Welcome to another episode of the functional health show! Today we’ll find ourselves revisiting the basics of food & nutrition. Because, I get asked a lot ‘What are the bad foods & what about the good ones? How do I know what to eat?’. There are a lot of people out there who have this confusion. So, in today’s episode we will be addressing this topic & towards the end, you’ll know how to identify these foods & what makes them good, bad or ugly. Basically, this confusion will be cleared out, for good! You can actually call this episode, a crash course on functional nutrition!
Some of us look at food being primarily, a source of energy, basically calories. While some look at it as macro-nutrients, carbs, proteins, fats & fibers and there are others who look at it as being a source of nutrients & antioxidants. And there are also many who look at it as flavor rich, something to relish & enjoy. And its not uncommon for some to find comfort in foods during our darkest times! Food is definitely all of it & its way more & beyond…. Its important! Let’s find out why!
The old idea that our health & aging is predestined by our genes has been discredited. It was never the truth! The reality is, our environment, our thoughts, our choices, especially when it comes to food, it all has an affect on genetic activation (1) (2) (4)! And based on what you’re consuming the genetic expression may lead to an outcome of good health or disease. Food is information & the unprocessed, unrefined, raw foods that are derived from nature like fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, etc have microRNA’s which are messenger molecules that nourish our cells & provide information about our environment (5). I’m quoting this from an interesting study (3), ‘microRNAs may represent a novel class of universal modulators that play an important role in mediating animal-plant interactions at the molecular level. Like vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients derived from food sources, plant microRNAs may serve as a novel functional component of food and make a critical contribution to maintaining and shaping animal body structure and function. Extending from this concept, the intake of certain plant microRNAs generation after generation through a particular food source may leave an imprint on the genetic map of the human race. In conclusion, the discovery of plant microRNAs and their roles in the biology of mammalian cells and animal organs represents the first evidence of cross-kingdom transfer of functionally active microRNAs and opens a new avenue to explore microRNA-mediated animal-plant interactions.’ So, this basically talks about the interaction between the plants & animals, which also include us humans, at a cellular, a molecular level, through microRNAs. And the staples, the regional foods that our ancestors have been consuming since decades has an effect on our genes & our well-being! In short, ‘We are one with all living things & when we deviate from nature, we are destructive to ourselves!’ This is just fascinating, isn’t it!!
Let me give you a few examples derived from scientific literature, that’ll illustrate the real power of whole, natural, unprocessed foods, nature-derived foods. One is an animal study, where mice were given a toxic substance that would induce ulcerative colitis and they were also given, grape exosome like nanoparticles. The result was, the mice were protected from the chemically induced ulcerative colitis (6) due to activation of stem cells & rapid regeneration of mucosal epithelium lining & restoration of intestinal architecture throughout the entire length of the intestines. All of it without any side-effects. Then in another study, microRNA derived from broccoli was found to be present in human serum & played a role in inhibiting growth of breast cancer (7) Research has also shown that, there are certain bioactives in berry that are indicative of preventive & therapeutic against various cancer types (8). Now, there are countless studies & lots of such amazing information on natural foods, which I address in the superfood series of episodes. But, I hope you’re getting the idea of the power of nature derived, whole foods, which are the good foods, the ones you should be eating everyday! Once again, what are they, the good foods. Its the preferably, organic vegetables, leafy greens & fruits which aren’t pesticide & toxic laden, the grass-fed meats, poultry& diary products like butter, yogurt, clarified butter, etc. The mechanically cold pressed oils, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, seasonings, wild-caught fish (the small & medium sized ones), seaweeds, pseudo grains, beans, legumes, etc.
Now, we move on to the category of bad foods. What are they & what makes them bad in the first place? In short & sweet words, these foods are almost the same foods which we find in the category of good foods, BUT, they are either refined or processed, irradiated, fried. Apart from that, what makes them bad is, the fact that they are grown in a toxic environment with lots of chemical pesticides & fertilizers, that even contaminate the soil or in the case of meats where they are fed grains, that too chemical laden or perhaps even GMO, and not to forget that they are farmed in cruel, inhumane conditions & fed hormones to grow faster & antibiotics to prevent them from getting diseased in those dreadful & horrifying conditions! And then, the scientists go on to study the effects of meats on human health, using these bad quality meats and conclude that they’re dreadful for our health! Remember, if you’re going to look at research done on meats, we have to know the quality of meats used in those studies! And then there are people and organizations arguing about methane emissions leading to global warming due to these practices & also the fact that animals are treated inhumanely! The thing, that I see here, that we all are arguing and pointing fingers, and the fact is, we all are concerned & we all are right in our own reasoning. Where we are going wrong is, we are pointing fingers in the wrong direction & instead of saying, the thorns on therose is what pricks our fingers, we are saying, the rose is a dreadful flower! Hmm, I hope, its not a funny example I’ve used there. Moving on & speaking of farmed fish which are bred in a similar fashion & found to be contaminated and laden with heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. I’ll be addressing all these in detail backed by scientific literature in future episodes.
