“Unprocessed or minimally processed foods are whole foods in which the vitamins and nutrients are still intact. The food is in its natural (or nearly natural) state. These foods may be minimally altered by removal of inedible parts, drying, crushing, roasting, boiling, freezing, or pasteurization, to make them suitable to store and safe to consume. Unprocessed or minimally processed foods would include carrots, apples, raw chicken, melon, and raw, unsalted nuts.”
Kathryn D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN
Harvard Health Publishing, 2020
We talk a lot about the bad stuff (processed foods) and not about the good stuff – unprocessed food. Good definition above. These are beginning to be hard to find in the supermarkets. The following article reports on a doctor’s experience of what it is like to eat Ultraprocessed foods for one month.
“The traditional Okinawan diet was about 80% carbohydrate. Before 1940, Okinawans also consumed fish at least three times a week together with seven servings of vegetables and maybe one or two servings of grains a day. They also ate two servings of flavonoid-rich soy, usually in the form of tofu. Dairy and meat represented about 3% of their calories. They didn’t eat much fruit; they enjoyed a few eggs a week” They particularly had/have an affinity for sweet potatoes.
The Okinawan Clues to Longevity
Have a purpose in life – i.e. a reason to get up in the morning .
Rely on a plant-based diet .
Get gardening .
Eat more soy .
Maintain a social network.
Enjoy the sunshine.
Plant a medicinal garden with beneficial herbs.
Enjoy simple pleasures.
Source: Dan Buettner, The Blue Zones Solution, 2015
The following article explains much of the recent research as to why this culture has had so much success in living a relatively speaking healthy lifestyle – it is worth a read. It does not mean we all need to go buy pounds of sweet potatoes; however I think I may have one for dinner. (SJF).
“Robert Goldstein, a hedge fund manager in New York, was getting huge cravings for sweets when he came across a tropical plant called Gymnema sylvestre that works a little like methadone for heroin addicts.” What does that have to do with “big food”? Too much, I’m afraid.
“Ketones (or ketone bodies) are molecules formed in the liver when there is not sufficient carbohydrate to completely metabolize the two carbon units produced from fat breakdown.”
It always has been claimed by many doctors and nutritionists to “eat a balanced diet”. Is this healthy? Why is the ketogenic diet so unbalanced? I
The ketogenic diet has gained in popularity due to many adherents on the internet and magazine covers in the supermarkets to this way of eating. It appears that weight loss is achieved a little faster than following the outdated low fat diet; however, after time, both diets in most studies produced approximately the same weight loss (e.g. after a year). “The ketogenic diet is not a diet for life. It is highly restricted in calories and types of food allowed. The ketogenic diet is high in fat and protein and low in carbs; eliminates fruit, grains, and beans, many vegetables high in meat and low in plant foods.
“That makes it the opposite of what we know constitutes a healthy diet”.
Healthy carbohydrates have been the mainstay of many healthy diets from food cultures around the world, e.g. many of the Asian diets and those countries around the Mediterranean area, thus the Okinawan and/or the Mediterranean Diet.
Source: Mark Bittman and David L. Katz, MD. How to Eat: All Your Food Questions Answered, 2020
The Japanese diet is one of the world’s lowest in fat. Other attributes include fish as a mainstay and soy foods. The Japanese also care about appearance and think of food as an art – resulting in more appetizing and satisfying foods. Do these characteristics contribute to the Japanese record of low rates of major chronic diseases and the fact that they boast the world’s highest life expectancy – age 76 for men and 82 for women?
In contrast, in 1980, 30 percent of U .S. adult population were affected by at least one chronic condition. Today it’s 60 percent. The percentage of those affected by two or more chronic diseases has grown from 16 percent to 42 percent. What and how do the Japanese eat? Often, it is Interesting to study lifestyles, in particular what and how other cultures eat to gain some insights as to what exactly is a healthy diet. No one expects the typical American to start munching on seaweed but the study indicates that what and how we eat can affect our overall health and longevity.
Can we do something to address the obesity/diabesity epidemic in the U.S.? Maybe. The government has a way of promoting the very foods that help contribute to the problem. How about helping to contribute to healthy foods for a change? Interesting article. Could it work? Too bad, Coca Cola.
“Indeed, the already booming nut-milk industry is projected to see continuous growth. Much of this is driven by beliefs about health, with ads claiming “dairy free” as a virtue that resonates for nebulous reasons—many stemming from an earlier scare over saturated fat—among consumers lactose intolerant and tolerant alike.”
