Sugar, red meat and more recently palm oil have become three of the new Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse, with nuances.
During the last few years, especially during the last decade, our knowledge about nutrition has been changing (and luckily, improving), at least in terms of health and information, since we make this knowledge reach the general population and ending up breaking the myths that still linger in memory is an arduous job that is far from finished: The Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse have been changing over time.
Until relatively recently, fats were the great enemy of nutrition. In fact, even today, "light" or "skim" foods are still considered a good nutritional choice both by consumers and by the industry, which sells and promotes them as if they were the nutritional panacea. Currently we know that this is not the case, and little by little new enemies have emerged, some of them misunderstood in some respects due to our extremist thinking towards nutrition. Today we will review 3 of the new Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse (although there are many more): sugar, red meat and palm oil.
Sugar, the first of the Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse
Sugar, that whitish powder whose massive use is based mainly on accompanying coffee, is usually introduced without us noticing it in a multitude of foods. The name "sugar" is a fallacy, since "sugars" are many if we talk about biochemical properties: glucose, fructose, sucrose, galactose, lactose ... all of them remarkable for being "simple sugars". The problem is not "sugar", but what type of sugar, what type of processing has undergone, in what foods do we eat it, and in what quantity do we consume it.
Pure or refined white sugar is not a problem in itself, but its consumption in excessive amounts is (taking one or two tablespoons with coffee will not cause the thousand and one diseases related to this substance); However, there are many processed foods that we consume every day that contain processed sugar without our realizing it, and that are the real problem: juices, cookies, yogurts, sauces ... without forgetting more obvious “foods” such as processed pastries or the trinkets. That is the real problem, the "invisible sugar."
Sugar as such has been linked to problems at the brain level (addiction, dementia and even memory problems), alteration of intestinal bacteria and even hypertension.
Yes, sugar is a problem, but not all sugar is a problem. The fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, pulses, potatoes) also contain sugars, which are not processed, so that our body absorbs differently. Although there is still the myth that " we should not eat fruit at night because it contains sugar and can make us fat ", this is another great misunderstanding by blaming "sugar" in an extreme and without nuances. The fruit sugar, natural fructoseIt has absolutely nothing to do with the processed fructose contained in other substances such as soft drinks for example. We must weigh what sugar we are talking about, where we get it and how much we consume it.
Red meat, the second of the Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse
Red meat is starting to earn the dishonourable place of being another of the Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse according to new studies on the matter (especially when we talk about processed red meat, although the unprocessed does not stand too well either).
There is a fundamental difference between red meat and white meat: red meat is rich in saturated fat, which is less interesting nutritionally speaking.
In recent years, the WHO has even stated that red meat " probably causes cancer " (International Agency for Research on Cancer classification 2A, as limited evidence has been found on the relationship), while processed meat is it would have equated the consumption of tobacco, asbestos or diesel smoke in risk (classification 1A). This agency, independent of the WHO, has been highly controversial in recent years. In fact, another study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that This association with cancer occurs in "very specific and specific cases", and depending a lot on the type of meat (lamb being the worst stop).
On the other hand, processed meat has been linked to an increased risk of having a stroke or stroke and suffering from cardiovascular problems such as heart failure. In fact, recently, new work has linked red (unprocessed) meat to an increased risk of diabetes.
Again, as with sugar, the problem is not the consumption or not of meat of one type or another, nor is the solution total restriction: it is knowing how to choose what type of meat and in what quantity. Most of the studies in this regard have been observational (monitoring without randomly giving one type of meat or another to the volunteers, but simply analyzing possible relationships, without looking for causes); Likewise, as recommended by both Harvard University and the WHO itself, the solution for now is to limit the amount and not reach the total restriction: Harvard recommends the consumption of two portions of about 80 g of red meat weekly, while the WHO states that "there are no conclusions about a safe amount ".
Palm oil, the youngest of the Horsemen of the Nutritional Apocalypse
Finally, we have the most recent and commented case of palm oil, which although it is not famous for its particular consumption at the market (it is not usually bought as easily as sunflower oil or olive oil), if it is used massively at an industrial level due to its low price and versatility. Although we now know that, at a nutritional level, its value is rather low and it has even been shown to be related to cancer due to its processing.
As the nutritionist Juan Revenga commented a few months ago in " El Comidista ", palm oil is vaunted by the industry for its price despite having similar substitutes (soybean oil or coconut butter, much more expensive), but the need for its processing makes it dangerous to health. Palm oil stands out for having saturated fats (related to metabolic and cardiovascular diseases), unlike olive oil (whose percentage of unsaturated fats is higher and therefore more interesting on a nutritional level).
Also, within the “bad” saturated fats (with many nuances in this regard, as Revenga himself comments), palmitic oil or palm oil has precisely the worst types of saturated fats that exist (some saturated fats are good for health).
On the other hand, in May 2016, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated that the processing of vegetable oils in general gave them genotoxic and carcinogenic properties by creating (thanks to said processing at 200ºC) compounds called " glycidyl esters “, a type of common compound in the particular processing of palm oil, necessary to eliminate its red color and improve both its smell and taste. Precisely those compounds, which would always appear linked to palm oil due to the need for this processing, would be the ones that once ingested would increase the risk of cancer. Therefore, there is no safe level of consumption according to EFSA, and palm oil should be avoided (at least according to the data we have so far).
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