Newsflash: The American Diet Causes Obesity

Have you ever heard anyone say that all you have to do to make your diet more nutritious is to stop eating white flour and sugar? Does that seem radical to you? What’s wrong with white flour and sugar? What would such a change accomplish? I’m not going to say you can never eat white flour and sugar. My motto is moderation. Most people can tolerate a treat now and then. But let’s look at what’s really happening. Why are two-thirds of Americans currently overweight or obese? Because the standard American diet is so nutrient-poor that most people are literally hungry all the time. So they eat. It’s not about willpower; it’s about nutrition.

If you’re like more than eighty percent of American households, there is a broad selection of “breakfast cereals” in your kitchen. On a typical morning, you and the children all eat a bowlful. Then you head out to work. At the office, you find a box of doughnuts, and you enjoy one with your coffee, to which you add non-dairy coffee whitener (first ingredient corn syrup).

At lunchtime, you head down to the cafeteria and get baked ziti. It comes with 2 small meatballs, a packet of parmesan cheese, and a small, anemic salad consisting of iceberg lettuce, 2 thin slices of cucumber and 1 wrinkled grape tomato. You add “a little bit” of low-fat salad dressing. There’s also garlic bread, made from white flour and margarine.

Or you decide that you’d prefer a burger and fries. Or today you’re going to try to eat “healthy,” and you choose a container of low-fat peach yogurt, and a granola bar.

Later in the afternoon, you head back into the break room hungry, and eat half of the last doughnut. Pretzels or chips. A peppermint patty. Another granola bar. A can of soda.

What’s for dinner? Fish sticks, instant mashed potatoes, frozen peas and carrots. Chicken nuggets, tater tots, canned tomato soup. Pizza and more garlic bread. I have nothing against pizza, but store-bought, frozen pizzas are not usually made with a whole-grain crust, generous amounts of real mozzarella cheese, and high-quality tomato sauce (made without sugar or corn syrup). Then cookies, jello, pudding for dessert.

You’re not eating just a little bit of stripped carbs. You’re drowning in them. No wonder cruising the cabinets after dinner is one of America’s favorite pastimes. You’re still hungry. White flour and sugar are relatively recent inventions, and herein lies the problem. We aren’t designed to eat them. We didn’t evolve to eat them, and our bodies don’t know what to do with them when we do.

White flour is made from grain that has been stripped of its germ and bran, the fiber-rich seed coat. The germ and bran contain valuable nutrients that are essential for normal gut function. Remove them, and rates of absorption (and constipation) skyrocket. That’s why foods made with whole-grain flour have a lower glycemic index than equivalent items made with stripped flour. Also, it might interest you to remember the recipe for papier-mâché: white flour mixed with water and newspaper. Yes, white flour turns into glue.

In nature, carbohydrate is almost always found with its fiber matrix intact. The primary industrial sources of sugar include dates (high-fiber), beets (high-fiber super food), and sugar cane, a grass. The sugar in these foods isn’t absorbed fast. We make it that way. Riding a bus into Cairo many years ago, I once watched a man chewing on a stalk of sugar cane. It occupied him for literally hours. The same amount of sugar in crystal form, extracted from that piece of cane and stirred into a glass of soda or cup of yogurt, would have been eaten and absorbed in a matter of minutes. He kindly offered me a taste, but I declined.

White flour is white; whole-wheat flour is brown. The fragile oils in the germ of a whole grain are the first thing to become rancid, which shortens shelf life. So white flour looks cleaner and lasts longer. Shelf life equals profit. I have nothing against profit margins — but not at the expense of your health.

Remember that you vote with your wallet, each and every time you purchase manufactured calories, or fabricated foods. If you stop buying them, the food industry will get the message loud and clear. Your nutritional status is on the line. Your health is on your plate.

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