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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Give them water

I was a teenager when my mother started buying coca cola by the dozen and I can actually remember that this is when I started to put on weight. Before that, we were just given water. When diet sodas arrived on the market, we thought we had it solved. Nothing could be further from the truth. Diet sodas contain aspartame or other sweeteners that can have dire consequences on our health let alone on our children. When you know that aspartame was initially a substance used to embalm corpses, it makes you wonder who is the absolutely mad person who had the idea it was suitable for consumption. Perhaps you do not know that when your child's favorite squash or juice proudly states that there are "no sugar added" it doesn't mean that nothing else is added. Usually what is added to that juice is both sweetener and flavours: an explosive cocktail that induces both health problems in the long term and hyperactivity in the short term.

And this is where the big food industry is at: they don't care if they destroy the lives and health of their customers, they are after big money and when big money is involved, ethics are a distant memory from the past. You cannot trust that agencies regulating food are doing their jobs because the power is in the hand of money and very often the regulators come from the food industry, as was so brilliantly demonstrated by the documentary Food Inc.

To go back on what our children drink, I believe that fruit juices (even the most healthy), squashes and fizzy drinks pave the way for their obesity. Let me explain. When your child drinks something as sweet tasting as a fruit juice (even if it is sweetener based) it accustoms their taste buds to very strong tastes. Have you noticed how bland baby food seems to our adult taste buds? That is because there is no sugar, salt, additives or flavouring added (yet). How have we gone from appreciating food that has not been tempered to food packed with things that make it "palatable" but that also make us overweight: sugar, corn syrup, salt, fat, flavourings, colouring, etc. Even a piece of meat usually contains colouring when you buy it from the supermarket because by the time it gets there, it usually would have turned grey and nobody would eat it. This is especially true of ham. So we have gradually been used to food that is more and more engineered and packaged to make us eat more. The food industry is for the most part not one bit interested in your health, it is interested in you eating more and more and more. Salt and sugar are their best friends. And this is why it is so hard for those of us who have been used to process food to eat reasonable amounts of food: it is addictive and it is meant to be addictive. The cheaper it is, the more addictive it is been engineered to be because the food industry need to keep their margin and they can only make money in big amounts as they have squeezed the margins to the extreme. Now you know their agenda.

So fruit juices are packed with sugar and encourage our children to eat more.

When our children drink healthy fruit juices that promise us that it is nothing but the juice, we live in the illusion that we are giving them vitamins and good things. I believe we are fooling ourselves. First of all, any fruit juice, unless in a smoothie made in front of you (and unfortunately they usually add yogurt or ice cream), contains no easily digestible vitamin. It is definitely not a substitute for giving your children fruit to eat. What remains in the "healthy" fruit juice that you give them is basically liquid and sugar. And fructose, the sugar found in fruit, is probably one of the worse sugars to ingest when separated from the pulp as it is more sweet than other types of naturally available sweet foods. The vitamins that products brag they contain do not come from nature, they are added afterwards (as every one who knows a little about nutrition knows that as soon as a fruit is pressed, the vitamins start to disappear). You might think that it is OK but actually the food industry cannot add "natural" vitamins (although that word is used very loosely in the food industry since it is not regulated). What is added is chemically produced vitamins that are a lot harder for your body to digest and that in some case can actually cause you harm (I hope this will encourage you to reconsider your vitamin policy if you pick up a box of vitamins for you or your child at your supermarket on the way to the check out because to be frank you are wasting your money and living in the illusion that you are eating healthily which is a very dangerous thing to do -  by the way this is exactly what I did for years until I decided to educate myself around food issues so there is no judgment in what I write).

Fruit juices are also known to sit in the mouth nicely and to rot teeth. Oranges, apples, kiwis and other fruits don't plus they are an excellent source of fiber which is good for at least two reasons: it fills us up and makes us eat less of whatever it is we are eating and it helps us to get rid of toxins and waste in our bodies.

To get to my point, if you want to avoid your children becoming obese or at least unhealthy later on in life, make them drink water. I did precisely that with my children probably eight years ago when I started to brush up my eating habits and of course they weren't very happy. I had weeks of "Mum, when are you going to buy us juice?" but over time these demands lessened until finally they are very happy drinking water. They are allowed one glass of juice or fizzy drink a day at week-ends and that's it.

When one drinks water almost exclusively, one realizes that actually water has a taste. Yes it does. Where I come from, in France, we are proud of the pure water that comes from our mountains and we know that the different brands of water (I am not going to mention them here) do not have the same taste nor do they contain the same minerals because it depends on where they are collected. Not all waters are created equal. In our house, we filter tap water because it would be far to expensive and actually not environmentally friendly to buy it bottled (think of all the plastic bottles).

Water is essential for life and health. Hydration is essential. You might not think this has anything to do with obesity but by the time they reach adult life, most people tend to confuse hunger and thirst and reach for food before they reach for a drink. And when they reach for a drink but quench their thirst with anything but water or herbal tea, they are actually not necessarily hydrating their bodies. They live under the illusion that their bodies have had the water that it needs. Dr Batmanghelidj, an Iranian doctor, did a fascinating study which lead him to conclude that almost all of our ailments can be cured by drinking the right amount of water. His book "Your body's cries for water" is a real eye opener. Without water, our bodies cannot eliminate waste and a body that is toxic will be heavier and fatter than a body that is "clean" because the body stores toxicity in fat cells.

Now you know why giving water to drink to your children will help them keep slim. I was particularly proud of myself when six months into the water diet that I gave my children, my son who was then eight years old came back from his holiday at his grand parents saying: "you know the water at granny and grandpa doesn't taste as good as the one at home" and he rushed to the fridge to help himself to a glass of home filtered water (which we store in glass bottles).

Blessings of lightness

Anges de Lumiere

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