Just because it's "real" doesn't mean you should eat it all
Watch for hidden sugar and fat in the food you eat -- even the good stuff
You’ve heard me talk a lot about the importance of eliminating packaged, processed foods from your daily diet. You’ve also heard me talk about doing your grocery shopping at the perimeter of the grocery store (that means along the outer walls). Produce, meats, eggs, and maybe some full-fat, grass-fed dairy are all located there. These are all good foods to consider as long as they’re organic or at least minimally processed. That said, we still have to be mindful of how much we’re consuming – especially of certain things. I have come up with a list of the top four foods we generally “over-consume”:
Nuts are so good! Not only are they mindless to eat, but they are great snacks. Easy to transport or to stick my spoon into the nut butter and scoop some out. Nuts come hidden in my Lara bar along with dried fruit (I’ll get to that). Nuts are great but we overeat when it comes to nuts.
Here’s the dilemma: nuts are a good source of fat, but they are also super-dense in calories, which is a problem if you’re trying to lose weight. Nuts also have phytates -- the thing in beans and legumes that tend to block vital nutrients from being absorbed. Also, if you eat too many nuts, it can cause an imbalance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids. Too many Omega 6 fatty acids causes inflammation, leading to achy joints, bloating and slow recovery from a tough workout. A lot of nuts are structurally unstable and can actually go rancid pretty quickly while sitting in your pantry. Once that happens, you’re actually eating fractured fatty acids that have been oxidized. Yuck! (It just sounds bad, doesn’t it?) Don’t get me wrong -- you can still eat nuts. I eat nuts almost every day. The best way is to soak them first to pull out the phytates and limit yourself to 1 handful per day.
#2: Dried Fruit
Have you ever had the sulfate-free dried mangoes from Trader Joe’s? So delicious! I can eat the entire bag. Here is the problem with that: those dried mangoes are very high in sugar, not to mention that while the bag of Trader Joe’s dried mangoes appears to be a small serving, there’s actually about five or six mangoes in a single bag. Can you imagine sitting down and eating six mangoes? Probably not. The water and fiber content would force you to stop after one or two mangoes. Not so with the dried version. Dried fruit has higher concentrations of sugar, and sugar can be stored as fat. Plus it can cause tooth decay. You may want to consider eliminating dried fruit from your diet completely. Otherwise, limit yourself to one or two servings per day at the most.
If you have never had Kombucha, you should give it a try. Kombucha is a fermented, lightly effervescent black or green tea. Since it’s fermented, it’s great for your gut, and it can help clear up inflammation. It’s also delicious! Of course you have to be careful with how much and what kind you drink. Although Kombucha appears to be low in sugar, some varieties can be packedwith sugar. After all, part of making this fermented drink is using sugar! The fermentation process itself gets rid of a lot of the sugar, but some varieties will add sugar back in. I’ve already explained the evils of sugar! (see Dried Fruitabove) Kombucha is also very acidic and can deteriorate the enamel on your teeth. I’m not saying to get rid of it entirely. I have Kombucha a few times a week, and if you were to look in my fridge, you would find five mason jars full of my homemade Kombucha, but I’ve had to develop the discipline to not drink it all at once.
#4: Natural Sweeteners
This is one of the biggest overeating and over-using choices I see people make when changing to a diet that’s more whole-foods-based. Getting rid of all refined sugars makes sense to us because refined sugars cause a spike in blood sugar, and then we “crash” – our energy level drops, and we want more sugar to experience the spike again. This up-and-down cycle becomes addictive. Ultimately, too many blood sugar spikes can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and weight gain.
Ahhh, but then we discover those natural sweeteners, like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Unfortunately, those sweeteners have the same effect on blood sugar and insulin response. We have to be aware that just because a sweetener is labeled “natural” or "raw" doesn’t mean you should eat it.
Sorry if I’ve disappointed any of you by my list of no-no’s. I realize you want to enjoy your food and enjoy your life and not be concerned with everything you eat. Stressing about it all isn’t healthy either, so don’t do that. But being aware of what’s in the food we eat and the affect certain ingredients can have on our bodies and our health is necessary if we’re going to live well. Once we have the information, we can decide for ourselves if it’s “worth it” to eat that bag of dried mangoes.
See you in the gym!