This page is meant to put to rest those rumors that pop up in the news. “High fructose corn syrup is good in moderation.“ I think not. “Natural flavors = healthy.“ Definitely not – this is called a bad Marketing ploy. “Counting calories is the only way to lose weight.“ I can attest from personal experience that not having counted calories for over 10 years now has been the best decision I ever made. I love researching these news spikes and look forward to sharing my wgfoodie commentary. Part of the healthy lifestyle battle is filtering out the ill news. If I can do just a portion of that for my readers – I’ll wake up feeling a little better myself.
T or F – “All soy is good for you.”
Many delicious and supposed nutritious foods come from soy beans – tofu, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, some baby food. But when it comes to soy beans, you have to think carefully about where they come from and do your research.
I’m not here to debate the hormonal imbalance that may or may not result from soy. That’s a deeper more metaphysical issue I would rather leave to the “experts.” Rather, I want to shed light on what I know is real and getting worse by the day.
For starters, soy beans come in as one of the largest crops in the United States. To capitalize on this growth, soy beans have been targeted and transformed into one of the most genetically modified crops. Sadly, this goes beyond our state borders and is the case across the globe as well. Just a few years ago, close to 70% of the world’s soy bean crop was genetically modified. Those numbers have likely risen. Scary.
Consumers are led to believe that soy is, in fact, good for you. Why? Because the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released statements claiming that genetically modified foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are safe; eat away, they say! This irritates me. Just the thought of something – be it food or a living organism – being genetically modified doesn’t sound comforting.
Something isn’t right. Either we shouldn’t be consuming foods that need to be tweaked in the lab to begin with OR there’s an ulterior motive to good foods being modified. Hm.
The FDA stands firm against their credo for two reasons:
1. Job security and ROI (right?)
2. GMO crops create resistance to pests and heighten their drought tolerance thereby leading to more crops
I stand by my belief that GMO crops pose greater threats to human and environmental well-being than the FDA is willing to admit. The premise of a whole grain/whole food lifestyle is eating true to your DNA, so when I come across anything that has been genetically modified – I see red flags left and right.
My fear is this… is soy the new corn? For now, if you must, please go 100% organic and local.
T or F – “Dark chocolate a day keeps the doctor away.”
A: True (Mostly)
Okay – it’s sort of true… but more true than false! Obviously, it’s not a cure-all or prevent-all for everything life throws your way and you shouldn’t eat a box a day. Pure dark chocolate has its benefits though. Let me try to convince you.
Some foods contain large amounts of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are high in antioxidants (the good stuff). They also house anti-inflammatory benefits (more good stuff). Found most commonly in fruits and vegetables, you can also find them in tea and red wine (grapes). And – cocoa.
Dark chocolate (+70%) contains strands of phytonutrients called polyphenols. As I mentioned above, benefits include not just antioxidants but anti-inflammatory molecules that help combat obesity. Don’t get too excited about uncovering your hidden stash of Kit Kat’s.
The caveat is you must eat DARK chocolate free of added saturated fats. Pure dark chocolate is loaded with cocoa which is the plant where chocolate comes from. And that cocoa is where you find the good stuff. The darker the chocolate, the more pure cocoa content = better for you.
Rule of thumb? One to two ounces a day. 70% or more cocoa. Minimal to no sugar. It’s not a lot – I know – but because the chocolate is so dark, you’ll likely not want to eat anymore.
T or F – “Agave Nectar over sugar.”
This one is a little shocking/upsetting to me because for the longest time, I was under the impression that agave is SO much better for you than sugar. Turns out agave is more similarly aligned to corn syrup, only it’s deemed healthier because it fairs better on the glycemic scale. But when it comes down to it – it’s a whole lot of fructose (like over 90%) and, in some cases, is processed. In comparison, corn syrup lingers in the 50% range for fructose levels but goes through a heavier processing system.
What exactly is the danger with too much fructose? In layman”s terms, too much of it = your body doesn’t know what to do with it and instead of converting it to glucose, stores it as fat.
