Teresa Fuller MD, PhD
Over the past few decades, a lot has changed about food and about our food choices. The food industry is constantly trying to keep up with our changing lifestyles by offering us foods that are easily eaten on the run, or that have longer shelf life. Recently, the food industry has been offering solutions to our childhood obesity epidemic by offering low-calorie and low-fat food. But most of the time, these foods contain toxic ingredients that are contributing to disease rather than improving health. If you’re trying to improve your child’s health by replacing regular soda with diet soda, encouraging “low cholesterol” refined carbs, or “low-fat” dairy products, read on to find out how such choices are detrimental to your child’s health.
Artificial sugars: More and more children are using artificially sweetened foods and beverages in an attempt to curb the obesity epidemic. But aspartame, and other forms of artificial sugars are toxic chemicals. Aspartame is associated with numerous symptoms, such as headaches, joint pain, fatigue and even seizures. Moreover, the main reason for its use, weight control, often doesn’t work. A recent study showed that regular consumption of diet soda actually is associated with weight gain.
Trade up: If you want a low- or no-calorie sweetener, switch to Stevia or Xylitol which are natural.
White flour: How our kids love pasta, cakes and crackers. But white flour, which is what’s left after the nutrient rich outer layers of wheat have been removed, is inflammatory to our bodies. It’s also a simple carbohydrate that easily is converted to sugar, wreaking havoc with insulin levels.
Trade up: Ditch the white flour products and instead, use whole grain products which are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
White Sugar: White sugar is inflammatory to our bodies and it suppresses the immune system. In fact, some scientists theorize that the increase in illnesses in the winter is directly attributable to the increased intake of sugar during the fall and winter holidays. Our sugar consumption has greatly increased over the past few decades, partially because it’s included in so many processed foods. Along with this rise in sugar intake has been an increase in the rates of childhood obesity and insulin resistance.
Trade up: We’d do much better to greatly reduce our refined sugar intake and rather satisfy our children’s sweet tooth with fruit or small amounts of natural sweeteners such as raw honey or Grade B maple syrup.
Cow’s milk. In the book “Don’t Drink Your Milk,” well respected pediatrician, Dr. Oski lays out a compelling argument against drinking cow’s milk because of its connection to increased asthma, eczema, iron-deficiency anemia, chronic diarrhea, and other conditions. Whether low-fat or whole, milk does not do the body good.
Trade up: Instead of cow’s milk, switch to a quality plant milk such as almond milk, coconut milk or hemp milk. Soy is also a good option if not allergic.
Trans Fatty Acids: These are artificially produced fatty acids that are made by adding hydrogen (hydrogenation) to fat molecules. These are dangerous to the body, and contribute powerfully to heart disease. If you think heart disease is not something to worry about in children, think again. Signs of heart disease have been found in children as young as toddler age. Trans fats are steadily being removed from the food supply, but stay alert for the “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredients list.
Trade up: Your child’s brain needs a good supply of healthy fat, such as that found in nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil or olive oil.
Teresa Fuller MD, PhD, is an integrative pediatrician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. She is double board-certified in pediatrics and integrative holistic medicine. This powerful combination places Dr. Fuller in a unique position to positively impact the health of children by identifying the underlying contributors to disease such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicities, infections and other bodily stress in order to reverse symptoms and restore your child’s health. Her focus is prevention of chronic illness and obesity in children and young adults, ADHD, asthma and allergies.