I know the transition from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to healthy eating can sometimes seem overwhelming. There is so much confusing information about what is “good” to eat and what is “bad” for you. And, as I believe everybody is different and what is right for one may not be right for another, it isn’t always best to eat what your family member or colleague or friend is eating.
There are, however, two ingredients that everyone should avoid in their diet: high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and trans-fats.
HFCS is a common replacement for more expensive cane sugar in many products, including soft drinks. It wreaks havoc on blood-sugar levels; high blood-sugar levels are linked to many of the devastating conditions affecting millions of lives, including heart disease and diabetes. A 2004 study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cites the increase in consumption of HFCS to be 1000% between 1970 and 1990. They calculated this to exceed any equivalent increase in consumption of any other food or food group.
Trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (known as hydrogenation) and used to extend the shelf life of foods on store shelves. To understand the effect of trans fats, think of grease clogging a drain; clogged arteries are a result of trans-fats building up in our bodies. Furthermore, trans fat not only raises “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, it lowers “good” (HDL) cholesterol.
The good news is trans fats are showing up less and less in food, especially food on supermarket shelves. It is important, however, to read and understand food labels because a manufacturer can legally say “O trans fats” if the amount totals less than 0.5g (of trans fat) but the product may still contain some trans fats if it contains partially hydrogenated oil. Some restaurants continue to use trans fats, especially to fry food, though New York City has banned the use of trans fats in restaurants.
The first step to eliminating high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats from your diet is to go to the grocery store and read labels as you pick up foods and place them in your cart. If you read high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats and/or partially hydrogenated oil, put the product back on the shelf.