The Flex Diet – It Bends, So You Don't Break.

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How are you eating these days? Are you eating low-fat? High-protein? Vegetarian? Are you eating according to your blood type, your genetics — or something else? Diets sure tend to move in trends, don’t they?

One year everyone avoids saturated fat, and the next year, it’s trans fats. Throw a famous low-carbohydrate diet book into the mix, and the discussion topic usually progresses towards processed food in general, and added sugar in particular.

So what’s the problem with excess sugar?

When you consume sugar, the pancreas secretes insulin. This pushes sugar into cells to be utilized as energy, if not used as energy, the excess sugar is stored as glycogen. When excess sugars are a part of your daily diet, the pancreas is stressed to produce even more insulin. This can lead to beta cell (insulin-producing cells) burnout, or a condition more commonly known as diabetes, which is a significant risk factor for heart disease.

Studies have demonstrated that higher consumption of added sugar in your diet can increase your risk of heart disease, primarily through excess calories. Carbohydrates are classified into two categories: simple carbohydrates, which includes sugars, or complex carbohydrates, which includes starches and fibers. Carbs are the primary source of calories for most Americans, but many people consume too much added sugar.

Next time you’re in the kitchen, open your pantry and look at nutritional label of any item. A recommended amount of total carbs for most adults would be between 45 to 65% of a day’s total calories. According to the AHA’s diet and lifestyles recommendation, it is prudent to limit the intake of added sugar as a part of total carbohydrates. Most American women should eat or drink no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, and most American men should eat or drink no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.

It seems that when the low-fat movement hit its heyday, people figured that they had to eat something — and instead of focusing on eating more protein or fiber, we moved more toward eating more carbohydrates. In a sense, it was the nutritional equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The solution? More balance. Yes, you should reduce the amount of refined foods in your diet. Yes, you should reduce the carbs — particularly those with added sugars. And yes, reduce the amount of processed meats you eat. That leaves you with variety that you can live with, and you’ll end up eating more vegetables as a result.

And we haven’t found anything wrong with vegetables — yet!