As you go about your healthy eating or weight-loss plan, one big thing that you’ll need to be thinking about is food quality over food quantity.
A common mistake is placing all the focus on hitting daily calorie targets without thinking about the types of foods you are eating to get there. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the numbers since it’s been engrained in us for years that this dictates the direction your body weight will move. However, this is only one aspect of what makes up a well-balanced diet.
A calorie is the scientific dimension for a single unit of energy measured in food items. Anything you do will burn calories – even sleeping and breathing – and anything you eat or drink has a certain number of calories. But, calorie counting while dieting can be inaccurate by 20-40%. That does not mean that calorie amounts don’t matter. To lose half a kilogram, you need to burn an extra 3500 calories. Eating roughly 500 calories less per day will mean losing half a kilogram per week. So, while it’s still true that you need a calorie deficit to actually lose weight, it’s definitely not the only factor in the equation. And, calorie counting is also not the only way to diet.
By focusing on the quality of the food you eat, rather than simply counting calories, you are establishing a good nutritional intake of foods that will help you feel more energized through the day and keep you focused and happy during the program.
What are “high-quality” foods and why should you focus on them? High-quality foods are the ones associated with medical benefits and have the following attributes:
- They are full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and keep your skin looking fresh.
- They have higher amounts of fiber, which keeps you full for longer periods of time, and help regulate bowel movements.
- They reduce your risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and cancer. You’ll be able to control blood sugar levels better and reduce the risk of suffering a crash at any point throughout the day.
- They prevent loss of muscle mass and promote burning fat instead. This means you have a cleaner source of fuel for your workouts as well.
- They have fewer preservatives, additives and chemicals, which normally cloud your mental function and will therefore lead to increased productivity.
Not all calories are created equal.
300 calories of candy will not benefit your body in the same way a 300-calorie bowl of oatmeal will. When you think of it this way, it is obvious that it’s much more than the numbers you should be thinking of. Researchers in the USA have recently developed 2 new scoring systems to help people understand the importance of taking the nutritional value of a certain food into account, not just how many calories are in that food.
The NuVal system gives each food item a score from 1-100 based on how much nutrition can be derived from it. A piece of cinnamon raisin bread, for example, gets a score of 8 while broccoli gets a 100. In this way, it is easy for consumers to see which foods are actually healthy for them despite what the health label says. Another scoring system is the ANDI system, which stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index. Here, food items are given a score of 1-1000 according to the micronutrients present per calorie. In case you were wondering, cola gets a 1 and bok choy gets a score of 865. Both of these systems use numbers that would be more important to consider than the number of calories.
If you want to lose weight the healthy way, make each and every calorie count.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a bowl of ice cream that has 500 calories is the same thing as a hearty lunch of brown rice, stir fry chicken and roasted greens on the side with the same amount of calories. Always focus on food quality over food quantity for optimal results. Reminding yourself of this can help to boost your motivation to eat right as you work toward your dieting goal.
This guest post is written by Ireland-base Dr. Denise Karlyn Hee, a medical doctor practicing nutrigenomic medicine and certified integrative nutrition health coach. If you’d like to find out more about this topic or consult with Dr. Denise, feel free to message her via her RingMD profile (profile here).
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