Limiting Sugar and Processed Food is Vital to Overall Health

Scientific research continues to demonstrate the health benefits when sugar and processed food are restricted in a typical diet.

The New York Times and Dr. Robert Lustig, MD teamed up recently offering an educational hour-long discussion on the “perils of sugar and processed foods” that can now be viewed on Youtube.

If you think snacking during the pandemic has taken its toll on your waistline, you’re probably right! Dr. Robert Lustig, an endocrinologist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, has a long history of trying to help prove this.

Dr. Lustig is a best-selling author of “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease.” One of his lectures on the health risks of added sugar has more than 10 million views currently on YouTube. Earlier his month he joined Tara Parker-Pope, founding editor of the New York Times Well column. They looked to answer questions and share advice on how we can improve our overall health by simply cutting back on sugar and processed foods. You can listen to his latest lecture here.

Interesting Facts Regarding Sugar and Processed Food

One of the more interesting points taken from his talk was his definition of processed food from a nutrition standpoint. He stated that in order for something to be considered a processed food, it has too little of three and too much of eight of the following items.

Too little of

  1. fiber
  2. omega-3
  3. micronutrients

Too much of

  1. branch-chain amino acids
  2. salt
  3. nitrates
  4. omega-6 fatty acids
  5. food dyes
  6. food additives
  7. emulsifiers
  8. sugar

It can be a daunting task to get this under control when someone is trying to eat better. The packaged foods in a typical grocery store contain 74 percent added sugar. This is one reason why a nutritionist always says to shop only the outside or periphery of the store, do not go down the middle isles.

Americans Eat Too Much Sugar and Processed Food

The average American consumes too much added sugar on a daily basis. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars every year. Even though we have seen a 15 percent decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture).

This is How Much Sugar We Should be Eating

Some publications have reported added sugar should make up less than 10 percent of our total daily caloric intake while other reports say that’s wrong and it should be more like 5 percent – which I tend to agree with. In that vein of thinking, there may be value in putting ourselves on what I like to call an added sugar budget. An average meal can easily turn into dessert. A good, healthy goal for men would be to consume about 150 calories a day (38 grams) of added sugar. Women should have a goal of 100 calories a day (25 grams). To clarify, you should limit your added sugars not natural sugars.

What Types of Food Contain Added Sugar?

Added sugar is hidden in more than 60 different forms and it’s in just about everything we eat, from tomato paste, to fruit-based yogurt to (sadly) sports drinks like Gatorade (i.e. HFCS). According Dr. Lustig, “approximately 80 percent of the 6,000,000 consumer packaged foods in the United States have added caloric sweeteners.”Your best bet is to avoid it altogether if it comes in a bag, out of a can, in a box or from a carton.

The first step is start reading all food labels. Natural sugars, like those that come from fruit, contain fructose, but are packed with plenty of fiber, have an abundance of nutrients and contain lots of water and as a result gets released slowly into the bloodstream. In turn, blood sugar levels do not spike as they would with high sugar content foods. The net result, your body avoids a big release of insulin from the pancreas. When this happens multiple times throughout the day and over time, the body becomes more sensitive to storing body fat.

What the Research Shows…

There is new research each year showing too much added sugar in our diet can be toxic to our health.

One study showed subjects who got 17-21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38 percent risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21 percent or more of their calories from added sugar.

(D’Adamo, 2015)

Two large European studies published by the British Medical Journal found positive associations between consumption of highly processed foods and risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Results showed that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods (more than 4 servings per day) was associated with a 62 percent increased risk of all cause mortality compared with lower consumption (less than 2 servings per day). For each additional daily serving of ultra-processed food, mortality risk relatively increased by 18 percent.

(BMJ, 2019)

Adopt a Healthy Eating Game Plan

To see big gains in the gym, it’s important that you train smart, eat healthy by decreasing sugar and processed food, and get plenty of sleep. Most people understand this intuitively but never develop a game plan to eat healthy. Try to follow these four easy steps to make the process easier and hopefully in turn build a healthy habit.

