasta and baked goods when I am eating out or eating food that others have prepared. I view any grains as doing physical damage, so while I can recover from the occasional consumption of beans or sugar quickly (days), I realize the consumption of grains carries a bigger penalty and longer recovery time (weeks). I don’t keep bread, crackers, pasta or flour in the house.

Eating Strategy (2014)

Eating Strategy

  • Pay attention to how I feel and perform.
  • Cook. Cook efficiently. Aim for 1 hour or less of meal prep time per day (2 hours of batch cooking on Saturday or Sunday). Spend more time cooking and experimenting with new recipes when time allows.
  • Choose a vegetable. Choose a meat. Cook it up.
  • Use eggs, grass-fed butter, broth and seafood to cover micro-nutrient requirements.
  • Liberal use of butter, coconut oil and avocado to ensure adequate fat intake.
  • Monitor starches (sweet potato, squash, white rice) to throttle weight (more starch to gain weight, less starch to lose weight).
  • Avoid grains, legumes, and grain-fed dairy.


  • I am what I ate. What I eat today will determine how I feel and perform tomorrow.
  • My diet is what I normally eat. The goal is sustainable eating habits, not a temporary fix.
  • My health is dependent on the quality of my food and the health of my digestive system. A traumatized digestive system will not absorb nutrients and will not provide an effective barrier for the immune system.
  • There are no super foods. A healthy diet requires variety.
  • Food is simple.  Food marketing makes nutrition confusing.  Buzz words (organic, gluten-free, scientifically proven, 100% vegetarian diet) shift focus from the real issue (the issue is food quality) and cause confusion.
  • Vegetarian diets are nutrient deficient.
  • Going 24 hours without eating is uncomfortable, not unhealthy. There are no nutrients that have a daily consumption requirement. Nutrient consumption requirements vary greatly between nutrients and between individuals.
  • There is a difference between the amount of nutrient required to correct a deficiency and the amount of a nutrient required to maintain proper body function.
  • Meat / animal products do not have to be eaten every day.
  • There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Excess carbohydrates compete for nutrient absorption.  Consistent consumption of excess carbohydrates will generate nutrient deficiencies.
  • Excess carbohydrates are stored as fat.
  • There is no such thing as an essential grain. Pizza dough and flour tortillas are tasty, but grains are rough on the digestive system.  Whole grains are REALLY rough on the digestive system.
  • Beans taste good but beans are not a super-food. Legumes are a fancy word for beans. Beans are rough on the digestive system.  Beans generate gas. Gas is amusing to your friends, not to your wife or digestive system.
  • The best restaurants don’t serve hot-pockets. The best restaurants serve real food. Fresh vegetables are tasty. Steak is tasty. Soup is tasty. Omelets are tasty. Seafood is tasty. Eating is fun. I like to eat.


  • Optimum protein intake. Protein is a required macro-nutrient but there is no definitive information on optimum amounts of protein intake. There is compelling evidence that protein fasts are necessary for optimum health.  Protein fasts encourage the recycling of damaged protein within the body. There is still debate on how long a protein fast should last.
  • Optimum carbohydrate intake for performance athletics. There is still considerable debate on the timing of carbohydrate consumption and the amount of carbohydrate consumption for optimum performance.
  • An optimum micro-nutrient consumption strategy.  Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) started during World War II as a food rationing tool.  Nutrition studies are notoriously complicated and notoriously inaccurate. The challenge is isolating the effects of single micro-nutrients for a prolonged period of time under changing demands.
  • A thorough understanding of the link between the presence of a nutrient in a particular food and the benefits of consuming the food. Liver is a good example. The liver contains a high concentration of nutrients, but the liver is also a filter and the effects of regular liver consumption over a long period of time is unknown.


  • Micro-nutrient availability.  Filtered water = depleted nutrients. Depleted soil = depleted nutrients (Micro-nutrients in vegetables come from the soil).
  • Food quality. Healthy meat and healthy animal products (eggs, cheese, butter, etc.) require healthy animals. Healthy animals require a healthy natural diet and healthy surroundings. Americans have voted with their wallets for fast and cheap, with devastating impact to the quality of animal products in the food system. The situation is slowly improving with increased demand for higher quality food.
  • Real food availability.  Corn, wheat and soy are cheap and plentiful. Real food has a shelf life and is harder to find. Eating high quality food on a budget requires shopping, cooking and planning ahead.