Whether you choose to pay attention to fashion trends or not, won’t make much difference to your health, but paying attention to nutrition trends will. Now of course, not all nutrition trends are worthy of our time and attention, but there are some that are proven and here to stay. One of these deals with refined foods and the negative effect they have on our health, weight and energy levels.
Once we come to understand that our health, weight and energy levels are largely created by the food we eat, we come to appreciate the value of real, whole food. This means food that has not been stripped of its vital and beneficial components or had its nutrients denatured and often harmful substances added to it. When we eat refined food, we are missing out on food’s natural supportive properties for our health and subjecting ourselves a whole slew of its destructive characteristics.
So while there may still be some confusion and contradiction associated with certain foods out there and their health or nutritional value, there is no question about refined foods. In this article, I will guide you through four heavily used and heavily refined foods that do not belong in our life, if we value having optimal health, weight, energy and wellbeing. These four foods are the famous “four whites” — white sugar, white salt, white flour, and white rice.
1. White Sugar
Sugar, that is white (or brown) refined sugar is destructive to your health. There are no and’s, if’s or but’s about it, and there is certainly no hiding behind the faulty everything in moderation paradigm here.
Today we know that white refined sugar has negative effects on our blood sugar levels, the health of our liver and pancreas, our hormones, energy levels, mental and emotional health, immune health and blood health. It is highly acidifying and sugar feeds cancer, puts you at risk for diabetes, and its inflammatory nature damages blood vessels and other tissues, increasing your risk of everything from heart disease to arthritis. But that is not all, if you want good oral health that includes healthy gums and strong enamel, instead of teeth prone to cavities, you can forget about it if you have sugar in your diet. If some of this information is new for you, I invite to read on about the full spectrum of health effects of sugar on your body.
So if you are serious about your health, it is time to take serious action. This is your body and your health, and perhaps you are responsible for the health of others, like children as well. Avoiding refined sugar today is not some extremist health action or rebellion against the industry, but a wise and vital choice that smart consumers are making. There is no safe amount to consume of this stuff, and although our mind may try to tell us that a little sometimes is okay, we have to also be aware of sugar’s tremendous addictive nature that all too often turns a little in our diet into a lot. This is why I invite you to get really honest with yourself and establish your priorities clearly.
Your life will not be missing any sweetness without the white refined stuff, as there is an abundant variety of healthy, natural and wholesome sugars that we can safely enjoy. These include fresh, frozen and dried fruits, all of which are healthful and come without the stress and harm of refined sugar foods. With fruits alone you can making amazing snacks, treats and desserts that range from all sorts of cakes to non-dairy ice cream. What if you want to sweeten something that cannot use fruits, opt for a natural sweetener like maple syrup or natural stevia. These should still be used infrequently and in small amounts, but at least provide the most healthful and least problematic options where isolated sweeteners are concerned.
If you still have any white sugar or products made with it in your diet, take an inventory of your kitchen and your diet today. Make a plan of action for how you will reduce and eliminate these foods from your life. And take a stand to stop wasting your money, stop wasting your health and vote for a new food system with your dollars and efforts. As long as we support food items that are making us fat and sick, there is no one to blame for our current states of being, but ourselves.
2. White Salt
When it comes to salt, the only thing most of us focus on, is that we should be minimizing it or avoiding it in our foods, if that. Many of us are still not aware that the typical white salt is just as processed and unfavorable for our health as the many other white foods listed here. These negative health properties go beyond the properties of it being a salt.
Typical, white table salt is composed of the compound sodium chloride that is missing over 80 naturally occurring minerals. In this form it is first and foremost used as an industrial compound, hence why it needs to be stripped and purified. When it breaks down in solution, in our body, while the sodium ion is needed, too much disrupts cellular functions. One consequence of this revolves around us getting edema and hypertension. The chlorine counterpart, while beneficial in some aspects is then free to form various acidic properties and cause imbalances on our health. Added to this, the breakdown of this salt is different because it is missing the naturally occurring and highly beneficial minerals which maintain a healthy balance of all the elements in our body.
So what should our salt be?
Go for brownish-grey or pink. Brownish-grey salt is normally the unrefined, high quality Celtic sea salt. There is some white sea salt, but it is normally a refined version of what once was a nutrient-rich product. Pink salt is Himalayan salt. Himalayan salt normally contains 84 naturally occurring minerals which support optimal health.
