I hate Yahoo! health news with every fiber of my being.

Those little health-related “news” stories that pop out at you from the yahoo homepage or whenever you sign out of a yahoo email account really piss me off.

Not only are they poorly researched and horrendously reported, they are also misleading at best, and dangerously mistaken at their worst. Having a degree in journalism, I can perfectly picture the process in producing these non-stories.

A higher-level editor dumps a story topic on a lower level reporter (unfortunately, I have seen the names of a few people I’ve graduated with on these bylines). Said reporter knows NOTHING about the topic but has about one hour to come up with an article. This reporter will probably use a press release or more – conveniently provided by companies trying to make money on new, so-called health products. Or they might base the entire thing on one unreliable study. They will NEVER present both sides of the argument. They will NEVER do any significant research. And they will NEVER produce anything respectable.

Yesterday they had some story about how drinking 6 cups of coffee a day is actually good for you (are you serious??), based on one study with NO information about the nature of the study. Then this morning they popped up a story so stupid that I’m almost ashamed to draw attention to it. But I felt it was so misleading that it needed a rebuttal. So here it is.

Basically, this article is saying that we should give in to our food (mostly sugar) cravings – we should just buy smaller portions and choose our poisons wisely. A lesser evil type of argument.

I don’t even have to be a nutritionist to know that this makes no sense. Some things just go against all reason and you know it instinctively. Without resorting to any nutrition education, I know this is wrong because:

a) Having cravings is the sign of a deeper problem. Maybe obesity. Maybe poor absorption of nutrients. Probably both. So why not, instead of giving IN to the cravings, try to solve the root of the problem and eliminate the cravings themselves?

b) If you think these snacks are healthy (and they’re not), you’ll eat more of them.  You’ll be worse off physically AND financially than if you had just bought the enormous bag of chips that you really wanted in bulk.

As a student nutritionist, I find this is wrong for other reasons:

a) What are the options here? Bad food or slightly less bad food?? Hardly something to congratulate yourself about.

b) If you’re able to spend the money on very expensive tiny personalized calorie-counted portions, why not just spend the money on healthy, natural, good quality food? It still tastes good. It will NOT leave you craving, and you can indulge without feeling like you always have to limit yourself.

A WORD ABOUT CRAVINGS

Food cravings are an interesting thing. Contrary to what some people believe, they do NOT happen to everyone. If you’re healthy, you don’t crave things this way.

Sometimes our body is smarter than we are. It will trigger us to crave things if there is something it is lacking. We often interpret these cravings as a desire for sugar or salt or bread – truly a quick fix. But the deeper problem is that we are either not feeding our body the nutrients we need for it to stay satisfied, or we are not absorbing those nutrients properly through efficient digestion.

When your body is satisfied, someone could literally hold all the junk food in the world right under your nose and you would not feel tempted. Your body just would not want it. Some people have never had that experience. They assume that EVERYONE struggles with cravings and temptations. Not true.

WHY DO WE CRAVE?

There is more than one simple explanation behind cravings, but in the interest of this post I will focus on what I believe is the most common: blood sugar issues (another big one is candida, which I will post about another day).

Often, we crave things because of a drop in blood sugar. Most people confuse blood sugar cravings with hunger. Some people NEVER experience true hunger – only fluctuating blood sugar levels.

If you are truly hungry, your stomach will growl and you will know that your body wants food, but you will not experience any other symptoms or pain. You will be capable of functioning for another 24-48 hours at the same pace before there is a noticeable change in your ability to function.

If you are experiencing a blood sugar drop, you will feel an urgency to eat. You will feel moody, irritable, weak, or fatigued. You may feel like fainting, or clammy. You may get a headache or pain in another part of your body. You WILL feel a strong desire to consume bread or sugar or dairy.

If your issue is with blood sugar, and you indulge as this Yahoo! article suggests, you increase your chances of developing a serious illness like diabetes. That’s pretty crappy reporting.

To stabilize blood sugar levels, we need to eat natural, high-fiber, unrefined, unprocessed carbohydrates (particularly grains). Below are some foods to both adopt and eliminate from your diet.

MINIMIZE OR ELIMINATE CONSUMPTION OF:

  • white bread, baked potatoes
  • instant rice
  • French fries
  • pretzels
  • bagels, crackers
  • white flour products
  • sweetened cereals
  • white rice
  • white spaghetti
  • refined sugar
  • ice cream

INCREASE OR BEGIN CONSUMPTION OF:

  • oatmeal
  • brown rice
  • wild rice
  • sweet potatoes
  • yams
  • pinto beans, , black beans, kidney beans, lima beans
  • green beans, green peas
  • asparagus
  • tomatoes
  • green vegetables
  • pears
  • cherries
  • grapefruit

In general, stick to foods with a low glycemic index. This index measures how quickly sugars in foods are absorbed into the bloodstream. The higher the number, the more quickly they are absorbed. The lower the number, the longer we feel full and more satisfied. I like how this table breaks down the glycemic index of many common foods.

I like to think of the glycemic index as a traffic light: Foods in the green zone (under 55) can be eaten more freely. Yellow foods (55-80) should be eaten with caution. And red-zone foods (over 80) should only be eaten while being force-fed under torture and fear of death.

To me, the idea that a health article would nudge someone towards a higher likelihood of developing diabetes is a disgusting display of journalism at its lowest. I feel I can speak directly to journalists on this because I am one. So here’s my tip:

I know it’s tough out there. I don’t make a lot of money either. But don’t write bullshit and put your name on it. It’s not worth it, and it will always come back to bite you in the ass. Thank you.

FATHERS

I hope everyone had a great father’s day weekend! If you’re lucky enough to have a good dad, I hope you made him feel special. And give him an extra hug today.

If your dad isn’t around but you have a mother who struggles daily to meet both roles, I would argue that she deserves an extra day of appreciation.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom!