The Homefront: Why is food that tastes so good so bad for us?

Thursday , March 16, 2017 - 5:30 AM

D. LOUISE BROWN, The Homefront columnist

Why are we always at war with food?

Food is our best friend and worst enemy. It’s vital for survival, yet it can kill us. Though it’s a great emotional comforter, food can also turn our bodies inside out. (Try eating three mega-spicy el grande bean burritos in one sitting.)

Forever a contradiction, if food tastes good, it’s usually not good for us. The healthier it is for us, the less we’ll like it—let alone crave it.

Food has its own folklore, like the tale that says we can starve eating celery because it takes more energy to bite, chew and digest it than the calories to replace that effort. Why, oh why can't that be a cheeseburger? Or a hot fudge sundae? Or bacon? Yes, bacon!

Speaking of bacon, a recent government report says bacon is back on the bad list. Who creates these findings? Has anyone, anywhere, ever heard one of those reports from some food-related government entity and said, “Golly, the government says I need to cut down on bacon, so I will”? Heck, no.

In a sort of bizarre twist to refute the nameless, faceless entity invading our lives, our self-defeating, body-damaging retort sounds more like, “Oh, yeah? You can mess up my life, but you can’t mess with my bacon!” To drive home the point, we order another Baconator Triple. With cheese. Because that’s how we roll.

Speaking of rolls, bread is also purported to be bad for us. Findings are way beyond “white bread is bad; wheat bread is good.” Now all bread is bad, as in, “Drop the croissant and back away slowly.”

Personally, I'm a "breadie." I have to gulp down bread carbs daily, or I don't do well, so neither does anyone around me. Want to make me happy? Hand me a slab of warm wheat bread slathered with butter (REAL butter, none of that gummy I-can't-believe-they-try-to-pass-this-off-as-butter stuff). To perfect perfection, drip on some honey.

Speaking of honey, apparently the bees are in trouble, therefore all this talk about food may become something of the past — quickly followed by all of us becoming a thing of the past.

See, that's the problem with food. We need it to survive. But in this land of plenty, we've gone way from overboard to way overweight.

America is the land of the free, home of the brave and buffet of the fat. Yes, I used the "f" word.

In polite society these days, we don't say “fat.” We say overweight, obese, plump, portly, pudgy, paunchy, even under-height. But in a nutrition class I took a few years ago, the teacher, a slim reed of a person who spent several class discussions on the pitfalls of poor eating habits, had no qualms using the "f" word, as in, "Fat will kill you."

To prove her point, she passed around a 3-pound glob of “human fat.” It was an eerie likeness to the real thing, created from some kind of rubbery stuff that looked and felt just like fat, complete with realistic blood vessels running through it. It was gross.

She taught us that for every added pound of fat, our bodies create a mile of blood vessels. “So gaining 20 extra pounds of fat adds 20 miles of blood vessels through which your heart has to pump blood. At 100 pounds, your heart is pumping blood through 100 extra miles of vessels," she said. The thought nearly gave me a heart attack.

So, what to do? Well, the obvious: Trim the donut runs. Ramp up exercise or walking or some form — any form — of activity. And pay more attention to what goes down our gullets.

The February Reader's Digest listed the 50 best and worst foods for our health. The top best food (brace yourself because this’ll leave a bad taste in your mouth) is sauerkraut. Say what? Yep, apparently fresh (not pasteurized) sauerkraut contains probiotics that populate your gut with healthy bacteria to protect you from illnesses.

Just for the record, this knowledge does nothing to motivate me to eat sauerkraut, but I thought you'd like to know.

A quarter teaspoon of Turmeric is No. 2. Tuna and other fish are No. 3 and No. 4. So far, it's a weird list.

But hallelujah for No. 5: Dark chocolate. Now we're getting somewhere. I don't need to expound on dark chocolate's healthy virtues. Its “comfort food” status is enough.

The rest of the top 10 list includes berries, purple cabbage (apparently it’s in your salad for more than just color), leafy greens, beans and nuts.

That list isn’t all that bad; at least some of those could work into a tolerable diet.

The harder part is removing from our diets the bad foods like lunch meats, grilled meats, flavored yogurt (too much sugar), other added-sugar products, artificial sweeteners, prepackaged meals and bread.

Rats. I need some bacon.

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