the fat four

The Paleo Diet has given many people a bad impression of using evolutionary reasoning in nutrition. But when something isn’t used correctly, you don’t get a good idea of its value. It’s like trying to cut a steak with a scalpel, and then concluding that a scalpel isn’t a useful tool.

Skeptics of using evolutionary reasoning in nutrition will usually admit that evolution is integral to nutrition—theoretically. But they argue that it’s impossible to determine exactly what our distant ancestors ate—and thus, what we should eat.

And they are completely correct.

But determining what we should eat isn’t the strength of evolutionary reasoning. No, its strength lies in determining, with absolute certainty, something even more important: what we shouldn’t eat.

What if I told you there are only four bad foods? (Just four.)

What if I told you these four foods are the root of the obesity epidemic, causing people to overeat and get fat on a massive scale?

What if I told you that no human population is adapted to these foods, so they probably aren’t healthy for anyone to eat in large amounts—but that they make up a staggering proportion of our total food intake?

I’m going to tell you. After a systematic analysis of nutrition, anthropology, physiology, obesity research, metabolism, and the US food supply, without further adieu, I give you The Fat Four:


1. added sugar

2. added oil

3. white flour

4. processed meat


These are the only four foods that are unequivocally “bad,” “unhealthy,” and “fattening.”

Just these four.

Added sugar, added oil, white flour, and processed meat.

The Fat Four.

If a food isn’t made with one of these four, it’s probably fine.

On the other hand, a food is “junk food” precisely because it has one or more of these four. A food is “fattening” precisely because it has one or more of these four.

Every. Single. Time.

Pizza? White flour and added sugar (the dough and the sauce).

Candy bars? Added sugar (and usually white flour and vegetable oil, too).

Chicken nuggets? Processed meat and white flour.

Cake? White flour and added sugar (and usually vegetable oil).

French fries? Vegetable oil. (Added oil.)

Potato chips? Vegetable oil. (Added oil.)

Any chip in a crinkly bag? Vegetable oil.

Bacon? Processed meat.

Pie? White flour and added sugar (and usually oil).

Muffins? White flour and added sugar (and usually oil).

Donuts? White flour and added sugar (and usually oil).

Slim Jims? Processed meat.

Chicken wings? Vegetable oil and white flour (and thus:   processed meat).

Ice cream? Added sugar (and usually vegetable oil).

All of these foods are fattening because of the Fat Four.

There is nothing else holding them together.

But it’s hardly just obvious junk foods like these. Every day, due to misconceptions and deceptive marketing, untold millions of people around the world eat foods that they believe are basically “not fattening,”  “healthy,” or even “slimming” —but that are actually infested with The Fat Four.

Let’s see some examples.

Virtually every single breakfast cereal? Added sugar.

(This includes cereals marketed as healthy, like Kashi GOLEAN Crunch!, which is high in added sugar.)

Any non-whole-grain bread? White flour.

Most “100% Whole-Wheat” breads? Added sugar and often added oil.

Almost any “bar”? Added sugar.

(Protein bars are candy bars with added protein.)

Granola? Added sugar (and oil, in Nature Valley’s case).

Most yogurt? Added sugar.

Any non-whole-grain pasta? White flour.

Most pasta sauce? Added sugar.

Most nuts? Vegetable oil.

Any salad dressing? Vegetable oil.

In other words, if you think you’re not eating the Fat Four on a regular basis, you probably need to think again. Unless you make a specific effort not to eat the Fat Four, you almost inevitably will—because they’re everywhere.

The Fat Four have slithered onto most of the shelves in your health-food store, almost every shelf of your supermarket, and every single shelf of your convenience mart.

Ubiquitous almost doesn’t do them justice. Any food with a long ingredients list will almost always have one of the Fat Four. In fact, the Fat Four are such a fixture on ingredients lists that the easiest way to avoid them is simply to avoid foods that have ingredients lists.

Let’s see what makes the Fat Four so bad.