Game of Foods: The Good, The Bad, And The Crazy

BY: Dr. Alex Nedvetsky

In my previous post I gave several reasons for the importance of knowing the foods we eat. In this article, I will reinforce that message by demonstrating how food games are played in three examples: the good food, the bad food, and the crazy food.

The Good

I’ve chosen a fruit that is intrinsically good in spite of its misleading name: Sugar Apple. It is a perfect illustration of how we shouldn’t necessarily judge things by their names. Some people avoid this fruit intentionally due to the word “sugar”. The rationale for their fears originates in the deep mistrust of refined sugar. The excessive amount of sugar (glucose) creates spikes in blood glucose and insulin, eventually leading to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and obesity. While the excessive amounts of fructose lead to high concentrations of uric acid in blood, type II diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

That reasoning is entirely true for refined added sugars. But, people often falsely apply it to fruits, of which sugar is a natural part. When I started working on my mobile app “Bites & Chews”, I made an effort to look into the Sugar Apple and reconfirmed that those prejudices were unsubstantiated. The reality is quite the opposite – this fruit has so much good stuff in it that no amount of sugar can offset that.

It has 37 g (12% DV) of carbs in total: sugars and fiber. The amount of fiber is absolutely astounding, a whopping 7 grams – one apple provides 28% of the daily value (DV). That’s what I call satisfying!

Dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) is created to keep us in good health. Soluble fiber, due to its viscous and gel-forming qualities, slows stomach emptying and the absorption of macronutrients in the intestines. Thus, it makes sure simple sugars are not absorbed rapidly, preventing the glucose form spiking and fructose from overrunning the liver. Soluble fiber also lowers the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber improves intestinal motility and has a pronounced laxative effect, which makes it a perfect natural cleanser.

Protein is another major macronutirent  in this terrific fruit – a medium size apple has 3 grams of protein. A fruit with so much protein is quite unique.  Usually fruits have up to two grams of protein. At first glance, this relatively small number seams insignificant. However, the power of fruits is in their cumulative effect. As you eat 8-10 serving of fruits and veggies a day, they become a substantial source of important nutrients.

Also, a sugar apple has more vitamin C (93% DV) than a lemon. It has 15% of daily value (DV) of vitamine-6 that plays important role in protein metabolism and 8% DV of magnesium, which is essential to protein synthesis and muscle and nerve function.

THE BAD 

Yogurt is a baddy in disguise. You will probably disagree with me on that, “What the heck? Yogurt is supposed to be a good guy!” Yes, yogurt has an innate goodness to it, and the whole-milk plain yogurt is everything you expect from a healthy natural product. Unadulterated yogurt delivers exactly the right measure of everything your body needs – fats, proteins, carbs, and a fair dose of probiotics.

Except in real life, most of us eat packaged yogurts, which are far removed from the notions of “whole” and “natural”. The more yogurt is processed and adulterated, the less salutary it becomes. I particularly stay away from the non-fat yogurts. When fat is removed from yogurt, it becomes unbearably sour and insipid. To remedy that, more than generous amounts of sugar are added. Thus, “low fat” becomes in effect “high sugar”.

All the paranoia about saturated fat completely screwed up the way we eat. For three decades, we have been bombarded with erroneous recommendations that seriously contributed to the obesity epidemic. According to the USDA, an average American gets 16% of daily calories from added sugars. That’s more than 75g (1/3 cup) of sugar and more than 350 empty calories per day.

I hope, this is going to change. The latest observational studies involving more than half a million people couldn’t find any support for the benefits of low fat diets – a long overdue vindication. Soon, when common sense will finally prevail, we’ll be able to eat nothing but unadulterated whole-milk yogurt with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.

“Low fat” burka isn’t the only disguise for a not so healthy dairy product. When you see a yogurt with a “Probiotics blah, blah, blah…” sticker, stay vigilant since there’s almost inevitably a catch and a lie.

Yogurt makers will assure you that there are billions of lactobacilli in the product, insinuating that, no matter what, a lot of them will reach your gut and fulfill their panacean prophesy. What they don’t tell you is that lactobacilli can’t stand the acidity of gastric juice and the bile… of bile. Lactobacilli perish faster in those unfriendly environments than the notorious suicidal lemmings during seasonal migrations. But, seriously, how many bacteria do reach the colon? Well, folks, it’s anybody’s guess.

False advertisement comes with consequences. As part of the $35 million settlement, Dannon agreed to reimburse unhappy consumers and change the prevaricating label. Danon’s Activia used to boast that it was “clinically proven to help naturally regulate your digestive system in two weeks”.  As of lately, it is just a yogurt that tastes good and helps only “when consumed daily for two weeks as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.” See the difference?

