Lately, I’ve noticed several foods that could be holding a person back from sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
I won’t say that you should absolutely never enjoy a certain food because I do believe in balance, moderation, and space to be human.
Many people who read this blog are already aware that some foods are less conducive to long term satisfaction with regard to health and body goals. The purpose of this post is to provide you with a little nudge or reminder and to maybe add a glimpse of value to your life.
Without further ado, here are some common foods, reasons why, and possible alternatives for your reading and health pleasures.
Cereal is extremely common in the American household. One market research company found that as many as 89% of consumers eat cereal for breakfast and almost half of those also eat it for a snack.
It’s no surprise that cereal is so popular due to convenience, hyper-palatability, marketing, and habit. I have certainly enjoyed many bowls of cereal for breakfast and as a snack. One of my favorite cereals as a teenager was honey nut cheerios before I become conscious about modified corn starch, sugar syrup, and chemical preservatives.
“Children viewed 1.7 ads per day for ready-to-eat cereals, and 87% of those ads promoted high-sugar products; adults viewed half as many ads, and ads viewed were equally likely to promote high- and low-sugar cereals. In addition, the messages presented in high-sugar ads viewed by children were significantly more likely to convey unrealistic and contradictory messages about cereal attributes and healthy eating. For example, 91% of high-sugar cereal ads viewed by children ascribed extraordinary powers to these products, and 67% portrayed healthy and unhealthy eating behaviors.”https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24175878/
Firstly, if you love cereal, it’s not your fault. Cereal has not only been laboratory designed to be hyper-palatable, it has also been heavily advertised as a, “part of a complete breakfast.” In fact, the cereal companies REALLY want you to know hOw HeAlThY iT iS– so much so that they will spend over a BILLION DOLLARS per decade on cereal marketing to persuade you to keep buying it.
What is the problem with cereal?
I think the main problem with cereal is simple: it doesn’t give you the benefits that you truly need from food.
Personally, I hesitate to even call cereal a food.
It would better be known as a, “food product,” or “food-like substance.” The ultra-processed nature of cereal assumes that human engineers in multi-million dollar laboratories know how to design food better than Mother Earth. Do you really believe that Dr. Smith from the Food Engineering lab in the Nestlé department knows more about human health than a piece of a fruit?
I would literally trust a piece of fruit more than Dr. Smith from the food engineering lab.
Cereal is symbolic for short term satisfaction, short term energy, and long term dysfunction.
Look, I know I’m being harsh right now. Food is a VERY personal subject and many of you reading right now might be on the defensive. If you had cereal for breakfast, I have no intent on shaming you for that — I’m writing this to help you because disease prevention through nutrition is possible.
I know what it feels like to load a huge bowl of cereal with milk and devour it. I know what it feels like to be hungry again 60 minutes later and I know what it feels like to have a bloated, uncomfortable gut. And I know what it feels like to hate my body. You’re not a bad person for enjoying cereal.
With cereal, blood sugar rises, spikes and causes inflammation and immune responses. Over time, the habit of eating cereal will lead to chronic inflammation and make you more susceptible to whatever diseases are most prevalent in your genetic lineage. That’s all aside from the fact that cereal is not conducive to having a strong, lean body.
Milk is another food that could be included in this list, but I will write more in depth about that in a future post.
Alternatives to cereal?
First off, it’s a good idea to start your day with fresh water.
In terms of cereal alternatives, you’re probably heading in a better direction if you prepare your own oats with water, using natural foods for sweeteners and additional flavors like fresh/frozen berries or raw honey. Add some cinnamon spice for additional blood sugar support and flavor.
Other options could include fermented dairy like kefir or greek yogurt with or without berries. If you have time to cook, you could make some pasture-raised or omega-3 eggs with onions, spinach, and sweet potatoes.
Either way, try to have some variety in your breakfast because if you do the same thing every single day, you could build up a tolerance or allergy to it. That being said, I understand that sometimes some things just work for you, so let it work.
Let’s move on to the next food.
2. Peanut Butter
How dare he speak negatively of my precious peanut butter…
First off, let me clarify that I fully believe peanut butter *could* be a healthy food because it provides a lot of nutrients, fatty acids, and a small ratio of protein.
It needs to be recognized that food is only so healthy as it supports the foundations of the body. If a certain food is causing imbalances in a particular individual, then regardless of the nutrition facts on paper, it could no longer be deemed a healthy food for that person.
How does peanut butter cause imbalances?
There are two main reasons why peanut butter causes imbalances.
- Omega-6 excess
- Caloric density
Let’s start with calories because that is the obvious one.
A tablespoon of my favorite peanut butter, Adam’s crunchy, contains 100 calories. There’s about 64 tablespoons in a regular sized jar. I am speaking from personal experience and perhaps I am projecting here, but it is super easy for me to put a spoon in the jar, feed my mouth, and do it over and over again until I wonder why the jar is suddenly empty.
Since peanut butter is a somewhat processed food, there is less chewing involved and that bypasses the first mechanism of digestion which should occur during the mastication process in the mouth which communicates digestive signals to the gut and brain. Psychologically and physiologically, our bodies are not designed for such rapid absorption of calories in this manner (especially calories from fat).
The imbalance is caloric surplus — too many calories, too much energy, too much fat. Too much fat, too much fat, if you know what I mean.
The pro-inflammatory properties of peanut butter’s omega-6 fatty acids.
Cardiovascular disease in America is in part caused by a lack of omega-3 fatty acids as well as a surplus of omega-6 fatty acids. The ratio is important here.
In an ideal world, nutrition experts urge Americans to aim for an Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio of 1 :: 3. So for every gram of omega-3’s, you should only consume three grams of omega-6’s.
