When moderation is not the best policy

As much as I wholeheartedly believe you should enjoy what you eat, it simply isn’t feasible to think one can eat a little bit of everything, albeit in moderation, and expect to be optimally healthy.

There are two important facts to consider when it comes to eating certain food types – no matter how conservative or moderate the quantities – and the key culprits, in my book, are gluten and added sugar:

  • Fact 1: Gluten always damages your brain and gut when you eat it.
  • Fact 2: No minimum ‘safe’ level of added dietary sugar has ever been established.

Fact 1: Gluten always damages your brain and gut when you eat it.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a group of seed storage proteins known as prolamins and is naturally found in a variety of cereal grains, like wheat, rye and barley – with wheat being the most common.

Gluten, when added with water and/or heated, creates a glue-like elastic network that can stretch and trap gas which then stimulates the rising and retention of moisture in breads and pastas. Guten also acts as a thickener or stabiliser in other products including processed foods.

Why avoid gluten?

Gluten has 0% nutritional value and the only protein that it does have is indigestible. This alone is more than enough reason to avoid gluten altogether!

Common health concerns associated with gluten include Celiac Disease, IBS and heart disease. Gluten also interrupts healthy mineral absorption and influences behaviour and mood. Gluten is known to show drug-like neurological effects as well as euphoria, anxiety, addictive behaviour and appetite stimulation.

Studies have shown how, when gluten was removed from their diets, patients suffering from a variety of diseases – including epilepsy, schizophrenia and autism – showed remarkable signs of improvement.

Check your food labels for gluten-type ingredients

Gluten is used in many products, not just commonly in bread and pasta and is often a ‘hidden’ ingredient. These terms are gluten-containing ingredients:

Wheat protein/hydrolyzed wheat protein
Wheat starch/hydrolyzed wheat starch
Wheat flour/bread flour/bleached flour
Bulgur
Malt
Couscous
Farina
Pasta
Seitan
Wheat or barley grass
Wheat germ oil or extract
Common Latin terms used:
Triticum vulgare
Triticum spelta
Hordeum vulgare
Triticale
Hordeum vulgare
Other ingredients that may contain gluten, include:
Vegetable protein/hydrolyzed vegetable protein
Modified starch & vegetable starch
Natural flavour/natural flavouring
Artificial flavour/artificial flavouring
Caramel colouring
Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
Seasonings
Dextrin and maltodextrin

According to the FDA gluten-free product rule, manufacturers must ensure that their products contain less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten to carry the “gluten-free” label.

Fact 2: No minimum ‘safe’ level of added dietary sugar has ever been established.

Added dietary sugar is harmful

Ultimately, your body doesn’t need sugar. Our bodies break down carbohydrates to make glucose required for energy and healthy functioning. Added sugars don’t occur naturally and is, without a doubt, the single worst ingredient in the modern diet.

On its own, added sugars provide 0% nutrients but provide calories, and not the calories your body needs. Added sugar is also the underlying cause of many health concerns like elevated blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, damage to your metabolism and fatty liver disease, all of which are linked to an increased risk for heart disease.

Added sugar is not just what you add to your food, it has already been added to certain food products to add “sweetness”.

Added sugar in packaged foods

Just like gluten, sugar is used in many foods. Bread, flavoured yoghurts, cereals, dressings, energy drinks, muesli bars, etc. They all contain added sugar.

It is therefore important to pay close attention to food labels. There are common hidden terms for sugars so keep your eye out for these:

Dextrose
Fructose
Fruit juice concentrates
Corn syrup
Glucose
High-fructose corn syrup
Invert sugar
Lactose
Maltose
Malt syrup
Raw sugar
Sucrose
Sugar syrup
Cane sugar
Crystalline fructose
Evaporated cane juice
Corn syrup solids
Malt syrup
Barley malt
Agave nectar
Rice syrup
Caramel
Panocha
Muscovado
Molasses
Treacle

Sugar is sugar, no matter its source, and all sugar is harmful.

What about processed and natural sweeteners?

Sweeteners and natural sweeteners – like honey and maple syrup – are received in the body as per any other sugar. They don’t get any special treatment and will impact your body in the same way. I say avoid any artificial sweeteners, they confuse your hormones and change your microbiome. Try dates, vanilla and cinnamon for a dash of natural sweetness instead.

Natural sugars that are found in fruit and vegetables will provide the adequate amount needed. What’s more, they contain fibre that supports healthy digestion and absorbs the natural sugar at a slower rate.

Consistency is key

I believe that keeping your health goals on track is all about consistency and nothing to do with moderation.

Consistently:

  • Eat real whole food. Nothing processed, nothing refined
  • Eat “good” fats in their raw state
  • Add protein in line with your body’s needs, preferences and beliefs
  • Eat fibre and fat that balances blood sugar levels, as does protein. When I’m not eating protein, I eat fibre and fat together
  • Avoid all sugar, grains, vegetable oils, dairy and gluten.

Visit my blog, My Guide to the Ideal Nourishing Plate, for tips on how to plan your meals to get the balance of food types, combinations, quantities and nutrition right to keep your metabolic health goals on track. It is all about consistency.

As a final thought, consider this question…

How much inflammatory and metabolic, brain and body damaging food do you want to enjoy in moderation?


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