What Happens When You Eat a Ton of Sugar?

What happens when you eat a ton of sugar?

We all “know” that sugar is not good for us, but what exactly does that mean? In past years, it meant primarily “empty calories“. In recent years, evidence has mounted that sugar is also an opiate and a poison. Here are some good videos.

1. Fed Up – official trailer for the documentary, Fed Up

2. Sugar: The Bitter Truth (lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig)

3. The Complete Skinny on Obesity (lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig)

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GMO Politics in a Corn Husk – and Vermont Gets Real

Want to learn about the GMO labeling politics in a nutshell (or corn husk)? In today’s New York TImes, “Information Not on the Label” summarizes the fight between consumers and Big Food. For now, to avoid GMO in your food, eat certified organic produce and livestock, and if you are buying anything in a package, look for the certified non-GMO label.

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The article includes a shout out to Vermont as the first state to require labeling of products which include GMO ingredients.

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The Bottomless Pit

Always hungry? In this New York Times article, the authors present their hypothesis (which they published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association) that excess calories don’t make us fat. Instead, fat makes us fat. It’s the kind of calories which are more related to weight gain than the number of calories. This is a fascinating theory you can read here.

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Why am I always hungry?

Old Salt

One nutrition “truth” that could turn out to be fiction is the connection between high dietary salt and disease, specifically cardiovascular disease. It seems that the recommendation for reducing our salt intake has its origins in some rather slim science. Reading the New York Times articles below, you may come to the same conclusion I am moving towards: In the case of salt, moderation trumps denial.

2014: Study Linking Illness and Salt Leaves Researchers Doubtful

2013: No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet

2012: Salt, We Misjudged You

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Dear Veggies, What are you good for?

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We all have stiff necks from watching the ping pong match over the years between believers of the role of nutrition in cancer prevention and the non-believers. Today comes a science column in the New York Times (“An Apple a Day, and Other Myths”) reporting on the recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Researchers now believe that diet does not play a role in most cancers.

I don’t “get it.” We must have spent a gazillion dollars in the past few decades studying links between nutrition and cancer. If we read my favorite website “The World’s Healthiest Foods”, we can see innumerable peer-reviewed articles published in respected journals reporting on exciting research connecting micronutrients to cancer prevention. What am I missing? How can all of this good work by all of these smart people suddenly be considered invalid? As I have done, read George Johnson’s “Apple a Day” article and become a little less bewildered. (He does mention a few possible exceptions shown in the current research, including coffee and Vitamin D.)

I continue to hitch my star to this green wagon: Scientists do believe that many other good things come from eating your vegetables, including the important benefit of weight control, reducing inflammation, controlling blood pressure, and preventing heart disease.

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Skip the Vending Machines

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By now, most of us understand, at least intellectually, the link between processed foods and the rise in the incidence of obesity in the U.S. The increase in the production and consumption of processed foods maps directly to the increase in obesity (and as a direct or indirect consequence, diabetes, heart disease, and other Western maladies) in our friends and neighbors.

Here is a good article about the processed foods industry from Andy Bellatti: What You Don’t Know About Processed Foods.” The article is an interview with the author of Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal.

Relaxing With RESPeRATE

This is going to sound like a paid advertisement, but it’s not. I own a RESPeRATE device and use it regularly – and I have no commercial interest in the company which makes the RESPeRATE product.

RESPeRATE is a biofeedback-type device which is part of my personal toolkit for meditation and stress reduction. It’s not inexpensive at full-cost ($299), but there are periodic promotions on the company’s website which bring the price down to $199, and I’m sure there are plenty on eBay for much less.

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I have gone off blood pressure medication and keep my blood pressure down by doing the following. Of course, each of us will respond differently and “your mileage may vary.”

1. daily meditation (sometimes RESPeRATE, sometimes Jon Kabat-Zinn tapes)

2. nutrition – low salt (however, see blog post for May 4, 2014), lots of fruits and vegetables

3. losing weight and now keeping my weight down (the biggest challenge)

4. getting enough sleep (7-8 hours each night)

5. daily exercise

Strangely, there is not a lot of press about RESPeRATE. However, the clinical trials seem to indicate this can help *some* people (remember, I am not an expert, just a consumer trying to get educated about these things). There are many comments on Amazon.com ranging from 1 star to 5 stars which you may find helpful. If you do purchase, I recommend purchasing directly from the company (which does not sell on Amazon) and clarifying the return policy for a money-back guarantee.

