The road to wellness isn't straight, clear, or predictable. It's a path you forge yourself.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The First Big Step

In my opinion, the biggest thing you can do for your health is to stop eating processed food.  As chef Jamie Oliver said on his recent show, "It's not what the food is, it's what's IN the food".  He is so right.  You know those unpronounceable ingredients that we have all come to ignore?  They are killing us and are making us fat!

Dr. Mark Hyman says that our bodies don't know what to do with all the man-made chemicals in food these days.  For example, transfats are actually worse for you than animal fat.  If you eat a bit of animal fat you're body says, "I know what this is, and I know exactly what to do with it!"  (Of course, we shouldn't eat too much b/c it's still bad, but at least your body can handle it.)  With transfats (and by transfats, I mean any hydrogenated oils),  your body does not recognize it and does not know what to do with it.  It is designed not to break down (so food doesn't spoil) and so the body can't get rid of it easily.  Some of it ends up lining our arteries and some of it ends up begin stored as fat on our bodies.  Transfat is just one example.  There are literally hundreds of manufactored ingredients that don't exist in nature in processed food.  Our fat is actually saving us in some cases because the body uses it to store the toxic soup that we force it to deal with all the time.  

Most of these diabolical (as in from el diablo!) ingredients are derived from corn.  There is a plague of cheap corn in our country.  Why?  Because of government subsidies!  (Don't get me started on this.  If you want to know more, read "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollen.  If you only read chapter 6, it's worth it.)  We have to do something with all this corn so basically, the food companies are slipping corn into our food without us knowing it.  We all know about high fructose corn syrup, but did you know the following ingredients can also come from corn?  citric and lactic acid, glucose, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, modified and unmodified starches, dextrins, cyclodextrins, and MSG.  (To name only a few!)  Even though these things are derived from corn, there is nothing natural about them because of the processing they go through.  By the way, corn derived ingredients started being used in processed food right about the time we all started having a rise in obesity in this country.  Coincidence?  I think not!

The good news:
The good news is that you can still have delicious food and be healthy.  I love Audrey Hepburn's quote, "I don't eat health food, I eat healthy food."  Have that hamburger or fries or milkshake, BUT - make sure they are made from real, natural ingredients.  This usually means you have to make it yourself but these days more and more places are starting to use fresh, non-processed ingredients.  (Sadly, not fast food or most restaurant chains.)  I can tell you that eating real food is not only healthier, but MUCH more tasty!  Sure it costs more time and money, but it's an investment in your health. 


  1. Well several of these compounds do occur in nature. For example, citric acid is called that because it naturally occurs in citrus fruits. Lactate is also produced by the human body in addition to be naturally elsewhere. Glucose is one of the products of photosynthesis so is naturally occurring in all plants. And how you get it doesn't change what the chemical structure of the final product is. Now, that's not to say that using these items as stand alone ingredients (as opposed to just consuming the amounts that naturally occur) is a good or a bad thing. I just wanted to clarify that these are not all compounds that didn't exist before someone figured out how to cook it up.

  2. Thanks for that, Pauline. I just think that since these exist in nature, why not use the natural forms? Oversupplying corn and using it to create these things is a waste! Plus, just because some substances exist in nature, that does not mean they exist in the quantities and combinations that food manufacturers use. I still think it's best to avoid them when possible. (...and I'm not the only one. There are several books on the subject.)

  3. Well, the form shouldn't make a difference. All of these terms refer to a single chemical structure and that doesn't change whether the plant makes it in photosynthesis or if it's created in giant quantities in a factory. If it's a different chemical structure, it's no longer glucose, for example. So too much glucose is going to be a problem regardless of if it was made in a factory or in a plant.

  4. On a similar vein - how scary is it that App*lebees now has a special "under-550 calorie" menu? That means most of what they have on the normal menu is over that. I think that's a HUGE problem for obesity. People have gotten used to eating too many calories. I just looked at the calorie info on a sandwich and salad place near my work where I sometimes go and it's insane. Sandwiches that seem really reasonable with 750 calories. Good luck finding a salad with less than 600 calories. It confirmed my decision to bring my lunch as a regular matter.

  5. I agree! You know, when I went to New York all the food places were required to show the nutrition info prominently. I almost got an oatmeal raisin cookie until I saw the sign which said it had like 400 calories and something like 42 grams of fat in it! It would be nice if all restaurants everywhere where required to do this. (I hear that's part of the new health law too. I hope it happens.) Some people don't care, but some people might not eat as many calories if they knew what was in it.

  6. BTW - I used to eat the "awesome blossom" at Chili's until I saw that it has 2710 calories and 203 grams of fat per onion! If you eat a quarter of it, that's 789 calories. ...and that's without the sauce which adds another 350 calories and 36 grams of fat for 2 ounces! (And who eats only two ounces?) That's almost all the calories you need in the whole day right there----as an appetizer! Eek!!
    (Check if you want to know more.)