Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Cereal vs confectionary? Really?

Click for the readable (larger) version.
Suffice to say they elected not to approve my comment.
I'm going to show you a comment I posted on an article last night, talking about breakfast cereals.

Now, we're not talking the sort of cereals you might be thinking about here, either. The sort for kids, with cartoon animals on the box or whatever. The ones you tend to assume are a bit too high in sugar and not terribly nutritious. We're talking about the "adult" type cereals, marketed as healthy choices.

This particular article had the usual stuff about gluten, although gluten fearmongering is old hat by now. That fad is on the way out already. People are already laughing about it, like "oh, yeah... gluten free. What was that all about? How'd we get sucked into that one, eh?"

It was like mass hysteria. Just an unexplainable phenomenon that everyone got swept up in, in sheer defiance of all logic and common sense. Like when everyone stopped listening to hair metal and got into grunge instead back in the early 1990s. Bizarre.

The gluten thing has been done to death, and responding that nonsense has been done to death as well. Most of the people making their living from scaremongering and shaming people over their food choices have moved on from gluten bashing to sugar bashing. And this article I'm referring to gets on the act there too, in a manner I find most... distasteful.

Let's get something straight here. Your body does have a use for the energy that it gets from food. Even more so than merely "having a use" for a certain amount of energy, you actually require that energy to thrive. To get through your day at work, at study, training, chasing around after your kids or pets... all of that requires energy, and falling significantly short on energy intake with an active lifestyle is too your detriment. Even if you're entirely inactive, you still do have energy requirements  although obviously they will be greatly reduced from those of a more active person.

Here's the problem. The way many supposed "health" bloggers and authors talk about energy, it's as if it's a bad thing that we need to avoid. Whether they're singling out sugar, or just fructose, or all carbohydrates, or just "calories" in general... there's an inference that what we do want is the other nutritional resources such as vitamins and minerals from foods, but not the energy content.

This is an entirely incorrect and disordered notion. Certainly there is a limit to how much energy we require, and it is in our best interests not to be in the habit of exceeding that amount significantly. However this is not to suggest for a moment that energy intake is something that needs to be restricted or minimised. Ideally, we want to meet our total energy requirement while also providing sufficient amounts of all of the other nutritional resources that we require for good health.

That is; total energy, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Getting back to what was wrong in this article I'm talking about and I'm sure you'll understand why I don't want to actually link to the article in question.

Have a look at the image on the right though. There were several like this comparing different brands of cereals with the suggestion that it is literally "no better" than eating a serve of confectionary for breakfast, due to the comparable sugar content.

That is some utter pro-orthorexic rubbish talk, right there.

The reason confectionary and similar items aren't what you'd call a "healthy choice" is because they really JUST deliver that serve of energy, without any of the other nutritional resources. That is not to say that we have no use for the energy, or that it would treated differently by the body than energy sourced from a healthier choice. It does mean that you would be closer to reaching your total energy intake requirement, without being any closer to meeting your requirements for other nutritional resources. By no means though does it make it impossible or even implausible to arrive at a suitable and appropriate total intake of all nutritional resources, or what we might reasonably call an "overall healthy diet".

The suggestion I have seen in this article and elsewhere over the past couple of days is that even if a cereal does provide a high fiber content as well as vitamins and minerals, the benefits are rendered null by any sugar content. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the opposite is what is actually true.

Within a suitable total energy content, fiber is a valuable resource and we should aim for as high an intake as is reasonably possible. Vitamins and minerals as well, it should almost go without saying. We can attain these resources from grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and various other sources.

Within that suitable total energy range and while ensuring adequate supply of those other important nutritional resources, there is absolutely no reason to fear, avoid or shame others over the sugar or carbohydrate content of any individual food choice. Why would there be, so long as you are still within a suitable total energy intake? That's what the phrase "suitable total" means.