If you use one of these devices, please drop us a comment about your experience – that would be most interesting.

 

Ringing in a Veggie Year

For those of us with green eating resolutions for 2014, here is an article outlining how we can change our eating habits sustainably from Mark Bittman’s post in today’s New York Times: “Sustainable Resolutions for Your Diet“.

Bittman offers a roadmap to help us change our eating habits in a flexible, kind, and sustainable manner. As he says, “Flexitarianism is about making a gradual shift, not a complete overhaul. It is a way of eating we are much more likely to stick to for the long term — which, after all, is the point of resolutions in the first place.”

In the past year, I’ve been mostly successful in switching to a vegan diet (and brought my blood pressure down to normal). However, this article has many tips and truths that will continue to sustain me, since I still have to avoid the gaze of the Harvard Square pizza and burger shops.

Blood Pressure: Meditation Over Medication

New guidelines suggest that for people over 60, the side effects of blood pressure medication can do more harm than good in people with slightly elevated numbers.

My story? After suffering through dangerous side effects of two blood pressure medications, I said “enough”, I’ll do it myself. I’ve brought my blood pressure down to normal by changes in lifestyle. This Mayo Clinic article “10 ways to control high blood pressure without medication” describes the effects of various lifestyle changes on blood pressure – small changes can collectively become major reductions. As with everything, work with your doctor to be sure you are doing what’s best for your situation.

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Would you like a little orange in your nightmare?

The Great Orange Juice Scam article and video are scary enough to give nightmares. Recommended reading and viewing from Dr. Mercola but not necessarily at bedtime.

The blog “Science Questions with Surprising Answers” explains the science behind the advantages of eating whole fruit and the dangers of drinking fruit juice. This well-written article by Dr. Christopher S. Baird seals the deal – I’ll never drink OJ or other fruit juices again.

Oranges Better Than OJ

 

Do You Want Fries With That?

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Most of us on “healthy” nutrition programs routinely face challenges to our regimen and self-discipline, especially if we live in an urban area packed with restaurants and fast food take-out places. As good as I feel on a vegan diet, there is an odd, nearly-irresistible pull towards the fries. In today’s New York Times, here’s an interesting article that speaks exactly to this phenomenon: “Why Healthy Eaters Fall for Fries.”

Just writing this makes me want to go get some sweet potato fries from one of the restaurants on my street. My trick to combat the urge: When the pull is underway, don’t leave the house with money or credit card.

My Zero-Sum Life

Eating properly takes a huge amount of time. I reluctantly but resignedly spend at least two hours a day shopping for fresh vegetables, washing them, steaming them, consuming (chewing) them, and cleaning up. All with the goal to reduce the progression of heart disease and to stay as far away from the SAD (“Standard American Diet”) habits of the past as I can.

Now, along comes an article in the New York Times called “Cheating Ourselves of Sleep” which lists the serious health consequences of not getting 7-8 hours of good sleep each night. I’ve always known this, but the article packs a lot in one place, and it sounds exactly like the consequences of a bad diet. If I were to take the list of health problems resulting from sleep deficits and put them side-by-side with the list of health problems resulting from following a SAD diet, there would be numerous and dramatic overlaps. (Only some of the consequences of sleep deprivation show in the wikipedia chart below.)

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So, I have a daily sleep deficit of two hours, and I spend two hours a day “eating right”. I’ve essentially taken two hours from my sleep and added it to food prep time. This is an existential dilemma for me. I’m hoping to stave off health trouble by eating properly but I’m inviting the same health trouble by not sleeping enough.

It seems that this is a zero-sum game.

Sicker By the Dozen

Coming to a grocery store near you – contaminated fruits and vegetables!

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Organic produce (at least, in theory) is not contaminated. However, if you can’t buy organic, you can make some choices to reduce your exposure. Here is EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, where you can learn which are the 14 most contaminated foods (Dirty Dozen Plus™). You also can learn about the Clean Fifteen™, the fruits and vegetables which are least contaminated among non-organic produce.

Vegan Before 6

The New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has a new book out called VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . For Good. His approach to health and nutrition is to follow a vegan diet daily before 6 PM but eat anything you want after 6 PM. As he says, “Cheating is built in.”

Read more about VB6 on Mark Bittman’s blog archives.

