There are a great many areas of diet and nutrition which affect our health. According to many well respected nutritional research scientists, most of our health problems and major diseases are actually caused by or aggravated by our diets. Even many U.S. agencies and institutes admit that cancer, heart disease, diabetes and many other health conditions are often, and possibly even usually, caused by our diets. The only thing which it seems cannot be agreed upon is what diet changes will be the most advantageous to our health. Since those who follow the current conventional thinking, continue to have very high rates of these diseases, something is obviously very wrong with the dietary advice we are using. Certainly, much of the problem is that a good percentage of the public is not the least bit interested in improving their health by changing their diets. The more interesting fact, however, is how much very damaging health information is continually being fed to the public as “truths” when in reality it is either industrial propaganda or simply misinformation. People on low fat diets, those drinking regular or diet sodas or fresh fruit juices, those consuming seemingly healthy dishes of pasta and avoiding red meats and eggs —- are getting just as sick just as often as the ones who are not. What is going on here? The goal of a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist (which is not a dietician) is to cut through all the hype, stay up to date with the current research and help people improve their health.
In the years I have been in private practice as well as teaching nutrition classes through a local college, I have found it extremely helpful to make up my own definitions. The purpose of this is to help you more easily remember the important aspects of the information I will be presenting in this article. You may find that some of what I say is quite different from what you have previously been told. Rest assured that all my information is based on a wealth of clinical experience. Make some of the changes I recommend and you will be pleasantly surprised at how much it will benefit your physical and even emotional health. You will probably notice less fatigue and more energy, weight loss if you need it, more level emotions, and better general health if you continue the changes I outline.
In this article I will be addressing one of the most important nutritional areas concerning your health – Sugar and Concentrated Sweets.
First let me give you the definition I use when I speak of sweets in my office or classes. It is extremely easy to remember: anything which tastes sweet but is not a piece of raw, ripe, fresh fruit. Let’s examine that for a moment by listing some foods which fall into this fairly large category:
All candy, cookies, cakes, donuts, pastries, soft drinks (sodas), juices (including fresh), and added sugars such as honey, table sugar, turbinado sugar, sugar in the raw™, succanat™, maple syrup, corn syrup, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, apple sauce, jellies, jams, concentrated fruit juice extracts, raisins and other dried fruits, all protein bars and power bars, and a whole bunch of etceteras…. Now that is a pretty long list and most people consume many of these every day. Before I even go into my other sugar category, let me explain the problems with sugar.
First and foremost, sugars (all of the above) depress the immune system. This is a very important statement since your immune system has far reaching effects on every part of your life. Some professionals say that each time we eat a sweet food, other than a piece of raw fruit, our immune system is depressed for 4-5 hours. You can see by the foods included in the above list, that this could keep most people’s immune systems depressed all day long! Even if you are one of the lucky ones who never seems to get sick, your body is still being affected and your probability of a major future illness is greatly increased. Your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, and a host of other degenerative diseases will always go up in proportion to your consumption of these sweet foods. If you would like to read an excellent book on the subject, pick up a copy of Sugar Blues by William Dufty from Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. If sweet foods were removed from our diets, we would have less family disputes to settle, and a whole lot fewer hyper-active and attention deficit children. (Although not part of this article, hidden food allergies are also a large part of that particular problem. See the article on Allergies, Food Intolerances, and their Effects On Our Health ).
Have you ever noticed how hard it can be to stay focused or awake after a meal or snack? We cause that problem by our food choices, and I will teach you how to reduce or eliminate this problem from your life. Just read the rest of this article and try some of my suggestions.
We have all been told that it is fat which makes us fat, but this isn’t necessarily true. When you consume a fat, it takes a long time for your body to break it down completely, and during this time, you are burning up most of the calories from the fat. When you consume a sweet, or my second sugar category which I will describe shortly, your body processes it immediately. Since all those calories cannot be used so quickly (unless you are in the middle of running a marathon), all the excess is stored as fat. This is simply part of our heritage where we developed a good storage mechanism to get us through times of famine. The over taxing of our pancreas to produce insulin and desperately try to keep our blood sugars level during these assaults of high sugar intake, simply compounds the problem further.
