How was dinner last night?
Did you slave over a hot stove for hours putting together a masterpiece that a Michelin starred chef would be proud of?
Or, did you get home from work or soccer practice, open the refrigerator and think, “What would be quick and easy?”
It’s okay if it’s the second one. We can’t all be Wolfgang Puck - oh wait, he does frozen pizza and take out, too.
I mean it could be okay if you did something frozen or take out (probably not pizza, even with the veggies), but it just depends.
We are a world of very busy people. Decades of innovation have made life so much easier, but in some respects, not better - at all.
Yes, I know - running water, indoor toilets, refrigerators with ice makers, vacuum cleaners, a car in every driveway, cable TV, computers in every home, (heck, computers in every pocket)...all good.
But innovations to the food we eat - not so good. I’m talking about processed food. It’s convenient, delicious, cheap, readily available, and...it’s killing us.
Before you toss your Wheaties, your Doritos, or your Venti half-caf skim mocha latte at me, hear me out.
Why are processed foods so bad for you?
Trans fats were created to increase the shelf life of baked goods. When saturated fats were falsely accused of causing heart disease, trans fats went into everything. Margarine instead of butter and crisco instead of lard. This gave us shelf stable cookies, crackers, and bread instead of home baked.
And heart disease became the number one cause of death in the US.
Trans fats are so deadly that even the food industry started removing them from products before they were forced to by the FDA. In the US, they were finally banned in 2015, and the FDA gave food makers three years to clean up their acts and completely remove them from processed food.
Sadly, the damage had already been done.
Skyrocketing rates of heart disease can be attributed in large part to the trans fats in processed food. And believe it or not, the US is ahead of Europe on this one. The EU has not yet banned trans fats in processed food (at the time of this writing), but instead has placed a limit of 2%. Look out, European friends, it only takes a little to double the risk of heart attacks.
Yes, it only takes a little. And in the US, a product can contain 0.5 gm of trans fat per serving and still be labeled “contains no trans fat.” Yea, that makes a lot of sense. Not.
2. They have added sugar and salt.
This is what makes processed foods so delicious to us. Research shows that sugar is 8 times higher in ultra-processed foods than in other foods. According to the CDC, more than 70% of the salt that Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods - not the salt shaker on your table. Frozen pizza and take out not looking so good anymore, huh?
3. They have chemicals added to extend their shelf lives.
Do you ever wonder how long that package of Oreos has been on the grocery shelf? Well, maybe not the Oreos since they are so popular, but what about the Twinkies?
When you bake bread or cookies at home, do they stay fresh for weeks? That would be a “NO”. Have the Oreos, Twinkies, Chips Ahoy!, Cheerios, Pop Tarts, and Doritos been on that shelf for weeks? That would be a “YES”.
4. They are addictive.
Researchers have found that consuming processed foods mimics the addictive dysfunction of the pleasure centers in the brain. Eating processed foods also leads to the overconsumption of those foods which is another characteristic of addiction.
5. They are associated with many diseases you don’t want to have and will make you die younger.
Studies have shown there is a relationship between the consumption of processed foods and the development of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and weight gain. So, not surprisingly, the consumption of processed foods is also associated with an earlier death.
Let’s just look at the rates of obesity and diabetes in this country. These companion diseases have been on the rise since the 1960’s. Researchers at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health attribute much of the recent growth to an “obesogenic food environment” (1) - which means a food environment that promotes gaining weight rather than losing it.
The foods we have available to us make us gain weight!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the SAD diet. Standard American Diet. It’s been adopted worldwide, and is the most popular diet in a country full of sick and fat people.
Here’s what you need to know:
If you have a diet-related chronic disease like obesity or diabetes, I would like to help you learn how to use your food as medicine. You do not have to endure the rest of your life being sick and fat.
If you have diabetes in particular, a simple change in how and what you eat can mean that you don’t have diabetes anymore. Imagine what that would mean for you. You won’t have that heart attack caused by diabetes. You won’t need dialysis because diabetes killed your kidneys. You won’t get your leg amputated because diabetes ruined your circulation. You won’t lose your eyesight to diabetes.
To begin with, get off the SAD diet and see how that simple change can improve your health.
1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4887150/ accessed 1/28/21.