My name is Maddy, and I’m an overeater with a sweet tooth. It’s a bad combination, so upon my research at work, I have been delving into different ways of changing my daily health habits. March is National Nutrition Month, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Technically, this year’s theme is Go Further With Food, symbolizing the importance of decreasing food waste. I have some other opinions on nutrition this month, so, in honor of National Nutrition Month, these are my thoughts on the facts.
I think everyone has a sweet tooth. Anyone who says they don’t maybe hasn’t tried potato chips with chocolate ice cream.
You learn some things about added sugar working at the Y, since my job is to preach health and wellness to anyone who will listen (especially during National Nutrition Month). These empty calories that we consume on the daily make us crave more and more, and fill us less and less. It’s even more horrifying that “diet tools” like sugar-free coffee creamer and calorie-less liquid water enhancers contain sucralose, aspartame, and other chemicals with laundry lists of bad effects. I’ve learned there are much more serious dangers of sugar that are reaching mainstream attention. This one may seem obvious, but sugar is the leading cause of type II diabetes. If it runs in your family tree, it’s even worse. What’s the science behind that? How can something that tastes so good and satisfying be so bad for you?
Sugar is made up of glucose and fructose. Glucose is a chemical that our bodies regularly metabolize. If we don’t get that in our system, our bodies take care of it for us. Fructose, on the other hand, can only be metabolized by your liver. This is a problem because our livers already have a ton of glycogen, which is what fructose would be metabolized into. That’s when the sugar we consume turns to fat. All of this turns into a lengthy process that inevitably leads to insulin resistance.
That was a lot of information; personally, I don’t think about that when I’m downing a coke slushy at the movies or ordering dessert after an already-filling meal. But it’s important to keep in mind – it could end up saving your life!
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Do you know what Omega-3 fatty acids are? These things always sound grim, but these are actually important. Apparently, these particular fatty acids are essential to your body function and have added health benefits. I’m not going to list them all, but they include helping depression, ADHD, and asthma. I looked into where you can get these acids easily (you know, so you don’t have to), and it turns out they are in many fish, nuts, and seeds. If you want a crazy dose of your Omega-3s, here is a recipe for fish baked in a walnut crust that’ll blow your socks off.
The spiel on Omega-3 fatty acids was short-lived, but don’t discount their importance! I learned about something particularly disgusting and I wanted to share it: do you know what artificial trans fats are? Apparently, they are made by mixing unsaturated fats with hydrogen gas at high heat. This makes them resemble saturated fats. The fact that someone out there takes fats, heats them to make a whole new fat, and uses that to increase food shelf life and flavor is a little disquieting. The magic phrase is “partially hydrogenated oils,” and you bet I’m going to be avoiding them like the plague from now on.
Fruits and Vegetables
Let’s talk about another obvious statement that dates back to our Sesame Street days: vegetables are good for you. Didn’t they turn the Cookie Monster into the Veggie Monster? He looked better in blue, but I understand the intention. Vegetables are chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and they can be prepared a million different ways. Celebrate National Nutrition Month by trying out some new recipes!
Have you tried a “diet?” According to Livestrong, 45 million Americans go on a diet each year. Not only that, but $33 billion are annually spent on weight-loss products. Now, I’ve never bought a weight-loss supplement before, so I’m not one to pass judgment on those who have. However, it’s been stated by most doctoral associations that diets, as a whole, are pretty ineffective. The new phrase people use is “lifestyle change.” Diets by definition are short-term, thus offering short-term effects.
Also, in light of National Nutrition Month, diets aren’t always considered nutritious. We’re bred to pay attention only to the calories that enter our bodies. I’m allowed 1,800 calories per day, so what if it’s mostly ice cream? Well, what is a lifestyle change? For me, it was going to the gym twice a week instead of zero. It was tracking my calories, even when I was horrendously over. It was paying attention to the nutrition label and finding healthy alternatives to feed the cravings. Lifestyle changes are different for everyone, and it’s important to understand what makes your body and mind happy and healthy. Celebrate National Nutrition Month the proper way, by understanding what makes you healthy! This is Maddy, over and out. Stay away from partially hydrogenated oils.
(Visit this site if you wish to learn more about National Nutrition Month and what you can do to celebrate!)
–Madeline Kelly – Digital Communications Coordinator
Maddy is not a licensed health professional. Before making a lifestyle change, consult your doctor.