For many people the concept of “eating healthy” means sticking to a temporary diet for a short period of time. But when you truly understand what it means to eat healthy, you realize this is not just something cool to do for a little while and then quit–it’s something you need to do everyday. Eating healthy is a way of life. For most people this transition can be a little overwhelming at first. Many people are so afraid to change, they never do. Others make changes, but easily give up and go back to their old ways. Some jump in head first and change everything, but have no idea where to go from there. Sure, when it comes right down to it, most people want to be healthier, but just don’t really know how to make it happen.
If you want to be healthy, it makes sense to stop doing things that make you unhealthy!
This series will help you get started making the kitchen transition by getting rid of six ingredients that compromise your health. You’ll also learn why these foods should be eliminated from your diet and what foods to replace them with.
Pick a day for your kitchen makeover. Get out a big trash can and then open up the refrigerator and all your cupboards. Now you are ready to begin!
Refined Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
In today’s over-processed, sugar-crazed society, the average person consumes 154 pounds of sugar per year! That’s 53 teaspoons of sugar per day! Now let’s pretend that sugar actually has some benefits, eating one-half pound per day may not seem like such a bad idea. But the truth is that refined sugar has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Not only does it completely lack nutritional value, it also robs the body of enzymes, minerals and vitamins, especially B-vitamins. Symptoms of B-vitamin deficiency include: fatigue, depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, poor memory, insomnia, rapid/irregular heart beat, swollen/inflamed tongue, dry skin around the nose and cracking around the lips. Considering the amount of sugar consumed in this country, it’s no surprise so many Americans suffer from symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency.
Eating too much sugar also creates blood sugar imbalances in the body. When blood sugar drops too low (shortly after eating a high-sugar meal or snack) the fuel supply to the body is impaired, with adverse effects on mental function, physical energy and emotional stability. Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can range anywhere from headaches, irritability and shaking when hungry to explosive anger, panic attacks, or crying easily for no apparent reason. Not only can sugar affect the quality of your day but it can also make you sick. Many studies have shown that sugar is very effective in weakening the immune system and is a source of fuel for feeding cancer and tumors.
In an attempt to avoid the problems associated with sugar, many people have been convinced that artificial sweeteners are a better alternative. The word artificial should give you a clue that they are not. Artificial sweeteners are associated with cancer, weight gain, increased cravings for sweets, impaired coordination, decreased mental function, diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s, seizures and migraine headaches.
Trash It: It’s fair to say that no other food contributes to as many health problems as sugar. So if you want to achieve your optimum health potential, avoiding sugar is the best place to start. You can begin your kitchen transition by throwing out that big bag of sugar and all those little packets of artificial sweeteners. Then get rid of all the products in your cupboards and refrigerator that are made with refined sugar (sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin). This will include all commercial brands of cookies, candy, pop, ice cream, pastry, cakes and pies. It may seem like a good idea to pass these foods along to family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers–but considering the problems caused by excess sugar consumption, it’s best just to throw them out. Even if it seems like a waste of money at the time, the savings in your health, and the health of those you care about, will be well worth it.
Stash It: The best sweeteners to use are those that occur naturally such as raw cane sugar (Rapadura), pure maple syrup, raw honey or molasses. These are best used for baking. Stevia, an herb that is much sweeter than sugar but does not affect blood sugar levels, can be used for sweetening beverages (if necessary in the initial stages of transitioning your diet). Keep in mind that even natural sweeteners can affect your blood sugar and contribute to cravings for sweets. For this reason it’s best to avoid eating sweets by themselves; instead include dessert made with whole foods as part of a balanced meal, no more than 2-3 times per week. Good fats and protein help to stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings for sweets. A steak with some steamed veggies and butter, a salad topped with a dressing based on olive oil and a couple of naturally sweetened cookies would be a healthy and balanced way to include dessert. Avoid having dessert with a meal that is high in carbohydrates like pasta, bread or rice.
Now that you’ve eliminated the sweet sugar from your kitchen, your next step is to get rid of the “other” sugar–white flour. White flour breaks down just like sugar in the body and can lead to many of the same problems as white sugar. During the process of turning whole wheat into white flour, the B-vitamins as well as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber are removed. Due to the lack of fiber in white flour, it is a major contributing factor to constipation and other bowel problems. Wheat is also a major allergen and can cause reactions such as headaches, fatigue, malabsorption, irritability, upper respiratory congestion, nausea, diarrhea and other bowel disorders like celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Trash It: Search for anything in your kitchen made with enriched wheat flour and toss it out. That includes most commercial breads, crackers, pasta, bagels and stuff like pancake mixes. While you’re at it, you can throw out white rice and all other processed grains such as corn bread mixes, instant oatmeal, and all processed grain cereals–even if they are organic. During the extrusion processing of whole grain flakes and puffed cereals, high temperatures and intense pressure destroy nutrients, cause fragile oils to become rancid, and make the processed cereals very difficult to digest.
Stash It: Although many commercial brands offer “whole grain” breads available at the grocery store, none of them are reccommended. In most cases, the bread is still made from enriched wheat flour with a few whole grains added in. And even if the bread is made purely from whole grain, it most likely still contains unhealthy ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil. To get good quality whole grain bread, you’re going to have to take a ride to your local health food store. Look for bread that is made from whole grains, even better organic, sprouted whole grains. Some brands to look for are Alvarado St. Bakery, and Ezekiel Bread which are available at most natural food stores. If yours doesn’t carry it, ask them to. You can also find whole grain pasta and bagels, however, they are extremely high in carbohydrates and have a major effect on blood sugar. So unless you can use control to limit the portion of those foods and eat them sparingly, it’s best not to eat them at all.
Despite the fact that 98 percent of the wheat consumed in this country is refined wheat flour, surprisingly it is pretty easy to find whole wheat flour at almost any grocery store. Keep in mind, however, that shortly after wheat is ground it begins to lose its nutrient value and quickly goes rancid. So if you plan to do any baking with whole grains, it is best to grind them yourself.
Article adapted from Weston Price.