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Over time I've had insights about what constitutes a 'healthy diet' which fly in the face of what I've been taught, what doctors I've talked to have implied or stated outright and what the media would lead us to believe.
I thought I'd share some of the more profound insights with you, particularly with regards to children (though everything here applies equally to adults). I'm by no means an expert, however have done a fair amount of research and tried different approaches and found that certain things have worked great for my family and that research indicates they'd work well for other families.
Sugar and health
Everyone knows that sugar isn't particularly healthy, however most of us eat it anyway. If you watch a group of kids before and after having a load of sweets, you immediately see the impact - manic, uncontrolled action, more rough and tumble play, etc.
Having done some research into sugar (and the same applies to fructose, honey, syrup, etc.) I've decided to cut it out of my diet completely.
When I used to eat sugar I rapidly lost energy, felt very tired and either needed a nap or got grumpy. Since stopping eating sugar I have twice as much energy, never nap during the day and am getting far less colds and minor illnesses as my immune system is so much better.
Sugar is an addictive substance and any support group or book that helps people overcome addictive substances (like alcohol, cigarettes or drugs) is that you need to stop them completely. The best way to do this is by realising that you no longer need, enjoy or in any way benefit from having the substance. Allen Carr has written a great range of books on this for cigarettes and alcohol.
Sugar vs. Fat for Weight Loss
Six months ago my wife started a low carb Atkins diet and has currently lost 3 stone. A recent blood test showed that her blood results are excellent all round, she has more energy and is feeling great. I should mention that the benefits to her of being more active and healthier are far more important than losing weight.
The Atkins diet is composed of 3 elements:
1. Eating a low-carb, high fat diet (i.e. no processed sugar and little bread, pasta, rice or fruit, except berries).
2. Taking vitamin supplements and a fibre supplement such as Psyllium Husks.
3. Having regular exercise (he recommends you start gently on this one).
This mirrors the Ketogenic diet which has been found to cure or significantly reduce the symptoms of Epilepsy.
What Atkins (and others) have discovered is that it is eating too much sugar, not too much fat, that makes people fat! Why would this be?
For starters, sugar is addictive and doesn't fill you up, therefore if you eat sugar, you're likely to eat more than you need. If you eat a meal of. e.g. chicken and vegetables, you're likely to only eat as much as you need.
Another factor is that if you do not use sugar through exercise straight away, the body stores it for future use - as fat.
Fat on the other hand needs to be broken down first, which in itself uses energy. Because your body needs to use energy to process fat, one calorie of fat will actually put less fat on you than one calorie of sugar!
We eat a plentiful supply of vegetables, take regular vitamin and fibre supplements and also tend to choose fish and white meat over red meat, to ensure we get everything we need in our diet. Other than that, we're now eating a low carb, zero sugar, high fat diet and are feeling the benefits tremendously.
In conclusion - eating sugar leads to a reduced immune system, weight gain, lack of energy and general poor health. It's certainly something to stop or have very little of.