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The Junk Food Hiding In Plain Sight

Updated: May 24, 2023

Years of experience of how my body reacts to food has taught me this. Seeing my clients being in pain (not an exaggeration) when we start confirms it.

The transformation they undergo, moving from 60% ultra processed food, to real food is game changing.

One current client has lost 9kg in 8 weeks and has seen incredible changes in both his mood and energy levels.

What The Doctors Are Saying

Let's start with what some pretty smart doctors are now clarify these are opinion pieces but interesting nonetheless.

"1,600 Americans die every day from chronic food illness, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer." Harvard

"...we get around 60% of our calories from UPFs (Ultra processed food), and that figure is even higher for young people. At this point, it is our national food culture, and the material we build our children’s bodies from.

Much of it is familiar as “junk food”, but our traditional idea of what constitutes that – chips, crisps, fizzy drinks – needs adjusting.

It should include all supermarket bread; likewise breakfast cereal; packaged snacks, reconstituted meat products and frozen meals. And beware: lots of UPFs are being marketed as healthy, nutritious or useful for weight loss."

Dr Chris Van Tulleken (2023)

So, what are the culprits?

Here are the two biggest culprits in my eyes...

Is Cereal Really Junk Food?

I think that decisions is totally up to you.

I spent years eating cereal for breakfast. Muesli, Granola, Special K. All the stuff branded as 'healthy'. To help me lose weight. I wish someone had told me to stop.

What they tell you: 20% Protein, Low GI, High In Wholegrain

What you're getting: Around 5 Tsp of sugar per serve (and let's be honest... who ever has one cup of cereal?)

Most cereals contain around 17+ ingredients. Grains. Oils. Sugar. Sweeteners.

Let's take this pretty innocent looking cereal... (sorry Hubbards) with it's 4.5 star health rating.

What do you reckon your body would prefer? It's not a trick question, just an honest one.

Option 1: 24 Ingredients... numbers, sugar, brown sugar, golden syrup and sweetener - oof. But it says 'Be Mighty...Low GI & Packed Full Of Fibre"? Stop reading packets. Start being smarter than that.

If it needs a packet with marketing words. Don't eat it.

Option 2: Bacon & Eggs... Throw in some Mushrooms & Spinach? You save your body having to process 20 ingredients, which I would take as a win.

Without the sugar, your waistline might thank you too.

Is Bread Really A Junk Food?

It'ss healthy. Especially the wholegrain stuff, right?

Hmmm. I think it's up for debate.

Chris van Tulleken (May 2023) On the new definition of junk food: "It should include all supermarket bread."

What they tell you: traditional, bursting with seeds, wholegrain, made in NZ.

What you get: Wheat flower, salt, canola oil, emulsifiers... you can read it below.

This innocent looking bread has around 32g of carbohydrates per serving. That's around 8 Tsp of sugar worth of glucose hitting your bloodstream. If we aren't moving, this causes a glucose spike similar to table sugar. This has to be processed by the liver and is often turned to fat.

Stop thinking of it as a necessary 'staple' to wrap your other food around. It is making most people sicker, not healthier. Consider the food that you put inside the bread. Meats, Cheeses, Salad. Eat more of that instead.

Swap your sandwich for a BLAT (Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato) lettuce wrap (or two) for lunch and tell me your 3pm slump doesn't improve.

Some More Insight From The Docs...

"This manipulation of texture is a big part of the problem. UPFs are often very soft and very dry. The illusions of moisture is created with gums and oils, but the water content is low in order to improve shelf life.

As a result these foods are extremely energy dense. High energy density combined with softness means you eat quickly, and bodily systems evolved over millions of years to tell you when you’re full can’t keep up."

Dr Chris van Tulleken University College London.

Takeaways? Whatever you like...

These foods may have been 'marketed to us' - yep, marketed to us, as staples. But they really are not doing anything for our health. Consider the messages you have heard from the media and big food companies over the last 20 years.

- "Healthy Whole Grains"

- "Low GI"

- "Low Sugar"

- "High In Protein" (at 20%)

Stop listening to them and start listening to how these foods make you feel.

References & Opinion Pieces:

Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé)

Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study

A Narrative Review:

Ultraprocessed Foods and Obesity Risk: A Critical Review of Reported Mechanisms

Ultraprocessed food: addictive, toxic, and ready for regulation

Robert H Lustig

Nutrients 12 (11), 3401, 2020

If you want to get to the bottom of the key mistakes you're making, get in touch.

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