Intro to Food and Health – Week 2

OK! So the first week of my Stanford Introduction to Food and Health course was pretty cool. I got a short crash course in the science of nutrients, how complex nutrition for humans really is and how junk food is manufactured. I’m enjoying it so far.

Week 2 goes more in depth and talks about processed foods, sugar consumption in the USA, cooking and even provides a case study of a pre-diabetic man to help the student learn about how changing one’s eating habits to focus more on eating fresh produce and staying away from too much packaged stuff can drastically reduce a lot of health risks.

This Week’s Interesting Tidbits:

I always knew that processed foods aren’t generally very good for you. A little bit is OK but having hamburger helper every night isn’t really an ideal part of one’s regular diet. The reasoning blew me out of the water. Processed foods are meant solely to have a long shelf life – this includes removing important nutrients such as fiber, iron and b-vitamins in order to soften the food and prevent moulding. Further, these foods are cheap because they’re made with cheap products – high fructose corn syrup, for instance, saves a lot in manufacturing costs. These foods have added colors, preservatives, and even fats/sugars in order to give them flavor since much of its natural flavor is contained within the nutrients that are removed to extend shelf life. So there’s a mind-whirl for you.

The most interesting question posed regarding processed foods was: if mould isn’t interested in growing on these foods – then how exactly is it good for us? Which, to me, makes sense. All organisms break down and create waste. It’s the circle of life. Twinkies, for example, generally don’t go old. They have an absurdly long shelf life and usually don’t go stale…so why exactly should I be eating them? Why indeed.

The worst part I found in this, is the BS they put on packaging. “With added protein! Low carb! Healthy choice!” Why can’t we just have things as it naturally occurs instead of adding “nutrients” after processing them? Oh, that’s right, because it’s basically Frankenfood.

In most instances, my family and I eat as much fresh produce as we can. We’re into fitness and eating healthy so it’s not really an issue for us. Living in our tiny lil’ country in the Pyrenees means that we get access to cheap, delicious produce. I’m aware that not everyone is this privileged, so I don’t judge anyone for eating processed stuff – hell, I still enjoy the taste of potato chips and gummy bears. And sometimes it’s not a choice, and you need to feed your kids.

Anyway!

The section on trends in sugar consumption was pretty neato too. Dr. Adam stated that in the last 60 years, consumption of sugar has gone WAY UP in the USA, and about 1/6 of sugar comes from desserts or actual sugar – the rest is from the added sugar in all the processed food on the market today. YIKES. But very sensibly, Dr. Adam also recommends not to vilify sugar because it will only lead to extremes taken where fats and proteins are a “free for all/eat as much as you want” and sugars must be avoided at all costs – MODERATION is the key here. Naturally, when an ingredient is vilified, food companies jump on board to immediately capitlize on that and profit from people’s ignorance about nutrition and balanced eating. Remember all those “fat free” options? Now it’s all gluten-free and high protein options. Blech.

Dr. Adam also has a section on the importance of cooking, which really sung to me as we cook all our meals at home because I’m a SAHM and my husband works from home. We are incredibly lucky that we can do that. The case study about the pre-diabetic man was fascinating and actually reminded me a lot of how my own daily life changed when I decided to opt for more healthy choices regularly about 3 years when I started working with my trainer, Steve.

This Week’s Takeaway (tee-hee!):

This week was actually my favorite one in the whole course (I’m writing my series on this course after I’ve completed it) because it stated out loud how I’ve always felt about food: eat fresh stuff, don’t vilify specific ingredients because it can lead to disordered eating habits, and cook at home as much as possible.

Interested in the course? You can take it for free and it’s designed for busy people: sign up here. 

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