Secret #1: Knowing Your Food
“Knowledge is the food of the soul” – Plato
The quote above is a testament to the importance of information and our understanding of it. By uncovering the secret of how food affects us, we are able to better guide those biochemical processes that can benefit or harm our health.
Know What You Eat: Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats
These are organic compounds that include sugars (simple carbohydrates) and starches (longer chains of sugars, also called complex carbohydrates). They are the easiest for the body to digest and provide 4 calories per gram. The body often goes to them first for energy. Carbs are most commonly found in:
- Fruit (especially berries)
- Whole grains (breads, rice, cereals, pastas, wheat)
- Beans and other legumes
Though carbohydrates are a common source of energy, science has shown us that the human body can obtain its necessary energy from proteins and fat as well.
Carbohydrate Consumption Recommendations
1) EAT MORE FRUITS, ESPECIALLY BERRIES: Berries are one of the best carbohydrates you can add to your diet. These super foods are rich with antioxidants, polyphenols, and flavonoids, compounds that are beneficial in reducing free radicals, opening blood vessels, and lowering the risk of cancer. What’s more, they’re low in calories, high in water and fiber and satisfy sweet cravings for a fraction of the calories in candy.
2) EAT MORE STARCHY VEGETABLES AND WHOLE GRAINS: Vegetables and whole grains give sustained levels of energy that your body needs throughout the day. The sugars in sweet potatoes enhance the taste but also release slowly into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced source of energy without blood sugar spikes linked to weight gain and fatigue. Quinoa is technically a seed and is a great carbohydrate and high quality protein. Studies have shown consuming whole grains such as steel-cut oats cause smaller insulin spikes and consuming 5 servings per week have resulted in a 39% reduction in the onset of Type 2 throughout.
3) MIX CARBS WITH FOODS THAT PROMOTE BLOOD SUGAR STABALIZATION: Spices such as cinnamon is great, researchers found that a teaspoon added to a desert help temper blood sugar spikes. Grated or sliced ginger increases metabolic rates and helps digestion, cayenne powder and other spicy peppers can also boost metabolism.
Proteins consist of one or more chains of amino acids, smaller organic compounds that are essential for all cellular health. These amino acids perform a vast array of functions within the human body, including cell replication, immune system function, transmission of neural messages within the nervous system and the transport of molecules from one location of the body to another.
Many living organisms can synthesize their own amino acids internally, while others (including humans) must obtain certain ones from their diet. Without a rich diet in protein and the essential amino acids that make it, the human body cannot rebuild damaged tissue or grow.
Protein Rich Foods
- Chicken, beef, lamb, and pork
- Fish, shellfish, and other seafood
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, etc.)
- Beans and other legumes (high in carbs too)
- Nuts and seeds
- Whey, egg powder, or vegetarian protein powders
Protein Quick Facts
- Only 4 calories per gram, same as carbohydrates
- Digested more slowly, making you feel fuller for longer. For this reason many raise essential protein intake and lower the carbohydrates to lose weight
- Used to repair and build muscle
- If you don’t eat enough food each day, your body will use protein from muscle as a fuel and store more fat
Protein Consumption Recommendations
Get your protein from lean foods, ideally (i) organic beef (grass fed), chicken, turkey, lamb, and fish: (ii) dairy products; and (iii) protein-rich carbs such as beans and other legumes. Always eat carbs with protein to promote efficient metabolic processing.
Probably the most maligned of all the fats. In reality, they are an essential component of the human diet. Most people receive more than an adequate amount, however, and often the wrong type of fat. But how is one to distinguish between the right fat and the wrong fat? Fats can be broken down into two good fats and two bad fats (all are 9 calories per gram).
Good Fats – Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated
Simply put, monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and solid / semi-solid when refrigerated. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and stay liquid, even when chilled.
Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found naturally in many foods we eat. They are categorized as essential fats as the body cannot synthesize them but must be found in foods. When eaten in moderation, they have a beneficial effect on health, especially when replacing saturated fats or trans fats, for they can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood. This helps to lower the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as provide nutrients to help maintain the body’s regular cellular functions.
- Are liquid at room temperature
- Are high in Vitamin E (an antioxidant that fights free radicals)
- Are needed for a healthy brain
- Help you feel satisfied and won’t leave you hungry
- Reduce bad cholesterol levels in blood, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke
- Help you burn body fat and maintain a consistent level of energy
Foods Rich in Monounsaturated Fats
- Olives and olive oil
- Canola oil
- Sunflower oil
- Peanut oil and peanut butter
- Sesame oil
- Nuts (peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts
- Are liquid at room temperature
- Include Omega-3 essential fatty acids (proven to decrease risk of arrhythmias, decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth of atherosclerotic plaque and lower blood pressure)
- Include Omega-6 essentials fatty acids (may improve insulin resistance, reduce diabetes risk and lower blood pressure)
- Are needed for a healthy brain
- Help you feel satisfied and less hungry
- Reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in blood, reducing risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Help burn body fat and maintain consisten energy levels
Foods Rich in Polyunsaturated Fats
- Soybean oil
- Safflower oil
- Flaxseed oil
- Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and chia seeds)
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines)
Bad Fats – Saturated and Trans
Saturated fats are typically solid at room – think of bacon grease as it thickens in the pan when it cools. Also naturally occurring, saturated fats come mainly from animal sources, including meat and dairy products and can also be found in baked and fried goods. Generally, foods high in saturated fats should be eaten as little as possible.
The reason: eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Many foods high in saturated fats are also high in native LDL cholesterol, raining the LDL cholesterol in the blood even higher. Foods high in saturated fats include:
- Fatty beef and beef fat (tallow)
- Poultry with skin
- Lard and cream
- Fried Foods
- Many baked goods
Trans fats, also called “partially hydrogenated oils” are far the worst fats to have in your diet. These fats are synthesized in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
Industrial food producers like using trans fats in their food because they easy to use, inexpensive to make and have a long shelf life. Trans fats also give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many restaurants and fast-food chains use trans fats to deep-fry because they can be used over and over again in commercial fryers.
Keep an eye out for trans fats on the ingredient list on food synthesized and avoid them at all costs! Trans fats raise your (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels in the process. Eating trans fats can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke. They’re also associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Trans fats can be found in:
- Fried foods
- Baked good such as pastries, pie crusts, biscuits, pizza dough, cookies and crackers
- Stick margarine
Fat Consumption Recommendations
The American Heart Association recommends limitting the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7% of your total daily calorie intake and trans fats less than 1%. That means, for example, if you consume about 1,500 calories per day, no more than 105 calories should come from saturated fats and 15 calories from trans fats. (That’s about 12g of saturated fats and 1.5g of trans fats per day.)
Now we know a little more about our food, we can apply this to what we read on food labels to make healthier food purchases.
More Secrets for Successful Weight Loss
Secret #1: Knowing your food (Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats)
Secret #2: Understanding the emotional triggers that lead us to eat the way we do
Secret #3: Recognizing your eating behaviors and habits
Secret #4: The impact of sleep and weight loss
Secret #5: The effect of energy levels and stress on weight loss
Secret #6: Appreciating how digestion impacts weight loss
Secret #7: Making healthy portion size decisions
Secret #8: How to eat out and still lose weight
Secret #9: Learn how to work out anytime and anywhere