Which diet is healthiest?

Here’s an interesting tidbit to chew on…the traditional Western diet (generally consisting of processed foods, added fat, added sugar, and refined grains) is the only cultural diet that makes its population sicker.  Food manufacturers have introduced “fat-free”, “sugar-free”, and “lite” products wanting us to belive that they’re healthier options.  We can buy “protein-rich” smoothies and a month’s worth of meals all neatly packaged in packets for our conveneince.

foodSure, we’re all pressed for time and a personal chef sounds fabulous.  But, we’ve let corporate laboratories become that chef.  And, not surprising, our health isn’t their number 1 concern.

We hear heated debates about vaccines and what they’re comprised of, but why aren’t those same questions directed at food companies?

Chances are that your grandparents never considered antioxidants, glycemic index, or omega 6 fatty acids when planning meals.  But, they probably knew that an apple was a better choice than an apple-flavored “all-natural” chip packaged on the shelf.

What’s the risk of eating a highly-processed diet? Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.*  According to Michael Pollan (author of Food Rules: an eater’s manual), forgoeing this “Western Diet” reduces the chance of coronary heart disease by 80%, type 2 diabetes by 90%, and colon cancer by 70%.

Wow.

The next natural question…why are companies making such unhealthy foods?There’s big bucks in the pharmaceutical industry.

“The health-care industry makes more money treating chronic diseases (which accout for the 3/4 of the $2 trillion plus we spend each year on health care in this country) than preventing them.” – Michael Pollan

That’s just downright scary.

We’re lead to believe that sugar is evil.  Is it healthy? No.  Does it provide nutritional value? Nope.  But, in moderation, it’s still a better alternative than any chemically-created sugar substitute.

syrupAre we really supposed to believe that “sugar-free” maple syrup is a heathier option than regular maple syrup?

Not only does one come from a tree and the other from a factory, but the sugar-free substitute contains multiple artificial sweeteners as well as caramel coloring- a known carcinogen. Not to mention the likely GMO’s included.

Does the true maple syrup cost more? Yes.

You will pay more for real, perishable ingredients.  But, we have to ask ourselves, is saving a couple of extra dollars worth the extra dr. office co-pays and prescription costs?

Marketers are clever. They can hide toxic ingredients behind buzz-words like “all-natural” or “no high fructose corn syrup”. We’re told to read labels, but do we really know what we’re looking for, or are we just more confused from long ingredient lists?

Today’s Chicago Tribune includes an interview with CEO Steve Jones, the CEO behind Fairlife Milk (the new “authentic” milk brought to us by Coca-Cola). Another product under his belt…Core Power. Interstingly, when Core Power was first introduced (under the name Athletes HoneyMilk) it was sweetened with Ace K (Acesulfame K: 200x sweeter than sugar: linked to headaches, depression, nausea, mental confusion, liver effects, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans) and sucralose (aka Splenda, 600x sweeter than sugar, accidently discovered when trying to create an insecticide: linked to gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations (rash, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains, palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, depression, and itchy eyes).**

However, according to Jones, since the “trend is toward more natural sweeteners, like stevia and monk fruit juice” they marketed Core Power with those sweeteners instead although they didn’t think the “taste as good, but we also believed in the scientists to eventually get it right.”

Switching to more natural sweeteners, however, shortened it’s shelf life and they discovered it lost its taste after 3-6 months. Did that pose a problem? “We’re not going to make a big deal about it. We’ll change it to Ace K and sucralose…”

How is Mr. Jones going to convince us when Fairlife launches nationwide that his “ultra-filtered” milk is better and healthier? With their $30 million marketing campaign.

peter rubiToo bad our organic farmers don’t have the same marketing budget.

So, what’s the healthiest diet? Maybe it’s easier to ask- would this have been on my grandparent’s table?

Michael Pollan offers some simple “rules” for healthier eating…

#9: Avoid food products with the word “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “non-fat” in their names. (I’m adding “sugar-free” to that list!).

#21: If it came from a plant, eat it; it it was made in a plant, don’t.

#69: Order the small.

#15: Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Craving sweets? Enjoy a cookie made at home. Sweets become a true treat when you take the time to make them from scratch with real ingredients, rather than letting a chemist “bake” them for you.

It’s time to take the chef hat away from corporations with their bottom line- and not your health- as their primary concern.

*Food Rules: an eaters manual by Michael Pollan.
**Artificial sweetener infomation from MedicineNet.
Apple photo credit: Peter Rubi

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2 responses to “Which diet is healthiest?

  1. Pingback: Greener Living: small steps to better health at the grocery store | ftedailygreen

  2. Pingback: Way to screw it up, Diet Pepsi: why their new campaign is a fraud | ftedailygreen

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