Ever notice that agave is super sweet? Sweeter than honey, regular sugar, maple syrup, and even sweeter than corn syrup… but it somehow made the list of “health foods.” Maybe because it comes “organic” and has a heavier price tag than other sweeteners, so consumers use less of it at a time?
If you do your research ahead of time, you can probably find an agave nectar that has not gone through extensive processing, but I would still err on the side of caution and suggest that you use the product sparingly.
T or F – “Never eat after 8:00 PM.”
YOU may know that you’re eating dinner past 8PM, but food doesn’t know that. Should you eat a chocolate brownie sundae before going to bed and try to burn it off the next day? Well – that would be no different had you ate the sundae at 5PM – but I think in that case the junk food is the issue and not the time you ingest it. Your body doesn’t change the way it digests on a time schedule. It doesn’t think – “It’s past noon, I can’t digest anymore solid food.” So why do so many diets tell you NOT to eat solid food after a certain time? Only to discipline you is my guess, and not to back any form of science.
We can revisit the sundae for a bit. If you’re hungry or get a sudden dessert craving at 9PM but you’re trying to stick to a healthy lifestyle – I advise you not reach for that bottle of hot fudge and squeeze it with all your might over a non-fat vanilla ice cream. Instead, keep some 70%+ dark chocolate in stock and eat that instead. Or break some up and throw them into a soy yogurt. Coconut milk ice cream or soy ice cream can now be found in many grocery stores as well – just check the labels before you buy. And better yet, go for some fresh fruit which are loaded with sugars that are good for you and your body can use as energy the next day. Eating these foods at 9PM or even 10PM when you’re in bed by say 11:30 is no different than eating these foods first thing in the morning. Your body will still digest these foods in the same way regardless of time of day.
If you’re still not convinced or hate that you always get a late-night craving, think about what you’ve eaten throughout the day. Chances are, you’ve been skimping on meals because you were either too busy or thought that eating less would make you “healthier.” You should never be too busy to eat. Please take care of your body first. I don’t care if you’re the VP of Marketing or a busy Executive Assistant to the President of your company – if you don’t take care of your body, you’ll run out of fuel mentally and physically putting those efforts to waste. And eating less does not make you healthier (this is a T or F for another day). Eating less junk food will absolutely make you healthier, but so would cutting it out completely. But eating less of good-for-you food because you think that translates to less calories does NOT make you healthier – it breaks you down.
Let me finish with this. Between mine and my husband’s schedules, we end up eating dinner past 8PM a few times a week. But I make sure that whatever we are putting in our mouths is at least 95% whole grain/whole food approved. This ensures that we don’t feel like blah going to bed and have good energy waiting for us in the morning to carry us through the day. Because we’re not eating buffalo chicken pizza or a cheesy casserole late at night, our weight doesn’t fluctuate and our lifestyle doesn’t get thrown off. I hope that helps some of you rest easier
T or F – “Wheat = Always Whole Grain”
I hate how tricky labels can be for a society that is already confused. Have you ever looked at a package of bread conveniently called ‘Healthy Whole Wheat Grain Bread’ and checked the label to find that the very first ingredient is Unbleached Wheat Flour? Or what about those ’12 Grain Crackers.’ Ever check the label and find Enriched Wheat Flour on the list? Chances are – this happens more often than not. Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour is really not your answer to your white flour problems. When you see anything but Whole Wheat Flour, buyer beware.
With Enriched Wheat Flour – bran, germ and endosperm are removed. This means that most of the vitamins + minerals and good fats also fall out of the picture. During the actual enrichment process, only a few vitamins and maybe a mineral are added back to what is now simply a refined white flour. What does that mean for you? Those companies are just trying to trick your mind into thinking that you’re being healthier when really, you’re not doing much to boost your lifestyle.
Here’s another ingredient ploy. Wheat Bread v. Wheat Flour v. Whole Wheat Flour v. 100% Whole Wheat Flour. Which product(s)/ingredient(s) will supplement your whole food lifestyle? Whole Wheat Flour and 100% Whole Wheat Flour. But even so… you need to be careful. Check the other ingredients listed on the label. The less ingredients you see, the better. Because even if your product contains whole wheat flour, if it contains any other chemicals or artificial ingredients – there’s no point in purchasing it.