Peanut butter contains ZERO omega-3’s.
One table spoon of my favorite Adam’s peanut butter contains just over 2 grams of omega-6’s. Thus, if I consumed four spoons of peanut butter (about 9 grams of omega-6’s), then I would need to consume 3 grams of omega-3s.
I would need to consume about 8oz of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon to achieve 3 grams of omega-3’s just to offset the influx of omega-6’s from peanut butter. Don’t forget that most processed foods and restaurant fare is loaded in omega-6’s as well.
Basically, it is almost impossible to get sufficient omega-3’s when you are eating loads of peanut butter daily. You would need to supplement with a fish oil.
Remember that the peanut butter market is worth $3 billion USD. The fact that people assume peanut butter is healthy is not just a random occurrence — the marketing is effective and the product is hyper-palatable. Try peanut butter without salt and you’ll understand how peanut butter is engineered for pleasure.
Common skin diseases related to overconsumption of Omega-6
- Atopic dermatitis
“Well-balanced nutrition and additional anti-inflammatory PUFA-based supplementation should be encouraged in a targeted manner for individuals in need to provide better management of skin diseases but, most importantly, to maintain and improve overall skin health.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037798/
Even though I can’t provide sufficient evidence, I strongly believe that an imbalance of omega-6 is also related to pretty much any auto-immune condition that you may be aware of. Thus, it is paramount to be conscious and mindful of consuming plentiful omega-3’s to counter-balance the omega-6’s.
Alternatives to peanut butter?
Personally, I am a bit biased against nut butters in general. Why not just eat the regular peanuts if you really want peanuts?
When it comes to a better omega-3 :: omega-6 ratio, walnuts at least contain some omega-3’s, so that is useful. Almond butter also has a better ratio than peanut butter, but it still isn’t ideal.
PB2 is a processed, powdered peanut butter that has a lot of the fat reduced. So maybe if you’re really craving the flavor, you can buy the PB2 powder and mix it with your yogurt, smoothies, or more. It certainly has far less omega-6’s and does taste pretty good.
Again, realize that the reason I’m pointing out peanut butter is not that it is inherently bad (it isn’t) — it’s just something I’ve noticed that genuinely is holding people back from achieving their goals.
Bread! Gosh, bread is delicious, isn’t it. I noticed how popular bread is when Seattle first went under Covid-19 lockdown and all of the bread was purchased off the shelves at the grocery store.
Seemingly everybody is aware of gluten because it became a major health trend to go gluten-free. And then after that, there was a counter trend of people who thought that gluten-free marketers were just profiting off of people’s health woes.
There is certainly truth in both sides. I’ve seen gluten-free products that are loaded with sugar and oils that definitely couldn’t be considered healthy. That being said, bread is still problematic.
Gluten isn’t the only factor contributing to gut inflammation.
I’m mostly going to skip over gluten here because it has been covered in a lot of other articles. However, before you deny the fact that gluten is a general gut irritant, you should consider that disease can build up over time and go unnoticed for a long long time. So just because you ate bread and felt fine, that doesn’t mean it’s helping your gut.
Enter Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA)
WGA is a lectin similar to gluten that can be found in bread. There are some interesting research studies being done on possible destructive effect on cancer cells, however it is generally recognized that WGA is pro-inflammatory and acts as an irritant to the gut lining.
“The consumption of wheat, and also other cereal grains, can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.”https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/
Aside from harming the gut and gut microbiome, bread is also a hyper-palatable processed food which spikes blood sugar and leads to chronic inflammation.
I don’t think that bread is the worst food out there because actually it does contain nutrients. However, if you are finding yourself eating bread every single day, I think there is an opportunity for you to make a shift to a different carbohydrate source.
Alternatives to bread?
Well, let’s start off with types of bread that are healthier than the average loaf you’ll find most consumers stocking up on.
Try sourdough bread because it contains less anti-nutrients and may promote gut health. The reason that sourdough is better than average bread is because it has been fermented, which typically unlocks more nutrients from food.
Another option is Ezekial bread which has undergone an additional process to reduce anti-nutrients. The grains are sprouted, which means they have been put in water and the seeds have germinated. This is nature’s way of opening itself up to you.
Of course, it is possible to live a mostly breadless lifestyle with meal-prep and planning. I certainly won’t abstain from bread at a restaurant several times a year, but I know that I’ve probably consumed enough bread in my life and I don’t need it anymore.
Other carbohydrate sources could include squash, quinoa, sweet potatoes, other root vegetables, and more. There’s lots of opportunities to diversify.
Your food, your investment, your life.
Do what you want to do. If you are truly happy eating the above three foods on a regular basis, I’m not going to argue with you. Hopefully, I have placed some seed of inspiration in your gut health though.
It’s valuable to assume that you don’t know a lot about nutrition. I’m saying this because even though I am a nutrition professional, I don’t know a lot and that’s what keeps me learning. Much of what we have learned about nutrition has come from multi-billion dollar industries motivated by selling profitable items and gaining market share, whether you care to admit that or not.
Remember that the unknown is just as important as the known. If you already know everything, then you’re done — there would be no room to know anything else.
Recognize food as an investment just like any other. Would you have rather invested in Apple or Uber? How about Enron? You see, the choices we make today can have compounded interest for the future or they can break us.
There are a million ways to die and only a few ways to prevent disease. You might as well focus on the ways that you can prevent disease so that it’s less likely to strike you during a time of vulnerability.
You CAN maintain a strong, lean body by being mindful, educated, and persistent.
I hope this helps you. Let food be thy medicine, and let DreFitness.com be your next subscription.
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Cheers, love you all.