Last post I said that the overweight/obesity epidemic is more than just “we’re eating too much and not moving enough”. So what is it then? I’m going to talk about quite a few different things in this post and the posts to follow, and since I don’t want to write a million pages, I’m going to explain each thing as briefly as possible (haha we’ll see) and then post links to several articles that will explain it more. Feel free to Google these topics if you’d like (you probably will if you already are or are slowly being converted into a nutrition freak like me), and you’ll find even more information. These are just the most informative and most helpful articles that I have found.
First, our carbohydrate intake. Oh, carbohydrates. So unnecessary, so delicious. Now, carbohydrates are in pretty much everything. They are not the devil in any amount and in any form. However, when we get large amounts of them, in the foods we usually think of as “carbs”, this becomes a problem. But let’s get more specific by talking about our glucose intake. Glucose is a carbohydrate, and a simple sugar. In fruit, for example, glucose is a naturally occurring sugar, and fruit is obviously something we would say is healthy. The thing is, a small amount of glucose in the body is good, as too little can be harmful, but a large amount is toxic. In America, the glucose we eat usually comes from heavily processed foods with little nutritional value, which is of course even worse. But even foods such as whole grains and potatoes have unsafe amounts of glucose. America consumes huge amounts of grains (bread, pasta, corn), starches (potatoes, rice), and refined sugars (especially sucrose and high-frutose corn syrup), preferably fried and at every meal, all of which contain or are converted to large amounts of glucose in the body. So basically, whether you’re eating pasta or a whole wheat bagel or a big piece of cake, your body is going to treat it like a big lump of sugar and your insulin is going to spike way up. When your insulin level is up, it is impossible for your body to burn its fat storages. And what do we consume most? Lots and lots of carbs. That means our insulin levels are always up and we’re never burning our stored fat, but rather just accumulating more. Hello obesity epidemic. And when our insulin levels get too high too often? Insulin resistance. Hello diabetes. (Here’s something else important: cancer in the body thrives on glucose. Can’t live without it. I wonder why cancer is so prevalent in the US?) More than that, the blood sugar spike happens fast, and when it’s over, you’re starving (and craving more carbs). This means when we let our blood sugar continue to go up and down with sharp spikes and big crashes, we just end up hungrier all the time, which makes us eat more, which makes our calorie intake through the roof, and all that extra that we don’t metabolize (yes, because we’re not moving enough) gets stored as fat.
Pause. To me, that’s good enough reason right there to consider really limiting your intake of grains, heavy starches, and refined sugar, if not give them up all together. If you’re still not convinced, don’t worry, there’s more.
First let’s talk specifically about sugar. There are refined sugars, and there are natural sugars. Natural sugars include things like fruit, honey, 100% maple syrup, etc. While you shouldn’t chug a whole jar of honey just because it’s natural, these sugars are fine in moderation because they still have nutritional value, and they don’t cause your blood sugar to spike as high as refined sugars. Refined sugars are what America is usually consuming . . . desserts, candy, soda, and of course table sugar. This kind of sugar has absolutely no nutritional value, as everything that was nutritious was stripped away during processing, and cause your blood sugar to spike way up like we just talked about. The average American consumes 150-180 lbs. of sugar every year, which WAY WAY WAY above the “healthy” limit (quotes because I think it’s unhealthy to consume any at all). We have to quit the sugar, people. No, artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes are not any better. Anything that says “diet” or “sugar-free” is just loaded with a whole bunch of chemicals, and while they might have little to no calories, they can have all kinds of side effects and still cause many health problems. Trust me, you can make any dessert you want (and some candies) but with healthier ingredients (for example: http://www.hollywoodhomestead.com/paleo-chocolate-cupcakes/). If that’s possible, why are we still buying store bought stuff that’s making us unhealthy and fat? Look up some recipes and get in the kitchen, people!!! Eat dessert (still shouldn’t do it every day . . . I’d say once or twice a month) without feeling guilty about it! (Note: I would do a month or two of sugar detox before reintroducing sweet things to your body. This is so you can reset your cravings and not go overboard with dessert, even if it is better for you). Sorry, but soda is out no matter what, although I guess you could make something like it yourself with carbonated water and some natural flavors. Probably better to just kick the habit though. Don’t even get me started on soda, that stuff is disgusting and so so bad for you. I’ll just leave this here instead: http://wellnessmama.com/379/reasons-to-avoid-soda/.
