No one size fits all. The thing about food is that, unless it is an allergy, we do not really feel the immediate effects of what we eat. Hence, we often choose not to believe the food we love could harm us. While it is true that one man’s poison is another man’s meat, generally the modern diet of today is causing serious malaise among us. When I say modern diet, I mean fast food, junk food, highly processed food that we all go for in the name of convenience. We can argue till the cows come home about “fad” diets, but they mostly have something in common when you look at most of the reasons behind their justifications from a biochemical point of view. In order to address a wider audience, I will have to take a general stance on this, bearing in mind that different people have different levels of sensitivities.
Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, depression, obesity, to name a few. These are very common diseases/conditions of our time and they can all be traced back to lifestyle choices of modern society such as poor diet, lack of exercise, stress, pollution, excessive alcohol and the likes. The keyword to all of this is chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the body’s immune response to fight against pathogens or to protect from harmful stimuli. However when the process fails to shut down, it becomes chronic inflammation and this is when healthy cells get attacked in turn and the Pandora box of auto-immune diseases opens.
I have compiled a list of the usual suspects and hope that it will further convince you to seriously consider cutting out these foods. You don’t have to believe me, look for information from bio-chemists; they will tell you what bio-chemical chaos these foods will wreak in your temple.
– Sugar has a great effect on your insulin and leptin signaling. When you consume sugar, your pancreas produces insulin to regulate your blood sugar level. This is normal and all is fine until continuous spikes turns to insulin resistance. This is when you start having problems, when sugar becomes the main fuel source and your body starts storing fat. That is just the tip of the iceberg. When you eat a sugary, high carb meal, your blood sugar levels are hiked and following the hike is the crash, the crash will then make you hungry again and craving for more sugar.
- White processed carbohydrates i.e. bread, cakes, pastries made of flour
– Simple carbohydrates turn into sugar from the start of its journey down your digestive tract. The reason we encourage people to opt for complex carbohydrates is because the fiber in complex carbohydrates slows down the sugar absorption into the blood. Examples of complex carbohydrates are fruits (eaten whole), vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Commercial meats
– Factory farmed livestock are animals that are farmed in large-scale industrial operations which means crowded spaces where hygiene is questionable and diseases are easily spread. For this reason, they are treated with hormones and antibiotics for rapid growth and prevention of diseases. There are residues of these hormones and antibiotics in the meat after it is harvested, thus consumption of these meats can affect your health significantly. This is why grass-fed or free-range animals are considered healthier alternatives because they do not have to be treated with loads of hormones and antibiotics.
- Polyunsaturated vegetable oils
– I still get glares of disbelief whenever I try to explain this one. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils are high in omega 6. Our modern diet is high in omega 6 mainly because of our fear of saturated fats (found mostly in animal-based foods) and more evidently the cheap industrial processing of seed oils like safflower, canola, and soy bean oils. We should be consuming a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 and omega 6. Foods high in omega 3s are oily fish, grass-fed meats, avocados, free-range eggs. Our modern diet in this day has omega ratios that look something like 15:1 to 30:1 in favor of omega 6 fatty acids. This spells out chronic inflammation big time.
– So what about palm oil since it floods the supermarket shelves in this country? Although tropical oils are deemed as heart-healthy and more heat stable, palm oil in its original form has a nice fruity smell and is orange in color, thus palm oil goes through a high process of bleaching and deodorization.
- Canned foods, Canned drinks, Bottled juices, Bottled sauces
– Preservatives, added sugar, BPA in the canning process and not knowing what kinds of meat are canned should discourage you enough to go for fresh food instead. Leave the canned stuff for emergencies; choose real food whenever you can.
All of the above foods lead to chronic inflammation. These are just some examples; it is just the tip of the iceberg. The information we have access to makes for the reconsideration of many things that we have been programed to believe. One that I would like to highlight is the fear of saturated fats. Many people have found it hard to wrap their head around this one but as recent as 2010, a review was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, with data from 21 studies including 350,000 people, about 11,000 of whom developed cardiovascular disease. This was tracked for 14 years and the conclusion of this study states that there is no direct link between dietary saturated fat and cardiovascular disease. In fact, you are better off eating butter, ghee and other animal fats than their trans-fat cousins and vegetable oils.
My personal opinion is this – Start cutting out the foods listed above and you will see your general health going towards a positive direction. You may even begin to get closer to some of your other personal goals e.g. fat loss.