In part 1, we looked at a widespread lunchtime habit which causes as yet unquantified damage to your health: microwaving your lunch in a plastic container.

Now let’s turn to another habit, one which you may well never have questioned because it’s so ubiquitous: the sandwich, crisps, banana and diet drink combo – aka the ‘brain fuzz special’: on the surface, might seem quite harmless, but for your health, it’s bad news waiting to happen.

The ‘brain fuzz special’

You’ve been beavering away, and suddenly it’s 1pm and your stomach is making noises. So you nip down the garage, or the local supermarket to grab the easiest and most portable meal available (sometimes conveniently on special offer too!).

Reassuringly the crisps might even be ‘light’ or ‘low fat’, the bread brown and the drink as mentioned already is ‘diet’ – and the banana, well it’s one of your ‘5 a day’, isn’t it? what could go wrong?

Lots actually.

The biggest problem comes from the overwhelming proportion of processed carbohydrates and starch, and sugars which make up this meal – we’ll come to the drink later.

Here’s an example:

A 25g pack of Walker’s ‘Mighty Lights’ contains:

114 calories

Protein 2.2g
Carbs 15.1g
Fat 4.7g

A Tesco’s Light Choices roast chicken salad sandwich:

145 calories

Protein 10.3g
Carbs 20.1g
Fat 1.6g

A medium banana contains about 24 g of carbs of which 14g of sugar (a mix of fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose) and maybe 1g of protein (and about 105 calories).

Isn’t that good?

That’s not many calories in total, but calories are really meaningless without taking into consideration where they are coming from: are these calories nutritious and stabilising for your blood sugars or are they empty, taxing the body’s nutrient reserves and causing peaks and troughs in blood sugars?

Ahem. The latter in this case.

This meal contains a high proportion of starches to protein. The carbohydrate portion of the meal breaks down into sugar as you digest it, causing a big spike in blood glucose. Protein normally slows down this spike and helps to give you more energy for longer, but in this case, for around 60g of carbohydrate you’re only getting 13.5g protein in total.

The total minimum recommended amount of protein is 1g per Kg body weight per day – i.e. 70g for a 70Kg person, and that’s if you’re not exercising.

The result?

Usually a big energy dip (with accompanying brain fuzz) less than an hour later (coffee anyone?) and the irresistible call of the vending machine as the blood sugar rollercoaster unfolds throughout the afternoon.

It’s not just a disaster for your productivity that afternoon though… it’s a slow burning disaster for your health as well. One of the unfortunate consequences of these blood sugar spikes, day in day out, is increasing insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone which normally helps introduce glucose into your cells (allowing them to create energy), but call on it too often, and the receptors become ‘worn out’, so you end up with glucose in the blood and still feeling tired… A side effect of this is an expanding waist line, as the liver converts the excess glucose into fat (the least damaging option at the time) which gets laid down within close proximity, around the midriff.

One of the possible long term outcomes for insulin resistance is diabetes.

What about the diet soda?

Far from protecting you from the dangers of high sugar sodas, these artificially sweetened versions are proving at least as harmful.

A large scale study in France recently showed that women who consume just 0.5 litre of diet soda per week (that’s just 1.5 ordinary cans of diet coke) have a 15% higher chance of developing diabetes. This number increases to 59% for 1.5 litres per week (just 4.5 cans a week!)1

1: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2013/01/30/ajcn.112.050997.abstract?sid=15384db3-98d3-45fa-9a08-49f6f9b40fc7

Author: Angela Steel

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