Then we have foods that are refined like starches, grains & sugar. And here it doesn’t really matter if its organic or not, because they will have an undesired effect on your body, for instances increased risk of gallstones (9), increased cancer risk (10), increased chances for depression (11), diabetes, cardiovascular disease (12) & much much more. Also, certain methods of cooking are destructive like microwave cooking which I have discussed in episode 8. But frying is another method of cooking that alters the mRNA profile & is associated with oxidative damage in the body through the generation of reactive oxygen species which also results in damage to the lipids, proteins & DNA in the body (13) further leading to cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, etc. Grilling meats, you’ve got to be really careful especially if the meats are not well marinated since cooking meats at high temperatures generates heterocyclic amines which are carcinogenic (14)! And when you char your meats & see those black marks, well, that’s not a good sign!
And now, moving on to our final category of ugly foods! If you’re wondering, what could be more worse than the things we have just discussed in the category of bad foods, then I’d say, you’re in for a shock because most likely you’re not aware that you’re consuming these foods! These include things like, those zero calorie, artificial sweeteners, packaged foods containing, additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc. GMO or genetically modified organisms, basically genetically engineered foods like corn, soy, apple, squash, zucchini, eggplant, pineapple, potatoes, canola. Now, that gets me to the part of vegetable oils. Not only are these oils, most likely gmo, they’re also highly processed & by the time they reach the bottle, they’re oxidized. So, cooking with these is like cooking with super-trans fats or in short, poison. The packaged foods that we find on supermarket shelves, 95% of these foods are heavily processed & contains some really nasty ingredients, so I’d encourage you to read the label & you will see complex names & codes along with things like rice & high fructose syrup, malt extract, hydrogenated oils, natural flavorings or flavor enhancers & the list is long…! Let me break it down & give you a short summary of why packaged foods are the way they are and why they aren’t good for you.
First & foremost, you’ve got to understand that packaged food industry has a primary goal, like any other industry and that’s to make profits & the rest is all secondary. Now, in order to obtain theirgoal, they would want that their foods to last long, like, really long and people should keep on buying them. Be it a burger at mcdonald’s or kfc or a packaged food item like breakfast cereals like cornflakes or an energy bar or drink or perhaps frozen or pre-made foods that just need to be defrosted or re-heated. The goal is always, to make them delicious even to look at & their taste would have you hooked on to them, just as they say ‘no one can eat just one’, they’ve already given out their motive to you! So, in order to achieve this, whatever natural ingredients they are using, which I presume is maybe half of the ingredients used to make the product, is processed, as in pasteurized, irradiated, dehydrated, refined, etc, which increases the shelf life of the food but also causes the food to loose much of its natural flavors. Then, in order to make it addictive, they use sugars or things that I previously mentioned which are far worse than sugar. And lets say, even if they are using artificial sweeteners, its way more destructive than you can imagine! Its particularly harmful in the case of the gut, it has shown to cause major disruption of the intestinal epithelial lining due to cell apoptosis, that’s cell death, causing an increase in inflammation due to increased Reactive Oxygen Species (15) & harm our friendly gut bacteria causing further negative health effects & contributing to downstream diseases! Anyways, so, yes there are more additives & flavor enhancers used to make it super palatable while a ton of other emulsifiers & other agents to aid in the manufacturing process in those industrial machines. And then, to increase the shelf-life of the product to sustain for months or maybe years, they add preservatives. At the end of the day, I won’t be even calling these foods as ‘foods’! If you’d like to do a bit of further reading on this, I have pulled up a nice article, the link to which I’ll be placing in the show-notes.
Now, most of the ingredients or actually components like breads or patties, used in fast-foods are made in the same way. And fast food has rather extreme negative effects on our health. For example, fast foods have shown to cause inflammation which results in an aggressive immunesystem & development of vascular diseases or type 2 diabetes, which can lead to extreme consequences like heart attacks & strokes (16). It has been associated with increased BMI & weight gain due to consumption of empty calories (17) and has mood altering effects along with causing extreme addictions to these fast foods, to the extent where some individuals develop a sense of compulsion for its intake, to the point where its impossible for them to quit or even cut down their portions (18), again leading to overeating & obesity! Basically, to sum it all up, the body cannot recognize these fast foods, these foods or I’d say, food like substances which aren’t foods. And when you consume them, the body, basically the immune system raises red flags & goes into attack & defend mode. Do you think that’s a good sign in any way? Ofcourse not!!
With that, we have come to an end of our today’s episode. I hope you now have a better understanding of what you need to be eating & the things you should be absolutely avoiding & others you should be limiting, like the foods in the bad category. I’ll be seeing you’ll tomorrow with another interesting episode, until then, have an amazing evening or day….