The Ten Week Challenge Syllabus

I walked people through a ten week challenge, using the following syllabus.

Week 1 - Sugar-free
Week 2 - Whole grains
Week 3 - Wild-caught fish and grass-fed meats
Week 4 - Raw dairy
Week 5 - The microwave
Week 6 - Fats and oils
Week 7 - Cultured and fermented foods
Week 8 - Local and organic produce
Week 9 - Processed foods
Week 10 - Implementing lifestyle changes

Visit my Recipe Index over at Going Green in a Pink World.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Week 2: Grains 101

Now that we've learned a bit about what sugar does to our body, it's time to move onto flour. Even more than sugar, I have noticed that when I eat white flour products, I feel lethargic, bloated, and unwell overall. I am not gluten intolerant - I'm just experiencing the common reactions to grains that have been stripped of their benefits. I also noticed it's nearly impossible to lose weight while eating products made with refined flour. I recently learned that when the bran and germ are removed, as in white flour, our bodies aren't able to digest the wheat in the same way. Instead of a slow release of energy as with whole wheat, our bodies break down white flour quickly, into glucose molecules, evoking the same response that sugar does!

What is white flour?
In order to prevent flours from going rancid (mold and fungus was a common problem in the Middle Ages), and increase profits due to prolonged shelf life, the food industry found ways to lengthen the life of flour and products made with flour. The answer was to create a product that bugs wouldn't like (they'll die if they try to eat white flour), people would find palatable, and could be marketed as "healthy" (doesn't the word "enriched" just sound good??). The technique used to create this product is known as refining. Refining removes the bran and germ of the grain, and strips them of B vitamins, as well as vitamin E, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, potassium and fiber. What we have left is a dead, lifeless product that can stay on shelves and in pantries for seemingly limitless amounts of time.

What Does This Mean for Us?
Nutrient Deficiencies

Food companies have added synthetic forms of nutrients back into their stripped foods, in attempt to make them look healthier. However, these synthetic forms put a strain on the body and the store of the natural vitamins you already have, leading to an imbalance. If you eat a good deal of white flour, you might noticed some of the symptoms of a B-vitamin deficiency: fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, poor memory, insomnia, heart palpitations and muscle tenderness.

In an article in the Journal of Nutrition, entitled "New Approaches for Designing and Evaluating Food Fortification Programs", the author readily admits to the lack of attention to monitoring either the bioavailability (ie how much of those nutrients can actually be used in our body), appropriate dosage, and effectiveness of food fortification. That's a bit scary. The enriched flour (and it pops up in nearly every prepared food made with flour) may not be what you think. We're reading labels that tell us we're receiving 20% of our daily B6 intake, and yet there hasn't been much follow through to find out if our bodies are absorbing it!! The same goes for the multi-billion dollar vitamin industry. We've been thriving for ten of thousands of years without Centrum Gold. And our nation's health hasn't increased in the last few decades, despite the fat pockets of the supplement and vitamin industry. Bottom line: there can be gold in those little pills we pay so much for, but if we're not absorbing them, it's like throwing money in the toilet. Quite literally. Personally, I'd rather get my nutrients from real food.

Effects on Blood Sugar
I touched on this at the top of this post, but here is a great quote from Lori Lipinski, Certified Nutritional Consultant,

"If you're like most people who want to lose weight, chances are that at one time or another you've experimented with a lowfat diet. And it probably didn't take long to discover that avoiding fat in your diet doesn't make it magically melt off your body. That's because lowfat really means high-carb. So many dieters think they're doing a good thing by eating lowfat, low-calorie, high-carb foods like cereal, pretzels, bagels, and pasta--not realizing that these foods cause the pancreas to secrete insulin, the fat-storing hormone that stimulates the appetite and slows down metabolism."

I recently had a conversation with a friend about bowel movements. What a fun topic! I understand that people have heard that frequency varies person to person, and that's normal. However, I don't know if I believe that it's necessarily good for us. I gave the friend this illustration. Remember when you used to make playdough? (Just pretend if not.) My mother would hand me a cup of flour, a bowl, and some water. It would be a great, sticky lump after I mixed them. That's what's stuck sitting in your gut, fermenting and giving bad bacteria a delicious meal.

What's more, the effects of constipation, though not always talked about, can interfere with your daily life. Fatigue, lethargy, headaches, and poor skin are common effects of constipation. (Traditional Chinese Medicine strongly links the gut and digestion to skin!) If we're eating real, fiber rich foods, they'll add bulk to our stool and things will pass fairly quickly; plus, you'll have more energy, and you won't feel as bloated.

**Drinking water is also key to getting things moving. A good rule of thumb is to divide your weight in half, and drink that much water in OUNCES!

Decisions, Decisions
How can you make better decisions at the store? (Aside from buying a grain mill and grinding your own wheat, despite the fact that both your husband and cat think you've gone off the deep end...) Here are some quick tips, courtesy of Heath

To eat...

100% Whole Wheat or 100% Whole Grain products

...and Not to Eat...

— Bleached Flour: Just another white food that ain’t no good

— Wheat Flour: Does not contain the bran or germ (no fiber)

— Enriched Flour (wheat) : Wheat flour that is stripped of bran or germ and has had some nutrients added back in to make it pass as a consumable food.

— Enriched Flour (flour):Stripped! Just like the one above except the source of the grain isn’t identified.

— Stone Ground Wheat Flour: The word “Whole” isn’t in there. This means milled flour with no bran or germ.

— Cracked Wheat: Fractionated wheat is milled into angular pieces.

-“WITH whole grains”, lots of times the product is still largely composed of enriched flour, bleached four and sugar

If you're following my menu exactly, you don't have to worry about the flour issue - I don't think there's in any there. If you're doing your own thing, make sure you read labels at the store, and find healthier alternatives to white flour.

Extra Credit
Try making some whole wheat bread at home! Better yet, go for asourdough!

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