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Your Nutrition Isn’t That Bad

October 29, 2015 2 Comments

healthy-familyBefore you read too much into the title of this article, let me first explain I haven’t the faintest clue about how or what you eat but like the recent headlines, apparently neither do they. Nutrition has taken a beating this week in the news: processed meat causes cancer; sugar is toxic. The endless cycle repeats of what’s good to eat, what to avoid eating, and what to eat more of as the media spreads more propaganda based on shoddy research and ratings grabbing attention. While I whole heartedly agree that processed meats aren’t the best choice nor is copious amounts of sugar, it is more than apparent that we have a calorie surplus issue. But the problem isn’t that we’re unaware of the issue. The real problem is that we’ve just become so diluted in our knowledge of separating nutritional fact versus nutritional fiction that we just don’t have a clue about what are we supposed to eat. The result: too many experts; too much information; too many blind followers; too many faux products; no solution to a worsening problem.

Correlation is Not Causation

We’re a desperate society, wanting results now and/or blaming someone or something else for not achieving them. When that route hits a brick wall, it’s easier to just believe and buy into the thought that if X causes Y then it must cause Z. For example, smoking is correlated with, but not the single cause of lung cancer. You have a better chance of developing lung cancer if you smoke but there are many factors that potentially cause lung cancer. Eating more than you burn is correlated with weight gain, but there are several factors that can cause weight gain that have nothing to do with calories consumed. It’s an important distinction to make and one that will serve you well when making healthy food choices. Chances are you probably do make good choices. Question is how often and how consistent are you with making those choices.

Everything is Processed

Unless you live on and off your own farm, everything on your plate has had some degree of processing. The movement of “clean eating” is a good thing and isn’t too far-fetched for it emphasizes eating whole, real foods as close to their natural state as possible. A simple, common sense idea that’s hard to argue or disagree with in theory. When the report came out earlier in the week about processed meat causing cancer what they were really referring to is meat that is treated, handled, or consumed in a highly processed state with numerous salts, chemicals, nitrates, etc. such as bacon, ham, lunch meats, etc. Well here’s the part the media forgot to mention. Of the 8.2 million deaths from cancer in 2012, only 34,000 were attributed to consumption of processed meat. You have a better chance dying in a car crash (10.7 for every 100,000 drivers). Some bacon at breakfast or ham during the holidays certainly isn’t going to be the stake to the grave. It’s a bit more involved than that.

Insulin and Insulin Resistance

There are hundreds of hormones in the body each with its own purpose and function, none of which is more popular than insulin and rightly so. Insulin is an anabolic (or growth) hormone with the primary responsibility of being the feeder or transport of energy to all of our living cells. Without sufficient insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or an inefficient insulin mechanism (Type 2 diabetes) in which the cells don’t respond to or are resistant to the insulin markers thus staving off energy to the cells. This overtime leads to elevated blood sugar levels (not good for the body) and the gradual increase of adipose (fat) tissue. (also not good for the body). The very important concept here (and often taken out of context) is that elevated blood sugar levels can happen from several factors, most of which (and preventable) are caused by dietary influences. High intake of sugar is generally to blame, and not just added sugar but simple carbohydrates that are easily converted to sugar thus raising the insulin response levels. Long story short, while there’s plenty of data to show the effects of certain foods on raising insulin levels, a nationwide hysteria grew that carbohydrates are bad for you, spawning fear of literally thousands of types of foods, everything from breads to pastas and beyond. Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates too but no one said a thing about decreasing their intake. So before you banish all “carbs” from your existence, the important concept to remember here is how your blood sugar levels respond (a simple blood test will determine that for you) correlates to any weight loss or weight gain issues, and not what the guru in the book or on TV has to say.

Common Sense

The subject of nutrition is very gray, not as black and white as some would have you believe. Why? Because we are all different and don’t consume and process food the same way whether here in the good ol US of A or the Far East reaches of the world. Food is fuel and fuel is energy. We need to eat and variety as well as moderation is the spice of life. There is food that is healthier to consume in larger quantities and there is food that is better consumed in lower quantities. Chances are as previously stated, you’re nutrition is probably not all that bad. It’s senseless to make yourself crazy on eating a particular food item or group just because it was correlated to cause unfavorable outcomes. There are thousands of things that can be correlated to just about anything with never being the cause. Not eating snacks or sweets doesn’t necessarily make you a healthier eater any more than an occasional adult beverage makes you an alcoholic. Do yourself a favor and don’t get fooled by media sensationalism.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

Comments (2)

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  1. Elaine M says:

    LOVED this article!

  2. Mike P. says:

    Very good one Jeff.

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