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where do we americans get our calories?


“Among adolescents, the top energy sources were soda, energy and sports drinks (8.2% of calories); pizza (7.2%); yeast breads (6.3%), and chicken and chicken mixed dishes (6.2%). Burgers contributed just 2% of energy and fries 2.7%.  If the NHANES data is accurate, the nation’s teens are getting 47% of their calories from carbage — but only 9% of their total calories come from carbage consumed in fast-food restaurants….  So I have to conclude that cartoon characters, Happy Meals and other “tricks” aren’t the reason kids get fat.  Kids consume five to six times more carbage at home than they do at fast-food restaurants.”  Tom Naughton of “Fat Head” fame, from his June 2013 blog post titled, Where Americans Get Their Calories.   For those who are curious, the word carbage is a compilation of two words, carb and garbage.  In other words, he is talking about highly refined carbohydrates.

According to the website of the American Heart Association (AHA), “Americans eat about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day according to a report from the 2005–10 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) database. Teens and men consume the most added sugars. Average daily consumption for men: 335 calories, women: 230 calories, boys: 362 calories, girls: 282 calories…”  With stats like this, you would think that an organization with as much sway as the AHA would take a harder stance against added sugar.   Rather, they choose to continue to vilify things like DIETARY FAT, SALT, and CHOLESTEROL

The AHA opens their article (Frequently Asked Questions About Sugar) by linking arms and singing the song made famous by Julie Andrews, A Spoonful of Sugar.…..  They then recommend, “Adding a limited amount of sugars to foods that provide important nutrients — such as whole-grain cereal, flavored milk or yogurt — to improve their taste, especially for children.”  I bring this up because the survey the authors of this article get their information from is even more shocking than this statement.  According to our government’s NHANES study, the number one source of calories for all ages across the board is, “grain-based desserts” (think cake, cookies, pastries, cinnamon rolls, donuts, etc here).  And depending on what age group you fall under, things like (these are listed in order), “breads, pizza, soda / energy / sports drinks, alcohol, pasta, dairy desserts, chips, cold cereal, dairy-based desserts (ice cream), and fried potatoes” round out the top ten (I’ve seen recent information leading me to believe SODA is the number one source of calories for today’s teens). 

No matter how you slice it, this seems to be promoting what I have referred to in the past as “LIVING THE HIGH CARB LIFESTYLE“.  But is this lifestyle really as bad as I and others have led you to believe?  Not according the The American Heart Association.  In their article, the AHA tries to educate you about carbs by saying, “All carbohydrates are made up of units of sugar (“saccharide”). Carbohydrates containing only one unit of sugar (called “monosaccharides”) or two units of sugar (called “disaccharides”) are known as simple sugars or simple carbohydrates. Simple sugars are quickly broken down and provide a very fast increase in blood sugar, while complex carbs take longer and cause blood sugar to rise more gradually. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas, etc.), breads, cereals, rice and grains. Complex carbs are broken down into the simple sugars during digestion, which causes them to be processed more slowly in the body.

Hold the phone.  This information is outdated by several decades.  It is the same faulty thinking that was exported into my brain back when I was working on a DEGREE IN NUTRITION at KSU in the mid 1980’s.  This thought process is what led our government (including the AHA) to declare war on dietary fat a decade before that.   Because the experts taught that eating fat is what makes you fat, the American people found themselves the recipients of recommendations that thrust them (us / me) right into the middle of the whole “Low Fat / Fat Free” craze.  This same government-caused craze brought us the Food Pyramid (8-11 servings of grains a day), which has, to a large degree, been recycled into the “new and improved” government-recommended — DASH DIET.  Before we go any further, let’s take a moment and get some facts about carbs. 


First, I should tell you that while there are essential fats and essential proteins (fats and proteins that your body needs, but cannot make on its own, meaning you need to get them via dietary consumption), there are no essential carbohydrates.  In other words, your body can function just fine eating protein and fat, and converting it to the blood glucose needed by your body and brain.  In fact, before we introduced them to the joys of processed food, the American Eskimos did pretty well for themselves living mostly on a diet of fish, seal meat, caribou, and whale blubber. 

Not exactly my idea of a long-term diet, but you can hardly argue against the results of eating large amounts of quality proteins and OMEGA THREE FATTY ACIDS.  Not only that, but for well over 100 years, the medical community has controlled a wide array of nasty neurological problems (EPILEPSY is the most well-known of these) via a “Ketogenic Diet” (a ZERO carb diet).  Interestingly enough, the single biggest factor associated with ALZHEIMER’S, is too much sugar / starch.   Speaking of starch, let’s go back and look at the “good” carbs that were specifically recommended in NHANES (our government) by name, because they are said to be “complex”.

