Health Kick Chick

Join me on my laymen's journey towards better health. Eat. Move. Rest.

Nutrition from the Ground Up

A few weeks ago, my friend Christine asked me if I’d been physically active all my life.  Instantly, I said “no”.  Then, as we were talking I remembered growing up playing hopscotch, double Dutch, tag, hide and go seek and about a million other active games that didn’t include a gaming console.  I also remembered how in high school for one season I was on the softball team and the other 3 years, I took a class with no-nonsense Ms. Mushroom (my nickname for her since she was short, stumpy and had a bowl cut hairdo).  Her gym class made you suffer but by the end of semester even those who put in minimal effort were 20 lbs lighter.  I’d also remembered riding my bike and walking everywhere with my family and friends.  Then I remembered how I used to work out with ESPN’s Cory Everson and the BodySculpting team. Somehow I’d forgotten about this.   So, naturally I revised my answer.

Then I wondered how I still managed to be so chubby–and eventually fat if I was eating a fairly healthy, pescatarian diet.  My mom grew a lot of our produce and kept fairly healthy foods in the house like raw nuts and whole wheat bread while banishing soda and junk food.  Like most kids, though I still snuck in the occasional bag of Reese’s cups or Cheez Doodles from the store but that still didn’t account for the rest of my diet.  Or why, despite the fact that I worked out 5 times a week I still only lost a few lbs a year.

Along the way, I decided to overhaul my diet including keeping an eagle eye on my calorie intake and trying to eat more whole foods.  To me, whole means that I can pronounce every item listed on the ingredient list and educate myself about the ones I didn’t know.  For example, I eliminated foods with “tocopherol” listed in the product thinking it sounded vaguely carcinogenic…only to find out that it was the scientific word for good ol’ Vitamin E.

Learning more about where my foods came from and what they were made with made me realize that processed foods are usually only created for the sake of profit, not nutrition.  I didn’t want my health to be overrided by some corporate conglomerates need to turn a profit.  That meant that though the artificial sweeteners I’d used to shave off a few calories were touted as being “made from sugar” didn’t make it a natural ingredient.  I returned to sweeteners like honey and Demerara sugar from my youth that were minimally processed and full of flavor and micronutrients.  Micronutrients are our friend.

I also educated myself about “diet” foods and the role they play in the obesity epidemic.  Foods with marketing keywords like “enriched/fortified” or “whole grain” or my personal favorite, ” “with more fiber!” scare me now.  I know that enriched/fortified foods are stripped of essential nutrients during processing and a cheap vitamin powder is added back to replace what has been lost.  While this may sound like a fair trade off, think of the health benefits lost from processing white bread that can’t be found in any vitamin powder like amino acids that help keep your heart healthy or fiber that keeps your colon happy.

Think of how “whole grain” is an empty term further diminished when you realize that a closer inspection of the label does not reveal any grains on the ingredient list–and no wheat flour does not mean “whole or multi-grain.”  Did you know that many manufacturers skimp on whole grains and simply color the food with molasses or other brown colorings to create a healthy appearance?  Don’t even get me started on the glut of children’s cereals with as much as 56% sugar that claim to be made with whole grains.

And since the FDA recommends that American’s need 21-38 grams of fiber daily, it has become a trendy ingredient added to everything from artificial sweeteners to dairy.  Be especially cautious with fiber because the added fiber is usually commercial grade added to appeal to consumers and legally lower the calorie count of foods can cause painful bloating or worse if over consumed.  Added fiber hides under a multitude of names like inulin, ogliofructose, chicory root fiber or oat fiber.  While these foods may be fine in moderation, be aware that if you’re transitioning away from processed foods that these powdered fiber additives are chemical derivatives.  Also realize that even a slice of a typical whole wheat bread has roughly 2.5 grams of fiber per slice.  However, a popular fiber-added whole wheat bread boasts 7 grams of fiber per slice and looking at the ingredient label it’s easy to see why:

I write all this to say that you have to be making educated decisions about what goes into your body.  Trusting manufacturer claims is dangerous as your choices directly affect your health.  Know what’s on your shelves and in your food.



[…] foods on that list were processed within an inch of their life and full of food with little or no nutritional value–but they were low calorie.  And really, aren’t all calories created […]

[…] So, I don’t want to let a mass producers need for profit affect my waistline.  I’ve tried to avoid artificial sweeteners for some time now and moderate my use of HCFS.  But now, as I’m trying to eat more whole foods I […]

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