The HapiFork (Nature Will Castigate Those Who Don’t Masticate)

This seems to be a clever way to slow me down as I always eat standing up and rushing. I’ve learned that good digestion begins with chewing, and then chewing some more.

“It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full and that it’s time to stop eating, putting speedy eaters at risk for being overeaters. The HapiFork team says there are many potential health benefits to eating slower, including decreasing acid reflux, obesity and diabetes.” [From CNN.com “‘Smart fork’ may help you lose weight”]

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Of course, we can take the chewing “too far”. One of the first food fads was created by Horace Fletcher who is quoted as saying: “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.” Here’s a recent Slate article about Fletcherism.

How Many Miles of Walking to Work Off a Bowl of Steamed Kale?

An interesting study shows that people respond to nutrition labels that tell them the walking distance required to work off that burger they’re about to order. See this article in the Washington Post “Want a Treadmill with your Burger?”.

Of course, one of the cool things about the plant-based program I follow is that the days of counting calories (or counting distance walked) are in the past. I can eat all the vegetables I want and not gain weight.

Laughing Out Loud

I recently told a friend about this blog and sent him a link. His response made me laugh out loud. I should point out that gin is totally cool on the plant-based diet (though not cool for me).

Yipes!  The word “organic” appears way too many times.  Oatmeal is fine just the way it is; it doesn’t need whole ground flaxseed meal product to make it better.  It needs bacon. Julia Child attributed her longevity to “… red meat and gin”.

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Do Not Pass Go, Go Directly to Jail

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Today WAS Day 29 of compliance with the Esselstyn Diet. This afternoon, I attended a conference and resisted the burgers and veggie burgers (veggie good, oil bad) at lunch but did convince myself the (likely non-compliant) hamburger roll was OK “just this once”, three words Dr. Esselstyn emphatically rejects. Adding lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, and ketchup, I thought it was a decent sandwich but did believe I had probably just ruined my 28-day winning streak. After some quick research, I now know that ketchup is heavily-sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Ooooowch, no wonder we all love to put ketchup on everything. Furthermore, using LABELWATCH.com, I see that the innocent-looking hamburger rolls are loaded with bad stuff (enriched wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, calcium dioxide). Should I admit I had two sandwiches?

Now I can authoritatively say that non-compliance, for me, immediately leads to a much bigger crime. I fell hard off the wagon by stopping on the way home to revisit an old favorite, Legal Seafoods: a cup of clam chowder, a caesar salad with scallops, three rolls with olive oil, chocolate pudding cake, decaf coffee with 2% milk. Everything I ordered was non-compliant, although I did one good thing: I switched sorbet for ice cream. It was fun, but I’m battered and bruised. Later this evening on a walk up Massachusetts Avenue, I successfully walked right past a pizza house and a frozen yogurt bar, so I know I am back on track.

Trying Bill Clinton’s Heart-Healthy Diet for 10 Days

Kyle Stack, a blogger at Huffington Post, tried my diet for 10 days – actually it was “Bill Clinton’s” diet which is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s diet. You can read his honest and balanced post here. It is  President Clinton’s remarkable story that inspired me to start down a similar path.

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The only thing I see in Kyle’s description that is not in the diet are the tortillas which have sunflower oil. Everything else follows Dr. Esselstyn’s recommended program, I think (I’m still getting educated). Read Kyle’s post to see what he did about food at a Major League Baseball game.

Photo credit: http://clintonlibrary.gov/

Taking Back My Life

This blog was inspired by reading the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and by learning about President Bill Clinton’s diet successes.

I was motivated by the book, but also by two films: “Food, Inc.” and “Forks Over Knives.

I stopped eating meat after watching the documentary “Food, Inc.”

In December 2012, I joined the Plant Strong movement after watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives.”

I am writing this blog, in part, so I don’t annoy my friends by always talking about “my diet.” It’s also an excellent way to catalog and share information that seems especially relevant to people switching to a whole food plant-based diet.

Today (March 5, 2013) is Day 10 of my journey towards “healthy pipes” (healthy arteries).

Important Disclaimer: I am not an M.D., nutritionist, registered dietician, scientist, or expert of any kind. I make no expert claims about anything I write here.  Be sure to check with your health provider before embarking on any diet or nutritional change. This blog is intended to share information based in my Internet browsing, but I can make no claims about the quality, accuracy, or usefulness of the information other than how I apply it to my own situation.