Food Is Not Your Enemy

How Your Eating Habits Can Affect Risk of Depression
February 24, 2016, 10:50 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Oils, Sweets | Tags: , , , ,

Do you struggle with depression, or know someone who does? If so, you’re not alone. More than 100 million Americans cope with some level of depression—that’s one in three people. Why is this problem so widespread, and is there anything you can do about it, other than taking prescription pills?

There are many factors that can lead to depression, and those factors are going to differ for everyone. But one factor that is usually completely overlooked by the medical establishment is diet. On the whole, Americans eat so poorly that we are literally starved of the nutrients we need to keep our brains healthy. Here are some easy changes you can make to your diet to help ward off depression…

Eat your fats. Your healthy fats, that is—specifically foods high in omega-3s. Omega-3 fats are critical for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, and 99 percent of Americans do not eat enough of these fats. The best sources of omega-3s are fish, nuts, and seeds. It is worth noting that in Iceland, a country whose people eat a ton of fish, depression rates are extremely low (and this is a country where it is dark much of the year).

Reduce sugar intake. There are a million reasons to avoid foods with added sugar, and one of them happens to be that sugar can contribute to depression.

Eat lots of whole, real foods. The American diet of convenience tends to leave us shortchanged when it comes to nutrients. And a deficiency of such nutrients as folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D can lead to increased risk of depression. Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits every day, in addition to lean proteins like eggs and chicken, whole grains, and legumes.

Heal your gut with food. More and more research is showing that there is a strong connection between the brain and what’s going on in the gut. Eat the kinds of foods that will help the right gut bacteria proliferate in your intestines: green vegetables as well as fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.

Are You Addicted to Food?
March 3, 2015, 11:24 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets, weight loss | Tags: , ,

Why is it that no matter how much we want to eat healthier, we can’t resist those treats passed around at work? You reach for a cookie offered by your co-worker, knowing that you don’t really want to eat it, that you really want to lose weight and that this cookie will make you then want another, and maybe another. But you feel like you can’t help yourself. It’s just so dang delicious for those 30 seconds it takes to scarf down…

The guilt sets in afterwards. But that, as you well know, won’t necessarily stop you from doing it again tomorrow.

Maybe cookies are not your undoing. Maybe it’s pizza. Maybe fries. Or ice cream. Or burgers. Whatever your trigger food, though, it’s likely that it contains sugar, fat, or both.

Sugar and fat and the high-calorie foods they tend to appear in have been shown to be physically addictive, in studies involving both rats and humans. Our brain lights up from consuming sugar and fat in much the same way it would if we were to use drugs. “It looks like the habitual consumption of calorie-dense food can elicit changes in brain responses that mirror drug addiction,” Kyle Burger, a researcher at the Oregon Research Institute’s Eating Disorders and Obesity Prevention Lab, told Nutrition Action Healthletter in 2012.

Due to the effects they have on the brain, the more we eat sugar, fat, and junk food, the more we’ll want them. So there’s nothing wrong with you for feeling so drawn to these foods—most of us feel this way, at some point or another. You’re not weak for experiencing these cravings.

So what to do about it? Your best strategy is to eat more whole foods found in nature that don’t contain added sugar and are not fried or otherwise swimming in unhealthy fat. Your palette will adjust—when your body and brain become more accustomed to eating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, beans, and whole grains, then fast-food fried chicken and Oreos won’t be such a temptation. Try it—it really works.

Your waistline will thank you.

Sugar, Not Fat, Causes Heart Attacks
February 11, 2014, 12:48 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Eggs, food politics, Food/Health Blogs, Sweets | Tags: , , , , ,
I totally love the work done by Dr. Mark Hyman. He’s a firm believer in fixing the causes of our health problems, not just the symptoms. The latest newsletter from him said the following:

“It’s over. The debate is settled.

It’s sugar, not fat, that causes heart attacks.

Fifty years of doctors’ advice and government eating guidelines have been wrong. We’ve been told to swap eggs for Cheerios. But that recommendation is dead wrong. In fact, it’s very likely that this bad advice has killed millions of Americans.

A rigorously done new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four-fold increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. That’s 400%!”

Eye-opening, right? But depressing that we’ve been led down a bad path by some specious government recommendations.

