“The world’s healthiest foods” is a website that came to my attention for their “in-depth nutrient profile” of the recipes they feature. I got a few of my favorite recipes, e.g., stovetop poached fish dishes, there. They have no meat recipes, however, keeping with their altruistic, if misguided, mission “to help make a healthier you and a healthier world.” It’s otherwise a good site, so I can live with their bias – except when I think about how they are misleading us.
For example, one day I saw a recipe for a “High Energy Breakfast Shake,” a “quick-and-easy, nutritious and a delicious addition to your Healthiest Way of Eating. And a great way to start the day!” Here are the ingredients and directions:
● 1 medium banana
● ½ cup whole strawberries
● 1½ cups of low-fat milk
● 2½ Tbs almond butter
● 2 Tbs ground flaxseeds
● 1½ Tbs blackstrap molasses
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Serves 2.
I dare you to make this shake and not drink the whole recipe yourself!
One “serving” (HALF the recipe) contains 363 calories, 11.22g of protein, 18.71g of fat and 42.50g of carbs. The full recipe is an astronomical 85 GRAMS OF CARBS. The shake is low in saturated fats, moderate in polyunsaturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. The “high energy” comes from the “sugar” jolt, and not just the simple sugars. The total includes polysaccharides (long glucose chains) that are “predigested” by the blender to make them “liquid.”
Quoting from “How do energy drinks work?” in the Science section of How Stuff Works: “Energy drinks are supposed to do just what the name implies – give you an extra burst of energy. As it turns out, most of that ‘energy’ comes from two main ingredients: sugar and caffeine.” Well, the High Energy Breakfast Shake has no caffeine. It’s all sugar.
But what if this shake did contain caffeine (as in Red Bull “energy drink”). How Stuff Works says, “Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical involved in sleep. When caffeine blocks adenosine, it causes neurons in the brain to fire. Thinking the body is in an emergency, the pituitary gland initiates the body's ‘fight or flight’ response by releasing adrenaline. This hormone makes the heart beat faster and the eyes dilate. It also causes the liver to release extra sugar into the bloodstream for energy. Caffeine affects the levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain's pleasure center. All of these physical responses make you feel as though you have more energy.”
I’m writing this just after Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve). The kids who went door-to-door in costume that night came home laden with candy, both in their baskets and their tummies. As we all know, sugar gives you that “extra burst of energy” because it is digested first and quickly. And everyone who gets a sugar jolt sees their blood sugar rise.
If your metabolism is working well, your serum insulin also rises and carries the “sugar” into your cells where it is used or stored. What isn’t used in muscles returns to the liver to be stored as glycogen and your “sugar” drops.
So, we expect that binging on sugar, and sugary liquids especially, will quickly produce “high energy.” We joke that kids on sugar highs act like “Energizer Bunnies” until they crash and fall asleep. Adults will too, especially if you start your day with a high energy shake. By mid-morning you will be in a slump… and hungry again. You are a sugar addict.
But if your metabolism ISN’T working well, i.e., you’re Insulin Resistant and Pre-diabetic or already a Type 2, your cells will not “take up” the glucose that insulin is circulating in your blood. As a result, your blood sugar spikes and stays high (even as you make more insulin), and the high blood sugar starts to cause the “dreaded complications.”Sugar overloads, especially from liquids like this “high energy breakfast shake,” are definitely NOT a “great way to start the day.” Besides, FRUITS ARE VERY HIGH IN FRUCTOSE (DUH!), and, when the liver is already full of stored glucose (glycogen), the liver makes FAT (including fatty livers), via de novo lipogenesis, from big slugs of fructose.