With sweeping changes to my life over the past two years, I realize I am still struggling when it comes to what I eat. For the most part my way of eating has improved immensely, following a whole foods, plant based diet. Many people I talk to tell me they couldn’t eat like I do. Others think my decision to eat this way are considered extreme and could not “give up” their favorite foods. My results can’t be refuted, 44 pounds lost and 134 points off my total cholesterol, just two indicators I point to when it people question how I eat.
Yet there are still skeletons lingering in my pantry, which I haven’t completely addressed. Many people I speak with can’t understand going a meal without meat. For me, meat wasn’t difficult to cut but struggled mightily with cheese, looking for options. Not even the vegan options were any better than the dairy selections. Alcohol was another barrier that I have hurdled numerous times. When I didn’t see a drop in my triglycerides, I cut out all beer and saw that number decrease.
While learning how to cook food that supported a plant based diet I decided to cut out all added oil. No longer did I need this fat when roasting or sauteing vegetables. No reason to oil or spray a pan to cook my food when there is parchment paper or a silicon mat to cook on.
Oil is just part of the “forbidden triad” coupled with sugar and sodium that I continue to limit and cut out of my lifestyle. Oil contains no nutritional value, could even be considered a junk food. One teaspoon (4g) is 40 calories, which is all fat. Dr. John McDougall has a saying, “The fat you eat, is the fat you wear.” That has become a motto I have tried to attain since changing my diet 2 years ago.
While sodium doesn’t have an RDA, “Americans eat too much [of it], commonly consumed as salt. High sodium consumption raises blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the nation’s first and third leading causes of death, respectively” (Source). Sodium, like oil and sugar is in nearly everything you eat. Pull a can or box off a shelf, even “healthy” options and sodium and sugar will be there.
“We all need a small amount (e.g., between about 180 mg and 500 mg per day) of sodium to keep our bodies working properly. The Institute of Medicine recommends 1500 mg of sodium per day as the Adequate Intake level for most Americans and advises everyone to limit sodium intake to less than 2300 mg per day.” Chances are your intake will exceed this number daily unless your diet doesn’t contain processed foods and you don’t own a salt shaker.
While I haven’t regulated sodium I have attempted to watch that number when grocery shopping and cooking. While I never add salt to ANY recipe, I use substitutes such as light soy sauce, tamari and miso, but these aren’t any better when it comes to the amount of sodium. Light soy sauce has approximately 1006mg in 1 tablespoon! Tamari is no better when it comes to the amount of sodium, the difference being the amount of wheat between the two sauces.
The worst offender of the bunch, sugar. Pick up an unsuspecting bottle at the store and chances are you will see ‘High Fructose Corn Syrup’ as one of the top ingredients. “HFCS had been discovered in the 50s, but it was only in the 70s that a process had been found to harness it for mass production. HFCS was soon pumped into every conceivable food: pizzas, coleslaw, meat. It provided that “just baked” sheen on bread and cakes, made everything sweeter, and extended shelf life from days to years. A silent revolution of the amount of sugar that was going into our bodies was taking place” (Source).
Sugar and solid fats sets the stage for potential health problems, such as poor nutrition, weight gain, increased triglycerides and tooth decay. The USDA recommendations for sugar are 5 to 15 percent of your daily calories. “In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year” (Source)! The American Heart Association recommendation is more stringent, approximately 6 teaspoons for women (100 calories) and 9 teaspoons for men (150 calories). Many Americans consume 22 teaspoons daily. Sugar also comes in different names; cane juice, cane syrup, corn sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, nectars, honey, malt syrup and molasses.
Recently I have noticed my sugar intake has increased, a cookie here, chocolate bark there. Before I know it the cookies are gone and the bag of bark is empty. It’s been bad, the tight reins I had control of seems to have loosened recently and I my eating habits have not been as clean as I want them. I lay blame solely on myself and recognize that I need to make changes and get off the sugar dependency. I could cite other reasons but it’s me who continues my health and my recent decisions have been poor.
While change can start immediately I am still struggling with the left shoulder and physical therapy. Come January I am going to start running and lifting weights again as I train for some of the adventures I will participate in 2014.