I wanted to take today to clear up a few things around some of societies “Grab and Go” pick me ups as well as talk about what’s lurking in many “snack foods’.

Here are some common questions I hear from clients….

  • “What can I drink if I want something sweet?”
  • “What about this low fat dressing?” or
  • “I found this great protein bar! What do you think?”
  • “So Carbs are bad and protein is good right?”

Everyone is looking for a quick answer. They want fast, easy carbs that taste good but don’t make them gain weight.

Before I can answer that, I believe we need to have a quick 101 Lesson on Carbohydrates. (LOTS more to cover but in a nutshell here goes!)

  • – Carbohydrates are fuel for the body.
  • – Convert to sugar which supplies an energy source for our bodies to function
  • – Used up energy gets burned off but unused energy gets stored as fat.
  • – The rate at which this energy is readily available and hits us has much to do with how quickly it spikes your blood sugar levels. This is tricky because while we crave immediate energy (for example when we are stressed or need to perform in a sport) the TYPE of energy we choose is important!
  • – Generally speaking the higher the sugar (fructose) content and lower the fibre in the carbohydrate, the faster it hits your bloodstream.
  • – Carbohydrates can come in the form of breads, grains, wheats, starchy vegetables, vegetables, legumes, liquid dairy and fruit.
  • – Not all carbohydrates are created equal!
  • – Certain carbs spike insulin levels while others hardly make a dent.
  • – Vegetables and whole grains (not to be confused with wheat) are going to be higher in fibre and thus create less of a spike in blood sugar levels. Some whole grains such as quinoa and rice contain protein which also helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • – Vegetable should be a primary source of carbohydrates for their slow conversion to sugar, high fibre content and high vitamin/mineral content. Not to mention they are calorically a great choice as they deliver a lot of volume with very little calories.
  • – Fruit, although packed with vitamins and antioxidants is much higher in sugars than most vegetables therefore for those people who are sedentary and looking to drop body fat, should be used in moderation

Now…on to the main topic: What about those snacks, many of which contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)?

It’s in almost all processed foods, soft drinks and many snack items including candies and kids snacks. You can even find it in ‘healthy crackers, yogurts, low fat dressings – heck low fat anything and many ‘snack’ sized treats.

While any highly refined carb, from white bread to pure sugar is extremely taxing on your pancreas and can stimulate an insulin torrent… HFCS is in a class all of it’s own. Your body was never designed to deal with, let alone process the compounds of HFCS – which now makes up nearly 10% of the North American diet. Studies indicate that HFCS actually blocks cells and insulin. This means your body has to produce more and more insulin in order to try an combat the effect of HFCS on the body.

This is scary stuff. Especially for those who think they are choosing “low fat” options in the name of health. Interestingly the most heavily processed version of HFCS is made up of 90% fructose and designed specifically for use in foods labeled “lite” and “low fat”. In addition a study form the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2004 showed a direct correlation between the use of HFCS and the present epidemic of obesity in North America. It’s interesting that in the article they go on to say that the amount of high fructose corn syrup foods and beverages (soft drinks) far exceeds the consumption of ANY other food group. Hmmm…

Now let’s clarify the difference between fructose found naturally in fruit and that which has been industrialized. High fructose corn syrup is highly processed from cornstarch which contains anywhere from 55-90% fructose). Couple things to consider here.

  • #1) Whenever anything is Highly processed, the chemistry of that component or food changes, making it a now foreign object to our bodies. This means the food no longer contains the natural metabolites our bodies need to process it properly
  • #2) Corn in and of itself is highly GMO and indigestible for human consumption.
  • #3) Unlike whole natural fruit which has fibre (not juice!), HFCS as been documented in human studies to raise both blood sugar and insulin – placing the body in FAT STORAGE mode and setting the perfect stage for type 2 diabetes.
  • #4) Fructose is also more lipogenic (fat forming) than ANY other sugar or starch and
  • #5) Causes greater elevations in blood fats (triglycerides and cholesterol) than any other carbohydrate.

This last point is especially key for those suffering from increases in blood pressure, lactic acid, type 2 diabetes, high tryglycerides (high cholesterol) and postmenopausal women.

The final say? STAY CLEAR of industrialized fructose. It absolutely has no place in our daily diet. In addition, check the labels for the old products you buy. You may be shocked to see it in many popular ‘healthy’ snacks, cereals and protein bars!

As always, our basic food rule applies… If you can’t pick it or kill it, don’t eat it. If it didn’t fly in the sky, walk on the earth or swim in the ocean. If you can’t pick it from a tree, vine or bush – thin twice. Everything is either paying you or costing you in health. You are your biggest asset so treat your belly well.