I’ve just finished Michael Pollard’s Book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto which I mentioned in my blog last week. Many thoughts went through my head while reading this book but the one that stands out the most was that it reminded me of why I majored in nutrition in college. Simply put, I believe in the power of food and always have. The natural next step as a physician has been to believe in the power of food and healthy living to fuel our health and well being. The author does a masterful job of explaining how the food supply in our country has become so unhealthy. It also makes me question everything I put in my mouth and, as a parent, what my children put in theirs’.
To reiterate some of the points of last week’s blog, we as a country have been duped by the food industry with cooperation from our government. The food lobby is well funded and with that funding comes the power to obtain the right (by our government) to make, quite frankly, asinine health claims about the so-called food they are selling us. Are we really to believe that Lucky Charms is now somehow good for us because a small amount of “whole grains,” have been added? The same machine has produced the commercials mentioned last week about the merits of high fructose corn syrup, in moderation of course. Does anyone else want to ask, “are you #@@?% kidding me?”
Let’s look at the facts shall we?
Table sugar or sucrose is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 80% fructose and 20% glucose. Fructose is absorbed into the body much faster than sucrose which is the main issue with this highly processed sweetener. Between 1970 and 1990, the consumption of HGCS has increased by more than 1,000% and now comprises 40% of the caloric sweeteners added to our foods and beverages. During this same time frame the rate of diabetes increased greatly. There are countless studies that suggest consumption of HCFS is a causative factor in metabolic syndrome – the largely Western conglomeration of interrelated diseases which starts with obesity and typically leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and ultimately the number one killer of Americans, heart disease. HFCS in large quantities can also elevate triglycerides and lower HDL (good cholesterol). If you have high triglycerides and do not want to take medication, stop consuming food containing refined wheat and high fructose corn syrup and watch your numbers plummet. The evidence against high fructose corn syrup goes on and on yet we still consume it in record amounts to the obvious detriment of our health.
As I’ve written in prior blogs, eating healthy in our country is not convenient, nor is it cheap. As for the first point, like many challenges in our life, overcoming them is mostly about making a decision to overcome them. Taking the time on Sunday to prepare food to be consumed for the week is a great strategy to eliminate the refined foods in our diet and planning in advance for when you may not have control of what types of foods are available. If you’ve sat in my office you know that in my house we regularly prepare large containers of mixed greens and chopped vegetables for salads during the week. There is also always a pitcher of home brewed green tea in the fridge which I take to work in water bottles each day. Grilling a batch of chicken breasts on Sundays gives us a ready supply of protein to add to salads during the week. Again, not convenient but this early week preparation allows me to avoid the pitfalls of relying on restaurants and other convenient foods during the work week which are usually highly refined. Finally, as a country, we must absolutely refuse to eat the products that the food industry is trying to pass off as food. The only way to change the products that are on our supermarket shelves is by the market forces of supply and demand.
In terms of the second point of the cost of eating healthy, I would suggest thinking in terms of a trade off between the future costs of your health care vs. the current cost of food. Believe me when I tell you, you can greatly reduce the future cost of your health care by following a healthier lifestyle now. We have become a population dependent on instant gratification. 30 minute pizza deliveries, 30 second drive through meals, and microwavable meals to go. Our demand has supplied endless products and services to feed our light speed lifestyles but again, at what cost? Take some time this week to slow down and ask yourself what is really important to you and if your actions are consistent with your priorities. Many patients sit in my office expressing desires to lose weight, get off of medications, and to live a healthier lifestyle. The ones that accomplish their goals are the ones who have the will rise above the toxic environment in which we live, and taking the time to make those desires a priority.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Until next time, stay healthy and live well… Dr. Mike
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4. Miller, A., et al., “Dietary fructose and the metabolic syndrome,” Curr Opin Gastroenterol 2008; 24(2):204-09.
5. Elliott, S., et al., “Fructose, weight gain, and the insulin resistance syndrome,” Amer Jour Clin Nutr2002; 76 (5):911-22.