Have we all been duped? Did we all think we were eating food - when we really weren’t? According to Google, food is defined as “any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or plants absorb in order to maintain life and growth.” Typical American snack food like potato chips, soda, and donuts, for instance, don’t maintain life or growth. I take that back. They do make people grow in certain ways, but not exactly helpful ones.
It’s easier and quicker to see the harmful effects of soda, for example, on a plant than on an animal or human. Ever try watering a plant with soda? Give this experiment a try sometime on a plant you don’t love. Maybe an annoying weed you don’t want around? And see how long it takes before it’s gone.
The stats are shocking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 42% of adults in the U.S. are obese. Including those who are obese, over 73% of Americans are considered to be overweight. And these stats were from before the pandemic, before many stayed home for months, eating endless snack “food.”
There has been a huge surge in Type II diabetes which can result from being overweight. Other consequences include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, several types of cancer, breathing problems, and depression – which can all lead to increased mortality. A new book, Hooked: Food, Free Will And How The Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions, by a former NY Times investigative reporter, Michael Moss, documents how the food industry has purposely sought to turn us into overweight food addicts. He explains in the book how the Standard American Diet (fittingly known as SAD) is designed by chemical researchers in the food and beverage industry to be addictive.
As with tobacco and cocaine, which are also very addictive substances, highly processed food is derived from naturally occurring plants, but stripped of the components, such as water, fiber, and protein, that slow its absorption into the bloodstream. The most addictive “food” generally has large amounts of trans and saturated fat combined with an excess of refined carbohydrates. This concentrated combination is not found in nature, where natural food may be quite sweet or fatty, but not both at once. This triggers an abnormal spike in the pleasure center of the brain which can lead to cravings to overeat, similar to the spike that results from addictive substances like tobacco and opioids. According to Susan McQuillan, M.S., RDN, a well-known food and health writer, “The addictive nature of other substances, such as tobacco and opioids, was denied for decades for some of the same reasons, and these products were heavily promoted to consumers, just like processed foods.”
The American Psychiatric Association defines an addiction as “the compulsive use of a substance or behavior despite its harmful consequences.” When we discover that two-thirds of all grocery items currently have added sugar in them, we can begin to understand how we are being set up to develop food addictions.
According to the CDC (the Center for Disease Control), 40% of all cancers are now attributable to obesity – that is 13 types, including colorectal, pancreatic, liver and kidney cancers. As Dr. Jason Fung, best-selling author of The Obesity Code explains, “Cancer exists in our bodies all the time, but the immune system keeps it in check. Cancer is always trying to grow and spread, and the best defense we have is a healthy diet.” I also read that our immune cells have receptors (which can be imagined as being similar to parking spots) for the vital nutrients we need, and they only function at full capacity when there is a daily supply of these nutrients.
And it takes about 400 repetitions to form new synapses in the brain, but it takes only 10-20 repetitions when done playfully, according to research conducted by Dr. Karyn Purvis. So what’s the quickest way to make positive changes? Joyfully! to eat food that is both delicious and nutritious – instead of those that are chemically manipulated to be delicious and addictive. An orange was designed with infinite intelligence and beneficence, while an orange-flavored Tangy Taffy really provides nothing good for us besides the immediate sensation.
Yes, we were duped, but we don’t need to be anymore. With wisdom, we can now joyfully aim to keep our wondrous immune systems strong, doing what is within our power to lead healthy, happy, and long lives.
Meet Our Contributing Author — Bracha Goetz
Bracha Goetz is the Harvard-educated author of 41 books that help souls shine. Learn more about her work here.