Most people would agree that getting in a fender bender in the parking lot is preferable to flipping your car three times on the highway. Not getting in a car wreck in the first place, however, is still your best option.
There is a substantial difference between that which is better and that which is good. This concept applies to most any aspect of life, including nutrition.
A bowl of cereal, when compared to a deep-fried Twinkie, is a decent breakfast. A little packet of artificially-flavored strawberry oatmeal is a fairly healthy source of carbohydrates if your alternative is a sack of flour soaked in Gatorade. None of these things, however, are really good choices.
Many people, when attempting to improve their lifestyle and make healthy food choices, are duped by clever marketing into making choices that are “better” for their health without really being good for it.
When it comes to food that is truly nutritious, there is a general rule: The less processing the better. If you could conceivably walk outside somewhere and dig up, harvest, pick or kill a food item, odds are that it’s pretty good for you. The more closely a meal resembles a plant or animal, the better.
You can look at an apple and know that it came from a tree and grew in an orchard somewhere. Now, picture the list of ingredients on an apple pop tart and try to guess exactly where those came from.
The catch here is that unprocessed food is seldom advertised or packaged aggressively as health food. It doesn’t have to be.
A client of mine has been attempting to re-work his lifestyle and lose weight. This resulted in a trip to the grocery store for “healthy food.” What he came back with was a bunch of shiny pre-packaged processed foods marketed as health foods that, in reality, function more or less as a recipe for bodyfat accumulation and eventual diabetes.
One of the offending items was a large bottle of drinkable strawberry yogurt.
“Yogurt is good for you, right? And it’s got strawberries!”
The bottle contained almost a quarter pound of sugar with a small amount of strawberry juice.
One of the primary dietary factors behind obesity is consumption of liquid calories, and excess sugar in general.
With the exception of milk, the body generally doesn’t recognize liquid calories. They don’t contribute to a feeling of fullness, so no matter how many calories you drink, you’ll still feel hungry. This is a great way to over-consume sugar and eventually induce insulin resistant muscle cells along with increasingly well-fed, expanding fat cells.
Processed juices, even 100% fruit juices, are nutritionally empty compared to whole fruit. The processing concentrates the sugars far beyond what one would consume with raw fruit, eliminates a good deal of the micronutrient content and almost all of the fiber.
What this comes down to is that fruit juice, while better than something even more heavily processed like soda, is still not really good for you. Fruit is.
I was having a conversation about this with Mike Weber, an A.R.T. therapist once day. He once had a patient who was dangerously overweight and obviously needed nutritional counseling. Dr. Weber asked him about his fruit and vegetable intake and he replied that he had been drinking V8 Splash every day, so he was “getting his veggies in.”
The first ingredient in V8 Splash is high fructose corn syrup. It’s little more than cleverly disguised liquid candy labeled with a bunch of pretty pictures of the things that you should be eating instead. Something like that would not improve an obese individual’s health. It would accelerate its deterioration.
Any grocery store is fraught with these little pitfalls, and hidden liquid calories are only the beginning. Foods that one may unsuspectingly think are healthy could easily be the very things sabotaging your diet.