To be completely fair, Activia is not the most glaring example of dairy madness. Yoplait remains the apparent leader, in spite of the fact that the company has recently reduced the amount of sugars in its yogurts. Just take a look at this label that I copied from the Yoplait’s website:

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In regard to nutrition, this guy is almost as bad as a can of soda – it has 28 grams of added sugar and similarly long list of additives.

I say, these yogurts are worse than the sugary sodas. Sodas are more honest since they were forced to stop hiding their badness. ‘We are laced with sugar!  We are addictive! Enjoy us at your own peril!’

I can respect that, and I allow myself to take a few sips of Coca-Cola when I feel like it… at my own peril.

By the way, do you know how many grams of added sugar you need per day for good health? Zero! Zilch! Nada!

The Crazy

Here’s the Lemon Water debacle. I came across a picture that lauds the miraculous qualities of lemon water:

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I googled that posting to see if it was a solitary blip, or this information gained some traction. Not surprisingly, there was enough and some to spare – Lemon Water was enthusiastically reposted multiple times with all its pearls of wisdom. If so many good people have shared this information, shouldn’t it be true and valid? Let’s analyze the statements one by one and see if they are entirely mythical or have some merit.

Statement one – Lemon is a natural energizer.

There are not that many natural energizers in this world. I am aware of the Khat shrub that has cathione, an amphetamine-like stimulant. I am aware of Ephedra Sinica that has ephedrine. I am aware of the Coca plant that has cocaine. And I am absolutely certain that lemon has none of the above-mentioned substances.

Well, good for the lemon, since Khat and cocaine are illegal, while ephedrine is closely monitored by the FDA due to its serious health risks.

What about caffeine? Maybe lemon has some caffeine to buzz our nervous system? Alas, it does not! Not a single microgram of the most common psychoactive drug.

So, is the statement about energizer-lemon completely untrue? Not exactly. Lemon water does have some indirect invigorating effect, and I can give you several plausible explanations for it.

First – the “oomph” factor. When the zing of acidic drink sends a jolt through our bodies, it does make us feel energized.

Second – the emotional impact. Australian neuroscientists demonstrated that drinking water when thirsty causes the brain (specifically, the anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal cortex) to light up. These brain areas are involved in emotional decision-making, and, as we all know, thirst quenching stirs up positive emotions big time.

Third – hydration, as in delivering water to the withered  “thirsty” cells. Water improves cellular function, making the body cells faster, higher, and stronger.

Statement two – Lemon hydrates the body.

Yes, it’s true – lemons have nearly 80% of water. The question is, do you need lemons to produce hydration, or will plain water suffice? Let’s say that after jogging for an hour, you must replenish the half liter of water you lost. You need 10 lemons to make it happen… Good luck squeezing 10 lemons into a glass – just thinking about it creates uncontrollable salivation to protect your oral mucosa from the acid. And, even if you succeed with the juice extraction, are you equipped to enjoy the pucker of lemon? I seriously doubt that. My point is – it is not the lemon that hydrates, it is the H2O.

Statement three – Lemon balances pH.

That is an extremely bold statement. The pH balance is the most sophisticated mechanism of preserving homeostasis. Mother nature made sure that no substance ingested in sensible quantities could alter our pH.

Of course, if you’ve inadvertently swallowed some serious amounts of pickling lime, which is a base, then, an expeditious application of comparative dose of edible acid will quickly reverse the excessive alkalanization.  Otherwise, humans do not need any acid to balance their pH.

For the record, there are life threatening medical conditions (endocrine imbalance, severe diarrhea, etc.) that can cause a dangerous pH shift and a trip to the Emergency Room. If this misfortune does happen, restrain yourself from advising the ER physician to use lemon water as treatment.

I believe I made a case for showing the follies of the “Lemon Water” idiocy, and I don’t want to  waste your time by dwelling on oxygenation, weight loss, blood purification, respiratory relief, or such rubbish. The only statements that do have some merit are the following:

~Lemon water can boost immune system.

Yes, it can, and praise lemon’s ascorbic acid for that!

~Lemon water cures throat infection.

Sure, why not. Citric acid does have weak antibacterial qualities and can contribute to fighting throat infections, on two conditions, though. First, it should be in the form of pure undiluted lemon juice. Second, the person should be able to withstand the pain of pouring an acid on inflamed flesh. I did it once – you should have seen the quivering grimace on my face.

The following is my verdict:

Though the statements are borrowed from a used car salesman’s repertoire, lemon water is far from being a “lemon”. Besides hydrating, boosting, and “oomphing”, this pure and healthy drink replaces the noxious sodas, the sugar laced packaged juices, and the dubious sports beverages.

I hope that after reading this piece, you will play your part in the “Game of Foods” with confidence and expertise.

* To Find out more about Dr. Alex Nedvetsky read his mini bio on Our Team Page.

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