Are All Calories Equal?
Most of you will understand that a calorie is the measurement of how much energy food contains and how to measure how much energy we burn up during exercise. Most diets are based around burning a given number of calories, but is that really the best way for a healthy lifestyle?
All the food we eat is processed differently, with input from the hormone system, genetics and the nervous system, so 100 calories of pasta is taken in and used in a very different way from 100 calories of chicken. Lets have a nosey as to why -
The glycemic index measures the changes in your blood sugar levels. Food that are high up on the glycemic index have a roller coaster effect on blood sugar levels - causing massive raises, then crashing to all time lows, leaving you wanting more high GI foods. Whereas a food that has a lower GI releases its energy more slowly and at steadier pace, leaving you feeling content for longer!!
Protein decreases appetite
Research has shown that protein decreases your general appetite, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. So if you increase your protein levels, you will generally eat less during a day.
Different metabolic pathways
When you eat protein, carbohydrates or fats, they all enter different metabolic pathways, with some being more efficient than other, making more calories available for energy and less for heat. Protein has the least efficient metabolic pathway, with plenty being used up as heat, and less available for energy - excellent for those trying to lose weight. Fat loses 2-3% of its calories, as opposed to carbohydrate losing 6-8%, but protein loses 25-30% of its calories during its course of being broken down.
Fructose v glucose
These 2 forms of sugar look similar chemically and weigh the same, however that is where the similarities stop. Fructose increase our gherkin levels, which is the hormone that tells us if we are hungry or not, causing us to be hungry more often, fructose can only be used by the liver, whereas glucose can be used by all our tissues. Finally the same number calories of fructose to glucose can increase insulin resistance, abdominal fat, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. However, before you go and bin your fruit, stop, as this only applies to added sugar as fruit has fibre, water and requires plenty of chewing which alters its calorie content and the effect it has on the body.
Some foods are easier to eat and we can eat more of them, like chocolate v tomatoes, pasta v eggs etc. The satiety index measures the ability of foods to decrease hunger, feel fuller and reduce energy intake for the next few hours. The higher the satiety level, the longer you will feel satisfied.
As the image depicts, diet coke has 0 calories, where as the drink has 200, but is packed full of nutrients. Life isn't all about eating the right amount calories, it is about giving your body all the nutrients it needs to live life. Eating foods right in vitamins and minerals is going to leave you feeling better and a hell of a lot healthier that food full of additives, chemicals and sweeteners.
The take home measure is simple - eat a wide varied unprocessed diet, increase your protein uptake, and stick to foods that are low GI and high on the satiety index, and you'll soon see the pounds falling off without the need for a calculator.