So many terms are being bantered around in the food world that one could get lost. Maybe I can be sort of a weather vane in a storm of terminology.
There is the Standard American Diet (SAD) which is loosely based on the old Food Pyramid laced with the effects of highly commercialized food “products.” The Food Pyramid boasts whole grain goodness as its broad “eat mostly this” base and vilifies fats as sure killers. It is interesting to note that since the inception of the Food Pyramid model, obesity and diabetes began to skyrocket.
Well, think about it. Grains are broken down and processed as the carbohydrates they are. Carbs are broken down by the digestive system into simple sugars. All carbs are broken down into sugar (glucose or fructose molecules). So, be it a whole wheat bagel or a piece of frosted birthday cake, the end result is sugar. To transport that sugar to body cells, insulin is needed. Any of that sugar fuel not needed at that time is stored as fat. While eating the carb-centric diet as outlined in the Food Pyramid, Americans were requiring their bodies to produce more and more insulin. After a while, being awash in insulin, our bodies become resistant to the effect of insulin—sort of ignoring it. However, our cells were starving for the sugar fuel and we were still hungry; so, we ate more whole grains. Can you see the vicious cycle this was, and is, making? Gaining weight and becoming diabetic. There’s a term for that: diabesity.
Insulin is known as the hormone of fat storage; and eating carbohydrates causes a need, not only for insulin production, but receptivity to its effects. As one who often suffered from frequent low blood sugar crashes, I mistakenly tried to “fix” things by eating carbs. True enough, my blood sugar would go up, but as all of that insulin took effect, my blood sugar crashed again. Little did I know at the time, cutting back on the (starchy) whole grain carbs with each meal would have normalized my blood sugar. I certainly know that now. I can return to low blood sugar crashes quite easily if I re-introduce starchy carbs- even gluten-free ones- heavily into my meals. Instead, I rely on protein and good quality fats along with low-glycemic colorful veggies and fruits to keep me on an even blood sugar keel.
A word or two about “food products.” You know them. If given the long list of their ingredients, you could never guess what they were. A LOT of money goes not only into the production of those items, but extensive money and research goes into selling of them to us. It’s all about money; making money; making more money. Our health is not even on their list of concerns. Making a profit is the list.
Eating Clean or Clean Foods is all about eating unprocessed food, as close to the original source or form as possible. This type of eating eliminates the highly processed oils, “food products,” and “Frankenfoods” such as pre-packaged meals, junk food (chips, cookies, frozen pizza, Pop-Tarts) in favor of real, identifiable food (apples, carrots, steak, tomatoes, kale….you get the idea). This might also be referred to as Whole Foods. Mind you, this also contains whole grains……
Gluten Free eating eliminates the inflammatory proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Using simple gluten-free alternatives for common starchy foods such as bread, crackers, cookies will address the gluten sensitivity but not necessarily address maintaining balanced blood sugars or weight loss. Certainly, I have mentioned in other posts, gluten is also found in condiments; thus label reading is needed.
Paleo, Paleolithic, Ancestral Eating or the “Caveman Diet” are all terms used to describe how our ancient ancestors ate prior to the advent of agriculture. It could be described as “Clean Eating” or “Whole Foods” but generally without any grains, legumes, dairy, or soy. Refined sugar is out! The elimination of all grains (in addition to those with gluten) would mean no rice or corn because of other elements- phytates- that can cause inflammatory processes. I promise a future post on that.
So, do we obsess about what we eat? Does it become our 24/7 demon?
I don’t think so. To me, just looking at the ingredient list of an Oreo cookie sends shivers down my spine. Talk about “edible food-like substances!” Isn’t it a natural instinct to protect ourselves? Turning away from poison should not be difficult.
It seems to be a no brainer, looking at the terrible upswing of obesity, diabetes, ADHD, auto-immune diseases and the like, that something has changed. We just haven’t gotten cleverer at diagnosing patients; we are creating those patients by how we have changed eating. Cleaner eating is certainly a part of the picture. We were not designed to eat food dyes, chemicals, or pesticides. But I also agree with the Paleo proponents who cite that our digestive systems just have not generally evolved to eat most grains. Eliminate them and you will feel a difference. Put them back after a month or two and you will return to feeling and looking sub-par. After cleansing your body from the effects of all grains, you could reintroduce non-gluten grains on a limited basis to see how you tolerate them.
If you are just getting started in cleaning up what you eat, ditch the sugar first. It is so liberating to not pine for another sugar “hit.” So many people trying to do this simply switch to non-caloric sweeteners, but that seems wrong on multiple levels. How natural is it? Ok, there’s Stevia and the like, but to me, that’s like getting off of heroine by going on Methadone. So many never get off of the Methadone. Additionally, there are many studies showing those using artificial sweeteners actually eat more. See, the artificial sweetener is telling the brain that sugar is on the way; when blood sugar levels don’t go up; the brain sends the signal to eat in order to raise the blood sugar.
Guess you can’t fool Mother Nature!
The next post will be about how to optimize your success at making positive changes in your eating and exercise habits.
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