As we approach the holiday season and the New Year, I thought I’d do a series of posts on the Big Four (sugar, bleached/white flour, refined/processed oils, and milk-based products, particularly those made from cow’s milk) and the importance of reducing consumption. The Big Four are thought to be four of the worse food choices for our health and body.
This and upcoming posts will focus primarily on information gleaned from Dr. Raymond Francis’ book, “Be Sick No More,” as well as my own research and observations for a book I’m currently writing. What makes the Big Four such a health risk to so many people? The answer lies primarily in the fact that the Big Four consists of ingredients that most Americans eat almost every day – not once a week or once a month – but almost every day. This is in addition to undergoing the manufacturing process, which strips away many natural nutrients and fiber, if any, that our cells need to be healthy. Then, the manufacturer may add some nutrients back in through, low quality vitamin supplementation.
Therefore, if eating four of the worse food choices every day is a habit/addiction, then we can further conclude that our bodies are addicted to ingredients and food products that are degrading our health, the health of our children, and other loved ones. This is a problem. It’s more than a problem; it’s a healthcare crisis.
It’s well documented that a large part of our immune system is in our gut. Therefore, if we are consuming the Big Four on the regular, those anti-nutrient food products are going into our gut and wreaking havoc on our immune systems, the system that fights to protect us from sickness and disease. There’s no wonder why we’re seeing so many autoimmune illnesses crop up.
Daily consumption of the Big Four can leave the body constantly fighting to correct imbalances and issues that these products create due to over consumption and poor nutrient content. Through the cumulative impact of our bodies daily working to combat the side affects of the Big Four, our immune system can become compromised, leaving us more susceptible to sickness and disease.
Dr. Francis notes in his book that the Big Four “food failures” result from eating them “repeatedly, day by day, and meal by meal,” and if Americans would stop eating the Big Four, chronic diseases would drastically decline.
The food we eat today can’t compare to that of days gone by. Back in the day, the Big Four were big in natural nutrient content that was good to them and good for them. Our ancestors didn’t have the technology or desire to make flour pretty by bleaching it or sugar white as snow through the refining process and adding it to everything from breakfast cereals to ketchup to vegetables. Back then, people cooked real food and ate fruit, vegetables and meats they’d either raised themselves or knew the grower. That’s a rare occurrence in our society now.
Today, we rarely see or even know where our food comes from. Thus, we have little to no relationship with our food, and that makes for an unhealthy connection. And, we are seeing the consequences of unhealthy relationships with our food as healthcare costs rise, and Americans – young and mature – become more sluggish, and plagued by headaches, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a wide array of allergies, IBS and other gut/intestinal disturbances and autoimmune diseases.
In response to this growing problem, local farmers markets are becoming more prevalent as communities try to create healthy food connections for communities and families.
Instead of counting calories, maybe we should be counting our consumption of the Big Four (sugar, white flour, processed oils and animal milk-based products. Over consumption of the Big Four may be one of the main reasons why many people not only find it difficult to lose weight, but also the reason why those extra pounds are there in the first place. If we are healthy and doing the things we need to do to stay that way in the future, no worries. However, if we are not then let’s stop making excuses and do something about it.
When we begin to count the number of grams of Big Four products consumed each day, I’m sure you’ll be surprised, as I was, at the numbers. See product packaging for the number of grams per serving of Big Four ingredients, and write down your consumption of these. Don’t try to track your consumption in your head. Our heads tend to overlook things, such as counts from oversize servings, so write it down. It will make you a believer and confirm your true consumption.
Although Dr. Francis in his book leans more toward completely eliminating the Big Four, that’s not my take on it, especially not for beginners. I believe that cutting back and minimizing our consumption of the Big Four is still a noble goal that will make implementing this change feasible for more people. In addition, it is better to get more people on the right track, who would otherwise remain far from it if they had to eliminate the Big Four completely and/or all at once. Lasting change takes time, and it will take time to revamp longtime eating habits. However, if you’re already chronically ill, try to eliminate the Big Four as quickly as you can.
Find healthier substitutes for the Big Four and mix and match them to create combinations that work best for you. Here are some suggestions:
- Try other types of flours, such as almond, coconut, oat and/or rice flour.
- Try nut or plant-based milks, such as almond, coconut and/or rice milk.
- Try cold pressed or unrefined olive, coconut, walnut, sesame, grapeseed or avocado oil.
- Try honey, unrefined/raw sugar, agave or Stevia, which is made from a plant, but limit not only how much you use but also how frequently. Too much sugar of any kind can be unhealthy so the quality and frequency of consumption is important. Sugar from fruit is ideal, as it contains fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream, preventing blood sugar spikes.
Although changing longtime eating habits can prove challenging, cutting back on our intake of the Big Four is definitely achievable. With a little self-discipline and education to learn how to select healthier substitutions, and looking for these substitutions in store-bought items will be a game changer.
Remembering that the New Year is almost upon us and that change takes time, join me in changing the game in our health, so we can start the New Year feeling better, stronger and actually being healthier than ever before!