Monthly Archives: March 2012

Other Unhealthy Stuff That’s in Your Food

So the previous 3  posts I discussed how the food industry crams our foods full of the unhealthy S’s, sugar, sodium, and saturated and trans fats.  They do this because our bodies crave these substances, and they taste good.  The better their foods taste, the more they sell.  Unfortunately the food industry is too good at selling and it has lead to an obesity epidemic.  2/3 of adults are overweight in America!

The unhealthy s’s are just a part of the overall food and nutrition problem we have in this country.  Not only are our foods packed to the gills with sodium, sugar, and saturated/trans fats, but they also use artificial colors to make food look better, preservatives to increase shelf life, artificial sweeteners to make a food or beverage sweet without calories, and artificial flavors to, once again, make food taste better.  All in the pursuit of making as much money as possible off of the unhealthy foods they sell.

To find out if the groceries and other food products you buy have unhealthy stuff in them you’ll have to read ingredients lists.  It can be a sobering experience when you get in the habit of reading ingredients lists, especially if you know what to look for.  You’d be surprised at how many products that are advertised as healthy have crap (additives, preservatives, and other artificial stuff) in them.  There is a mounting amount of research on many of these food additives and how they affect your weight.  Many of them contribute to obesity in one of three ways: #1-They’re addictive, which is why you have such strong cravings for unhealthy, junk foods.  #2-they block feelings of satiety/fullness so you’ll eat more, and #3-they change how your body uses calories in a negative way (they make your body store more calories as fat).

I challenge you to begin looking at ingredients lists.  Look at the stuff you and your family eat.  Are you eating real food or is it just a highly processed semblance of something that once was food?  Stay tuned for my next post that will name some of the stuff to watch out for, and why, when reading labels.  In the meantime, take a look at a few ingredients lists and try to eat more whole foods, especially fruits and veggies!


The Unhealthy S #3-Saturated and Trans Fats

Why does fat get such a bad rap?  There are some legitimate reasons why, but fat is not bad in and of itself, your body needs fat.  Fat provides the body’s largest stores of potential energy, fat cushions and protects our vital organs, and fat acts as insulation against the thermal stress of a cold environment.  As usual, the problems arise when you eat too much fat.  Fat legitimately gets a bad rap for two main reasons.  First, fat is very calorie dense.  One gram of a carbohydrate or protein only equals about 4 calories, while one gram of fat equals 9 calories (more than double).  Fat calories can add up quick, so be aware.  The second reason fat gets a bad rap is two-fold: animal saturated fats, and trans-fats.

It is recommended that no more than 10% of your daily caloric intake be from saturated fat.  A double cheeseburger at McDonalds has 11 grams of saturated fat or 99 calories.  Eat two double cheeseburgers to bring in all the saturated fat you should get in a day (if on a 2000 calorie diet).  It is important to remember that not all saturated fat is bad.  Bad saturated fats are in animal proteins such as beef, chicken, pork, and dairy products.  You can remove much of the saturated fat in animal products by eating lean meats, and manually removing the fat (paper towels work great!) when cooking because saturated fat is liquefied when cooking.  Some plants contain saturated fat, examples are coconuts (including coconut oil, coconut milk), palm oil, and cocoa butter.  It is generally believed that the saturated fats in plant sources is not bad for you so don’t worry about cutting out coconuts and products with coconuts, they’re perfectly healthy and good for you in moderation.

Trans fats are, under all circumstances, bad for you and your health.  You truly should look to totally eliminate trans fats from your diet.  I rarely say that something should be totally eliminated from your diet, but trans fats are that bad for you, even in small amounts.  Trans-fats are formed during the manufacture of margarine and other vegetable shortenings.  Trans-fats are also in fried foods, and many commercial baked goods.  Trans-fats and excess animal saturated fats have similar effects on the body, mainly an increase in artery clogging LDL cholesterol.  There are two types of cholesterol, LDL (clogs arteries) which is bad cholesterol, and HDL which is good cholesterol (cleans arteries).  In addition to increasing LDL’s trans-fats also decrease HDL levels, so it has a double whammy effect if you will.  It is now required for foods to list the amount of trans-fats in them, but if a food doesn’t have at least a half a gram of trans-fat it can be listed as 0 grams of trans fat.  Check the ingredients of the foods you eat for the term hydrogenated.  If you see the word hydrogenated, the product contains trans-fats.

In conclusion, look to totally eliminate trans fats from your diet.  At very least try to drastically reduce the amount of trans fat in your diet by reading labels, using butter instead of margarine, and steering clear of fried foods.  Limit (but don’t eliminate) your consumption of saturated fats, and don’t worry about the saturated fats in plant products such as coconuts.