What's In Food?
We wanted to distinguish for our patients what the different elements of food are, so that people can make better choices regarding what they eat. Foods always break down to certain categories; these categories are often on a nutrition label. A website we recommend to look up values is www.sparkpeople.com, which is very helpful because it will also give you alternatives to foods, and can also be used to look up "name brand" foods, like Starbucks. A great app as well as website for the same purpose is MyFitnessPal at www.myfitnesspal.com
The first category is PROTEIN. Protein is primarily broken down in the stomach, and requires proper levels of stomach acid to do so. Protein is found in meat, eggs, dairy products, soy, nuts and seeds, beans. Examples include:
- Sandwich meat
- Nuts and seeds
- Peanut and nut butters
The second category is CARBOHYDRATES. Included in this category are simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose, etc - anything ending with -ose), and more complex carbohydrates, both refined and unrefined (meaning, still having fiber). Sugars and refined simple carbohydrates, like white flour, white sugar, etc, cause the blood sugar to rise rapidly and increase insulin levels as a reaction. More complex, unrefined carbs have fiber to slow down the absorption, but will still cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, albeit slower, and they have more nutrients. Examples of carbohydrates are:
- Snack/ breakfast bars
- Baked goods
- Fruit juices
- Energy drinks
- High fructose corn syrup
- Agave nectar
- Starchy vegetables
- Corn/ Popcorn
Carbohydrates and sugar are quick forms of energy for the body to use, as it converts easily to glucose, the main fuel of the body. 40% of glucose is used for brain function, which explains the difficult concentrating with low blood sugar. Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients - the body can obtain all of its energy and nutrients with protein and fats.
FATS are found in meat, oils from plants and eggs. Fats, similar to carbohydrates, come in a variety of types. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are very resistant to going rancid. Unsaturated fats are liquid oil at room temperature and are vulnerable to becoming rancid. Polyunsaturated fats are found in very small quantities and are extremely vulnerable to becoming rancid. Most foods are a mix of different fats. For instance, beef fat is half saturated and half unsaturated with the same unsaturated oil predominant in olive oil. Beef fat even has as much Omega 3 polyunsaturated oils as salmon if the beef is grass-fed rather than grain fed.
- Fats in meat
- Seed oils (olive, flax, peanut, etc.)
Fats to be avoided:
- Trans-fatty acids/partially hydrogenated vegetable fats (artificially saturated)
- Unsaturated oils that are not cold pressed or expeller pressed
Commercially prepared seed oils (corn, canola, etc.) found in grocery stores are NOT safe to eat. Using high temperatures and chemical solvents to economically extract the oils, they become damaged and rancid. The offensive smells are removed prior to bottling, but the rancid oils with the free radicals are still present.
It is a myth that saturated fats are dangerous for your health. The error in the large dietary studies of the twentieth century was that saturated fats were grouped with trans-fatty acids (artificially saturated). All of the detrimental health effects associated with saturated fats belong to trans-fatty acids.
It's also a myth that fat makes you fat. Fats have more calories than protein or carbohydrates and this has led people to believe that this makes one fat. Fat is fattening only when eaten with carbohydrates. Calories only count when eating a diet that includes carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are also what give us hunger. Fasting (eating nothing) results in a total loss of appetite in a few days in exactly the same manner that no- or very low-carbohydrate diets do. When your body begins to burn fat and protein for energy instead of carbohydrates, appetite is very reduced or gone. Fats reduce hunger, improve moods, sleep and energy and supply fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, K, portions of B complex and essential fatty acids (EFA's) such as Omegas -3 and -6.