Trying to eat better? It can be a confusing path. Information about what’s healthy and how to lose weight comes in many shapes and forms, and the information is often contradictory. You might hear the old adage, “calories in, calories out.” And the next minute you might read that “not all calories are equal.”
So what’s the truth and what is good nutrition? Do you trust the federal nutrition guidelines, your doctor, your best friend, the latest trend or do you listen to your body?
If you’re confused and frustrated, you’re not alone. The good news is that all of this confusion really only stems from two places:
1. New science and information being released
2. Companies trying to profit from the information
These can overlap – quality companies and manufacturers do make good, nutritious food based on the latest in health and nutrition science. If you can evaluate the nutrition information you’re reading or hearing and ask where the information comes from, then you’re way ahead of the majority of the population. This guide incorporates that new science and information. We’ll share what the guidelines are and why they have been created.
Let’s start with the information you may have learned in grade school and how it’s changed over the years.
The Basic Food Groups
Do you remember the food pyramid? Presently it looks a bit like this:
• 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta
• 3-5 servings of vegetables
• 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese
• 2-3 servings of meat, eggs, nuts, eggs, beans
• Fats, oils, and sweets – use sparingly
It doesn’t look like a big deal, right? You might look back on your day and think, “Well, I’ve had my six servings of grains and bread. I’ve had my dairy, meats and I’ve even had a fruit or veggie serving today. I’m not doing too badly.”
Serving size matters! Servings are often misleading. For example, one serving of pasta is a half-cup of cooked pasta. Put that on your plate and you might frown because it looks like a quarter of what you might consider to be a serving. However, a serving of vegetables is a full cup. Serving size is where most people get tripped up. Why the difference? Why is a serving of pasta a half cup and a serving of vegetables a full cup? Because, while calories are equal mathematically, your body processes foods differently. Calories from a cookie are not the same as calories from an apple. Don’t worry, we’ll break it down so it’s much easier for you to manage – you can eat nutritiously and lose weight.
Good Nutrition Helps You Lose Weight Because…
With all the fad diets and pills on the market you might wonder why nutrition matters. Many of the not so healthy foods we eat are inflammatory – that is, they make your tissues and cells swell up. This inflammation is responsible for most diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Inflammation also causes weight gain.
Good nutrition reduces inflammation. Instead of constantly trying to repair, your body can function optimally. Good nutrition:
• Gives you more energy
• Increases your metabolism
• Repairs disease and dysfunction
• And much more.
Your body is an amazing machine. In many cases you can actually reverse damage done to it by simply changing your diet and fueling your body with the nutrition it needs and deserves. Before we dive into the nitty gritty, let’s have a little fun and debunk some common nutrition myths.
Nutrition Myth #1 Carbs are Bad
Carbohydrates are not inherently bad for you. In fact, they’re one of the fastest sources of fuel for your body. However, all carbs are not created equally. A slice of white bread is much different than a slice of whole wheat bread. And white rice is different than brown rice. Whole grains generally have more fiber and more healthy fats.
Additionally, moderation is key here. Remember that a serving of pasta is ½ cup. If you have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and a plate of pasta for dinner then you’re probably consuming 7-9 servings of carbs and that’s not including any chips or snacks you had during the day. These calories add up.
Here’s the takeaway – eat carbs in moderation and pay attention to the type of carb you’re eating.
Nutrition Myth #2 All Calories are Equal
You intuitively know this. You know that the calories you consume when you eat a pint of ice cream are not the same calories as you’d get from the caloric equivalent of vegetables. If you ate 1000 calories of veggies your body would burn them quickly and you’d take in a lot of nutrients. If you eat 1000 calories of ice cream your body stores those calories as fat.
Several studies have been conducted recently on this concept of “all calories are not created equally.” One of the most notable studies placed 1600 people into three different diets. They found that the low fat diet had the worst results. The high protein high carb diet had great results in terms of weight loss but some unpleasant side effects, and it wasn’t a diet people could stick to long term. However, the low glycemic diet – which favors whole foods rather than processed foods – had the best long-term results.
“It’s time to reacquaint ourselves with minimally processed carbs. If you take three servings of refined carbohydrates and substitute one of fruit, one of beans and one of nuts, you could eliminate 50 percent of diet-related disease in the United States. These relatively modest changes can provide great benefit.” David Ludwig, director of the study. Click here for the details of this study.
Nutrition Myth #3 All Saturated Fat is Bad for You
For many years we were taught to believe that all saturated fat was bad for you. It raised cholesterol, caused heart disease and clogged our arteries. The truth is that there are different types of saturated fats and some of them are quite good for you.
“Researchers have long known that there are many kinds of saturated fats, and they are handled differently by the body when consumed. Stearic acid, a type of saturated fat found naturally in cocoa, dairy products, meats, and poultry, as well as palm and coconut oils, does not raise harmful LDL cholesterol but boosts beneficial HDL cholesterol levels.” Source: Julie Upton, MS, RD, Cooking Light Magazine.
What is the takeaway from these three busted myths?
Good nutrition matters! Whole foods, foods found in nature, are the foundation of good nutrition. In my next post, we’ll dive into the basic food groups and dig deep to discover why this is true and how good nutrition can help you change weight. Then we’ll take a look at how to make changes in your daily habits to make good nutrition simple, easy, and a part of your life. Stay tuned!