Snacking has become a popular habit among children and teenagers At the same time, overweight and obesity have reached huge proportions, affecting young individuals. Snacking has been considered one of the main contributors to overweight because of the increased consumption of energy-dense, high-sugar, high-fat foods.
Snacking is promoted by food ads to children and adolescents and one look at our supermarket foods completes the picture. When I taught nutrition courses at the college level, most of my students would come to class with their favorite bag of snacks in hand. Ironically, the class objectives were hopefully to learn about healthy diets. It was hard to compete against the influences of the “big food” industry ubiquitous in our food environment.
No wonder we have an obesity problem. Don’t count on the latest Dietary Guidelines 2020 for help. Enough said?
The last I checked, the U.S. is still facing another raging epidemic other than Covid -19 – one that is been in some degree affecting a large percentage of the population (40%) for quite some time – obesity. Obesity has even been named as a risk factor for the Covid pandemic.
A feature of this month’s issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter titled Why We Overeat by Bonnie Liebman should be important for al of us who eat the food found in the Standard American Diet (SAD).
As a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, Kevin Hall explains: “We’re trying to understand the properties of our food environment that regulate appetite and cause people to overeat and gain body fat”. Based on several well designed studies, his group found “only one diet led people to gain weight and gain body fat, Hall says, and that diet is the ultra-processed-food diet.”. Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces,
History tells us that during the first decades of food production, processed foods became more plentiful than had ever been offered the food consumer. This processing began in the early 1950’snd has taken over the food industry ever since then.
“Companies are all about maximizing the allure of their products” says Michael Moss, a prize winning former New York Times reporter whose recent book is titled: Hooked,Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions. It all begins with three major ingredients: Salt, Sugar, and Fat.
“The industry came up with the term “bliss point” to describe the perfect amount of sugar in a drink or food that would please most Americans. Not too little, not too much”
“In snack foods like potato chips, 50% of the calories typically come from fat which gives them that melt in your mouth phenomenon, which so much ultra processed food has. You hardly even have to chew it.”
“Salt is the flavor burst because it’s often on the surface of the food and the first thing that touches the tongue”.
But wait! There are other factors.
“Fat plus carbs foods with high concentrations of both fat and refined carbohydrates like chocolate, ice cream French fries, pizza, cookies and chips are the foods that most people find most irresistible”, says Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
Other factors that aid in making the consumer choose ultra-processed foods can include:
Variety, speed (unprocessed food often takes more chewing), advertising (especially TV ads),
Cost. The food industry goal is to make their products as inexpensive as possible for the consumer.
Snacking: “The food industry has developed more and more products that can act as the fourth meal of the day.” Just look at the abundance in the snack aisles.
What To Do
One way is to concentrate more on nutrient dense foods then on calorie dense foods — of course this increase requires adding fruits and vegetables.
Another good source on how to curb your ultra processed food intake is presented by Barbara Rolls, director of the Laboratory for the Study of Human Ingestive Behavior at Penn State, who wrote the Ultimate Volumetrics Diet.
A study in 2017 by Rolls randomly assigned women with obesity to either eat less fat or eat less fat and eat more fruits and vegetables for a year. After a year, the fruit and vegetable eaters had lost more weight (17 pounds) than the other group (14 pounds), and they reported being less hungry.
“We eat with our eyes and our brain, If we see a big portion, that sets us up to feel more satisfied. If a plate looks half empty, that sets us up to feel hungry”, says Rolls.
All in all, be aware and mindful of what you eat. Mindless eating can be habit forming as usually we pay little attention to what and how much food we are eating. Studies show that we eat more macaroni and cheese while watching TV than while listening to music.
Lays potato chips dares us with the challenge: “bet you
can’t eat just one”.
“Stay away from the gigantic calorie counts in most restaurant food, whether it’s sit down or fast food. Cook your own food whenever possible. Stick with water, coffee, tea, or other calorie free drinks.”
Don’t let multinational corporations dictate your diet and your health. It’s up to you to make those choices.
Bonnie Liebman. Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest, April, 2021.
Michael Moss. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random House, 2014.
● New research paints a picture in which the population of large mammals declined resulting in an increase in human brain size.
● Evolution, the theory argues, favored large brain humans who could successfully hunt smaller, faster animals for food.
● Brain size has grown significantly over the past 2 million years, but there is controversy over why this is the case. Some say the increase was the result of many small environmental changes over time. Others argue there might have been one major change, like this one.