A couple weeks ago, I watched, like many others, the HBO documentary on The Weight of the Nation. While there wasn’t anything particularly new in the documentaries, they did a solid job sounding the alarm about the extremely horrific path we are heading on in terms of obesity and health (i.e., half of Americans are expected to be overweight or obesity by 2040).
Yet this obesity trend can and should be reversed. According to the HBO film, the NIH has shown that certain medicines and lifestyle changes can reduce the rates of heart disease and stroke. One comment made in the documentary in particular, however, struck me: the claim that “The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time = weight stays the same.” In other words, all calories are created equal.
Yet calories are not created equal. Even though the number may be the same, the effects of a soda’s caloric intake is not the same as a bowl of fresh fruit – and certainly neither are its nutrients.
In an interesting Newsweek article, Gary Taubes challenges the traditional theory that less food & more exercise lead to lower rates of obesity. After all, if that were true, he suggests, then why have all these initiatives and campaigns to eat better-move more not resulted in a drastic reduction in obesity?
The answer, he suggest, lies not in the accepted eat better-move more, but rather in a decades-long alternative theory that there are particular foods, especially refined sugars and grains, that messes up with people’s insulin. Because insulin regulates fat accumulation, those who have a diet heavier in refined sugars and grains will store it more and metabolize it slower. In other words, a calorie they consume will negatively affect their body much more easily than in those whose diets are low in refined sugars and grains.
Even the film made a note that the best change to a diet is to get rid of sodas. Cutting out sodas is not about cutting calories, but rather the sugar that may have a negative impact on how fat is metabolized.
Of course, much of the food industry do not talk about this theory; after all, if people stopped consuming so much refined sugar and grains, they may run out of business.
If this theory is correct, then are many of the existing anti-obesity programs been barking up the wrong tree? Why isn’t there greater attention placed on those refined sugars and grains?
However, if this theory is correct, why is it that some cultures have had heavy pasta or rice with refined grains, or desserts with refined sugars in their diets for hundreds and hundreds of years, but it is only now that we see obesity increasing at an alarming pace?
One answer may be due to the fact that traditional diets with refined grains, such as Italian or Chinese, or with refined sugars, such as French, did not have the same issues with obesity because these foods were not only eaten in moderation, but they were also primarily eaten as an accompaniment to heart-healthier foods, such as leafy greens. Additionally, the quality of real sugar seems to have devolved from pure cane sugar into sugar-like products and corn syrup (or as the corn industry wants to put it, corn sugar) that negatively impede the hormone insulin.
Perhaps the key is really to avoid refined sugar and grains, and replace those calories with other things more body-friendly.
After all, calories are not created equal. So why haven’t more people and organizations sounded the alarm on this theory and its body of work?
The heat of this five-alarm chili might mess up your taste buds for a bit, but there are certainly no refined sugars or grains to mess up your hormones.
Five-Alarm Vegan Chili
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 yellow pepper, minced
1 green pepper, minced
4-6 cups vegetable broth
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
3 TB dried oregano
1 TB ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup chili powder
2 TB cayenne pepper
1. Add ingredients to crockpot – add liquid until desired consistency – add spices for desired heat.
2. Put on low cook for 6 hours.