We all happily consume shop brought food, but, when we pick it off the shelves do we really know what we are putting into our bodies? Carolin Heber investigates into the truth about what we eat.
Edited by Natalie Whitmore
Food: As humans, we usually consume it about three times a day. Some people more, and the less fortunate, barely at all. It’s a privilege and at the same time it’s a curse. All-in-all, we need it to survive; and a lot of us get to enjoy its diversity, texture and taste, while learning different techniques and formulations of it. And others? Well we just love stuffing our faces with it- in what ever juicy and flavoured form it comes in, and how many times we want. But why do we crave food so much?
In 2014, for the first time in history more people died from the consequences of overeating then from starvation.
Healthy eating has been promoted by doctors, companies and the government for decades. Its direct link to physical and mental health, motivation and obesity is a well-known fact. As children we are taught at school about how much to eat of what in a food pyramid. Build your nutrition on the grounds of whole grains, cereals, fruits and vegetables, eat moderate amounts of meat, fish and dairy and few sweets, salts and oils!
In reality though, many people don’t make each meal of theirs from fresh aliments, but rather access processed foods on the shelters of every supermarket. These do not simply include the most obvious ones like ready-meals, chocolate bars and savory snacks, but also bread, cheese, breakfast cereals or ketchup.
In 2012, for the first time in history more people died from the consequences of overeating then from starvation. Since the 1980s, the rates of obesity worldwide have doubled, with over 40% of the worldwide population today being overweight according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This isn’t just a western phenomenon linked to the culture of fast food, but one that is seen in every part of the world (with the exception of the Sub-Sahara region).
The idea was promoted for a long time that in order to not gain weight, one must burn as many calories a day as they have consumed. If this was the truth, even a slim but lazy person would be obese in two decades. Many adults don’t gain weight over years, even if they eat excess calories every day without any exercise.
The idea that calories of all kinds of foods are the same is simply wrong.
This is because our digestive system doesn’t process all foods in the same way.
Foods high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, cause your blood sugar to stay moderate and are not easily digested, so they help to eliminate additional calories, which is known as the “Negative Calorie Theory”. So even though Fiber is a form of Carbohydrate, which will keep you full over a longer period of time, it will not make you gain weight, on the contrary!
An adult with an average height should eat about 20-35 grams of fiber a day, but in reality, most Europeans and Americans consume only half of their recommended portion.
Instead, our consumption of sugar, has doubled within the last 20 years. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends or better warns us to not exceed our consumption of added sugar (excluding natural ones in fruit and other foods) of 38g/ 9 teaspoons as a man and 25g/ 6 teaspoons as a woman per day.
When fructose gets digested, it reaches the liver. If one consumes now a huge amount of sugar, like a piece of chocolate cake or a glass of coke, the liver is so overwhelmed that it passes this sugar on to the pancreas which as a result produces a hormone called insulin. Most of us associate insulin with diabetes, which is correct, but what is actually does is turn the sugar firstly into glycogen- and where there is too much instead into fat- because it works as a storage. But that’s not all to it. It also blocks the brain from feeling full, which is why overweight people don’t just eat too big amount for their body because they have a huge appetite, but because they constantly feel hungry.
As a result you feel tired, without energy or concentration, lazy and unmotivated. Now what society makes us believe is that these people get overweight because they are this way, a lazy couch-potato, but when in fact it is only a biological response to their eating habits.
Sugar is not just a metabolic toxin, but is also more addictive then heroin.
But this is not all to the problem. Any chronic disease – heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney stones – you name it, is linked to excessive sugar intake. On top of that it also acts on mental illness, increasing the likelihood for depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and other learning impairments, because it messes with our body’s hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate emotions and other activities in the brain.
We knew all along that too much sugar makes you gain weight and provokes tooth decay, but were you aware of this drastic impact it can have on your health? Why isn’t the government doing more to inform us better, starting with children in school? This might have to do with fast food companies lobbying bills and legal restrictions for personal interests. These interest include, avoiding the taxations of certain foods or labelling of calories.
In fact, the food industry spend €1 billion to stop the European parliament to introduce the traffic-light food labelling scheme. Their fear was that if people actually saw (marked by the colour red as a warning) how high a product was in fat/sugar/salt, their sales might decline. But shouldn’t we have the right to know what we consume and how this affects us?
I’m not trying to tell you what and what not to eat. In the end it’s everyone’s personal choice what they put in their shopping cart. But if you want to keep yourself physically and mentally healthy with a normal weight, I may recommend you eating fruits and cook with fresh vegetables daily.
If you want to live a long, healthy life, eating healthy is not an option, but a necessity.