Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not All Calories Are Created Equal

Wow, this is one of the most truly fascinating articles I've read in a long time: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327171.200-the-calorie-delusion-why-food-labels-are-wrong.html?full=true&print=true

The central thesis is that different foods use more or less calories during digestion, so that you need to consider not just the actual caloric content of the food, but the energy it will take your body to digest it.

"Nutritionists are well aware that our bodies don't incinerate food, they digest it. And digestion - from chewing food to moving it through the gut and chemically breaking it down along the way - takes a different amount of energy for different foods. According to Geoffrey Livesey, an independent nutritionist based in Norfolk, UK, this can lower the number of calories your body extracts from a meal by anywhere between 5 and 25 per cent depending on the food eaten. "These energy costs are quite significant," he says, yet are not reflected on any food label."

And, here's what's really significant, you absorb the most calories (gain more weight) from soft, sugar filled foods:

"What's more, the brownie is made from refined sugar and flour, making it easier for our bodies to extract the available calories than it would be from the complex carbohydrates of the oatmeal in the cereal bar. And while the Atwater system assumes that the proportion of food that passes through the gut undigested is more or less constant, at around 10 per cent, we have known for more than 60 years that this is not the case. Thirty per cent or more of coarse-ground wheat flour may be excreted, while today's finely milled flours may be almost completely digested. As a result, foods made from these fine flours - like that brownie - are likely to channel practically all of the energy from carbohydrate into the body."

Lesson learned? You'll lose weight faster if you stay away from overly refined white flour, rice etc.

And, what's even more interesting, your body absorbs more calories from cooked foods than from raw foods.

So, as I've been preaching all along, eliminating processed foods from your diet and replacing them with a large percentage of raw fruits and vegetables will lead to weight loss. Not only do the raw fruits and vegetables have fewer calories to start with, your body will actually use more energy to digest them, increasing your chances of losing weight.

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