Everything you eat is primarily made up of three macronutrients, or building blocks: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Today I'm going to focus on what I've learned about carbohydrates, because they make up the bulk of most people's diets and they offer the biggest opportunity for diet improvement.
I will try to not get too technical, because then you will get bored, leave, and not change your life/diet. If you want to get a better understanding, I highly recommend "Live Long Enough to Live Forever" by Ray Kurzweil.
When you eat food your body's goal is to convert it to sugar, which is what cells actually use for energy. So, in a way, everything you eat actually becomes sugar eventually. Some people like to use this as an argument that sugar is good for you, which is dumb. It's the journey, not the destination.
Here's the crux of the problem. Sugar is basically predigested food. Your body is a sugar refining machine, but when sugar comes in, it gets really confused and causes a huge spike in insulin. This triggers your body to store fat (which is why some skinny people who restrict calories are still "soft").
At the same time, sugar also depresses your immune system, screws up your cholesterol, creates an acidic environment, and a host of other things.
Here's a page with 146 reasons sugar is bad for you, with scientific research cited for each.
Here's what I'm trying to get at: sugar is the devil.
There is ZERO nutritional value to sugar. Everything we eat that comes from nature has nutrients. Not sugar.
This doesn't mean that SWEET things are bad for you, by the way. Take oranges or pineapples, for example. Each one is sweet, but they have fiber, which slows digestion way down (and thus doesn't cause an insulin spike), as well as vitamins and minerals.
By the way... white flour and white rice are also essentially just sugar.
The outer hulls which contain all of the nutrients and fiber are stripped away, a process that should have been slowly carried out through your digestive tract, leaving nothing but the starchy and nutritionally devoid inner part.
Virtually every study conducted on the subject has shown conclusively that sugar and other highly refined foods are the LEADING cause of diabetes, cancer, obesity, and a host of other serious problems. Basically everything that "rich", meaning people in developed countries, die from is caused or at least accelerated by sugar and refined foods.
Poor people in poor countries just don't have these problems.
Why the hell do we eat it, then?
We eat sugar because it tastes good. It's a drug for our tastebuds, essentially. This goes beyond analogy - it actually affects our dopamine receptors like real drugs do. That particular effect, by the way, also depresses sugar eaters and causes mood swings.
And we're being hooked on it. Virtually EVERYTHING the average American eats has sugar in it.
That starts with the obvious like doughnuts and candy, but even extends to things like pasta sauce, granola bars (loaded with it), almost all breads in grocery stores, most "health foods", and almost all cereals.
As a side note, almost all health foods are a total scam. Granola bars and energy bars are essentially candy bars. Yogurts are basically ice cream. There is very little difference.
Want to hear something terrifying? The average person now eats more than their BODY WEIGHT in refined sugar every year. And that's not including refined flours which are nutritionally equivalent and at least as common.
This is roughly 10-15 times more than today's senior generation ate when they were young, which means that we haven't even seen the very long term effects of sugar consumption are.
This is no mistake, either. National food manufacturers and chains weren't common things during that generation's heyday. Now these groups have realized that besides the direct correlation between sugar and terrible ailments, there's also a direct correlation with their profits.
Which product do consumers go for? The one with the most sugar, every time.
This "cold war of sugar", where each manufacturer keeps one upping the other, has caused our taste buds to become desensitized as well. When we eat sweet things like fruit or even vegetables, they don't taste sweet to us. This perpetuates the sugar dependency cycle.
To make things worse, the government is in on it. Don't rely on them to keep you healthy. Rely on yourself. There are WAY too many lobbyists for food companies exerting their influence on policy.
Quitting sugar is not terribly easy but it is something everyone can do, especially when they understand why it's so bad for them.
It will take one or two months of not eating sugar to completely quell the cravings. But after that you will find that you rediscover sweetness in other foods. I'll never forget the first time I ate broccoli and tasted the sweetness in it. It was amazing.
Once you're over sugar, it's a non issue. You realize that you are missing nothing at all. It sounds like restriction, but the resensitization of your taste buds means that all the "bland" healthy foods you used to pass by have a world of flavor for you to discover.
This sounds like a bit of hippie propaganda, but it's not. I have experienced this personally, and I used to be a sugar fiend. To give you an example, I would often bake a thing of brownies and eat nothing but them for two days until they ran out.
Now on the very rare occasions that I eat sweet things (like the one cookie I ate at christmas), I always have the same experience.
"I used to love these things. This is going to be fun."
"Hmm.... this is pretty good, but it doesn't taste like I remember it. The taste is so simple and boring... just a blast of sugar."
"Ugh. That was kind of gross. I'm glad I don't have to eat that kind of thing."
That's exactly how I think every time. Then I immediately search out some good food to get real satisfaction.
Sugar has an effect which makes you feel less full than you are, and makes you crave more sugar. That's why diets don't usually work. It's like quitting crack by only smoking one rock a day instead of five. The crack makes you want more crack.
If you go cold turkey and just ride it out for a couple months, your life will be easy. You won't crave it and it will be a non issue.
This Sounds Like a Hassle!
You know what? It is. My life would be far more convenient and easy if I just ate sugar and white flour. Sometimes I fantasize about how great it would be if foods I ate were as readily accessible as junk food.
So I'm not going to lie - it does make your life more complex. People will give you a hard time about it and will make up stupid reasons for why they eat it.
"Everything's good in moderation."
WRONG. If you believe that, take up heroin. Moderately.
Buying groceries becomes an involved process. You have to find new foods to eat. Restaurants become a bit of a chore.
But hey... let's get real for a minute. This is your HEALTH. Your LIFE. Sugar impacts you DAILY, whether you realize it or not.
Think about the challenges you face. How hard is it really to check with waiters and examine food labels. Make the decision NOW, rather than when you're 60, fat, and diagnosed with cancer and high blood pressure.
This is something you can do NOW for YOURSELF that has virtually no downside and can literally save your life.
Continued in Part III, "What's Wrong With Meat?"
I've mentioned before that I have become a vegan. It's now had such an impact on my life that I'm going to write a whole post explaining why on earth I'd become a vegan, and why I'll be a vegan for life.
First, I should say that the term "vegan" isn't great. It's usually associated with freakshows who are so against killing animals that they won't wear leather. While I'm not going to frequent cockfights or go hunting, I have no problem with animals being killed. I like leather stuff, and animals dying is part of life with or without humans.
Another problem with the term "vegan" is that many vegans eat an unhealthy diet. They cut out meat, but don't add vegetables in their place, so they tend to eat a lot of refined grains. Doing that is more unhealthy than just eating meat.
I ate a blueberry scone today. I normally don't eat sweets, but I've been walking about 5 hours a day seeing sights and temples, and I realized I was only eating like 1800 calories. So, that ain't good. The only high calorie item at Starbucks, so I got the scone. It tasted great.
And I thought about it. Why does the scone taste great, when healthier stuff doesn't?
Answer: Because our taste buds don't suit us well in the modern day. The reason junk food tastes good is because it was advantageous in the past. Sweet things, high density carbs, and fats were really efficient for surviving and not poisonous back then.
But now, they're not the best way. The taste buds evolved to help us survive, but now they're kind of not helping. It's like a broken speedometer in a car. Foods are supposed to taste good to let you know that they're safe and beneficial to eat. But now, we don't get poisoned from toxic plants... we get poisoned from too much refined sugar with diabetes and obesity and such.
It'd be like if you were watching the speedometer in the car and it said "65" on the freeway, but you were going 110 in reality. Eating off what your taste buds tell you is bad for your survival now.