Zero calories equals healthy.. or?

I am a stalker of nature, and it should not come as a surprise that I read any fitness blog I can possibly find. I’m also very easy to influence and even easier to sell things to. So when all these fitness bloggers are praising the Walden Farms series that iHerb sells, it should come as no surprise that I had to buy their products.

Chocolate, dips, mayo, sauces, syrups. AND ALL WITH ZERO CALORIES. ‘Yum’, they all say. So tasty, so healthy, and such a great replacement for whenever you’re craving sweets.

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Yeah, they lied. What do you think Walden Farms puts in their products when they are calorie-free? Certainly not anything that your body will recognize. And unless you really really REALLY love the taste of fake and artificial food, Walden Farms tastes like crap. In fact, it tasted so horrible that I had to throw it all out.

Here in Australia everything is practically gluten-free and fat-free. Buy a bag of normal lollies and it’ll say 99% fat-free, and buy a bag of sugar-free lollies and it’ll mention something about 70% less calories. 70% less than what, may I ask? And so what if the candy is fat-free, it is still packed with sugar and other artificial stuff.

The only way to create so-called “pseudo-foods” (as in food tricking you to thinking it is actually..food, when in reality it is only a bunch of artificial makeup) is to add tons of chemicals. Adding chemicals results in depriving the food of its nutritional value, hence leaving it calorie-free. Does that mean we should be eating it everyday? N to the O, we shouldn’t. I’ve quit crap food, sugar and candy for a reason – I want to take care of my health.

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I have friends who substitute their daily chocolate with sugar-free chocolate, “healthy” protein-bars etc. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Yes, I stocked up on sugar-free chocolate when I was back home, but that doesn’t mean I justify eating it on a daily basis just cause I’m craving things and they qualify as “healthy”.

Eat the real food, and keep the chocolate (no matter if it is sugar-free, healthy, calorie-free or normal) for where it belongs – the weekends.

But honey, you need a little bit of sugar

Yes you do. The natural kind. Not the kind found in candy. Not the kind found in your artificially, processed cereal. And not the kind found in your soda or orange juice. You need the natural sugar, or glucose, that your body makes from the food you eat, such as fruit, complex carbs and vegetables.

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Author of Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and DiseaseRobert Lustig, explains that sugar is addictive. In humans, fructose (commonly found in artificial and processed food) lights up the reward center in your brain called the nucleus accumbens on MRI; however, after repeated exposure, the reward center lights up less and less, and you will be needing more and more to achieve the same effect. Fructose has effects on the reward center similar to alcohol; and can implement a “vicious cycle” of consumption and disease. Thinking of chronic diseases, evidence links sugar directly to heart disease, type 2 diabetes or cancer.

But fructose is found in fruit?!?! Yes, it is. But fruit also contains magic amounts of fiber, making the fructose harder to absorb. Little amounts of fructose is not dangerous, large amounts is, as it may overload your liver being consumed and absorbed at once – and we do not want that, do we?

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Discover good nutrition compares natural sugar to artificial sugar:

An average orange has about about 3 teaspoons of natural sugar and a cup of strawberries has less than two teaspoons. And on top of that, you’re getting 3 grams of fiber, a full day’s worth of vitamin C, antioxidants and some folic acid and potassium – and it’ll only cost you about 50 or 60 calories. By contrast, a 0,5L coke will set you back about 225 calories and, and will for sure not be supplying any antioxidants, vitamins, minerals or fiber. You’ll simply be enjoying carbonated water, artificial color and flavor, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 grams of added sugar. So what sugar did we say we wanted again?

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Line, my fellow Norwegian, highly enjoys her sugary poison and would probably never give up her treats. But she recently decided to give up sugar on weekdays. It has been a week and she has succeeded, claiming that this will continue next week too. She says it was hard the first days, but found solutions to the late night snack cravings; smoothies, bananas, other fruit, loads of chewing gum, and homemade granola. Accidentally putting candy in her mouth mid-week, thinking it was sugar free, put a little nervous breakdown to display, but she concluded “it didn’t count”. Has she noticed any benefits? The initial candy cravings disappeared after a few days. “If I can do it, anybody can”, she says.

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Now, my rule is having a candy-day once a week, Line’s is more.. quitting it Monday-Thursday. But we all have to start somewhere, don’t we?

We know where the obvious sugar is found, but for some reason people tend to think that other processed food is free of sugar. It is not. ABC Health and Wellbeing suggests to stay away from:

  • sugar-laden breakfast cereals – some of these contain up to 30 per cent sugar (breakfast cereal review here). Despite claiming to have enough fibre to get you through the day, they contain the wrong fibre that is full of phytates – substances that bind essential minerals and take them out of the body, and thereby steals your much needed minerals.
  • premade meals and sauces (yes that includes your baked beans and canned soup).
  • supposed ‘health foods’ such as muesli bars and other snacks found in the health food section.
  • spreads including jams and sugar-free fruit spreads, as well as less obvious suspects such as peanut butter.

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How about we try to limit our sugar-intake to once a week guys, read the labels of your food, choose the ones with ingredients you actually can pronounce, and maybe we get to save our bodies from a couple of internal inflammations too.