The main ingredients in pastries and breads as well as many processed foods, refined flour and sugar are credited with Americans’ rising rates of obesity — among other problems. These unhealthy carbs have replaced fats at an increasing rate since the 70s, contributing not only to our nation’s obesity epidemic but also to the rise in cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Once you understand how important it is for your budding gymnast to avoid refined flours and sugars, it’s time to evaluate the places where you need to look for such ingredients. In part 1, we discussed what to look for in breads, but they’re not the only items that you need to consider. While some are pretty obvious, others might surprise you.
Common Culprit 1: Breakfast Cereals
Some critics have referred to the typical American breakfast as “morning dessert” — and their comments aren’t without merit. And we’re not just talking about the obviously sugar-coated choices with unnaturally bright colors, here. Boxed breakfast cereals typically include a combination of the following ingredients:
• White Flour (from wheat)
• Corn or Rice
• Refined Sugars (such as high-fructose corn syrup)
Such ingredients certainly fall short of offering the nutrition that provides the energy needed for a healthy lifestyle. For those with blood sugar issues such as diabetes, levels may rise to dangerously high levels after eating “morning dessert” and then plummet to dangerously low levels in 2-3 hours.
Slightly better than typical cereals, oat-based options are derived from whole grains. Be sure to watch out for refined sugars, though, and choose plain rolled oats or steel-cut oats for breakfast that’s a low-glycemic choice.
Culprit 2: Baked Goods
Most baked goods are high on refined flour and sugars. Add in the trans fat that comes from hydrogenated oils or shortening, and these so-called “treats” end up being combinations of unhealthy ingredients. Pastries that can put you at risk include the following categories:
A better option for satisfying cravings for such highly processed “sweet treats” would be fruit, a small portion of dark chocolate, or homemade baked goods, using natural sugars such as raw honey or real maple syrup, along with unrefined flours that are high on fiber.
Culprit 3: Pizza and Pasta
As much as we Americans love Italian foods, they really don’t love us! The dough or noodles contain a high degree of highly processed ingredients, including white wheat flour and tomato-based sauce with refined sugars. (Sugars may be in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, or sucrose.) As with breads, even pasta or pizza crust touted as being made from “whole grain flour” may actually contain a portion of white flour.
Don’t worry, though: you don’t have to give up all Italian menu items. To lessen your intake of highly processed ingredients, you can make your own pasta or pizza, from scratch. As an alternative, consider Italian antipastos.