In my last blog I introduced the idea of taking the first steps on a journey away from foods that are not very healthy to those that are healthier, then to those that are healthiest.
Because our taste buds are so habituated to fat, sugar and salt (maybe even addicted if Dr. Mark Hyman is right), changing what we eat can be challenging. However, if you are patient and methodical, you can make food substitutions that better for you and retrain your taste buds to actually crave better foods. I can speak from experience - 30 years ago I religiously ate two Twinkies before cross-country ski races, but today that would make me feel sick and tired.
The first step is to begin the elimination of heavily processed, industrial foods that are riddled with bad fats (saturated and trans fats), sugar (sugar and fructose corn syrup), and unrefined carbohydrates, not to mention all the strange chemicals that are mixed in for color, taste, or to bind ingredients together or add shelf life. Most fast foods and food in mixes, though quick and convenient, are also degraded by cooking processes that destroy enzymes and key nutrients. Many claim to be "fortified" - that's because chemical nutrients need to be added back in because they have been destroyed during the manufacturing process.
Many people will find it easiest to begin the journey to better food by substituting processed foods with poor ingredients (especially high glycemic refined carbohydrates, starches and sugars) with those with that are more carefully processed and contain low glycemic, complex carbohydrates and minimal sugar or sugar substitutes.
A book by Jorge Cruise, entitled "The Belly Fat Cure," offers a great approach of how to take this first step because it describes tasty substitutes (he calls them "do-overs") for many of the most popular fast food and chain restaurant menu items, which are making millions of people fatter every day and spreading the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. What's cool is his substitutes taste as good as the originals, but are healthier. Most of their healthy ingredients are available in supermarkets and not much more expensive. Cruise has had tremendous success helping people lose weight.
His food substitutions don't worry about fats and protein. The focus is on eliminating unrefined carbohydrates and sugar. Physically active people need plenty of carbs because it provides the glucose needed to fuel muscle cells. Truth be told, almost any carb in any form can fuel a workout or race. But much more important are the type of carbs you consume day after day because they will have a much bigger impact on maintaining your overall health, without which you won't be working out or racing, especially TOJs.
I did a variation on one of Cruise's pizza recipes. I love pizza, but most of the big chain pizza has a crust made of white, unrefined flour (which spikes your insulin just like sugar), and there is even more sugar in the tomato paste. Cruise's recipes substitute whole wheat pita bread and commercially available pasta sauces made of natural ingredients, but no sugar. I used Santini Sundried Tomato Pesto.
Carb substitution is not just about reducing calories, which good thing too. Sugars and unrefined carbs (which behave just like sugar once digested) cause an insulin spike because insulin is required to carry the glucose in the carbs to the cells to act as fuel. The excess insulin also triggers the liver to create and a release triglycerides (fat in the blood) which is delivered to and stored in fat cells.
Next blog we'll talk about more food substitutions. They work. You can have your cake and eat it too. Better yet, you get healthier with each bite.