Okay, moving on. Starches. We’re just going to talk about starches really quick because, again, these are not the devil at all times either. Yes, starches are in rice, wheat, corn, and white potatoes, and we’ve already talked about why those are bad. However, other starchy vegetables and fruits are not as starchy-y as the others and are perfectly fine in moderation. Again, they should not be a huge staple of your diet, but there’s nothing wrong with eating them as long as you’re not going overboard. Approved starchy things include yams, parsnips, pumpkins, rutabaga, carrots, cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, bananas, figs, beets, and squash. (Note: I know, I know, I LOVE white potatoes too. These are probably okay every once and a while, but again, take a month or two to detox from all the bad stuff you were eating, then reintroduce potatoes and see how you feel. Some people won’t be able to handle them, others will. If you do choose to eat them, just do it for special occasions or something, and choose healthier options (i.e. don’t go buy some french fries from a nearby fast food restaurant). For example, I’m cutting out potatoes, but I will probably eat mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving. Just don’t go crazy and listen to your body. There are also other vegetables that you can use to make things that resemble the potatoes you know and love, such as rutabaga french fries or mashed cauliflower).
Finally, grains. Oh, grains. These are the worst of the bunch. I’m talking white bread and whole wheat bread, white rice and brown rice, regular pasta and whole wheat pasta, doesn’t matter what color it is. I know, the darker ones are supposedly better for you than the others, but it’s not true. They’re all bad. First of all, not only do they all have way too many carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar, but on a calorie to calorie basis they actually suck nutrient wise. There’s nothing in grains that you can’t get from other sources; actually, it’s better to get your nutrients from other sources. They’re also full of three poisons: gluten, lectins, and phytates.
Some plants work with humans, and some don’t. For example, fruit wants to be eaten, because you’re going to poop out the seeds and cause new plants to grow. Well, probably not us, but humans that do their business outside will. This means we have a nice relationship with fruit. It’s not trying to hurt us, because it’s using us. Make sense? Other plants, not so much. In order to protect themselves from being eaten, they produce poisons, just like some animals do. There are poisons that will kill you right then and there, and there are poisons that work slowly. Gluten, lectins, and phytates aren’t killing you as soon as you take a bite, but they cause lots of trouble in your body, especially in your digestive system.
You’re probably already familiar with gluten. Lots of people have gluten allergies today. The thing is, while it’s more noticeable in some people’s bodies than in others, we’re all “allergic”. Gluten causes gut inflammation in most people whether you know it or not, and the others have antibodies that fight against the gluten. While that sounds good, the antibodies don’t protect you from all the health problems gluten causes, therefore it’s bad for all of us. The gluten protein is similar to the other proteins we use in our body, and can get into other organs, which causes the antibodies to attack your organs, and hello autoimmune diseases. Antibodies against gluten have also been shown to attack heart tissues which causes heart disease. Gluten is also seen to be strongly associated with cancer — it is at least cancer-promoting if not cancer-causing. It also causes “leaky gut”, but so do lectins, so now we’ll talk about those.
Gluten is a big problem, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with still eating grains as long as they are gluten-free. Lectins are proteins that are found in lots of organisms, including humans, but when we eat grains, the kinds of lectins they contain start protecting. They can cause diarrhea, nausea, bloating (I think most of us have a problem with the bloating), and vomiting. These lectins also make their way across your intestine and get into your immune system, which causes your body to start making antibodies to attack the lectins. That’s good, right? Well, the lectins look a lot like other things in your body, such as important cells, and the antibodies can end up attacking you instead of the lectins (like gluten). Hello again, autoimmune diseases. Not only that, but as they go through your intestine and into your body, they’re damaging your intestine walls. This causes you to have a “leaky gut” — you now have holes in your intestine wall, which means other particles can pass through and this causes even more problems. This is how you develop allergies to other things, such as strawberries. Pieces of strawberry get into your blood stream because of your leaky gut, and your immune system goes crazy trying to protect you, and starts attacking things at random. A leaky gut also means you’re not digesting food and absorbing nutrients in the way you should, and can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Leaky gut causes tons and tons and tons of problems, anything from migraines to skin problems to weight gain to depression and so on. And there’s no avoiding lectins, because they can’t be cooked out of your food.
Still not turned off from those beloved grains? Enter phytates, or phytic acid. These are called anti-nutrients. They are called that because they bind to things such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and iron, and remove them from your body. So not only are you losing nutrients because of your leaky gut, but these anti-nutrients are working against you too. Hello iron-deficiency anemia, magnesium deficiency which contributes to muscle cramping and PMS, a lack of zinc which affects our immune systems and reproductive abilities, and goodbye to the calcium we all know and love so much. Phytates are the main anti-nutrients found in grains, but there are others as well, such as saponins, etc.
Remember: Grains include rice, wheat, oats, barley, and anything made from these things, such as bread and pasta. Corn is NOT a vegetable. It’s a grain. Things like quinoa aren’t technically grains, but function like grains in the body, which means those are out too.
I don’t know about you, but after that . . . I’m quitting grains, heavy starches, and refined sugars.