A common comment I hear from people working in offices is how often their co-workers come up with a reason to have cake. I’ve heard people complain that sometimes there are several cake celebrations per month. I know- it’s an awesome distraction from work. Cake in the conference room! Yep…again! But what about how it is affecting your body and health?
Everyone wants to celebrate on his or her birthday, but to me, birthdays are a celebration of life. Birthday cake (or any kind of celebratory cake) — especially the commercially prepared kind — is loaded with unhealthy ingredients that could reduce the number of birthdays you have left to enjoy if you partake of it too often. You can always start a new tradition with baking a healthier kind of cake or treat to celebrate with, as I always do for my clients’ birthdays. Try my Raw Ginger-Chocolate Cake, for example.
When you eat sugar, your body responds with an immediate and massive rise in blood glucose. In order to quickly get blood sugar in check, your body releases insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin plays many key roles in your body, but it also serves as a fat storage hormone. When insulin is released, it moves the glucose into fat cells for storage. This is bad news if weight loss (or not gaining weight) is your goal, but it’s far from the only problem with sugar.
A 2012 UC Davis study showed that sugar (including high-fructose corn syrup, table sugar, and other forms of sugar) increased risk factors for heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and poor blood lipid profiles. This occurs because the liver can’t deal with excessive amounts of sugar, and instead leaks it out into the bloodstream. There, it forms small, dense LDL, the type of cholesterol that sticks to artery walls. With fruit, there is fiber, so you don’t eat the massive amounts that hit your body from processed treats.
The same study links sugar to cancer, as well. This link exists because certain malignant tumors contain more insulin receptors than normal cells. These receptor cells signal the tumors to consume glucose to support the growth of the tumor.
Most cakes contain white or wheat flour (unless you’ve specifically ordered a gluten-free cake). The problem with flour in cake is gluten, a sticky protein that naturally occurs in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Wheat flour, aside from appearing in a number of the processed foods humans eat, is also used to make glue. When the sticky stuff gets into our digestive systems, our bodies have a terrible time trying to digest it. In fact, a significant portion of the population is either allergic to wheat (it is one of the most highly allergenic foods) or sensitive to gluten. This can cause problems, ranging from mild allergic reactions to a total inability to absorb nutrients in the intestines, as found in celiac disease. For most of the population, wheat is best avoided.
Many cakes contain dairy products such as butter and milk. Like wheat, dairy is one of the most common food allergies exhibited by human beings. Dairy products also leave a significant acidic residue in the body, which, according to The China Study, can rob the bones of the minerals such as calcium and weaken the bones and body.
Likewise, dairy contains the protein casein, which is poorly tolerated by the human body, and the sugar lactose, which causes digestive problems in a significant portion of the human population. There are many other problems with dairy, as well, including all of the hormones used in dairy production. I recommend avoiding dairy at all costs.
Soy, Corn, and other Genetically Modified Ingredients
If you’re eating a commercially prepared cake or it has been prepared from a cake mix, chances are it has some genetically modified ingredients. Common sources of GMOs include soy (soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin, etc.) and corn. Genetic modification of food crops (read our blog about GMOs and studies related to their health effects here is a relatively recent development in human history – it started in the mid-1990s. Since that time, a few studies have showed multiple health dangers associated with GMOs, and further study is needed to truly discover the long-term effects on human health. With such a short time in the human diet, eating GMOs amounts to a huge health experiment on the human population.
With all of the brightly colored frosting, birthday cake is often a work of art. What isn’t art, however, is putting the dyes that color the frosting into the body. While food coloring has long been an additive in the foods we eat, that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, in 2011, the FDA released a report suggesting a possible link between food coloring and ADHD in kids.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, most artificial colorings come from synthetic chemicals. These chemicals contribute to our toxic load and should be avoided altogether.
While Omega-6 fats are, by themselves, not a bad thing (your body needs some omega-6 fatty acids), the problem is the balance between Omega 3 vs Omega 6 fatty acids. The standard Western diet is extremely high in Omega-6 fats and low in Omega-3s. When these two types of fatty acids skew out of balance as they are in a Western diet, inflammation increases. Inflammation has been linked to a number of diseases, including autoimmune disorders and heart disease. Since birthday cake is high in the Omega-6 fatty acids, it contributes to out of balance fatty acid profiles.
With so much about birthday cake that’s unhealthy, it’s best if you give it a pass the next time someone comes around the office with a celebratory cake. Again, try contributing a Raw Ginger-Chocolate Cake, or pursue another healthier option, instead, such as fresh fruit, a delicious Chia Pudding. To make a chia pudding soak a few tablespoons of chia seeds in unsweetened almond milk for 10 minutes and add a little vanilla and some stevia to taste. It’s a sweet treat you can indulge in that won’t harm your health.
If your co-workers or family think you’re being weird and “not fun”, then just explain that you feel better not eating cake. If you are making a healthier treat for them, explain that you want to celebrate life and a healthy quality of life for their birthday, and are thinking of them with love. No one can argue against love, right? 🙂
i get really stressed over events involving food at the office. i don’t want to seem rude, but i don’t feel that i need to eat whatever is brought in, or when there is a special event, if i don’t want to. i don’t want to eat to make others comfortable or happy, i want to eat to be healthy. it seems that others always get offended, and i try so hard to be as polite as possible. i don’t feel left out if i don’t eat cake, and i’m not bothered by it, so why are they?
I always draw attention from the fact that I’m not eating it by “oo-ahing.” Pretend to take maybe one small bite before taking tons of pictures of it with your phone and talking about how beautiful it is. Compliment the person who made it for how amazing it looks. Lots of picture taking!
Then go back to your desk, bringing it with you, and throw it out secretly. Works every time 😉
Yes don’t get stressed. Focus on taking care of yourself, and eventually others will respect that. If they don’t, it’s their problem!
