Gas it Up: Give your body the energy it wants

Let’s talk about how the body gets energy. “Glucose” is a fancy word for sugar, and it’s best known as a fuel for our body. All food is broken down into our bodies for fuel, but glucose is the body’s main energy source. Just like we need to put gas in our cars to go, we need to put gas in our bodies too. And just like we have different octanes of fuel for our cars, we have different octanes of fuel for our bodies.

Beneficial glucose

The best source of glucose is found in a macronutrient known as “carbohydrate.” And when you think of carbohydrate, you’re probably thinking about bread, rice or pasta. But in addition to these foods, fruits and a few vegetables are also carbohydrate sources.

These fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean proteins, are the best fuel to nourish our bodies instead of depleting our energy levels. These foods are permissible AND beneficial.

Less beneficial glucose

Processed foods, such as cake, doughnuts, cookies, sugary liquids and some white foods are among the types of foods that may be permissible but are not always beneficial. These carbohydrate sources are most often found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Let’s break down two of these foods/ingredients.

Enriched white flour

You see the word “enriched,” and you’d think this would be better for you. Bogus! Enriching means stripping the grain, removing most of its natural nutrients, then replacing some of those nutrients during processing.

When enriched foods came to the market, there were good motives. This food processing technique came about to better preserve foods for longer periods in order to prevent food famines. But now, when you see “enriched” on a food label, know that this will give you some quick energy, but your gas tank will quickly be on empty.

White sugar

Yummy in my tummy!—is what I always think when I think about foods made from white sugar or sucrose. Sucrose provides an immediate blood sugar surge. Your metabolic system lights up, and the body produces insulin and raises your serotonin levels (happy hormones).

Raised insulin levels can cause you to overeat while also causing you to be as hungry as you were before you started eating. In addition, your body will become more resistant to the sugar, causing you to feel the need for MORE sugar and unnecessary calories to elevate your mood while emptying your gas tank and causing you to crash just as quickly. What a vicious cycle.

How can we get more “good” fuel?

Focus on retraining your taste buds. Yes, you can retrain your taste buds! Try to remove or at least limit these permissible but not beneficial foods and then replace them with foods that will provide you with more clarity and energy, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Your body will thank you!

What You Need To Know About Calories

imgresCounting calories. Believe me, it’s something even I cringe about; however, it can be one of the most important tools someone can use in managing weight. Monitoring your caloric intake not only provides education about calorie-dense vs. calorie-light foods, it also helps you keep track of portion sizes and when those calories are being consumed. My sister had to keep track of her nutrition for the first time as requirements for a health class in college. She called me up the first day to inform me she had consumed all of her calories for the day and then some…with just one meal from Dairy Queen.

Consuming fewer calories than one expends is the golden formula for weight loss. One fascinating area of nutritional science that I’m interested in is the principle of “is a calorie just a calorie” and “do the types of calories really matter?” Personally, I am a “calories-in: calories-out” kinda girl. This means if I consume too many calories for an extended period of time, I will gain weight and it doesn’t matter where those extra calories came from. My husband on the other hand is definitely a “specific type of calorie” person. After our honeymoon, my husband experienced the joys of being married to a dietitian…I put him on a diet. It wasn’t really a diet per-se; rather I was helping him incorporate healthier foods into his daily routine while encouraging him to limit some of the less nutritious menu items. I was also monitoring his caloric intake. For months we battled with the yo-yo effect. He could lose 2 pounds during the week and then would gain 3 back over the weekend. Back and forth and back and forth we went through this cycle. He even asked me “why am I even bothering with eating healthy if it’s not even helping me lose weight?” Sound familiar?iStock_000019615131XSmallCarrotsCelery

I asked my husband to give me one more month to try out a different meal plan for him. It was here that I changed around his type of calories he was consuming. I played around with his macros and dropped his carbs to 40% of his total calories (mainly coming from fruits and vegetables) while keeping his protein and fat at about 35% and 25% of calories, respectively. We also eliminated processed grains from the diet so no more whole wheat English muffins, whole grain pasta, low-fat pretzels, wraps, etc. (I also suspected he had a gluten intolerance in which we also discovered to be true during this process). The result you ask? He lost almost 25 pounds that month and has been able to keep the weight off by following a low glycemic diet.

A new documentary coming out that I am very excited to see is, “Fed Up”. The film, produced by Katie Couric, sets out to challenge the notion that all calories are created equal. The film is not purported to have all the answers to America’s obesity epidemic, but I expect it to certainly highlight diet quality as it plays a big contributor to America’s weight problem.

Check out the next blog post on Thursday, it will show you how you can put an interesting twist on the calorie counting game.