Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Evil That is Processed Grain

Dr. Atkins, whether you like his diet or not, taught us something valuable years ago: sugar is just as bad for you, if not worse, than fat. For years in this country people have concentrated on low fat diets with limited success. The reason? While low fat is good, to really lose weight you have to limit your refined sugar intake.

Refined sugar is not good for you. When you flood your body with the stuff your body takes it, converts it to fat, and stores it away because it doesn't know what to do with it. Regular soda, sweets, and almost all processed foods are loaded with sugar. Sometimes it is hidden as "high fructose corn syrup" but the result in your body is the same.

Another source of higher sugar intake, believe it or not, is foods that are normally high in fat, but sold as low or no fat. Look at a jar of low or no fat mayonnaise, or salad dressing. Notice that in place of the fat the manufacturer has loaded the product with sugar. Why? Because with no fat and no sugar, mayonnaise and ranch dressing would be tasteless. You are better off not using anything than using a low or no fat version of something that is normally high in fat.

As mentioned above, high fructose corn syrup is nothing more than a refined sugar. Once it hits your bloodstream your body breaks it into fat, and stores it because it usually can't handle the vast amounts of it that Americans consume. But high fructose corn syrup isn't the only hidden source of sugar in the American diet.

And that leads us to white flour. White flour is the uber-processed version of wheat flour that is most commonly used in American foods and cooking. This flour is stripped during processing of the bran and germ of the wheat seed. And they happen to be the most nutritious parts of the seed. What is left, and used in so much of the food Americans eat, is, for all intents and purposes, pure sugar.

When white flour is ingested by humans the results are no different than when sugar is consumed. The body breaks it down into fat and stores it away. The deluge of white flour in the amounts that it is consumed is too much for the human metabolism to process. In the end white flour is pure sugar to our bodies.

This article details the "ugly" truths about white flour: Ugly Truths About White Flour

The scary thing is that white flour is every where in the American diet. Saltine crackers, white bread, pasta. If it is fairly white or pale in color, and contains flour, then it is probably white flour. You have to be diligent to search out whole grain versions of these foods. Whole grain crackers, whole grain breads, whole grain pasta, all are also sold for those looking for a more healthy lifestyle.

One complaint I hear all the time is: "I just don't like whole wheat/grain products." I will write another entry about the myths regarding taste and taste preferences in our culture, but to the above statement in regards to breads and other wheat products I say: hogwash. The problem isn't that whole grains aren't as flavorful as white flour products, it is that in our society we aren't used to the actual flavor of grains!

By time we get our processed foods, the wheat grain has been processed, ground, and bleached into oblivion. Little wheat flavor is left. What we taste in white breads and crackers is primarily salt and sugar. Over time we become accustom to those flavors so the introduction of real wheat flavor throws us for a loop. Whole grain breads are actually much more flavorful than white bread, we just aren't used to actually tasting wheat in our bread.

It reminds me of a discussion I had with a coworker in relation to peanut butter. When I became informed about processed foods, I switched from the overly processed name brand peanut butters of my youth, to natural peanut butter. Pick up a jar of peanut butter some time and read the ingredients. Then pick up a jar of natural peanut butter and read the ingredients. The regular peanut butter has so many things added to it that in the end most people aren't used to the peanut flavor, they are used to the salt and sugar flavor that is added.

This coworker, who was normally pretty health conscience, said to me: "I know it isn't as healthy but sometimes you have to choose taste over healthy." WHAT? Taste?? Once you eat natural peanut butter the processed stuff they try to pass as peanut butter tastes horrible in comparison! But Americans are used to everything being processed and loaded with salt and sugar.

Same goes for our wheat products. Once you are used to the taste of whole grain products, the white flour versions will seem bland in comparison. And not only will you be enjoying whole grain flavor, but you'll also be enjoying the nutritious health benefits that whole grains provide.

Note: This also goes for rice. Always use whole grain rice over white rice. White rice is the processed version of rice just as white flour is the processed version of wheat flour.


  1. i'm interested in your suggestions -- i'd love to eat healthier, but really feel clueless. i've heard of peopel throwing "this and that" together, but i never know what "this" and "that? are. :)


  2. Heather, I will be posting some suggestion for healthy "thrown" together ideas really soon. But here are a couple of quick hitters:

    1 Can of Black Beans
    4-6 servings of Brown Rice
    Heat black beans, prepare brown rice according to suggestions. Mix together. Eat with your favorite seasoning (I like Lawry's) and/or hot sauce (I like Frank's Red Hot).

    1 Large Can of Tuna (or 2 of the small ones)
    1/2 Tablespoon Mayo (can be regular or low-fat)
    1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
    1/3-1/2 cup No fat Yogurt (Depends how dry or wet you like your tuna salad)
    1/4-1/3 cup of either relish or (I prefer) chopped green pepper and onion.

    Mix together. Eat the way you normally eat tuna salad (I like it on whole grain bread).


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