I was recently asked to be a part of an online chat for a local news station. After a segment was aired on healthy weight loss and keeping New Year’s Resolutions, viewers could ask me questions. I was asked three main questions:
- Is high fructose corn syrup worse then sugar?
- Are sugar substitutes O.K. to have in the diet?
- Is natural peanut butter better than regular peanut butter?
Here are my answers:
- Added sugar or high fructose corn syrup adds calories to your diet and causes weight gain. Too much of either is bad.
- Sugar substitutes have been found to be safe. If you want to use them, that is your personal choice. For beverages, drinking water is always best, but having some beverages with sugar substitutes is not harmful (especially if you drink more fluid as a result).
- Natural peanut butter does not have added hydrogenated oils. Regular peanut butter has less than 1% of added hydrogenated oils. I don’t see a huge difference. Yes, natural peanut butter may be a tiny bit better. Both natural and regular peanut butter are loaded with calories, so if weight loss is your goal, then you should be very careful with how much you eat.
This is an example of being caught up in details and missing the big picture of healthy eating and weight loss. Here is another example:
My Mom watches Dr. Oz’ show and on it he talked about how many teaspoons of sugar most Americans eat per day. He encouraged viewers to count up their teaspoons of sugar and reduce sugar intake. My Mom then added up her sugar intake for a day and it was more then recommended. The reason is that my parents eat a lot of fruit (around 5 servings/day). She called me asking if she should cut down on her fruit intake.
Do you see how getting bogged down in the details and missing the big picture is a problem? There are no foods or ingredients that I say you should never eat. I do not tell my clients to read every label and never eat high fructose corn syrup. I do say to eat as many whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains) as possible and avoid processed foods.
Many people who are adamant against high fructose corn syrup will still eat foods that are not healthy. For example what if I told everyone that bacon is the worst food and no one should eat it? Would anyone listen to me? You may not eat any high fructose corn syrup, but are there other seemingly natural foods that you eat that are unhealthy? I bet so. I have yet to meet the person who eats 100% healthy foods every day. I can’t imagine living that way.
I think Michael Pollan summed it up best:
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”