Sugar cubes

Bloated. Puffy. Too full to move. Diarrheal. Does this remind you of your annual Thanksgiving dinner, or is this an everyday occurrence?

My approach to nutrition is simple: You need to minimize the foods that make you hurt. Food is delicious, but it’s primarily our fuel and our medicine. We often forget that.

There is a joke that talks about the evolution of medicine and it goes something like this:

2000 BC: Here, eat this root.
1000 AD: That root is heathen! Here, say this prayer.
1865 AD: That prayer is superstition! Here, drink this potion.
1935 AD: That potion is snake oil! Here, swallow this pill.
1975 AD: That pill is ineffective! Here, take this antibiotic.
2000 AD: That antibiotic is poison! Here, eat this root.

Albeit a joke, it’s scary accurate – especially in the U.S.

We have unknowingly decided that the media is the new encyclopedia. Unfortunately, the media doesn’t always report the facts especially as social media continues to grow. Welcome to marketing: Where companies play on our weaknesses and convince us to buy items that we don’t need.

Energy drink companies make billions of dollars a year marketing to their consumers’ poor diets. These companies talk about getting rid of that “2:30 feeling.”  Do you know why that 2:30 post-lunch feeling happens? It’s because your blood sugar drops from all the sugar it just got from your lunch. Let’s take this a step further and break down your lunch…

  • Wheat bread sandwich with low-fat turkey, slice of cheese, leaf of lettuce and some honey mustard
  • Bag of baked potato chips
  • Piece of fruit
  • 100 calories snack pack
  • Light yogurt
  • Diet soda

Does this “healthy” meal look familiar?

I hate to break it to you, but we have to stop calling this healthy. This meal is full of easily processed simple sugars. This affects you two ways:  It creates a massive blood sugar spike, which makes you feel good for a short period of time, but then you come crashing down like life-size Jenga. Secondly, it promotes an inflammatory response within your body. (Sometimes inflammation is good, but not when it’s coming from the foods we eat.)

Here’s another way to think about it: Have you ever noticed a build-up of mucus in your mouth after drinking a glass of milk? That (inflammation) is happening throughout your entire body where there are synovial membranes (your joints). That excess of fluid will make your joints feel stiff and achy.

In the 1990s, fat-free became all the rage. There were a slew of fat-free snacks that hit the market and Americans ate them up (literally). We were convinced that healthier meant fat-free because fat is the enemy, so if we got rid of the fat in our diets, all of our weight-loss dreams would come true. These companies were practically overnight successes, but America just got fatter.

Sugar cubes

If you look at the ingredients in any of these snacks, the first ingredient is, often times, sugar. There is no measurable amount of anything really except sugar, 0 fiber and 1 gram of protein.

If you’ve lived your entire life believing that fat is bad, you aren’t alone. But, I’m here to tell you that fat is a necessary nutrient. It is imperative for brain function, nervous system function, and skin, nail and hair health, hormone production, and more. You NEED fat!

Technically speaking, we do not need sugar to survive. Our body has this amazing ability to create energy from proteins and fats within ourselves. (If you want to learn more Google “gluconeogenesis.” It’s outside the scope of this conversation, but it’s pretty cool to learn about.)

Sugar from fruits and vegetables is not bad. It’s actually packed with an antidote or buffer, if you will, called fiber. This blunts the impact that sugar can have on the body. (Often, fat-free snacks have no measurable amount of fiber.) Fiber is like the bouncer in an exclusive club. If the bouncers aren’t there then it’s like a crazy party from out of movie that ends up out of control with a car parked in the bottom of someone’s pool.

So, how did America get to this point of consuming loads of sugar-laden and fat-free or reduced-fat products while continuing to increase obesity rates? Marketing! The New York Times recently covered this phenomenon in the Sept. 12 article, “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.”

These are a couple of highlights:

  • A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.
  • The documents show that in 1964, John Hickson, a top sugar industry executive, discussed a plan with others in the industry to shift public opinion “through our research and information and legislative programs.”
  • At the time, studies had begun pointing to a relationship between high-sugar diets and the country’s high rates of heart disease. At the same time, other scientists, including the prominent Minnesota physiologist Ancel Keys, were investigating a competing theory that it was saturated fat and dietary cholesterol that posed the biggest risk for heart disease.
  • Hickson proposed countering the alarming findings on sugar with industry-funded research. “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,” he wrote.
  • In 1965, Mr. Hickson enlisted the Harvard researchers to write a review that would debunk the anti-sugar studies. He paid them a total of $6,500, the equivalent of $49,000 today. Mr. Hickson selected the papers for them to review and made it clear he wanted the result to favor sugar.

Paleo diet products

This all happened in the 1960s. Think of where we could be in the world of nutrition and health had we not been swooned by paid “research” from the sugar industry.

So, what can you do to live a truly healthy lifestyle and not fall into a marketing trap? It’s simple: Eat a balanced diet full of real foods that emphasizes plants, but also provides healthy fats from avocados, coconut oil, grass-fed butters, and wild-caught fish and pastured meats. Avoid as much processed sugar as you can.

If you would like more guidance, please click here to learn how you can get started on a path to a healthy lifestyle.

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