Deeply engrossed in Deep Nutrition: Why Our Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan, MD on a plane ride to NYC, I could feel the woman sitting next to me glancing at the pages.

Earlier in our flight, her travel partner got out a bag of Red Vines to snack on. She refused initially, but towards the end of the flight, asked for a piece of licorice. As he handed her all but one remaining piece left in the bag, she turned over to check out the nutrition label, balking at the work he had done on the bag. (Maybe she thought I was judging?)

“Mark, do you know this bag of licorice has, like, 800 calories?”

I couldn’t help but steal a quick glance at the nutrition facts myself… nevermind the calories; 4 pieces has a whooping 34g of carbs.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 140
Fat Calories 0
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0g
Sodium 20mg
Total Carb 34g
Sugars 16g
Protein 1g

Mark: “Oh, really? Well, I saved you the the last one…”

The woman proceeded to eat the last piece, protruding an air of “I’m glad it wasn’t me that finished the whole bag.”

I so badly wanted to tell Mark to go run sprints to help his poor body process the huge amount of blood glucose running through his veins, but I’m stuck sharing this anecdote here!

Perhaps, this doesn’t mean anything to the public majority, who is brain-washed to pay attention to the simplified “calories in, calories out” math equation of so-called health.

But, the sheer contrast of reading about real, whole foods, and back-to-basics nutrition for vitality and this woman’s comment just struck me as so ironic… and made me angry.

It’s not this woman’s fault, though, that she was bred to believe that only calories matter. And let’s look at her overweight friend, Mark, who ate almost the entire bag…Even if he did almost eat 800 calories and tried to eat sensibly the rest of the day, he ate well over 150g of carbs in one sitting.

As in… the upper level of carbs our bodies need in ONE DAY. His poor pancreas!

And it was all in the form of:

Ingredients: Corn Syrup, Wheat Flour, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, Red 40

Nevermind the deceptive “Always Fat Free” label on the front of the bag.

How did we even get to the point where this “food” (or chemical!?) is even offered on shelves to sustain life?? Let’s be honest; nothing with the life expectancy of a car should be edible.

The greater picture is not the numbers, though; it’s the WHAT:

Corn syrup?

Glucose syrup, the alternative name, is a food syrup made from corn and other starches, and contains mainly glucose sugar. It is used in processed foods as a cheap alternative to cane sugar, and softens texture, adds volume, enhances flavor .

Translation? Corn syrup is a form of sugar, and consuming sugar can lead to hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney and cardiovascular disease, amongst other health issues.

As the first listed ingredient, that means Red Vines have sugar as its main ingredient. No bueno.

Wheat Flour? 

While wheat flour is touted as a great source of dietary fiber, it contains gluten, an allergen affecting about 1/3 of the population. Its consumption is linked to an increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol and an increase in glucose and insulin levels in the blood, also containing other anti-nutrients like phytates and lectins, which prevent the bioavailability of nutrients and cause leptin resistance and/or metabolic issues, respectively.

Screams inflammation to me…

Citric acid?

This actually is a weak organic acid, and a natural preservative!

Artificial Flavor / Red 40?

Red 40 is one of the most commonly and controversially used food dyes. According to a recent study published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI),

“Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, becausethey caused cancer in rats… as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.”

Enough said.

Some Takeaways?

If you’re hungry, eat. real. food. If you’re craving sweets, eat real food. Just because processed food is easy, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. At all.

Check nutrition labels. (Can you pronounce all the ingredients?)

If it doesn’t grow in the ground or have a mother, it probably doesn’t deserve to be eaten.

And before technological, medical and science advancements, no one “counted calories.” Food was nourishment, sustenance, medicine… treat it as such, and it will fuel your body, soul and mind.

To conclude, if you ever see a man named Mark eating Red Vines on an airplane, drop him some knowledge and buy him a real, red apple that actually grows on a vine!