by Bonnie Halper
Check out almost any food item in any grocery store in America, and you’ll find a nutrition label. In New York City, many restaurants and cafes selling baked goods and sandwiches will also provide you with the calorie count, right alongside the price of the item.
Most people do look at the caloric content of items. Many count calories as a way of maintaining their weight or, if they’re dieting, they often allot themselves a certain amount of calories a day, depending on their size and age. Supposedly, if you ingest fewer calories
than your body needs, you’ll lose weight. That’s the idea, anyway, and seems to add up, but does it?
Truth be told, there’s more to maintaining or losing weight than simply counting calories. We honestly don’t know where the idea of counting calories got started and why, and who decided to perpetuate the idea and why. There’s no doubt that counting calories does provide a simple formula for the weight loss process for dieters and the ‘calorie conscious,’ but it’s really not doing anyone any favors or any good at all, and merely counting calories may well be one of the more insidious culprits behind the current obesity epidemic. Here’s why.
Nutrition labels, which are required on packaged goods sold in the US, are rife with information: the amount of calories, calories from fat, total fat (including saturated fats and trans fats), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar and protein, yet people have
been conditioned to primarily pay attention to the calories.
It’s Not Just Calories That Count
A calorie is defined by Merriam-Webster as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water one degree Celsius, but not all calories are the same. The body processes a calorie of protein much differently than it does a calorie of carbohydrate.
Which is why adhering to a low calorie diet and exercise will not necessarily lead to weight loss and it’s a well-established fact that most diets fail. Is it because people don’t have the will power to stick to a diet, or is it that we’ve been so misled about food in general, and what is truly ‘good’ for us?
It isn’t all about metabolism either, although we frequently hear or believe that one person has a higher metabolic rate than another, which may or may not be true, but that’s a factor, not an
The public has been conditioned to believe that fat is evil and something to be avoided. As your grandparents could have told you, it’s carbohydrates, rather than fats, that lead to excess weight and weight gain. Well, carbohydrates such as bread, rice, and baked goods, as well as the sugars that are frequently added by food manufacturers to help improve the taste of low-fats foods et al.
Look at it this way: if you were permitted 1600 calories a day and know that you have a sweet tooth, instead of having a lunch of say, four ounces of protein and a side salad, you have a
caloric equivalent to slice of chocolate cake instead, all well and good. Then for dinner, you ‘save’ several hundred calories so that you can enjoy a slice of pie rather than ingest more protein and vegetables. At the end of the day, literally, you will have had your 1600 calories,
but at the end of the week, when you get back on that scale, you may notice no difference in your avoir du pois, and in fact, you might have gained rather than lost weight. How is that possible?
It’s not just calories that count. It all does.
The Carbohydrate Factor
Carbohydrates prompt insulin to be secreted, which in turn, signals our bodies to accumulate fat. Refined carbohydrates such as sugar and flour cause even more insulin to be secreted, which also accounts for why you feel hungry after eating carb-rich foods: you have excess insulin in your blood, and it’s looking for somewhere to go and something to do – like go straight to parts of your body where you’d prefer they not go, stored as fat, and tell you that you’re still hungry, or hungry again, despite the fact that you had just had a meal a relatively short time ago.
So regimens low in carbohydrates – so called low-carb diets, although we prefer not to call them ‘diets,’ as the key to overall nutritional health is eating a balanced regimen and preferably one that’s not carbohydrate-rich – are not fad diets, but rather the way people normally ate until the 1950s rolled in, when “a small but influential group of nutritionists and cardiologists decided that dietary fat caused heart disease,” according to Mother Earth News. It wasn’t long before the American Heart Association adopted this position, then Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health. The result: fat was unnecessarily demonized and an industry for non-fat food substitutes was born.
You may believe that that low fat items are healthier, but once the fat is removed from food, so is the flavor, and sugar is often added to improve the taste – sugars which are converted into carbohydrates and stored as fat.
Scientists have known since the 1970s that in order to store fat, carbohydrates are required. As Mother Earth News points out, “It’s only by eating carbohydrates that we can obtain alpha
glycerol phosphate, an enzyme that is an absolute requirement for storing fat. This enzyme fixes the fat in the fat tissue in a way that it can’t slip back out through the fat cell membranes
and escape into the bloodstream. This is why the more carbohydrates we consume, the more fat we will store. The less carbohydrates, the less fat.”
Or try this simple experiment yourself at home. First, weigh yourself in the morning and note your weight. Make sure to have a carbohydrate-laden lunch, such as a sandwich or a slice or
two of pizza. The next morning, weigh yourself again. You might notice that the scale has inched up a pound or two, but not to worry.
That day, skip the carbs. Instead, have a protein lunch, with a vegetable side dish.
The following morning, weigh yourself again, and you may well notice that the scale has tipped down to what your weight was two days before. You’ve given your body a day to eliminate, or
burn off, the stored carbs. You’re now back to normal and good to go.
We’re not demonizing carbohydrates or any other food group. Balance is always important, and best to keep the carbs pure and simple. For example, legumes, which include beans, such
as black beans and chickpeas, as well as peas and lentils, contain carbohydrates, as well as protein and fiber. According to the North Dakota State University Extension, legumes also
have added health benefits, such as lowering your risk for heart disease and cancer and making it easier to control your blood sugar and weight, since they are digested more slowly, so they’re more likely to fill you up, as opposed to processed carb-laden alternatives such as bread, which are bereft of essential nutrients that your body needs.
It’s Simple Once You Do the Math
It sounds complicated, it’s really very simple:
There’s a reason why nutrition labels contain as much information as they do, and it’s important to look at all of the fields listed, especially the amount of carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins
that are in the foods that you’re buying and ingesting. They’re all there for a reason, and now that you understand why it’s simply not true that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, suddenly,
it all adds up.
#Calories, #Carbohydrates, #Obesity, #FoodGroups, #Weightloss, #DietingTips