Nutrition Rant

I was born a foodie.  I love food – all kinds of food.  I love reading about food.  I love experimenting with food.  I love shows about food.

When I finished my degree in Public Health Education, I considered going for a Masters in Nutrition or Food Science.  I didn’t because I didn’t like the jobs that were available.  Over the years, I’ve thought about going back and getting education that focused on Nutrition.  The real reason I haven’t is still that job market issue – what I want to do with the degree is not the where the focus of the degree goes.

With that said, I still learn about food and nutrition all the time.  I watch documentaries.  I seek out the root of the truth – not just the current trends.  So when I talk about food, I usually know what I am talking about.  I have the facts to support it.  I can point someone in the direction of studies (real studies, not ones put together by a company invested in the result).

So when I opened an article (slideshow to be accurate) on a site that promoted medical information, I knew enough to be furious.  The article (for lack of a better word) was on foods you should avoid with reasons why.  Except that the information was horribly vague and some outright inaccurate.

That particular site had two things I left a comment about – 1. they said that the only healthy popcorn was made on the stove because microwave popcorn is unhealthy and 2. vegetable oils are bad.  The vegetable oil comment was full of science jargon that left me scratching my head and I actually could kind of follow it.  There was no mention of specific vegetable oils.

So I commented that while I agree about the microwave popcorn (there are so many chemicals attached to the product that I am not going to discuss at this moment), popping popcorn on the stove means cooking it in oil (the very oil they just said was bad).  There was no mention of air popping, which is actually the healthiest way to make popcorn (without taking into account what one might put on it after it’s popped).  I, also, said that the vegetable oil segment should have listed specific oils (either to avoid or to use).

It was at that point, that I noticed that the information had been borrowed from another article/slideshow.  So I went to the original.  There were more foods listed (about 9 vs the 7 in the one I started with) and there was slightly more information.  The original actually specified which vegetable oils to use.  Whether or not I agree with the items listed isn’t really where my rant is focused – it came down to the comments.

One of the foods to avoid was artificial sweetener.  This is one I have known for ages.  I try very hard to avoid any sweetener that wasn’t around 100 years ago.  But people were outraged to learn they shouldn’t have artificial sweetener.  What were they supposed to do?  Many had diabetes and the only way they could survive was with the artificial sweetener crutch.  What about the other non-sugar sweeteners?  How did they fit in?

This is one of those topics that just kills me and one of the reason why I’m not sure I’d survive taking nutrition classes.  This starts with my own life experience (or job experience).  Even though my passion was in health education, I worked in the home care field.  I was required to take certification classes with other home care workers.  One day we gathered for a class on diabetic nutrition.  Now the class was full of people who had been working in the field (we were required to take x amount of credits per year to maintain certification).  Some of the class members were diabetic.  Me – I spent my life struggling with irregular blood sugar (no diabetes diagnosis even though now my dr says I’m almost pre-diabetic) and with family members who have diabetes.

So the class starts. The instructor was fresh out of college and had no common sense.  She spouted the same old rhetoric and claimed how she was so healthy because she followed a diabetic diet.  Now this was at the start of the anti-carb movement.   When the class was over, we all shook our heads and shrugged – we had been paid to be there so what did we care.

So what is that rhetoric – sugar is evil, period.  Diabetics can’t have sweets or sugar.  They are sentenced to a life of boring foods and chemical sweeteners.  The truth is – there are three types of foods – fat, protein and carbohydrate.  Sugar is a carbohydrate.  Our body processes bread, fruit, candy, soda and vegetables all the same.  The reason sugar is “evil” is because we have stripped out all the things that made it hard for our bodies to digest.  The same goes for white flour.  The more work the body has to do to get to those carbs the slower the sugar is released into the blood stream.

Instead of encouraging patients to eat sugars that are slow to digest, the current trend is to replace them all with chemicals.  I put a lot of the new “sugars” in the same lot.  Xylitol, Stevia and Agave all sound so much healthier – they are made from plants, they are natural.  You can even find organic varieties.

They are not natural and they are not better for you.  Yes, Stevia in it’s natural form is a fine sweetener.  It tastes like artificial sweetener to me and is terrible for baking.  Otherwise, they are so processed that they are not natural when finished.

Artificial sweeteners are bad for your body.  Yes, they have no calories.  Yes, they allow people to drink their sodas and eat their candy without consuming sugar or added calories.

Let me ask you – would you put water in your gas tank?  It’s costs less than actual gas and maybe the car would run, especially if you add the water with gas.  You could just dilute the gas so it stretches further.

That sounds ridiculous – water in the gas tank is bad.  It could ruin your engine.  The same goes for using artificial sweeteners.  You put food in your body.  It’s sweet.  The body is thinking – wow, I’m getting me some gas.  It’s all ready to go but it doesn’t get gas.  The body needs calories like a car needs gas.  The entire system from our tongue to our stomach (and more) is designed to receive that fuel.  The tongue tastes the sweet.  It registers how much the body is getting.  This is that guy with the clipboard at the loading dock.  He sends the message to the stomach so it can prepare for how to sort the load, except when it comes it’s wrong.  So it sends a message to corporate (the brain) that it didn’t get the shipment.  The brain wants more.

What does that mean – artificial sweeteners actually make you crave sugar more.  They trick the brain into wanting more calories because it didn’t get the calories promised.  Artificial sweeteners disrupt thousands of years of evolution.

What surprises me is that the talk of using fruit as sweetener has all but disappeared.  There was a time when you could buy a fruit puree as a sugar and fat replacement.  Many non-American cultures still use fruit for sweetness.

Fruit has sugar but it also has fiber and nutrients.  The digestive tract has to separate the sugar from the rest of the food which takes time.

What has happened is we have become a society that has completely ruined our diet.  We eat too much sugar so we compensate with substituting sugar with chemicals which actually make us eat more sugar.  We add fat to everything and then substitute it with more chemicals which makes us fat (and oh so unhealthy).  We’ve forgotten what real food tastes like.  Our bodies are designed to want the real stuff but we’ve broken the sensors with all the crap.

I have to admit that all this does make me want to be better.  I didn’t start this post because I had a solution (hence – rant) but I do have a suggestion just because the timing works.  This is what I will be doing in October and my goal is that it will help us return to eating real food.