Some serious whole grain lifestyle experts will tell you the basic rule of thumb is this: “If it has a label, don’t eat it.” That’s not ALWAYS realistic, but it should help paint a clearer picture.
T or F – “Diet foods + low fat foods are the key to weight loss.”
Most people trying to watch their health take the right step in checking labels. However, instead of looking at the ingredients, people look for lower calorie counts and lower fat content and assume those products are O.K. They may be better for you if the ingredients contain all good-for-you stuff; nothing artificial, no chemical components you can’t comprehend. The key to checking labels is simply to not trust them. You need to take a few extra seconds to look at the fine print.
I, for one, never buy products that advertise ‘NON FAT,’ ’100% ALL NATURAL,’ ‘ZERO CALORIES’ without first thumbing through the ingredients. If I don’t know what the ingredients are, I don’t buy it. If it looks promising aside from a few complex ingredients, I go home and do my research before making the purchase commitment.
Why do I belabor the point of reading through all the ingredients? Because no food in a box, package, bottle, or can is both 100% whole grain/whole food friendly and certainly not ‘NON FAT,’ ’100% ALL NATURAL,’ ‘ZERO CALORIES.’ If you want a completely whole grain/food, walk on over to the fresh, organic produce section. Foods that promise the impossible often make up for the lack of fat and flavor by adding excessive sugar, trans fats, salt, chemicals, etc. You can actually find out the legal definition of all these [what I like to call] food marketing terms… if you’re interested.
What’s tricky is that not all companies are necessarily engaged in false advertising either. Their products may in fact be low in fat, but it may in turn be high in bad fat. Think of it this way: eating 1 tbsp of organic cane sugar beats eating 0.5 tbsp of corn syrup. Just because you’re consuming less of something that’s not great for you doesn’t mean you’re doing yourself a favor.
Some of you may be thinking – “I know that I need to read the labels and I do but often the organic, better-for-you foods cost twice as much as the not-good-for-you foods!” I understand. In fact, I empathize. I try to think of my grocery bills as an investment toward my health and my husband’s health. Would you rather your money go into your well-being or to insurance companies? If you consume too many processed, unnatural foods, you’re bound to end up battling your own demons later on in life. And those demons don’t come without a cost.
You don’t need to spend $200 @ Whole Foods every week to be healthy, you know. You can watch what you eat by incorporating more produce and cutting back on those packaged goods regardless of where you shop. Eat out less, cook at home, be weary of what you put in your mouth. Don’t waste your money on low-fat fudge/peanut butter/caramel granola bars. Be smart, keep reading those labels, and don’t ever compromise on investing in your health.
T or F – “There exists such a thing as good fats and bad fats.”
This concept of good fats v. bad fats ties into some of the points noted above. Let’s start out with a little science. The more technical comparison would be monounsaturated (great) v. polyunsaturated (good) v. saturated (ehh okay) fats v. trans fats (stay away). Rule of thumb? Choose healthy unsaturated fats, limit saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats are avocados, olive oil, nuts (raw and not flavored like honey roasted). Examples of foods containing polyunsaturated fats (which include the ever-popular Omega-3′s) are seafood like salmon. Saturated fats are found in foods like red meats, poultry skin, and dairy, including eggs and butter. Be careful as too much of saturated fats is not a good thing.
The evil trans fats are prevalent in foods found at fast food chains or even in bags of microwavable popcorn. Trans fats are also known as artificial fats. Artificial fats… makes you shudder, right? Why do companies even bother with trans fats then? Because they increase shelf life = better benefit-cost ratio + less depreciation.
Fats are here to stay because our bodies need fats. They’re not just these annoying facets of life that seem to cloud pop culture and kill our self esteems. The right fats, consumed in healthy moderation, aid in nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, cell membrane integrity, etc. The right fats even keep our skin soft and and act as a source of energy. Some research points to the good unsaturated fats control and even lower overall cholesterol (including LDL cholesterol).
Bottom line? It’s the abundant consumption of too much fat and bad fats in particular that promote weight gain, depression, heart disease, high cholesterol, and so on. Know your fats and better your health.