Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is all Food really FOOD?

We read every day that certain foods are bad, other foods are "good". The opinions (I suppose similar to many other topics) seem to run in two extremes:

1. Eat only "whole foods" - no sugar, no white flour items and nothing with anything you cannot pronounce in it.
2. Food is food and it's all good. (This is the "don't worry- be happy sentiment" that seems so right just because it sounds so good)

Both of these are popular - because either one is easy to follow... you either eat everything with no discrimination or you eat practically nothing.
As usual the truth lies somewhere between.

One article in a medical journal, attempting to solve the mystery of what is proper to eat, brought up the apparent contradictions in what we consider "good food" and "bad food"

>>>SAMA Health and Medical Publishing:
South African Medical Journal (1990) 78:441 (Editorial).<<<

It stated for example:

"French-fries are junk-food, but roast potatoes are not"

Unfortunately, perhaps because the article was written in 1990 when we did not know as much about trans fat as we do now, this is NOT a contradiction at all. If you take a good food and add unhealthy chemicals to it, then it's kind of a no brainer that the food will no longer good. Which is exactly what happens with French Fries. Even if they are NOT fried in transfat, we know now that in deep frying anything, chemicals are formed which are suspected somewhat toxic and these are added to the food, and thus it can be, without a contradiction that the same food which is healthy when cooked in the oven BECOMES unhealthy when deep fried.

The same article states:

>>>"bread is a basic food-stuff, but biscuits [cookies] are junk; wine comprises "empty calories," but fruit juices are health foods"<<<

Anyone who has made cookies, knows that they are composed of pretty equal parts of fat, sugar and flour. Where is the food in that? How does the author even compare that to bread?

The statement about wine is outdated - wine is now known to have antioxidants in it and fruit juices are no longer considered very healthy if they have "high fructose corn syrup" in them.

Let's look at "high fructose syrup" - this is highly concentrated sugar, probably added because today's "diet sweetener" generation is used to things which are 100 times sweeter than sugar. It is a manufactured product which is highly concentrated modified sugar and according to some nutritionists, not as easily assimilated by the body as natural sugar. Some rat studies have suggested that fructose can cause liver problems if consumed in high amounts (and a person who drinks a lot of pop could possibly reach those amounts). According to "The Murky World of High Fructose" by Linda Joyce Forristal, CCP

>>> "The medical profession thinks fructose is better for diabetics than sugar," says Dr. Field, "but every cell in the body can metabolize glucose. However, all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of the rats on the high fructose diet looked like the livers of alcoholics, plugged with fat and cirrhotic."<<<<

Back to the SAMA article, it goes on to state that:

>>the sugar in cake is detrimental to health, but the sugar in honey and grapes is not<<

Here, the concentration of sugar is the difference. Pretty much anything in high concentration can become toxic. Two aspirins cure a headache. Ten aspirins might land a person in the hospital for a stomach pumping.

Although this article is 17 years old and very outdated, the sentiment still exists in many circles today... "it's all food and it's all good".

Today's advocates of "all food is food and good to eat" sometimes use the excuse that "well, we have a longer lifespan today than we did when we did not consume any "junk food" or "fast food". This reason may be a straw man. The longer life span may have a lot to do with many factors from better work conditions and antibiotics, to the flush toilet which eliminated a lot of bacteria and viruses. It also should be noted that today we have an extremely high incidence of cancer in our society and some of the chemicals in junk food have been suggested in some research to be a factor in this cancer epidemic.

Today we have whole classes of substances that I would call "non foods". They are basically mostly fat (often transfat) and/or chemicals with virtually no nutritional value whatsoever but they often have lots of calories. Potato chips, donuts (now there's a real unhealthy combination of deep frying chemicals, transfat and sugar) and much of what you find in the super market isn't REALLY good to eat.

And we have other classes of foods which are perhaps no calories but pure chemicals, stuff which under different circumstances we would never consume as food. This class of "food" includes things like diet soda, coke etc.

Coke is a solvent and has phosphoric acid in it so it's in no way, any type of a food. Sure it tastes good, so does anti freeze but that doesn't mean we go and drink it.

What to do is a matter of opinion but I don't think it's healthy to restrict one's food drastically to exclude whole food groups such as the "whole food" advocates suggest but neither is it healthy to assume that everything in the supermarket is "food" in the real sense of the word and eat indiscriminately.

The best which seems to be a lot of work, is to learn to read labels and decide carefully.

If it's got chemicals in it like nutrasweet or splenda, avoid it... these just give you more sugar cravings and may actually cause weight gain because they unbalance the insulin levels - some research suggests that when you consume artificial sweetener, your body tasting the sweet taste, produces more insulin to deal with the sugar which of course, never comes. Wouldn't it be a hoot if the high rate of diabetes we are seeing today, has more to do with the consumption of artificial sweeteners than it does with "obesity"?

The sweetener, aspartame or nutrasweet has also been suggested in some 90 worldwide studies to be a factor in the incidence of brain cancer and leukemia. Aspartame contains a neurotoxin - an excitotoxin which can kill neurons in the brain. Excitotoxins are newly identified - for the last decade only those in neurology were familiar with them. MSG is an excitotoxin also.

If it's got mostly chemicals that you cannot pronounce in it, then there might not be much food in it.

If it's got "high fructose corn syrup" in it, it probably is best avoided.

But some processed foods can be, I feel, ok. For example, if they have a lot of vitamins in them like health bars.

Drink water instead of soda but get bottled water. Tap water has a lot of chemicals in it which are NOT removed by reverse osmosis filters.

Forget things like donuts and most "sweets" - regardless of what one weighs, these are definitely "non foods" and not healthy to eat.

Sorry but today, sadly speaking, it's NOT "all food" and it's NOT all good.

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