This makes me so sad. Well, not really! but cake is one of my favourite “sweet foods” to eat. :'( if I were wanting to eat something sweet, what is one of the best
things that I could choose?
I really want to try that raw chocolate ginger cake, it looks delicious!!!
Thanks for all this information. I love reading your blog!
I made the chocolate ginger cake. It’s crazy good! I actually felt good after I ate it and I don’t remember ever feeling good after eating dessert. 🙂
hi love, yes try the other suggestions. Of course, once in a while you could indulge, but emphasis on “once in a while!” It’s better to have cake as a very special occasion I believe though, than have cupcakes somewhat regularly.
Cupakes share all the toxic ingredients as cake, but are seen as more innocent b/c they are small!
Thanks Kim for this post! My birthday is this Thursday and I was wondering what I was going to make/serve since I have been making changes to my diet. 🙂 Perfect timing!
Also eggs with their high cholesterol and doses of hormones, antibiotics are very damaging. Eggs are the farthest things from the ‘perfect food’ the egg industry would have you believe!! Great article.
Great info! Even without the article it’s pretty clear to me that most cakes are not good for health. I do have a bit once in a while- say once a month; hopefully that will not do too much damage.
I would like to ask about iron-rich foods you recommend. I have heavy periods and don’t eat meat. I do have as much spinach as I can but read somewhere that the actual amounts of bioavailable iron in spinach are low. Raisins and other dried fruit are also iron-rich but are very sweet so I know you only recommend small amounts of these.
Great article Kimberly. Want to share my own experience. I now work in a small company and actually we don’t do the birthday thing a lot. However last year the office manager bought a red velvet cake from a good bakery to celebrate my boss’s birthday. There were pecans on top. No sooner did I eat the cake than I went into anaphylactic shock with severe hives, intense itching and swelling of my hands. Someone ran and got me Benadryl so the situation was brought under control quickly and did not hamper my respiratory tract but it was very scary. I had myself tested for pecan allergy and was in fact negative. The doctor told me that there are no available tests for food dye allergy and I suspect that was the culprit. Last week history repeated itself ( just hives this time) when I ate a brownie from a mix. That’s the final straw. Never had these issues before menopause but suspect it could be playing a role in increased sensitivity. I cook from scratch and eat a healthy diet overall but have become hyper vigilant as a result of these episodes.
They not only think your weird and not fun and it doesn’t stop with a cake for a lot of birthdays in the office. There isn’t a day that goes by that there isn’t at least cookies, pretzels and the always present chocolate in a candy jar. This office often has pepperoni and cheese, soft pretzels, brownies, popcorn, donuts,etc. I have worked in different offices over the years and going back some years I don’t remember much more than the jar of candy on the receptionist’s desk and then vending machines. As time went on I noticed that food was much more of a constant in the office. Everyone eating all day, going out to lunch and even bringing a fast food breakfast into work. There is too much food in the office and convenience food is too convenient. Why cook when you can grab expensive prepped food in the market or stop and pick up chinese food? I remember when pretzels, chips, ice cream and yes- birthday cake were for parties. We played outside as kids and the only time I remember wanting something to eat in between meals as a kid was when we heard the ice cream or water ice truck come around in summer. I know that we control what we put in our mouths, but I wish there were not so many things at so many places at all times that we need to say no to….
What happened to Alicia the California Happy Cow?
I have just one concern about whole Wheat. All my life I have been taught that whole grains are the best for you. I always avoid white grain and use whole wheat or brown rice. So whole wheat bread, I love, especially homemade. Do you I need to stop eating whole wheat grains? Am I really doing damage to my body by eating this? Help me out here? I have been struggling with this and want to know more. Thanks for your support and knowledge that you share to better our lives. I just recently started following you and love it!
Read the book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. The wheat we consume today is not the same wheat from 100 years ago. After I read the book, I immediately stopped eating wheat and lost 6 pounds in 5 days and 2 inches off my “wheat belly”. It’s a real eye-opener especially how we have been deceived to “eat more whole grains” in an effort to keep us sick and fat.
I just wanted to know whether we can have chia seeds with anything e.g with pasta because you do advise against combining protein(chia seeds) and starch(pasta)?
No chia and starch is a heavy combo. Try the Chia Pudding! xx
Hi Kim, just wondering when will the winner of the vitamix be revealed?
WELL…I admit….I also love cake….especially RED VELVET…I indulge WAY less frequently than I used to and it HAS to be homemade….never store bought. LUCKILY….in my office, we’re just three and we don’t have that typical “office culture” here….we just work hard, and have pretty different lives outside. My colleagues still think my Glowing Green Smoothie is foreign. I try to extoll the benefits verbally and just lead by example. Maybe one day they’ll try it.
I HAVE MADE YOUR RAW CHOCOLATE GINGER CAKE A FEW TIMES! It’s incredible and has garnered me loads of love at dinner parties. Thanks so much for sharing the recipie.
SO…my coworkers may not be open to the Glowing Green Smoothie YET….but my super tall little brother is ON IT! He just got a Vitamix a few weeks ago and has called my husband and I for guidance and we’ve HAPPILY shared your GGS recipe and he’s transformed. HE’S SO GRATEFUL AND HAPPY and drinking it daily. He feels more full than he ever expected he would and not just sated full, but FULL of energy.
YOUR PART OF THE FAMILY FOR SURE!
That is super fantastic about your bro! Thanks for sharing the GGS and spreading the love.
Yes, some treats are okay, but glad you are cutting back.
Lots of love, Kimberly
thought I would share a friends blog with you Kimberly…this is how the US schools react to a child saying that the cupcake will make them feel bad if they ate it…so sad!