When I think about the foods that contribute to poor health, they usually are foods that we crave and we crave them because our body is screaming for nutrients and until we feed the body foods that are full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, our bodies will continue to crave them.
Here are six foods that contribute to overall poor health
1. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
According to the The Grocery Manufacturers Association, about 75 percent of processed foods found at the supermarket contain GMOs. And the scary thing is that you would never know that these foods are genetically modified because they do not have to be labeled.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) reported that “several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
2. Processed Foods
Our bodies were designed to eat natural foods. Today we get most of our foods from boxes, bags, or drive throughs. If you walk down any grocery aisle, you will see shelves full of brightly colored packaged foods just waiting to be bought. In today’s society we look for convenience and simplicity when it comes to the next meal.
It is so tempting to buy all of these foods because as consumers our taste buds have been trained to crave foods which are sweet, salty, spicy, and probably unhealthy.
The typical American diet consists of mostly processed foods containing carcinogenic and/or heart threatening additives. There are many risks associated with processed foods and include cancer, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. According to industry estimates around ninety percent of the food budget is spent on processed foods.
I am so happy that Slow Food, an international grassroots movement with thousands of members in over 150 countries, links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. I love this quote from USA Today, “Slow Food aims to be everything fast food is not”
There is so much discussion on the topic of dairy in the diet. Cow’s milk is designed by nature to be the perfect food — for calves, not for human beings.
Studies show that approximately 70% of the population worldwide is lactose intolerant. Lactase is the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose. If lactose remains in a dairy product you need to have this enzyme present to metabolize this sugar.
Growing up, we’ve been taught that milk is the best way for our children to get their calcium, but dairy’s high calcium causes relative deficiencies in magnesium and other bone-building minerals, and its high phosphorus and animal protein reduces calcium availability. There are fewer nutritional or other health advantages to giving cow’s milk to children than is generally believed, while there are certainly many risks. Milk causes an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to a number of health issues including acne and respiratory issues.
Human milk and vegetable sources are superior to dairy for calcium and other nutrients in many ways. Studies show that it’s better for us to get calcium, potassium, protein, and fats from other food sources, like whole plant foods — fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and seaweed.
In place of dairy, there are many milks on the market such as coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk and hemp milk, that have a delicious taste and are a good addition to foods. Be aware of the amount of sugar in these milk products and if you are into making your own milk, there are numerous recipes for that.
When I think about gluten what immediately comes to mind is “Glue.” Glue sticking to things is a great visual on the impact of gluten in the body.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. There are companies that are processing oats on dedicated machines that have not been cross contaminated with gluten.
Gluten is hidden in many foods such as pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods. Research shows that an estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don’t even know it. They ascribe their poor health to something else.
Personally speaking whenever I’ve eaten gluten, it has been the quickest way to put on weight. In working with clients, I’ve found when replacing the gluten in their diet with other gluten free hearty grain foods such as quinoa or brown rice, they have seen a dramatic difference in not only their weight, but also in the quality of their skin.
Caffeine is a diuretic that can dry out the skin and is very acidic to the body and research shows that acidity causes inflammation and inflammation causes a number of health issues.
Caffeine increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and can contribute to the development of heart disease. Drinking both decaf and regular coffee may increase cholesterol and homocysteine, the biochemical that science has linked to increased risk for heart attack.
Caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones, which can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia and decreased immunity. Increased levels of stress can keep you from making healthy responses to normal daily stress.
Anxiety and irritability are hallmark mood disturbances associated with caffeine consumption, but equally important are depression and attention disorders. Depression may occur as part of the letdown after the stimulant effects of caffeine wear off. It may also appear during the recovery period after quitting caffeine while the brain’s chemistry is readjusted. Rather than increasing mental activity, caffeine actually decreases blood flow to the brain by as much as 30% and negatively affects memory and mental performance.
Blood Sugar Swings
Diabetics and hypoglycemics should avoid caffeine. Caffeine stimulates a temporary surge in blood sugar followed by an overproduction of insulin, which causes a blood sugar crash within hours. This rollercoaster causes weight gain since insulin’s message to the body is to store excess sugar as fat.
Many people experience a burning sensation in their stomach after drinking coffee because coffee increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which leads to an increased risk of inflammation of the stomach. Coffee, including decaf, reduces pressure on the valve between the esophagus and the stomach so that the highly acidic contents of the stomach pass up to the esophagus, which can lead to heartburn and gastro-esophageal reflux disease.
Caffeine inhibits the absorption of some nutrients in addition to causing the urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, trace minerals and all essential elements necessary for good health.
Many people find that in their 40s, they can no longer tolerate the same level of caffeine consumption they could in their 20s and 30s. Production of DHEA, melatonin and other vital hormones decline with age, but caffeine speeds up that process. Caffeine dehydrates the body and contributes to aging of the skin and kidneys. It has been shown to inhibit DNA repair and slow the ability of the liver to detoxify properly.
Caffeine consumption leads to eventual adrenal exhaustion, which can leave you vulnerable to a variety of health disorders related to inflammation and fatigue.
The United States is the largest consumer of sweeteners and one of the largest global sugar importers. We started in 1689 when the first sugar refinery was built in New York City. Colonists soon began to sweeten their breakfast porridge with refined sugar, and within 10 years individual consumption had reached 4 pounds a year. The average
American now consumes more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year. In contrast, Americans consume an average of about 8 pounds of broccoli.
The USDA recommends we get no more than 10 teaspoons per day which in my opinion is way too much, yet most Americans eat about 30 teaspoons per day—that’s three times the liberal recommended daily value.
Humans love sweet things. Even before we started refining sugar, we sought out foods with sweet tastes. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. When unprocessed, sugar contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins. When brown rice or other whole grains are cooked, chewed and digested, the natural carbohydrates break down uniformly into separate glucose molecules. These molecules enter the bloodstream, where they are burned smoothly and evenly, allowing your body to absorb all the good stuff.
Refined table sugar, also called sucrose, is very different. Extracted from either sugar cane or beets, it lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber, and thus requires extra effort from the body to digest.
The body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrients, it creates deficiency. It enters swiftly into the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on the blood sugar level, first pushing it sky-high—causing excitability, nervous tension and hyperactivity—and then dropping it extremely low—causing fatigue, depression, weariness and exhaustion.
Sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for two reasons:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more.
2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
Today, sugar is found in many of the usual suspects, like cakes, cookies and candy. But you will also find it in canned vegetables, baby food, cereals, peanut butter, bread and tomato sauce. It is often disguised in fancy language, labeled as corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, glucose or fructose.
Even some so-called healthy foods contain sugar. As you walk down any aisle at the supermarket, beware of the words “natural” or “organic” on food labels. Just because it is organic, doesn’t mean that it is healthy. The snack aisle is full of processed foods that are full of sugar and salt.
Food manufacturer’s are very clever about how they market their foods, so a good rule of thumb is to look at the ingredient list when you buy packaged goods. If there are more than 5 ingredients, you may want to think twice about eating it.
You may think your afternoon cup of coffee only has a little sugar, but a 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino actually contains 44 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons—that’s like eating three donuts! Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes.
The bottom line is that life is about balance and there are going to be those days when you may want that muffin, believe me, I’ve been there. When you’re eating healthy foods, the body remembers that and you will get back on track quickly.