Monday, January 13, 2014

Sane reasons to avoid a few food buzzwords

I’ve been working on my diet lately, which has been a good thing. A recent physical had my doctor concerned about my weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc., so changes are in order. But, that said? There’s a few big buzzwords I’ve heard I should avoid – not from my doctor but by friends, the internet, etc.

Mulling it over, some of these things are subject to good ol’ fashioned hysteria. If you listen to the most extreme of voices, they’ll kill you, your dog, and burn down your house (or something along those lines). I can sort of understand some of the more sane things said, but not being a doctor or nutritionist, nor knowing good sources to verify the claims? That’s sort of dangerous, and I don’t want to inadvertently “drink the Kool-Aid,” as it were. So, thinking it over, I’ve come up with the following reasons I'm cutting back on foods with the HFCS, gluten, and dairy..

High Fructose Corn Syrup/HFCS

One of the more pervasive food additives, HFCS is a sugar replacement pure and simple. I’m not sure what’s supposed to make it so much worse than regular sugar, but ultimately fructose, sucrose, and glucose are sugars. So, regardless of form, an excess of them is bad, especially if you’re staring diabetes in the face.

So, as a result, I’m trying avoid to foods with HFCS, not because its HFCS, but because its sugar. More broadly, trying to avoid foods with added sugars because I don’t need to add all those sugars to my diet when I’m trying to lose weight and keep my blood sugar in check! My foods will have them naturally occurring, and carbohydrates eventually turn into sugars anyhow.


There are folks with legitimate, diagnosable, and hazardous gluten sensitivity issues (Celiac disease, anyone?). But its turned into quite the marketing buzzword for a variety of reasons, and seems to have sold a t-shirt or two here on Maui (“Wheat is Murder” was sported by some Paleo enthusiasts I saw at Teddy’s Bigger Burger). So, now everything including Poppycock (think Crackerjacks with a higher price tag) is billing itself as being gluten-free. Of course, with no mandatory standards, maybe they are, maybe they aren’t… glad I don’t have to rely on this.

So, why am I cutting down on gluten foods? For one, they’re so good at transporting calories I don’t need! I love pasta, breads, etc., and can often eat 4-6 servings worth. A serving being, of course, what the label says, not “this is what I want to eat.” I can, and do, over-eat on the stuff. Its tasty and glorious. Aaaand I’m clearly the problem here.

Additionally? Carbohydrates turn into sugars. See HFCS the general gist of things. Add in the fact that if I make my blood sugar spike, it’ll crash, and I feel icky while my body tries to normalize. Sometimes I’ll want more carbs/sugars to try and get it normal. Not so good. Oh, and it’s a comfort food… tough being an emotional eater sometimes…

So, really, cutting down on my gluten intake is coincidental to me taking in less yummy carbs in general. That also includes my beloved French Fries, potato chips, tortilla chips, etc. I do have bread and such, and enjoy them, but am not porking out on them. Likewise, I’m trying to get in more complex carbohydrates such as beans, lentils, vegetables, etc., because I get a lot more nutritionally from them per serving than I do for simple or refined carbohydrates (whole wheat flour is still flour, making it easier to take in a ton of calories). That, and since they take longer to digest and convert into sugars, it doesn’t slam me like a train later on in the afternoon.


Thankfully, I’m not a big dairy fan, so this one is pretty easy. The overall reasoning for cutting back is similar to simple carbs/wheat in that its simply so efficient at what its doing that its easy to overdo. As pointed out by its detractors, milk is an all natural weight gainer for baby cows, and its full of sugars itself (lactose). So, yeah, cutting back on this seems like a pretty easy step. I can get calcium, protein, etc., from other sources, so its not like moo-juice has a monopoly on those nutrients.

Are you noticing an overall trend here?

You’ve got three very efficient modes of delivering calories, all of which are available in high quantities to Americans (like me) who are often quite sedentary (like me). More calories going in than being consumed will naturally result in obesity, regardless of the buzzwords associated with them. These things could be all natural, organic, and whatever else, but given the quantities they’re consumed in by people like me, it wouldn’t matter.

So, my lunches have gone from being very calorie dense to, well, salads. Not nearly as dense as far as calories are concerned, which is a good thing. Realistically speaking, a good salad will fill me up, but so will a good burger. The burger will have tons more calories, fat, sodium, etc., than I’ll actually need for a single meal, even if it is less food. I’m not totally dismissing calorically dense foods, but I’m definitely trying to take them from being my primary food intake to being a lesser role in the scheme of things.

If you’re like me and think the buzzword people are crazy? Fantastic! I hope this is a more lucid view of those demonized foods and a more sane reason as to why you might want to cut them back a bit.

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