One food item people often ask me about is coconut oil. Probably one of the most hyped-up natural remedies since apple cider vinegar, coconut oil has been touted as the cure to everything from tooth decay to Alzheimer's disease. But is it really? Can this tropical nut oil truly do all that the stories circulating the internet claim?
Today I will address some of those claims, and also share some facts about coconut oil in an attempt to clear up the confusion about this subject.
First, the hype. From the fact that a search for "coconut oil" pulls up 16 million hits on Google, you can tell that a lot of people are talking about this topic! From the Dr. Oz show, to the New York Times, coconut oil has been making headlines for a few years now. But how to separate the fact from the fiction?
As we discussed last week, part of the reason it's so hard to stop eating junk food is because we are biologically conditioned to love the taste of fat, sugar, and salt. (No, it's not your fault!) Last week we discussed why you love fat and sugar - if you missed it, click here to check it out! This week, we're going to address the final piece - salt, and then offer some simple solutions to help you curb the junk food habit, and eat (and be) healthier.
Here's Why You Love Salt:
As with fat and sugar, you are hard-wired to love the taste of salt - and it's no wonder why, as salt, like fat, is also essential for health. However, unlike fat (and sugar), your body can't produce salt on its own - it has to come from dietary sources. Salt is included in many, many bodily processes - and I won't get too technical here, but if you're an athlete, you know how important electrolytes are for maintaining hydration and keeping your bodily functions going. Salt is included in every bodily fluid, and sodium chloride is the major electrolyte that your body uses to keep your cells properly balanced and functioning. Salt also helps transport toxins out of the body, conduct electrical impulses in the brain and body, keep your blood at the right pH level, and much more. As with fat, you would die without salt. Your taste buds know this - and so do the food processing companies! So they give it to you - and a lot of it - in just about every processed food known to man.
Personally, salt is my main craving. I can do just fine without sugar (unless I've become temporarily addicted to it - which happens a couple of times per year - especially around the holidays), and I love fat, but I don't feel deprived of it, since I make sure to include enough good fats in my diet. I can walk right by a plate of brownies, cookies, or a cake at a party, with barely a glance. But that bag of Doritos is another story.... (Yes, I - a self-proclaimed health nut - love me some spicy nacho cheese Doritos!) Who knows why that's my weakness? The rest of my family are all sugar-a-holics, but I've always been all about the salt.
Back to Our Sugar Addiction for a Moment....
Eating junk food and processed foods is probably the main cause for obesity in this country. And it's not that people aren't aware of this - we all understand there's a reason they're called "junk foods" - it's because nutritionally they're junk. Or to put it plainly, we know they're bad for us, and yet we all eat them anyway!
Now, I'm not talking here about things like the difference between good and bad fats
, or whether fat or carbs are worse for you, or the mountains of conflicting and confusing information about nutrition that are thrown at us every day. Today I'm not talking about any of those seemingly complex issues (although you can find many enlightening posts on those topics on this blog - just click the "Food & Nutrition" category).
Today, I'm talking about the highly processed and nutritionally unhealthy foods that the majority of Americans already know as "junk food
," and guiltily eat anyway - many of us almost daily. (And with all my passion for health, you may be surprised to learn that....I'm not immune to junk food cravings! More on that later....)
So why do we eat them? If we know they're unhealthy, we know they're bad for our bodies, we know they make us fat, what keeps us returning to the bag of chips over and over? Why do we continue to scarf down a half package of Oreos at a time, when we know it can only have negative consequences? Are junk foods really addictive? Do food processing companies add some secret substance that makes us unable to control our urges to eat more and more of them, despite knowing they are bad for us? And beyond that, is there anything we can do about it?
This week and next, I will unpack answers to all of these questions and more.
It both amazes and frustrates me how pervasive the low-fat myth
has become. Despite dozens of books, and hundreds of research studies, articles, and reports in medical journals demonstrating proof to the contrary, the vast majority of people still seem to believe that foods like butter (and other saturated fats) are bad for you.
In actuality, this was never a proven fact to begin with. As I explained a couple of months ago
, the originator of this myth, Ancel Keys, actually described his conclusion as "the lipid hypothesis" (meaning it was only a theory). But somehow, the idea got into the mainstream media, and before you know it, the low-fat frenzy was on. With thousands of food companies now mass producing low-fat processed food products by the millions, and doctors still
recommending a low-fat diet to patients right and left, it's going to be a slow process to turn the tide of public opinion.
That's why I was both surprised and elated to see BUTTER featured on the cover of Time magazine