What’s so bad about sugar, grains, and refined vegetable oils – the three most over-emphasized foods in the modern diet?
- #1 – Last week I discussed how they make you fat and hangry.
- #2 – This week I’ll outline how they make you sick and inflamed.
- #3 – And next week I’ll discuss how they make you age faster.
#2 – They make you sick and inflamed.
Chronic inflammation is a huge buzzword nowadays, and rightfully so. That’s because inflammation – and its partner in crime, oxidation – is at the root of all chronic disease (think: anything ending in ‘itis’), including heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
I want to be clear here that occasional acute inflammation (think: swelling after a bee sting, ankle sprain, or black eye) is a critical component of health. It helps to quarantine toxic damage from a trauma to the affected areas so it doesn’t run amuck and cause a system-wide disruption.
When inflammation-promoting stimuli are chronic instead of acute – or occur throughout the body instead of staying confined to one area – the inflammatory response can become harmful. And nothing drives this harmful inflammatory response like the overconsumption of sugar, grains, and refined vegetable oils. Here’s how.
When grains and sugar are dietary staples, by default we produce an over-abundance of insulin to deal with the high blood sugar levels. And a high insulin-producing diet (remember the insulin roller coaster from hell?) has a pro-inflammatory effect on the body, as do the wild blood sugar swings that can overwhelm our fight-or-flight stress response in a further attempt to restore blood sugar levels to normal.
Couple this with the fact that grains contain anti-nutrients – such as lectins, gluten, and phytates – that impair digestion and perforate the intestinal lining. Nothing sets the stage for system-wide inflammation like a gaping hole in the lining of your gut barrier!
Refined vegetable oils (or PUFAs, polyunsaturated fatty acids) like canola and soybean oil have replaced saturated fats like butter and lard with disastrous consequences.
PUFAs are highly unstable fats that are prone to oxidative damage from even routine exposure to heat, light, and oxygen (the reason they recommend storing them in a cool, dry place), which occurs not only during the manufacturing process, but also as they linger on grocery store shelves and when you cook with them. The endocrine system is especially vulnerable to the ingestion of oxidized PUFAs, disrupting hormones and immune function. Dr. Cate Shanahan, author of Deep Nutrition and Food Rules, calls them “free radicals in a bottle,” and claims that “consuming oxidized vegetable oils is literally no different than eating radiation.” Ewww!
Yet it’s estimated that 40 percent of all calories consumed at a restaurant – from fast food to fine dining and everything in between – comes from refined vegetable oils. They may be cheaper to produce, but when will we start asking the more important question – What are refined vegetable oils costing us in terms of our health?
Now I want to hear from you. Has a high sugar, grain, and refined vegetable oil diet made you sick or inflamed? And what have you done to limit your consumption of these cheap, modern staple foods? I’d love to read your comments below.
And don’t miss next week’s final installment on how sugar, grains, and refined vegetable oils accelerate aging and make you wrinkly before your time.