Foundations of Health Part 2: In Defense of Food
Food is the second topic in our Foundations to Health series.
Many of us resolve to finally eat better with the onset of a new year. So, armed with fresh determination and our knowledge of healthful foods, we hit the grocery stores, and restaurants, making decisions by reading lists of ingredients, and analyzing nutrient claims (ie. trans fat free, high in fibre, source of iron etc.). (Check out this resource to get an idea of what “Low Fat” can actually means).
But I'm starting off this topic by introducing you to Coca-Cola Plus!
We begin our conversation with Coke because recently, the Wall Street Journal released an article describing its latest Coca-Cola Plus product launched in Japan, which is sugar-free, calorie-free and contains 5 grams of fiber per 470ml bottle. It has made headlines because it has officially received the governments golden label of approval (making it the first Coca-Cola product to hit the nation’s list of Foods of Specified Health Uses – FOSHU). Coca-Cola Plus claims that the beverage helps lower cholesterol. Now consumers are choosing to drink Coca-Cola Plus hoping to lose weight, or to help with constipation due to its laxative effects.
So why are we talking about Coke?!
Because this is an extreme, but relevant example of how navigating nutritional choices is becoming more tricky.
Reading and analyzing, learning about the newest superfood or diet that’s supposed to be even more nutritious and effective than last week’s can become overwhelming. Our simple goal of eating a healthy meal can quickly become complex, and conflicting, making choosing what to eat a struggle.
How can we overcome this information overload, and make eating healthy simply simple so that we can stay on track?
How to simplify your food choices:
Eat REAL food. This means food that looks like food. More than half of North American's diet consists of processed foods. Choosing real food saves you from having to decipher nutritional claims because less processing means that the nutrients stripped away don't need to be replaced/ "fortified" (ie. an apple wouldn't need a label telling you it has fiber in it - no processing means fiber isn't lost it in the first place. However an apple strudel bar has tons of claims for fiber, calories, fat, sugar, and mineral content because processing it made it devoid of nutrients). Ask yourself, would my great grandmother recognize this as edible.
Less is more with Ingredients list. To help you further navigate your decision making process, if you're going for something processed, quickly glance at the ingredients list and pick it up only if it has 10 ingredients or less. Once you level up, pick from products that are 5 ingredients or less. The fewer ingredients, the closer you get to defending food.
A calorie isn't just another calorie. As we can see with products like Coca-Cola Plus, just because it has zero calories doesn't mean we should opt for this over an apple which has about 90 calories. Products that are devoid of nutrients leave our bodies craving the energy it requires to do basically everything. When this happens our bodies perceive high sugar and fatty foods to be ideal and quick ways to satisfy its energy deficit - the tried and true route towards chronic disease and weight gain. Give your body real foods that are naturally nutrient dense. Doing this will help you feel full and satisfied more easily and for longer. Check out some of our favorite sites for recipes here, here and here.
This week’s challenge is to educate yourself and your loved ones. Give yourself the knowledge so you can have a real shot to succeed this time.
Obviously drinking Coca-Cola is not going to make you healthy, but when these products are marketed to us in such a way, the differences between healthy and unhealthy become more difficult to navigate. This is why simplifying our perspective and decision making process can help get us out of the complexity that the food industry has made things.
Eating well doesn't have to be boring. As I'm learning to grow my appreciation and expand my knowledge (through resources such as this) making healthier choices is becoming more intuitive again!
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash