Some of the "Healthiest" foods that are being recommended to us are often 'Very Highly Processed' according to our understanding regarding how food is processed. This even happens in the world of "Raw Foods" where the definition of "Raw" is sometimes in conflict with our definitions of "Processed". Before anybody runs off thinking we do not see the value in eating raw food let us assure you that we highly recommend eating LOTS of simple raw unprocessed whole natural foods. However let's make sure that the raw foods we eat are also natural and unprocessed. Excessive processing can even happen to foods promoted as raw foods. In this case we are discussing food items that are neither simple nor unprocessed but somehow manage to wear the "Raw" label.
We always try to encourage people to eat simply and naturally, including plenty of simple raw foods. Remember the KISS principle: Keep it Simple and Starch-Smart: as represented by our little slogan of "From Sun to Plant to Plate". Simplicity is best. We try to encourage people to avoid the addictive qualities created through the food processing industry. Unfortunately we human beings are naturally drawn to processed foods like a bear is to honey until our taste buds are allowed to heal-up from Standard American Diet hyper-palatable processed concoctions. In order to simplify this we would like to explore in broad strokes some of the ways that food is processed. Hopefully we can thus clarify what is a health food and what is actually fueling unhealthful food addiction.
How Food is Processed 101
Light: Removing the Water:
Dehydrating Concentrates Calories
Medium: Modifying the Fiber:
Blending/Grinding Quickens Assimilation
Heavy: Removing the Fiber:
Refining Destroys Nutritional Value
Addictive: Adding Fat, Sugar and Salt:
Creates Rapid and Intense Gratification
Processed foods stimulate the pleasure center IMMEDIATELY. We "Eat and Cry for More" becoming INSTANTANEOUSLY HOOKED. To read a really great expose' on the pleasure center, you might want to purchase the book "The Pleasure Trap" by Douglas J. Lisle, Ph.D. and Alan Goldhamer, D.C.. Another really great book to understand the addictive power of hyper-palatable foods is "Breaking the Food Seduction" by Neal Barnard, MD.
As you can tell from our four classifications there are DEGREES of Food Processing: Light, Medium, Heavy and Addictive. We consider some Light Processing acceptable, for some patients, such as dehydration of simple foods like dried fruits. However, remember that these foods contain concentrated calories due to water removal and hence contain more Calorie Density, making it easier to overeat on calories. Many can do fine eating these types of dehydrated foods sparingly. These dehydrated foods (Lightly Processed) should not comprise the majority of calories in most diet-styles. We often recommend that people rehydrate these dehydrated foods first and then use the re-hydrated ingredients in their food preparations. This will help to reduce some of the calorie concentration by introducing a much higher water content to the foods. We often, when we travel by air, will dehydrate foods such as beans and sweet potatoes and then add water to these foods in our hotel rooms to make quick and easy delicious breakfasts. The food is lightly processed but is MUCH healthier than restaurant food as it contains no oil. It is also delicious since we season the food just the way we like it before we dehydrate it.
We are constantly being asked about some of the Medium Processing like blending and grinding foods to make items like Smoothies and Whole Grain Flours. On this website we show that the closer we can live to "From Sun to Plant to Plate" the better will be the health outcomes. But, we do still make occasional use of some tools like Food Processors and Blenders which do break down the foods, including the natural fibers, into ultra-small particles, thus making for ultra-fast food assimilation into the blood stream! We do not encourage eating abundantly, or often, from foods which have been processed in this way because they tend to cause rapid blood sugar spikes which are usually followed by blood sugar lows. Insulin levels in the blood stream rise, chasing the blood sugar spike and insulin always wins, thus bringing down the blood sugar to levels below our actual comfort level. If you have heard Dr. Carney's talk on Addictions entitled "Why We Do What We Do" then you will understand how this takes us below what we call "Baseline" and then in order to "Feel Better" we end up looking for the last thing which made us feel good and do it again. Such as eating something that will again spike our blood sugars too high too quickly. It is a cycle we should try to avoid!
