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LIKE choosing your own poison when it comes to abusing any of the various alcoholic beverages around if you were a drinker, there are also different food types that are really hazardous to health when we consume them with abandon, without care.

While we have listed red meat as the most notorious on the list of what food to eat only sparingly, if at all, since it is not an essential food item, without which we can survive and even be healthier, carbohydrates (sugars) are the so-called “addictive white substance,” the “sweet killer.”

Unlike the white meat of chicken (minus the skin) when taken in moderation, red meat (pork, beef, etc.), even in moderation, increases our blood cholesterol and fats, which lead to clogging of our arteries, causing heart attack, stroke, blockage of leg arteries and gangrene.

High fat and cholesterol also increase the risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, gout and many forms of cancer.

Processed red meats are unhealthy in the long run for all of us, especially for children.

Carbohydrates include table sugar, rice, bread, pies, cakes, ice cream, cookies, potatoes, all sweets, and anything made of flour, rice, corn.

A few vegetables have some carbohydrates in them also, but the health benefits from vegetables outweigh the little sugar in them.

Fruits have a lot of sugar, called fructose, which is a better form of carbo.

But those who are diabetics must include the calories from fruits they eat when they count their daily total calorie-limits.

• Why must we control our carbohydrate or sweet intake?

Carbos are more addictive than cocaine, believe it or not.

Those who have sweet tooth who are not aware of the bad health effects of carbohydrates and become “hooked” often become overweight or even obese.

This increases their risk to develop diabetes and metabolic diseases, heart attack and stroke, and Alzheimer’s dementia.

The consequent elevation of triglyceride in the blood further predisposes the person to even higher risk of all those diseases.

Once the craving for sweets is established, following frequent consumption of any of the carbo foods as listed above, which should include what I call “liquid candies” (cola or uncola soft drinks), reducing intake will lead to subtle withdrawal symptoms, just like among cigarette, alcohol, or drug addict, albeit lot milder.

Some develop intense desire to eat sweets or drink pop.

Others may have headaches or sense of hunger, feeling down, irritable, or have mood changes.

Soft drinks, including the low- or zero-calorie ones, even one drink a day, are very unhealthy because they cause illnesses that creep in slowly, like heart disease, according to famous the Framingham Heart Study.

There are 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of sugar in 12-ounce non-diet soft drinks, yielding 160 calories!

While these “liquid candies” are unhealthy, even those no-cal soft drinks have been found to cause metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack/stroke).

Alcohol gives greater calories (7) per gram than carbohydrates (4 per gram).

To neutralize the sugar and the phosphoric acid in the liver, following consumption of just one can of soda, one needs to drink thirty-two 8-ounce (256 ounces) alkaline water.

So, why even ingest the “poison” in the first place, only to follow it with an “antidote” chaser?

• What are the findings of the Harvard Research on soft drinks?

The study reveals that those who consumed one or more sodas a day have 31 percent greater risk of becoming obese, and 44 percent increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

• How much sugar do we consume?

The average individual in the United States eat about 142 pounds of sugar each year, which translates to about 48 teaspoon a day.

Added to that amount is the sugar in the food and drinks we consume each day, which is about four pounds.

That’s a total of about 146 pounds a year.

We, Filipinos, may be consuming even more, since we eat a large amount of rice and bread each day, the reason we have one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the world.

As a general rule for those who are not overweight, 1/2 cup (4 heaping tablespoonful) of cooked rice per meal is sufficient.

For those who are overweight or diabetic, lesser amount, or abandoning rice and sweets altogether, would be healthier.

Remember, vegetables and fruits have carbohydrates as well.

The main idea is calorie control.

• What happens following sugar control?

Studies have shown that about two weeks of lowering your carbo intake, or not eating rice, bread, etc., our body chemistry stabilizes, including the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, and our metabolism and general well-being are enhanced.

While sugar elevates the serotonin level, a feel-good hormone, the after-effect, when the blood sugar goes down (even to normal level for those “addicted” to, and used to eating a lot of, carbo) is the opposite.

It is best for all our hormones to be on an even keel, in their natural normal levels most of the time, for normal physiology.

Vegetables and fresh fruits (not fruit juices loaded with sugar), with all their fibers, restore the body’s pH (natural acid-alkaline) balance.

This reduces sugar cravings and improves digestion.

In general, berries and melons have lesser sugar contents than other fruits.

• What is Homeostasis?

Excess carbo in our system, which is usually the case among most of us, disturbs our homeostasis, the proper internal balance of our body physiology and functions.

High carbo intake leads to disruption of hormonal production and release, including insulin, and compromises our immune system.

Occasional indulgence in sweets is healthy, like pampering our body with special treat, a reward for discipline, if you will.

• What is the best strategy to maintain balance?

It is best to ease up on all unhealthy sources of carbo, and concentrate on vegetables (which has carbo), fruits, fish, chicken (minus the skin), and nuts.

Living a healthy lifestyle includes proper diet, daily exercise, adequate rest and sleep, enjoying leisure time, abstinence from cigarettes, and disciplined alcohol intake.

Both the quality (type) and the quantity (amount/calories) are essential for general health, well-being, and for better body shape.

Drinking a glass of water before each meal is a great aid to calorie control.

My professor in medical school, Dr. Fe del Mundo, the world famous Pediatrician in Quezon City, gave us this advise:

“Push yourself away from the dining table less than full.”

Words of wisdom, indeed.

Diabetics must follow their prescribed diet.

What we eat determines our disposition, attitude, health and, to a great extent, our longevity.

Let us savor a long, healthy and happy life.

***

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