  • CORN:  Corn is not a vegetable.  It’s the grain that farmers feed livestock in order to rapidly fatten them for slaughter.  It also happens to be the product that HFCS is refined from. Part of the problem is that today’s corn is nothing like the corn eaten by our ancestors.  The vast majority is GMO and hybridized for high sugar content.
  • POTATOES:  Potatoes are a mixed bag.  Sweet potatoes are one of the single best dietary staples there is.  Unfortunately, this is talking about white potatoes, which are extremely high on the Glycemic Index (for instance, a baked potato has a GI of 85, while table sugar has a GI of just under 60).  When looking at NHANES’ statistics, they usually referred to as potatoes in terms of “fried” potatoes (can anyone say French Fries?).
  • PEAS:  Peas are a legume and not a vegetable.  I’m not saying they’re bad, but they are a closer relative to a bean than a vegetable.  For those of you who are FODMAP– sensitive (you have IBS or similar), you need to avoid peas.  For more information, you can read Mark Sisson’s, Dear Mark: Are Peas and Green Beans Healthy?
  • BREAD:  Bread used to be made from coarsely milled flour.  Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  DR. ART AYERS has talked on his site about the research showing that the explosion in GLUTEN SENSITIVITY is greatly due to the fact that our wheat is now milled to the consistency of talc powder.   Beyond that, the flour is processed (bleached, etc) so that all its living parts and oils are killed / destroyed.  This is what gives flour and flour-based products a much longer shelf life.  It also means that the bread you are eating today — even if it’s homemade — is a very different product than the bread our great grandfathers ate.
  • CEREAL:  Firstly, cereal is also made from the same highly refined flours that bread is.  Again, this helps give it a long shelf life.  To see what I mean, open a box of cereal, leave it alone for a year, and see what happens.  While it will certainly get stale, it never really spoils.  Secondly, cereal (even the so called “good” cereals) is a huge source of added sugar.  Nothing like starting your day out with a serious dose of carbs so that you can CRASH about 10:00 am.
  • RICE:  Rice is tricky. Definitely not a fan of polished white rice, but the more wild and long-grain rices are fine for most people. 
  • GRAINS:  While not inherently bad, so many of today’s grains have been genetically modified, hybridized for high protein or sugar content, and treated with a wide array of chemicals.  If you are interested in reading about some of the reasons that today’s grains are radically different than yesterday’s grains, just READ THIS.  Be aware that all grains (even the “Gluten Free” grains) are GLUTEN CROSS-REACTORS.  While this certainly does not mean that everyone is going to have a problem with them, we know from experience that many will — particularly those of you who are dealing with some sort of AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE (click to see a list).

If this isn’t the Food Pyramid being resurrected in all the glory of the mullet haircut of the same era, I’m not sure what it is?  Rather than think of carbs in terms of “simple” or “complex” as per the AHA, let’s think of them more in terms of what they look like according to the Glycemic Index.  The Glycemic Index tells us how rapidly a certain carb is converted to glucose — BLOOD SUGARIn other words, think about them in terms of how rapidly or slowly they burn — kind of like kindling versus a log.

When we think of carbs merely in terms of “simple” or “complex”, we are missing the boat by such a wide margin that we may actually be missing the ocean that the boat is sitting in as well.  The more rapidly they are converted to blood sugar, the more insulin is going to get dumped into your system.  If you want to see how the whole process and progression from health to Diabetes to disability to death plays out, go back and click on the “High Carb Lifestyle” link from earlier in the post.

No one likes politicians, judges, or law-enforcement who are soft on crime.  I don’t think I would be saying anything untrue to say that the AHA takes a weak stance against dietary crime — particularly on this issue of carbs.  After asking the rhetorical question, Does this mean I should avoid all soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages?, they answer it by telling us that it’s up to you to, “choose how to spend your discretionary calories…..  Sugars can promote enjoyment of meals and snacks. It is preferable that discretionary calories from sugar are added to otherwise nutrient-rich foods, such as dairy products (flavored milk and yogurt) and foods that provide whole grains and fiber (sugar-sweetened cereals)“.  This, folks, is why you can’t trust our government — particularly when it comes to any sort of meaningful dietary recommendations.  And for those who are wondering about the “evidence” portion of the commonly used term, EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE, just click the link.

This post should hit home for those of you dealing with CHRONIC PAIN SYNDROMES or CHRONIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASES.  You see; sugar or carbs that break down rapidly to sugar (High Glycemic Index Carbohydrates) cause huge amounts of Inflammation (HERE).   Furthermore, we know that INFLAMMATION is the known cause of any number of sickness and diseases (HERE is a list), not to mention the Fibrosis / Microscopic Scar Tissue that I deal with day-in, and day-out in practice (HERE, HERE, and HERE).   On top of this, junk carbs are so addictive they are widely known as “DIETARY CRACK“.   If you are looking to solve your CHRONIC PAIN, get your health back, and regain control of your weight, you’ll have to make some changes.   HERE is the place to start.


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