  1. Eat more fiber in your diet
  2. Decrease added sugar
  3. Eat fewer unhealthy fats
  4. Reduce salt intake

Use some of this information coupled with a regular strength training program if you want a recipe for success. Checkout the Jefit app to help plan & track your workouts.

How to Avoid Weight Gain with HIT

blank

The human body is at its peak, physiologically speaking, between the ages of about 18-29 years old. Bodily changes occur thereafter, like losses in strength and aerobic capacity coupled with changes in bodyweight and body composition. There is a significant, yet preventable, downward shift with each of those variables after the third decade of life. How to avoid weight gain becomes a central focus for the majority of our population after about the third decade.

5 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain: Focus on Lifestyle Changes

The following suggestions need to be done consistently each week in order to change the way you look and feel. It’s not some type of quick fix!

Physical Activity Related

  • Never Stop Strength Training. This one is a must for each one of us, especially as we age. The key is building a strong base during the early years (teenage through 20’s) and then maintain that strength with a few weekly strength training sessions. Yes, for the rest of your life. Look at all the older people you know who don’t exercise and lead an un-active lifestyle. How are they doing with that?
  • Increase Activity. I’m not talking about long, slow, aerobic exercise here. The goal is to turn off and put down all screens each day. Then, work a little harder and find creative ways to increase your activity level each day. A good definition of physical activity is “all activities, at any intensity, performed during any time of day or night. It includes exercise and incidental activity integrated into daily activity.” For me, its about making sure I walk and move enough to move 5-7 miles a day (about 10-14,000/steps) on top of exercise.
  • HIT It Hard. HIT refers to high-intensity interval training. It can have a positive effect on fat-loss, prevent weight gain, and improve VO2 max. There is also a great deal of research on the benefits on cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol level). Try a minimum of 1-2 HIT sessions a week with multiple days of rest between bouts to take advantage of these benefits. This could be the key to how you avoid weight gain.

Nutrition Related

  • Watch What You Put into Your Mouth. It can all come down to being that simple. Begin to think of food as fuel for your body. Don’t eat it unless it’s high octane fuel that can help your body. We all know fad diets don’t work, long-term. Eating real, unprocessed food, like in the Mediterranean Diet, is the goal.
  • AVOID Added Sugar. We know it’s in everything. So a little is not a big deal. But try to eat less than 38 grams/added sugar/day/men and 25 grams/add sugar/day/women. Doing this will add years to your life and keep unwanted weight off, especially around the abdominal and hip area.

How HIT Improves Overall Health

One of the leading researchers on the benefits of HIT is Martin Gibala, PhD from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. One of his many research studies (2014) looked at the effects of short-term interval training using a 10-minute protocol with only 1-minute of hard exercise. The results were various health improvements in overweight adults. In summary, the study showed 3-minutes of all out exercise performed within a 30-minute routine (includes warm-up & cool-down), 3x/week, improved cardiometabolic health factors. This study included 18 supervised training sessions over a 6-week period. As a result, improvements in the oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, blood pressure and VO2 max were some of the outcomes.

How HIT Improves Body Composition

A second study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019), compared the effects moderate-intensity (MOD) exercise with HIT. The research groups looked at 786 studies before choosing 36 that met their meta-analysis study criteria. Interval training and MOD both reduce body fat percentage. Interval training, however, provided a 28.5% greater reduction in total absolute fat mass compared to MOD. Other research has shown that HIT is superior to MOD in many other areas. HIT promotes greater increases in VO2max, ventricular function, improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, lower ratings of perceived exertion, higher levels of enjoyment and higher adherence than MOD.

Jefit Compliments HIT

Adding weekly HIT sessions with Jefit strength training is suggested if weight-loss and other cardiometabolic health benefits are the goal. Many of the Jefit home circuit-based training programs pair nicely with HIT sessions. The first is Advanced Bodyweight Circuit and a second option is a program I’m doing right now, Total Body Circuit. Enjoy and Stay Strong!

Suggested Reading

The One-Minute Workout, Martin Gibala, PhD, 2017.

blank