Both of these salts are completely different when it comes to their nutritional profiles. Both are full spectrum salts which come with completely different nutrient amounts. They are not stripped of their valuable nutritional benefits, nor are they processed or treated with harsh chemicals to extract and refine them. Both also are noted to be alkalizing, rather than acid-forming (like table salt) in our body, which makes a big difference on our body biochemistry and thus health.
3. White Flour
Regardless of what you are baking or making, there is no reason to be using white flour. White flour is a highly processed and refined product made of grains which have been stripped from their natural and most valuable parts, namely the bran and the germ. Both of these parts contain the most nutritional benefits and make the food whole, and recognizable to our body for proper digestion.
White flour, coming from stripped grains and made into various foods is devoid of almost all of its nutritional value. No wonder it leaves us nutritionally deficient, constipated—thanks to the lack of fiber and vulnerable to all sorts of negative health conditions.
Think logically to yourself, what color are grains? Have you ever seen a white grain before? Then what are you doing buying and using something so foreign to your body, so processed and so artificial?
It is us as consumers who have allowed products like this which are wreaking havoc on our health to be available in stores to this day, but it is also us who can change this around. Vote with your money wisely and vote with your health, by saying no to not only buying any kind of white flour, but also any product not made with “whole grain flour”.
The best way to approach this aside from not buying the blatant bags of white flour is to read all of your food ingredient labels. If there is any ingredient that states “flour”, “unbleached flour” or “enriched flour” – this is a clue to avoid it, as it contains white flour and by buying it you are supporting the production of food which is harmful to your health. Yes, this includes any and all white bread and white pasta. Both of these are intestine-clogging, nutrient-deficient, weight-gain promoting, diabetes-increasing foods.
4. White Rice
The final white food which we need to remove for an optimally healthy outcome is white rice. Naturally rice, like all other grains is some shade of creamy-brown (there are other varieties of red or black). However, for far too long we have accepted and gotten used to white rice over brown. Like with other grains, to make white rice the germ and the inner husk (bran) is removed. The rice grain is then polished, usually using glucose or talc.
This leaves a food substance that is highly depleted in nutritional value. Hence, the norm today is to synthetically fortify these grains, to help prevent major nutritional deficiencies from occurring in the population.
I have heard from various people how they think switching to brown rice is so hard for this or that reason. Normally, these revolve around taste, texture and time to cook. For starters I am a big proponent of proper meal preparation from whole, natural foods. Thus I do not buy the time excuse one bit. If we do not have time to properly nourish ourselves and be responsible for our own disease prevention, then I always encourage people to reflect on their life and make sure their priorities are where they truly want them to be. It takes 45 minutes to fully cook brown rice, and much less if you choose to pre-soak it. Neither of these events need you to stand over it. We could be doing something else in that time span. In the end if you do not have the 45 minutes to cook the rice, don’t cook rice, make something else that is healthy and does not take as long.
As for the taste, it is a matter of priorities and getting used to it. I grew up on white rice and thought nothing of switching to brown rice, once I learned about the benefits. Again, if you do not enjoy brown rice, you don’t need to eat rice. Falling back on white rice is no favor to your health.
In the end, as always, it is your health and your money. I know that I made a decision to not touch any of the above items in any capacity because I care too much about my health, and secondly because I know that every one person’s actions make a big difference.
All the white products mentioned above are to a large degree unnatural and foreign to your body. Our bodies most easily digest, use and recognize food in their whole, natural forms. All of the white products mentioned above take away from your body’s optimal state of health. They add no benefits to your body or health, other than giving you calories. However, a human body needs more than calories, it needs naturally occurring nutrients first and foremost. Likewise, all of the items above, aside from salt directly, are key factors in weight gain today for the majority of the population. So if it is not for the sake of your health, avoid these items for the sake of your weight, which of course is directly tied to your health in the end.
Aside from your health, there are also increased, negative environmental impacts from the production of each of the above foods. The refining processes normally use more resources and chemicals which all take a toll on our environment in many ways.
We can begin by getting rid of any of the “white” foods we have at home and not buy them again. If you have young kids or teens in the family, communicate openly with them about these choices. Include them on learning about these items and discuss thoroughly why as a family you will be better off removing these products from your home. Going forward, simply choose to be conscious of all of the ingredients in any of the foods you choose to buy bringing more quality products to your body.
Make your health a serious priority and let us choose to create a better world for all through all the actions we each take daily. Let us set an example for others as well, one person, one family at a time.