Carbs + food additives = weight gain?

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems in the U.S. I believe that overconsumption of carbohydrates (carbs), especially processed carbs, is one of the main reasons for the increase in obesity rates.

Most of us do not eat mindfully, so we don’t even realize how much carbs we eat each day. Over time, of course, this has a big effect on our health, and leads to a change of eating behavior, and ultimately, obesity.

Increased intake of carbs will also cause an imbalance of blood sugar in the body. The result is that you may feel hungry sooner than normal, and feel cravings, especially for more carbs and sweet foods.

Another factor is food additives in packaged food and fast food. These foods are usually highly refined, and the manufacturers make the food tasty, but at the same time addictive, so that the customers will keep buying. Many food companies even work with scientists to create food addictions to their foods, mainly with sugar, salt and fat.

This is scary, but unfortunately true.

Most packaged and restaurant food has a high glycemic index, and is high in sodium, too. When we eat it, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin, which regulates energy storage and blood sugar balance. Over time, regularly over-consuming carbs can increase insulin resistance. This may lead to energy being stored in fat cells instead of being available for the body to use.

Other negative effects of over-consuming carbs are the food additives that the food companies add for taste, and for increasing the shelf life. These include artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium nitrate, and food dyes.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, Nutrasweet and Equal, are found on many foods labeled “diet” or “sugar free,” such as sodas, gums, baked goods and cereals. High fructose corn syrup is a highly refined, highly processed additive that is found for example in most processed foods, bread, candy, flavored yogurt, salad dressing, and canned vegetables.

MSG is an amino acid often found in salad dressing, frozen entrees, and many restaurant foods, especially in Chinese restaurants.

Food dyes are artificial colorings often found in soda, fruit juices, candy, ice cream, baked goods, and kids vitamins. Sodium nitrate is a preservative used for coloring and flavoring processed meats such as ham, bacon and hot dogs.

Many studies clearly show that overconsumption of carbs is directly linked to obesity. I am not suggesting to not eat carbs, but we need to be more careful about our food choices. Choosing whole foods, eating whole grain, low glycemic index carbohydrates with high fiber, and adding lots of fresh vegetables to our diet may help reduce cravings and lead us toward a more mindful, intuitive eating behavior.

We must take our individual responsibility to help heal ourselves.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892

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