If you’ve gotten this far, and you are still reading, then you do, in fact, care about your health and I applaud you for being part of this growing minority. I mentioned before that there was a second part to my sugar category. If you thought that the first group was already too large and seemingly hard to reduce, then you might want to put down this article and not read anymore. Still interested? You must really care about your health and the health of those you love. The second part of the sugar category includes any popped or puffed grains (like popcorn and rice cakes), all forms of any kind of alcohol, and all forms of any kind flour. What?! Wait a second, did I just read that correctly? I’m afraid that you have. As far as your body is concerned, if you eat a piece of bread (yes even whole grain bread) a bagel, some pasta, a rice cake, or a bag of popcorn or some corn or potato chips, you just ate a bunch of sugar. It’s really very simple to understand if you look at it correctly. A whole grain such as a bowl of cooked brown rice, millet, barley or oats will be digested very slowly and the sugars they become will be used as they are digested. When you take one of these same grains and either pop them, puff them, or grind them into a flour to make breads or pasta, you have altered the digestion process. What has happened is that you have pre-processed the grain so that your body can now turn it into sugar very quickly. This occurs much too quickly for your body to handle and so the immunity is depressed, blood sugar is raised then dropped, and fatigue and many other problems are caused.
Please let me interject here that I am NOT telling you to stop eating bread and pasta as well as all sweets and all alcohol. Perfection is mostly impossible for humans and I do not claim to be perfect. I am simply educating you so that you may try to make some food choices which can change your life.
Let’s look at addictions for a moment. You realize that in many cases if people were not addicted to something, they might never have become criminals. As a health professional, I have a very different view of addictions. In my practice, I am continually exposed to numerous addictions and these include soda, coffee, sweets in general, alcohol, and chocolate. These can be just as addicting as illegal drugs, but they happen to be legal, more affordable, and their effects are much more insidious. They are addicting because they change the emotional state of the user and because there can be profound withdrawal symptoms when they are discontinued (usually headaches).
In this first article, I would like to issue a small health challenge to show you just how much you can benefit by altering your diet. This is not easy, and it will most definitely take some will power. If you find yourself getting headaches during this challenge, please remember that this means you are breaking an addiction and pat yourself on the back. If you have diabetes, please monitor your blood sugar carefully since it may level out, and thus you must consult your doctor before you start.
Ah, the challenge. Here it is – simple (not) and easy to understand. For four weeks, do you think you could consume no types of alcohol, no bread of any kind, no pasta, no candy, no sodas, no juices, jams, or jellies, no donuts or other pastries? In other words, no alcohol, flour products, or sweet tasting food or drink except 1-2 pieces of raw fruit per day, if you wish. Oh, and by the way, since artificial sweeteners have other problems which will be covered in future articles, they get eliminated as well for this 4 weeks. No diet sodas either. CAN YOU DO IT??? I do this at least a couple of times each year. No I don’t live that way every day. I simply eat very little flour products, none of the real garbage foods like sodas, and no more than a couple of desserts each month. So what is the point, you may ask? Very simple. When you see how much better this makes you feel, and in many cases, see how the pounds may also start dropping off if you are over-weight, you will understand the bad side of sugar/flour/alcohol.
One last note. In the November 1998 issue of the American Journal of Natural Medicine William B. Grant Ph.D., shows that heart disease may be more attributable to sugar intake than to fat intake. His information is pretty convincing and the research he references is extensive. So let’s get started on the road to better health and if I may help point you in the right direction, then I will have accomplished my goal.
Need to have a healthy snack during your experiment? Raw nuts are an extremely good between meal snack as long as you’re not allergic to them and you don’t eat a half pound every time you need to nibble on something.
I would very much appreciate hearing your comments at the end of the one month trial. I have a special email address for this purpose and it is firstname.lastname@example.org. You must have the words Sweet Challenge in the reference line of the email or I will delete it without reading it. Good luck, and thanks for caring to improve your health.
David Getoff CCN, CNC, FAAIM is a Traditional Naturopath and board certified clinical nutritionist. David has a private practice in San Diego California where he works with all areas of health and Wellness. Since his job is to help the body to heal itself, he is not limited to any particular health problem and therefore sees people with heart disease, chronic fatigue, cancer, diabetes, environmental illness, overweight, etc. Having designed a course in holistic nutrition, David teaches this course ever semester at the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation.
Lick the Sugar Habit, N. Appleton, New York: Avery, 1988
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, W. Price, La Mesa: Price Pottenger, 1970
Sugar Blues, W. Dufty, New York: Warner Books, 1975
Killer Colas, The Hard Truth About Soft Drinks, by Nancy Appleton, PhD.
Sweet Fire, Understanding Sugar’s Role in Your Health, DVD, by Mary Toscano, CNE
Western Diseases their Emergence and Prevention, H. Trowell & D. Burkitt, Cambridge: Harvard, 1981
Note: My students have often complemented the writing of my class handouts. They tell me that I write in the same manner that I speak, and that this makes it generally easier for me to be understood and more enjoyable to read. For this reason, I have not shied away from the use of contractions as is the normal procedure for professional writing.