Not All Diets are the Same
In late September of 2007, American scientist and author Gary Taubes released a health book which would change the way that we think about calories. The book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, challenged age old ideas about diet and weight loss and caused some controversy upon its release.
But the research and the facts contained within the 640 pages proved what many people had suspected for years: that not all calories are the same. It proved that eating 2,000 calories of bread, for instance, was not the same as eating 2,000 calories of meat. More importantly, it used hard, rigorous science to back up the claims.
So, What’s It All About?
Since the Atkins Diet, which was very popular ten years ago, and its advocacy of a near total avoidance of carbohydrates was almost completely debunked, the general trend has swung back towards low fat dieting. However, although the Atkins Diet was an extreme example of ‘carb cutting’, Taubes argues that calories from carbohydrates could be contributing to not only obesity but many other ailments as well.
When a human eats refined carbohydrates, their body produces insulin in order to regulate blood sugar. This insulin triggers a process that encourages the body to store fat which of course leads to problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Obviously we need to get our calories from somewhere. As you may know, the average woman needs roughly 2,000 calories a day whereas the average man will burn 2,500. Advocates of a low carbohydrate diet say that you should take a high percentage of your calories from meats, fish and fruits and vegetables.
What’s really interesting here is that you are encouraged, by the new science, to eat as much animal fat as you wish. Put simply, there is no need to trim the fat from your bacon; no reason to take the skin of your chicken and no point in looking for the leanest steak. Of course you shouldn’t let that fat intake put you over your daily calorie limit, but there is no real reason for you to cut natural fats out of your diet.
A word of warning should be sounded about fruit and vegetables: they are good for you, nutritious and a vital part of a healthy diet. But they must be fresh. Canned and frozen vegetables could be ‘bad calories’.
Based on the studies bad calories come in form of any food that contains excessive amounts of refined carbohydrate. This is why canned and frozen fruit and vegetables can be considered ‘bad calories’ when fresh fruit and vegetables are considered ‘good calories’.
So what are refined carbohydrates? These are carbohydrates without the fibre – essentially they give the body a ‘carb’ hit without adding much, if any, nutritional value. Refined table sugar, syrup, soft drinks, beer, wine, sweetened fruit juice, white flour (so white bread, white pasta and pizza dough, as well as cakes, doughnuts and cookies), chocolate bars…the list goes on.
While a lot of the items on the list of refined carbohydrate foods are considered sweet treats or junk food, the assumption has always been that the most important factor was the calorie count. Now we know that it is the effect that the complex refined carbs have on your body that could be making you gain, and retain, excess weight.
This is a controversial topic in some quarters as there are still those who believe that all calories are the same and only the number matters. However, as you have seen there is compelling evidence, and scientific fact, to suggest that not only should you count your calories, you should choose carefully where they come from.