Some of the most unhealthiest foods that everyone should stop eating
When we take a closer look at the numbers, according to the USDA agency, the average American consumes between 150 and 170 pounds of simple sugars per year. To fully understand the connection between insulin resistance and other chronic diseases (including cancer), we must first learn what blood glucose is, and how it gets there in the first place.
Glucose is the sugar that circulates in our bloodstream, and is the body’s main source of energy. According to researchers from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, “in the United States, impaired glucose intolerance [also known as insulin resistance] is an independent risk factor for cancer mortality.”
The results of the study attached to this quote found that people with insulin resistance were 4x as likely to die from colon cancer and twice as likely to die from any other form of cancer compared to individuals who did not have insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance has been linked to the incidence and progression of multiple different cancers, and this has led experts to believe sugar has a role in cancer development.
Poor food habits fail to provide our bodies with the anticancer nutrients they need to function optimally. Our bodies are designed to defeat cancer, but we can only do so when we have all the requisite nutrients we need in sufficient amounts.
Americans as a whole do not consume the nutrients needed to fight against chronic illness that run rampant today. Even worse, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is loaded with refined sugars, poor quality meats and fats, and excessive carbohydrates. Frequently consuming these foods decreases immune system function and promotes inflammation in the body. They stimulate the release of inflammation-promoting factors, and disturb sugar metabolism.
When we talk about insulin resistance, it is important to note that it is not just about sugar, although sugar plays an integral role. But first, we will take a step back and look at carbohydrates as a whole.
There are two major types (we will go into more detail on this later as well), simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are made up of single sugar molecules or two sugar molecules linked together, and complex carbohydrates are made of up longer, more complex chains of sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates like starches and fiber are found in abundance in whole grains, legumes, and plant foods like fruits and vegetables. These complex carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose molecules, which are usable units of energy in the body.
When we look at simple carbohydrates, which are included in the 150-170 pounds of sugar consumed annually, they are easy to recognize. Simple sugars include table sugar, sugar from sodas, snack foods, fast food, fruit juices, and junk food.
Additionally, when we look at low-fat and fat-free foods, one of the main ingredients is usually sugar in some form. This can be confusing, as you might think you are making a health-conscious decision when purchasing low-fat or fat-free foods, when in fact you are doing just the opposite.
Simple sugars are broken down quickly and enter the bloodstream quickly. This is part of the reason for the blood sugar irregularities that come with consuming excess simple carbohydrates.
When we talk about complex carbohydrates, it gets a little more convoluted. Glucose is the main form of energy in the body, and most complex carbohydrates do a great job of supplying a slow, steady stream of glucose, which is better for our health overall.
However, once these complex carbohydrates are refined, and stripped of their fiber and other essential nutrients, they begin to act much more like simple carbohydrates in the body.
The reality is processing food plays a major role when we talk about carbohydrates as a whole. For example, fruits are considered healthy, yet they are fairly high in simple carbohydrates, but why? Well, fruits in their whole, unprocessed form include complex carbohydrates, enzymes, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber- all beneficial to our health.
Insulin resistance includes a variety of different factors, like what you eat, how much you eat, exercise, snacking habits, stress, sleep, and even skipping meals.
When we talk about chronic diseases, the body is better able to fend off disease and protect healthy cells when glucose metabolism is functioning properly. On the other hand, if blood sugar metabolism is abnormal and there is dysregulation of insulin, it can disrupt normal function, and contribute to the growth and development of chronic illnesses and cancer.
With all this said, there are some practices you can implement today to help with your food choices.
- Avoid foods located in the middle aisles in the supermarket, foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce, and foods that are white. These include (but are not limited to): soda (and diet soda), fast food, foods containing folic acid (different than folate, which is the natural form of vitamin B9), most granolas, chips, candy, ice cream, snacks, energy bars, juice, gluten, soy, dairy, and alcohol.
- There is no such thing as “mostly” gluten-free. A single bite or two of a gluten-containing compound can set off the same biochemical signals as eating a loaf of white bread. Your immune system responds via antibodies, and antibodies can be triggered by even the tiniest amounts of food. Therefore, think of gluten free foods as either 100% gluten-free or not gluten-free at all.
- Consuming fruit juices are basically the same thing as consuming soda. They are sugar bombs. Do your best to avoid them completely, or limit them as best as possible. Drinking fruit juices can satiate a craving. Fruit juices are also awful for blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, if you really want juice, you can juice fruits and vegetables at home. Ideally, blend the entire fruit and vegetable, as you will then get all the nutrients and fiber from the fruits and vegetables. Remember to use organic produce when juicing on your own.
- When shopping, target the foods located on the perimeter of the supermarket, foods without any added ingredients, and foods that have been unprocessed and occur naturally. These include: fresh vegetables (load up!), fresh fruit (limit to 3 servings a day, ideally better in the morning and afternoon), organic and free-range eggs, nuts, seeds, fish and shellfish (wild-caught), free range meat (ideally from local butchers or farmers), quinoa, wild rice, other ancient grains, and the other foods listed above.
- Avoid frozen foods, as they often contain extra additives and sugars you may not be aware of. Additionally, if you have allergies, it may be best to avoid leftovers, as histamine levels in foods rise when kept over time, despite refrigeration.
- When cooking, use the exhaust fan, as smoke is toxic and can make your symptoms worse.
Also, there are some basic guidelines you can follow as what to include as well:
• Eat real foods, with at least 50% of each plate being vegetables.
• Eat a diet primarily of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and good fats.
• Drink clean water.
• Eat fermented foods to balance your gut flora.
• Cut out inflammatory foods.
• 80% of the time eat right, allowing yourself 20% “wiggle room.”
• Drink lemon water in the morning, it helps boost metabolism and liver function.
• Look for foods that are high in fiber (whole foods) and low in sugar.
• Eliminate all packaged foods, if possible. Be sure to read ALL ingredient labels.
• Never eat out of a box or bag.
• Eat greens at least twice per day.
• Choose organic foods as often as possible.
• Choose lean proteins and healthy fats.
• Listen to your body!
Hope this helps!