On another note, when drinking smoothies it becomes incredibly easy to overload the system with excess calories. We can all probably relate to being able to "Drink" a lot more food in a smoothie than we could possibly eat in a single meal. Often these excess calories fool us and we believe that this overload of calories is good for us because we are eating "Raw" foods! This is why we encourage, as a general rule, not modifying the fiber in our foods. Again, blending into small particles increases the rapid assimilation of nutrients. Blood sugars race up and then they plunge down again, so often do energy levels, and moods may crash too. And juicing does the same thing as smoothies, even worse! Read on to find out why.
Many people have watched movies like "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" and see the rapid health improvements from people going on an extended juice fast. They then decide that juicing must be very good for us and so decide to "ADD" juicing to their daily routine. This is generally done without a subsequent reduction of daily dietary calories from other foods. The end result is that often these people might even end up adding an additional 800 or more calories to their daily caloric intake. They then GAIN weight and do not gain true energy! What they experience is another temporary rapid blood sugar spike with the subsequent low blood sugar that follows in the wake of the insulin response to the high blood sugars. The reason some people do not lose weight while juicing is because they are NOT on a juice fast exclusively as were the subjects in the movie. The result is rarely an improvement in health and this behavior, as we already mentioned, is often accompanied by weight gain due to the excess calories. Juicing in this fashion actually fits within our description of Heavy Processing because the fiber has been removed entirely. Fiber when unmodified by juicing or blending stabilizes the levels of blood sugar. Thus fiber in foods may stabilize energy levels and moods by slowing the absorption of nutrients into the blood stream from the intestines. Juicing discards too much of the fiber!
Other processes remove the fiber entirely such as creating white flour or white rice. We have clear scientific evidence showing how much less healthy these processed foods are then their whole grain counterparts. But somehow we all willingly turn a blind eye to the fiber removal through the juicing process. The making of Oils is also a process of entirely removing the fiber and thus health does not improve by eating oils. Most people should not be eating any oils of any type. Except maybe in cases of starvation. Remember the fiber. Fiber is your friend. Don't mess with mother nature!
You may think of a total juice fast in somewhat the same light as a water fast, although a water fast is really more powerful, because it can have tremendous benefits in the disease reversal process due to severe calorie restriction. We have also heard of other programs of calorie restriction such as the grape fast, brown rice fast, grapefruit diet and others. These are all short term ventures and not long term solutions! The principle is the same in that the body is actually able to rest from intense digestion which generally requires lots of energy. Dr. Michael Klaper states that water only fasting frees up to 80% of body energy. By freeing up all this energy the body is able to work on the healing process. However, none of these type of cleanses are sustainable for long. We have heard people talk about becoming first a carnivore, then a paleo, then a vegetarian, then a vegan, then a fruitarian, then finally a breatharian. We fear the next step is to become a cadaver? Calorie restriction is often beneficial for many, but there comes a point where the table turns on us. We do need adequate calories to survive although severe calorie restriction for a period of time can be extremely beneficial to some patients.
The final nail in the coffin involves the introduction of Addictive Processing which includes the vast majority of (so called) "Foods" in the industrial nations. This is the process whereby foods are created in a manner that we classify as Light, Medium or Heavy processing and then "Improved" through the introduction of Fat, Sugar and Salt. These foods are designed by master chemists to instantly addict us! These hyper-palatable 'food-like substances' hit the pleasure center so fast we are barely aware of what happened. As soon as the food hits our taste buds, even before absorption in the intestine, we interpret the feeling in the pleasure center as "DELICIOUS" not as "INTOXICATION". All we know is that whatever we just tasted we want more of it and we want it immediately because it is what we call DELICIOUS. Beware when food is instantly DELICIOUS as we could be being manipulated to generate maximum profits for the food industry in exchange for minimal health for ourselves!
WHAT SHOULD OUR MOTTOS BE?
Try these on for size:
Show me the Fiber!
Don't mess with Fiber!
What God has put together (whole foods), let not man tear apart!
The Lord gives (fiber) and man takes away!
WHAT SHOULD WE ALWAYS ASK?
1) What was done to the Water?
2) What was done to the Fiber?
REMEMBER THE EQUATION: (Thank you Jeff Novick)
- W + F = B: Water + Fiber = Bulk!
Bulk provides satiety. A full stomach is a contented (satisfied) stomach... and pleasure center! Water and Fiber as found in whole natural food creates Bulk. Bulk is the true body cleanser. Bulk is the true weight loss miracle!