Trial and Error: The Conflict with Food

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Introduction

 

In reference to our blog post last month about fitness, I thought it was appropriate to post this month about nutrition. Here at Zenful, we’re not only concerned with the pain or discomfort in your muscles, but we’re also interested in overall health, because everything you do affects your body in one way or another.
 
Diet is one of the most important factors in body health – your body ingests what you do, but have you ever thought about what happens inside of your body when you eat that plate full of fries and a juicy hamburger? There are many studies in this area, but we want to give you some insight based on our personal experimentation with nutrition, fitness and overall health. The following examples are the phrases I put to the test and the results I found during my trials.
 

1. Diet Affects Energy Levels

 
At first, I was skeptical about this phrase, so I took it to the test. I recall the days when I ate whatever I felt like: fast-food, ice cream, chips, sugary delights, you name it. I was always tired, I had difficulty waking up in the morning and keeping my energy up throughout the day. I thought it could be my lack of sleep, but after going to bed earlier and earlier, I still had difficulty waking up in the morning. And I have always been an active person, but no matter how tiresome my workout routine, I wasn’t losing any weight or getting better sleep. Why? As a last resort, I turned to my diet.
 
I immediately cut out fast-food and soda. After a few weeks, I started to feel a little better and felt more rested after sleep. After adding more natural sugars like fruit into my diet, I felt even better and upon adding more high quality protein and veggies, I was sleeping like a baby. But how is this possible?
 
Most foods these days are highly processed – this means foods contain more highly concentrated added sugars and preservatives to prolong shelf life. Because this is added into our food choices, our brain receives more sugar and fat than the recommended daily dose, which in turn causes a string of problems including: grogginess, difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, lethargy and laziness.
 

2. The Good Kind of Bread is Good For You

 
I’m not entirely sure what this means, but I’ve heard it countless of times. The first argument that came out with bread was the argument against white bread – some said it was inflated with air and full of sugar. Now society has moved toward “multi-grain,” “whole wheat” or “whole grain” breads to combat the bad rap white bread received. To be honest, I was a victim of the whole grain bread phenomenon early on as well, mostly because I love bread and couldn’t imagine giving it up, but what I discovered about wheat was astonishing.
 
After reading the book Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD, it seemed that wheat was a negative additive to our diet. So I started to do some research and discovered that most foods with any wheat product or bi-product contains “gluten.” Ah yes, the awful “g-word.” (No, I wasn’t a fan of it either and honestly thought it was a fad that would run its trendy course in short.) According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is “a general name for the proteins found in wheat…Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.” For some people, gluten has major negative effects on their body such as those who suffer from celiac disease, but some health professionals claim that gluten is bad for most people. Okay, scary.
 
My next step? You guessed it! I started a gluten-free diet. The results? I feel better than I ever have and my digestive system is thanking me.
 

3. Sugar is Okay in Small Doses

 
Okay, this phrase drives me crazy and I want to shed some light here. There is a difference between natural sugar and manufactured sugar. These days so many processed foods contain added sugars, even one’s you wouldn’t expect, like salad dressing. If you look at a nutrition label for a product under the ingredients, you’ll commonly find “High Fructose Corn Syrup” or “Corn Syrup Solids” listed. High fructose corn syrup is probably the Worst. Additive. Ever.
 
So what happens to your brain when you consume high quantities of sugar that isn’t natural? Your body reacts to sugar like a drug and when it’s had a little bit, it craves more. In a recent article posted by Mashable titled, “This is what happens to your brain when you give up sugar” outlined what happens on the cellular level. Writer Jordan Gaines Lewis states,
 

Evolution has resulted in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain system that deciphers these natural rewards for us. When we do something pleasurable, a bundle of neurons called the ventral tegmental area uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to signal to a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The connection between the nucleus accumbens and our prefrontal cortex dictates our motor movement, such as deciding whether or not to take another bite of that delicious chocolate cake.

 
Basically, sugars have a way of taking control of our brain and the decisions we make with eating. When sugars take over the neurotransmitter that releases dopamine, we get a motivation to eat more sugar. Like any addictive drug, our brain builds a tolerance to a certain level of sugar, once that happens we tend to crave more and more. So what can you eat that doesn’t contain added sugars? Anything processed is typically something you want to stay away from, so turn to more natural forms of nutrition like fruit and veggies. If you do want something processed, I’ve listed some of my favorite products that are low in sugar and also conducive to your health goals like weight loss.
 

  • Oatmega Energy Bars*
  • Siggi’s Yogurt*
  • Orgain Protein Powder

 
*These products can be found at your local Whole Foods Market.
 
If you’re interested in this topic, you might be interested in Fed Up, a documentary about sugar in the food industry.
 

4. Eating Organic is Expensive

 
I will not argue with the fact that eating organic is expensive, especially if Whole Foods is the only natural market in your area. It definitely can get pricy when buying natural products and produce, and it’s even harder when you’re trying to feed a family. It seems ridiculous that a bunch of kale costs almost $4.00, which is more expensive than two bags of chips, but I will offer an alternate way of thinking about organic. It took me awhile to get behind organic, because again I thought it was a trend, however, at that time I didn’t know what I know now about the food industry and the sneaky tricks they use to get you hooked on their products.
 
To me, it’s a better investment to eat well and take care of my body, rather than spending thousands on medications or procedures in the future that could have been prevented. To me, that argument was motivating enough to fork out some extra cash.
 

Conclusion

 
Diet is extremely important to overall health, it affects how your body feels, moves and develops. Whether your goals are to lose weight, improve your muscle tone, or just feel better, turn toward your diet to find the culprits that may be hindering you. If you’re interested in this topic, please comment below or see my list of recommended materials to help you escape the clutches of the food industry.

Recommended Materials:

Cowspiracy | documentary
Food, Inc. | documentary
Wheat Belly | book by William Davis, MD
Oh She Glows | cookbook

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