With the improvements in our standard of living over the years, we have more choices in every aspect of our lives. Whether in food, fashion, lifestyle, and living, we are presented with more and more options everywhere. When it comes to food, which forms a fundamental part of our lives, we have quite a variety to choose from. However, using this freedom that we have in the right way is becoming more of an issue. Taste is overpowering our sense of judgement.
Temporary satisfaction of the palate is the only thing that is of concern now; health and nutrition are secondary. We hear of new diseases every day – things that were unheard of back in the good old days. People are struggling for a good physique by resorting to wrong eating habits, from anorexia to bulimia.
Obesity levels across the world are on the rise, and this has led to more and more cases of depression and bullying, especially among the teens; body shaming and suicides are what results out of all this.
The Calorie Equation is a simple concept. When the outflow is more than the inflow, we get a deficit; similarly, when the calorie expenditure is more than the calorie intake, a calorie deficit is created, which leads to successful weight loss. Everything that we consume by way of eating or drinking (except for water) has a calorific value. Calories are what are used by our body as a source of energy to complete its daily functions.
Consuming more calories than what has used leads to surplus calories, which, in turn, get stored as fat in the body. When there is a calorie deficit, it is this fat that the body breaks down to release
energy, as the calories that were supplied, have already been used; this leads to the slimming of the body.
Our body is fueled by calories, so it does not mean that calorie intake should be stopped completely in order to lose weight. Even when we are not doing any heavy physical activities, calories are needed to maintain all the vital functions of our body, such as brain functioning, pumping of blood, building cartilage, bone and nervous system tissues and breathing.
When there is a scarcity of calories, the body becomes weak and thus becomes prone to health risks and disease. Moreover, starvation leads to weight gain rather than weight loss. This is because when the amount of calories is drastically limited, our body switches to starvation mode. Whatever calories come in getting stored in the form of fat in body tissues. In this scenario, even if a small diet is taken after a prolonged period of starvation, it gets converted into fat, which leads to obesity.
Source of Calories:
The source from which calories are obtained is equally important. Glucose is the ultimate source of energy in our body. Every nutritional component that we eat or drink is ultimately converted into glucose.
The sources can mainly be divided into two areas: macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are basically what our body requires in large quantities to grow, repair, develop, and feel good. These include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Micronutrients are equally important. However, as their name suggests, they are required only in smaller quantities. They include mainly vitamins and minerals. Some of the main nutritional components that affect weight loss or gain are mentioned below.
Carbohydrates come from legumes, grains, bread, dairy products, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. Depending on their molecular structure, they are either classified as simple or complex. Carbohydrates comprise 45% to 65% of the total daily calorie intake and provide 4 calories per gram. When digested, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, commonly called glucose, which is then used by the body in multiple ways. Whatever extra is there is then converted into glycogen and stored for later use in the liver.
However, not all carbohydrates are equal; there are good and bad sources. Good carbohydrate sources are those that have complex carbohydrates. These aid in the slow release of glucose and remain in the body for quite a long time. Some good choices include brown rice, lentils, barley, oatmeal cookies, raisin bran, angel food cake, sweet potatoes, and couscous.
By eating whole grains and products made from these unrefined grains, you can enjoy the benefit of nutrients and fibre that are usually removed during the refining process. Bad carbohydrates are those which increase the glucose level in the blood for a short duration of time. Such sudden increases in the blood glucose level are harmful to the body as it, in turn, leads to insulin spikes, and as this glucose does not last long, the body then runs out of energy quicker. This leads to fatigue and hunger, which leaves you craving for more carbohydrates, consequently creating a vicious cycle.
However, carbohydrates are not to be avoided completely. They are the only source of fuel for many organs, like the kidneys and brain. In its absence, the body starts to rely on other sources of energy like proteins, which leads to the overproduction of ketone bodies that lead to the disruption of the body’s metabolism.
A lot of people assume that fats are bad. All fats do not necessarily have a negative impact on our body. Fats are an important part of our diets as well. Fats are used by our body to form the major part of all cell membranes. Moreover, fats play an essential role in the absorption of certain vitamins. According to the USDA dietary guideline, 25% to 30% of our calories should come from fats, which provide about 9 calories per gram. Similar to carbohydrates, the important point here is to differentiate between the good and bad sources of fats and to stay away from the bad ones.
The best choices are unsaturated fats: Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA) and Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA). They help prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries and raise good cholesterol levels in our body. Monounsaturated fats are found in plant oils, pecans, avocados, and peanuts, whereas polyunsaturated fats are found in tuna, salmon, lobster, and corn and sunflower oils. Processed trans fats and saturated fats should be avoided. These are the major culprits behind the spread of obesity and also the cause of inflammation in the body; they also promote heart disease.
Trans fats are primarily present in junk food like chips, fries, crackers, and cakes.
However, under-consumption of fats actually slows weight loss. This tends to affect the metabolism-boosting hormone that’s released from the fat cells, which leads to the slowing down of metabolism and, in turn, leading to weight gain.
About 15% to 20% per cent of our calories should come from protein sources each day, like carbohydrates. They also contain about 4 calories per gram, say the USDA dietary guidelines. Most of the protein gets converted to glucose. It takes around three to five hours to release glucose, which makes it a smart source of calories.
Most proteins get stored in the muscle cells, which aids in bodybuilding. All this makes it a favoured source of calories, and people try to replace other sources of energy with proteins. However, overconsumption of proteins also has side effects. Most of the high-protein food sources like dairy and meat are also high in saturated fat that leads to weight gain. Ketone bodies are produced on protein metabolism, and too much of the damages the body.
In America, meat is a primary source of protein, but plant sources are also available, such as legumes, seeds, nuts, and grains. Plant sources, with the exception of soy, must be combined with other foods, as they do not provide all of the amino acids that our bodies require to function normally.
Vitamins help our bodies by boosting the immune system and healing wounds. They also assist the body in creating energy and repairing cellular damage. Vitamin C is essential to help with synthesizing collagen. Collagen is what helps the blood vessels form their structure and also your ligaments and bones.
Common sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, peppers, and strawberries. Folate is also essential in helping prevent birth defects, and women planning to become pregnant or who are pregnant should ideally be taking folic acid supplements, which is the man-made form of folate, after consulting their doctor. Similarly, Vitamin D is essential to maintain calcium homeostasis, and this is naturally absorbed from the sun or certain foods.