Alarming Truth About Sugar & Obesity: Five-Alarm Vegan Chili

| May 24, 2012

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.

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Category: Featured, Featured Articles: Food Politics, Food Politics, Main Dish - Vegetarian, Recipe Vault

About the Author (Author Profile)

With a flair for spontaneity, pizzazz, creative excellence and her own unique sense of aesthetic grace and perspective, we have our very dear friend, Belinda (or B, to some of us). Although an incredibly accomplished professional and career woman, B’s down-to-earth approach and demeanor transcends all scenarios, communities and people. She manifests, in her day-to-day, the essence of the word “Zomppa” as demonstrated by her extraordinary commitment to creating sustainable and positive change for us and future generations to come. She’s asked for a dog every year since she was five. Check out Belinda’s work on global education research and coaching: or more about her portfolio

Comments (12)

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  1. Everything in moderation and stay away from boxed and canned ready meals. Keep it as natural and as homemade as possible. That’ my theory, anyway. 🙂

  2. Erica says:

    I try to feed my kids healthy foods and we don’t go to fast food restaurants or eat canned foods!!!!teaching your kids from the beginning to eat healthy and love vegetables and fruits….it is the most important part to avoid health issues later!!!

  3. Erica says:

    I try to feed my kids healthy foods and we don\’t go to fast food restaurants or eat canned foods!!!!teaching your kids from the beginning to eat healthy and love vegetables and fruits….it is the most important part to avoid health issues later!!!

  4. Jeanne says:

    It all comes down to profits, which is why the food industry scares me so much. People are bombarded by so many mixed messages and advertising it’s no wonder that so many of our neighbors don’t know how to cook and eat healthy meals anymore. But you’re on to something with this crock pot chili! It’s simple, easy, and tasty. I think we’ll give it a try this weekend!

  5. Liz says:

    I agree with you…how can all calories be treated equally??? 1000 calories of lard will have a more detrimental effect on health than 1000 calories of carrots 🙂 Great post~

  6. Marie says:

    I don’t believe the calories in/calories out malarky for a minute. We all know that certain foods are more nutrient dense than others so why would we think the calories from those foods would be the same? My theory revolves more around the fact that, yes, we move less than we used to, but also that in our busy-ness (and therefore resorting to “ready foods” we have forgotten how to eat. We’ve forgotten the enjoyment of eating and cooking and therefore have lost the connection to food and to what real food is. This isn’t just a nutrition thing. It’s huge! It says so much about what we value in life now. We can’t even sit down for 30-60 minutes with our families to enjoy a meal. All these connections lost have left us lost. Going to make Chilli now:)

  7. Beth says:

    Very thoughtful analysis. I think it’s all the eating on the run that hurts us. Teach a child to cook and you will teach a child to eat.

  8. Lena says:

    This topic overwhelms me. Moderation is the key.

  9. Very interesting article to read. I don’t use too much sugar or processed food in cooking and I hope that my children learned what nutritious food means from my cooking and they will continue what I have taught them. It’s often hard for me to see what kids bring for lunch in my children’s schools. Lots of processed not healthy lunch. They eat that everyday… You are what you eat… Delicious chili, Belinda!!

  10. A Nordn'Irland dad says:

    A great well-balanced posting, Belinda! Thanks for your wisdom!

  11. Angie says:

    Very interesting. I have to cut out those occasional diet sodas I drink. Your chili looks amazing!

  12. Amy Tong says:

    Very well written and informative. I totally agree with you on the “moderation” part and I absolutely believe in that. Also, the life style and environment is a big factor in obesity as well. I grew up in Hong Kong, where most people rely on public transportation to get around the city. I used to walk at least an hour a day, just between transit and the distance to get to the destinations. Over here in the States, we get our own car and drive to the nearly a few steps away from the store, home, school, etc. I certainly miss my “mandatory” one hour walk as I was much fitter back then. 🙂