Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dietary Advice

Because I am a registered dietitian, I will give a nugget of dietary advice. When I was in school I learned that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has likely contributed to the rise in obesity in this country because it does not signal hormones in the body that help to tell you it is satisfied such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin. But now, more recent research has shown that HFCS does not significantly differ from other sweeteners such as table sugar in its effects on these hormones. (Many these studies promoting HFCS were funded by corn refiners and the American Beverage Institute). So I am personally undecided about HFCS, but professionally, I would advice to limit consumption of any added sugar without discrimination.
Because this is my blog, I can speak freely. Personally, I have a tendency to believe that when things are done to save time or money, most times something must be sacrificed. Manufacturers began to use HFCS because corn in the US is cheaper to use than sugar, which is mostly imported therefore incurring high tariffs. Additionally, there are subsidies for corn farmers/refiners and the final product, a liquid, is easier to transport. A large amount of processing goes into making HFCS with an end result that is very, very shelf stable. Therefore, it is cheaper for manufacturers to sweeten their products and they will last longer after production - sounds profit driven to me. It seems to me that the farther you get away from the natural product the less nutritious it is in many ways. As for HFCS, it is mechanically produced with a high level of processing using at least one genetically modified enzyme. It enhances fruit and spice flavors, gives a soft and chewy texture to foods such as breakfast bars and it tastes great!
My nugget of advice is to avoid HFCS. Not because I believe it will contribute to obesity, and not because other harmful speculations about it. The manufacturer that produced the products that contain HFCS generally have an interest in taking steps to save money and time, which in my mind means sacrifice. So, the products with HFCS can usually be substituted for a healthier more natural version of that product, OR will do you better to just be avoided all together. I am not pointing my finger at poor little manufacturers-pride-and-joy HFCS, I am saying that products that contain HFCS are not usually the best choice. But because often the general public has a hard time deciphering what is healthy and what is not - a simple guideline is to read the ingredient list and avoid products with HFCS.

For example:
Juice - eat fruit and drink water
Nutri-grain bar - eat a Kashi bar, Trader Joe's, other natural food brands
Jarred tomato sauce - make your own, it tastes so much better

Now, I am the first one to admit that being healthy is not 1. easier nor 2. cheaper. Usually is is just that - harder, more inconvenient, more expensive and for most people, less palatable. Why? because manufactured ingredients and additives enhance flavor and mouthfeel and lead to a more desirable product. Being healthy is a decision to make in your own mind - it will not initially make itself for most people, meaning the food wont convince you to eat it instantly, whereas McDonald's and Krispy Kream keeps you coming back - and you wonder why...
Additionally, things that taste good, sweet and have that desirable smooth mouthfeel seem to be addictive - they make you want to eat more of it now, and then think of it later so you will eat it again and again. So by eating the alternative to the farther-from-natural product you may consume less calories because it may not entice cravings. So if you don't like all this complicated talk, I'll say... eat less often the stuff that tastes too good. (I must remind you that ALL foods fit in a healthy diet. I enjoy myself some high-fructose, trans-bonded, smooth, minimal-cocoa-containing yummy treats - just enjoy them less frequently than the the more nutrient dense choices).

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