By David Kekich
Some of the most damaging groups of substances we are exposed to on a daily basis are starches and refined sugars, such as:
- And corn syrup
Our metabolism was just not designed to handle the tremendous amount of nutrient-free calories (i.e., sugar, starches, and to some degree fat) that the typical American diet has in it. The majority of those calories come from refined sugar (sweets, soft drinks, etc.) and starches (bread and pasta).
Excess sugar and starch cause multiple assaults to your system. First, as we discussed, high blood sugar causes excess insulin release. Of the two hormones that control the amount of sugar in your blood stream—insulin and glucagon, insulin causes sugar to be taken into the cells, while glucagon causes it to be released. By eating excess carbohydrates, you put your blood sugar control system onto a dangerous roller coaster ride. Up, down, up, down—after repeated bouts of this, your system will crash. The result is Type II diabetes, which is becoming more and more prevalent.
There’s more. People with diabetes are twice as likely to have arthritis. In fact, more than half of the U.S. adults diagnosed with diabetes also have arthritis. That puts them in a double bind, as the pain in their joints keeps them from getting the exercise they need to keep both diseases at bay.
Diabetics are unable to take up sugar efficiently, because their cells no longer respond to insulin. A nasty side effect of this process is that your body begins producing way too much insulin to try and overcome the unresponsiveness of your cells. So now you have high insulin and high blood sugar, which causes all kinds of damage to your arteries. This includes higher cholesterol in your blood, more useless molecules being made by sticking to the excess sugar (crosslinking) which clogs your arteries, the production of oxidized molecules, and the release of the hormone cortisol which causes tissue breakdown.
Insulin also causes excess sugar to be converted to fat. Want to lose weight? Stay away from white flour and sugar.
We also know sugar depresses the immune system. The root of all disease, common cold or cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or cancer, is at the molecular and cellular level. And insulin is probably going to be involved in almost every aging disease, if not totally controlling it.
Insulin is that important.
Some of us are less susceptible to the perils of sugar and starch than others. Starch in general does not cause diabetes according to a new study by Dr. Richard Johnson, the chief of the division of kidney disease and hypertension at the University of Colorado, and author of The Sugar Fix. The new appreciation is that if you have your uric acid level checked and have a level of 4 for men, or 3.5 for women, you probably are at a low risk for fructose toxicity and can be more liberal with your intake.
The higher your uric acid though, the more you need to limit fructose to about 16 grams a day, or even avoid it until your uric acid level normalizes.
Even with a healthy uric acid level, I suggest avoiding all foods with added fructose like the plague. A growing lineup of scientific studies is demonstrating that consuming high-fructose corn syrup is the fastest way to trash your health. It is now known without a doubt that sugar in your food, in all its myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll.
And fructose in any form, including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose, is the worst of the worst!
To replace those high-calorie, low-nutrient carbohydrates you were consuming before, eat lots of raw fruit and vegetables. Some fruits that have been discovered to be particularly good for their anti-aging properties are blueberries, pomegranates, bilberries, strawberries, purple grapes, and tomatoes (Yes, tomatoes are technically fruits, not vegetables). Since fruits contain natural fructose, I suggest you eat more veggies than fruit.
The deeper and richer the colors of your fruits and vegetables, the more nutritional value they have for you. If your meals look like rainbows, you’re on the right track. Why all the fuss about color? Because loads of scientific studies have shown the natural pigments that give fruits and veggies their vibrant colors offer remarkable health benefits. A major class of compounds in this category is the flavonoids.
Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that are linked with health benefits including protection from cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, stroke and more.
Fruits with rich colors, especially deep blue or purple, tend to have high concentrations of anthocyanins, one of nature’s most potent classes of flavonoids. And get this.
In case you haven’t heard, dark chocolate and red wine are also rich sources of flavonoids. A study at University Hospital Zurich showed 6 grams of dark chocolate a day reduces risks of heart disease and stroke by 39%. Take it easy though. Too much dark chocolate will overdose you with sugar and saturated fat. Limit yourself to 7.5 grams of dark chocolate a day. More than two glasses of red wine a day works against you due to excess sugar and alcohol. Moderation is the word of the day if you must indulge.
Strawberries have high concentrations of ellagic acid, another antioxidant that has been shown to protect rats against many age-related defects. The molecule lycopene in tomatoes is yet another powerful antioxidant.
If you do eat simple carbohydrates, take some high-grade protein with it to reduce its damage by about half. Don’t beat yourself up and worry about eating a hamburger, ice cream or pizza once in a while if it gives you pleasure. But making it a habit will undermine your health and shorten your life.
On the flip side, when you plan to eat your meal or snack, visualize yourself as being healthier and slimmer. Then concentrate on your food while eating, and reward yourself mentally when you make your healthy choices.
What is your favorite dark chocolate?
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