By Kevin Kolodziejski
If you wish to be wise in all walks of life, you need to eliminate the non-essential.
That’s the gist of the advice prolific writer and Harvard scholar Lin Yutang offers in “The Importance of Living,” a rather easy-to-read and unconventional book of philosophy first published 86 years ago. I can only suppose you agree with this observation — and that you and I will disagree, at least to some degree, about what is and isn’t essential.
Especially when it comes to cycling.
After all, I’m the guy who has yet to embrace disk brakes, electronic shifting, smart trainers, and cycling apps. But no, this article isn’t designed so I can badmouth all those innovations and persuade you to shun them too. Instead, it’s designed for you to do what the title tells you to do: get the lead out and get cooking.
The Bad About Not Cooking
There’s a bunch of new bad news about doing the opposite. About eating at a fast-food or sit-down restaurant, getting a take-home supper from a convenience store, or snacking on something kept in your kitchen cabinet or refrigerator. Granted, these ways to eat are speedy and convenient.
But when it comes to eating — an action that helps determine your present level of energy and your future degree of health, including what happens once you pump up the tires and press down on the pedals — wouldn’t a wise cyclist see saving a bit of time and effort as ultimately being non-essential? Moreover, wouldn’t he or she realize that by not cooking you consume a slew of ultraprocessed foods?
And while UPFs have all sorts of different ways to slay you, the crux of the problem could be they’re addictive, really addictive.
Study: Ultraprocessed Foods as Addictive as Alcohol
Six professors recently analyzed the results of 281 studies performed in 36 countries and concluded that out of all types of foods “UPFs seem to be the best candidate for an addictive substance.” But if you read the rest of the paper they penned and BMJ published online on October 9, you may decide that conclusion is too mild.
The professors used the Yale Food Addiction Scale to assess those the studies and found the UPF addiction rate for adults to be 14 percent. A ratio of 1 in 7 might not seem too high until you consider this sobering (pun intended) fact.
It’s also the rate for alcohol. And it’s not too far off the addiction rate for tobacco, 1 in 5.5.
The Tandem That Makes UPFs Bad For You
In their paper, the professors cite examples of what separates UPFs from natural and minimally processed foods. It’s that they contain high amounts of carbohydrates and fats in tandem. This “seems to have a supra-additive effect on brain reward systems,above either macronutrient alone.”
While 100 grams of an apple contains 59 calories and 55 of them come in the form of carbohydrates, only 1.5 calories come from fat. While 100 grams of salmon contains 73 calories of fat, none of the other calories come from carbohydrates. But a typical chocolate bar has nearly a 1-to-1 ratio of carbs to fat. One that’s 100 grams, for example, has 237 calories of carbohydrates and 266 calories of fat.
It’s chocolate, especially the dark chocolate found in candy bars, as to why today’s title tells you to get the lead out.
Dark News About Chocolate
Last year, Consumer Reports tested 28 different dark chocolate bars and found lead in all of them, as well as cadmium. In a press release about the testing, the levels of one or the other in 23 of the 28 were characterized as “so high that eating just one ounce of chocolate could be harmful.”
In all likelihood, last year’s results prompted the test Consumer Reports made public about a month ago. This time, they considered 48 products containing chocolate: cocoa powder, chocolate chips, mixes for brownies and chocolate cake, hot chocolate, milk chocolate bars, and a few dark chocolate bars not included in the prior test.
The only positive: Although the five milk chocolate bars contained low levels of the aforementioned metals, they did not exceed limit set by California, the limit the researchers used since there’s not a federal one for lead or cadmium for most foods. The notable negative: According to the Cali law, a few of the products had more than twice the acceptable amount of one or the other, with 37 percent containing what CR deemed “levels of concern.”
Which leads us back to a general concern about many UPFs, their liberal use of added sugars and particularly fructose.
The Fructose Survival Hypothesis
Published online on October 17 by Obesity, the paper written by Richard J. Johnson, Laura G. Sánchez, and Miguel A. Lanaspa proposes that four current theories as to the cause of the obesity epidemic — the increased ingestion of simple carbohydrates, the increased use of seed oils, the relative lack of protein, and that people simply ingest too many calories — are all correct. That what unifies the theories is theirs.
They call it the fructose survival hypothesis.
In short, it states that fructose ingestion blocks the use of stored fat for energy, hampers the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy, “impairs satiety,” and increases “carbohydrate-dependent hunger” as well as the “metabolic effects that result in the increased intake of energy-dense fats.” Although moderate ingestion of the fructose naturally found in fruits and vegetables doesn’t seem to adversely affect health, the same cannot be said for when it’s transformed into high-fructose corn syrup and added to UPFs. And a 2019-USDA estimate has Americans consuming around 21 pounds of HFCS every year.
So do you really need to be a wise man to spend a good bit of time cooking? Or is it simply common sense?
Kevin Kolodziejski began his writing career in earnest in 1989. Since then he’s written a weekly health and fitness column and his articles have appeared in magazines such as “MuscleMag,” “Ironman,” “Vegetarian Times,” and “Bicycle Guide.” He has Bachelor and Masters degrees in English from DeSales and Kutztown Universities.
A competitive cyclist for more than 30 years, Kevin won two Pennsylvania State Time Trial championships in his 30’s, the aptly named Pain Mountain Time Trial 4 out of 5 times in his 40s, two more state TT’s in his 50’s, and the season-long Pennsylvania 40+ BAR championship at 43.