When in doubt, choose the whole, natural foods that humans have been eating for generations (like eggs). And question the “wisdom” that we’d be better off eating a food made in a factory.

Milk and Sugar Cause Acne, Study Finds
May 2, 2012, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Dairy, Food/Health Blogs, Sweets | Tags: , , ,

For years many dermatologists have denied there’s a link between diet and acne. Finally, a study has found that dairy, sugar, and refined carbs DO in fact cause and worsen acne.

Personally, I have found this to be true. If I eat too much sugar, a day or two later my forehead will break out.  As soon as I get myself back on track and limit dessert and go heavy on the fruits, veggies, and fish, my skin improves.

Those Fourth Graders? They’re Shunning Sugar
March 4, 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Sweets | Tags: , , ,

A  few weeks ago I wrote about how I went into P.S. 321 in Brooklyn and taught all the fourth grade science classes about the problems that come with eating too much sugar, and how much sugar is in soft drinks. Today, the science teachers sent me a big empty soda bottle with the words “Jennifer Juice” drawn on the outside, along with a drawing of me, and inside were tiny little thank you notes from every single child in the fourth grade. It was unbelievably awesome. Here are what some of the notes said:

“Thank you a lot for teaching us how much sugar is in those drinks because now I don’t drink them anymore.”

“Dear Jennifer, I learned about how much sugar I eat and now I don’t eat as much candy and I’m trying to eat way less.”

“Thank you Jennifer for teaching me about sugar. Now I have a lot of fruit and not candy. Whenever my brother drinks an Orange Crush I say ‘Lukas! That is gross! That has 21 grams of sugar in it!'”

“Dear Jennifer, I’ve been eating much more healthy things. Thank you so, so much!”

“Thank you so much Jennifer. I was very shocked and disappointed of how much sugar was in Crush, Vitamin Water, and Snapple.”

“Jennifer: Thank you for your awesome lesson on sugar! People really consume a lot of sugar in a day. Wow! Now I always check the label!” (This note included a drawing of a “sugar monster” chasing a little person screaming, “Help!”)

Choking back tears. So wonderful, these kids.

Fourth Graders Shocked By Sugar
January 19, 2010, 10:36 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Sweets | Tags: , , , , ,

Last week I taught all the fourth grade science classes at P.S. 321 in Brooklyn about sugar. They already knew a lot about why sugar isn’t so good for us–in every class, someone raised their hand to say that their father/uncle/grandmother has diabetes and has to give themselves shots every day. One girl said her dad lost both his legs because of diabetes. The kids also talked about rotting teeth and feeling hyper from too much sugar.

What really shocked them, though, was how much sugar is in so many of the foods they like. I measured out 30 teaspoons of sugar and put it into a cup, showing them that this is the amount of sugar that the average American eats every day. They couldn’t believe it, and shouted out things like, “I don’t eat that much sugar!” But then the science teacher and I had them measure out the amount of sugar in a bottle of Vitamin Water, a bottle of Snapple, and a bottle of Orange Crush soda. The kids’ eyes widened with surprise as they saw the hills of sugar in front of them–eight teaspoons of sugar in the supposedly healthy Vitamin Water, 13 teaspoons in the Snapple, and 21 teaspoons in the Orange Crush. Suddenly they saw just how easy it is to consume even more than 30 teaspoons of sugar a day, just from their drinks.

Many of the kids seemed to be grossed out by what they discovered. Here’s to hoping they remember that feeling next time they’re choosing a drink with their lunch.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup Proves to Be Worse Than Sugar

This is big: a new study has shown that high-fructose corn syrup does in fact cause greater weight gain than sugar, and also leads to dangerous changes in the body. According to

“Over 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a strictly controlled diet, including high levels of fructose, produced new fat cells around their heart, liver and other digestive organs. They also showed signs of food-processing abnormalities linked to diabetes and heart disease. Another group of volunteers on the same diet, but with glucose sugar replacing fructose, did not have these problems.

People in both groups put on a similar amount of weight. However, researchers at the University of California who conducted the trial, said the levels of weight gain among the fructose consumers would be greater over the long term.

Fructose bypasses the digestive process that breaks down other forms of sugar. It arrives intact in the liver where it causes a variety of abnormal reactions, including the disruption of mechanisms that instruct the body whether to burn or store fat.”