I have to preface this: you are reading the fruit of hopping on my Facebook Soapbox a few weeks ago about the “dieting” mindset. Who doesn’t love that social networking gives anyone with an opinion the ability to express it…really…
“…everybody is on a diet–it’s the foods we choose to partake of. The mindset that we need to “go on a diet” is a little ridiculous because we are all “dieting” when we eat and drink, good or bad. Our nutrition is our diet. We need to develop healthy habits within our daily diets to improve health. Food is fuel. Why do some people choose nutrient-rich foods only when they’re sick?? Because whole foods like fruits and vegetables have healing properties. Why not save yourself the trouble by fueling up with them daily?! Preventative medicine–by God’s design! It WORKS!!”
Congratulations, you are “dieting!” You may not be switching out cheesecake for ricecakes, or apple pie for apples, but whatever you consume is your diet. Anytime you eat, you are adhering to your chosen diet. It may or may not be consistent, and it may or may not be supplying the nutrition you need. Why do people “diet”? They want to look good and feel good. You might look better having lost some weight, but you may not feel better if you are eating processed foods with minimal nutritional value outside of providing some energy for your body to function. This is weight-loss, not guaranteeing that the weight lost will be fat. When someone “diets” using the Calorie-Counting model, they often use an arbitrary number that a magazine recommended. There may have been a recommendation as to macronutrient percentages, but even that doesn’t explain what someone should be eating at each meal, and oftentimes those percentage charts consider all carbohydrates equal. All carbohydrates are NOT equal—sugars will not fill you up, but fiber absolutely will. A cookie that is 80 calories will not produce the same health or satiety effects as an apple that has a drastically different nutrient profile, despite being entirely carbohydrate (and water)—you cannot use “The Force” and will them to behave differently. The calorie-counting mindset does not guarantee nutrient-density or satiety, which can create problems with your energy levels and craving foods in which you will often and easily overindulge. I’m starting to delve into fat-loss, but that is pretty much the goal for anyone who is “dieting.”
Let me repeat: The “dieting” mindset can leave you lacking—and in more than just satiety.
Your best nutritional bet is to use as few processed foods as possible, i.e. eating whole foods—foods in their natural form—and if they must be processed, find a way to do them yourself (fresh) to limit shelf time and nutrient-depletion. A homemade protein shake with fresh berries will trump the Special K™ protein shake ANY day, in flavor, satiety, and nutrient-density. The processing (and resultant nutrient depletion) of foods in our diet means we are often nutrient-deficient while we overeat. This can easily lead to health problems, in which our concern then becomes eating nutrient-dense foods so we feel well again. I have to ask this question: Why in the world would we consider our wellness only when we are ill? Couldn’t the very foods we are eating to get well actually KEEP us well if we consumed them regularly?
If we happened to eat the foods we eat to regain health and wellness as a part of our daily diet, not only would we not be nutrient-deprived, we would also not be battling the obesity epidemic or the calorie-counting mindset. If you are eating the right things, the calories will take care of themselves. As Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, Metabolic Effect has stated, it’s really hard to overeat chicken breasts and broccoli (both rich in vitamins and minerals already present in the food—NOT produced in a laboratory and added in). Here’s a link to the post itself Metabolic Effect blog, which is a great resource for those of you interested in cutting-edge fitness and nutrition information: http://blog.metaboliceffect.com/2012/04/11/10-healthiest-fat-loss-foods/
Your diet will achieve results in your body, good or bad, regardless of what you believe will happen. The results are based on what is true about that food and your body. Chocolate Chip Cookies will not achieve the same result as an apple, and neither will achieve the result of an egg-white omelette full of fibrous, nutrient-dense vegetables. The apple and those nutrient-dense vegetables will help keep you well—a result of their micro- and macro-nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients are “micro” while carbohydrates, protein, and fats are “macro”). They will get you well, they will keep you well. Fill your diet with foods that will be of benefit, not detriment, to you! Created with a purpose, you will fulfill it to the utmost when YOU are functioning as your best YOU!!!
I am a Christian, I believe in Creation, and I believe that when God created this world, it was good. That being said, I believe that when He created the vegetation, He created it for our consumption and in the vegetation He placed all of the nutrition our bodies would need. Vitamins and minerals in certain foods are in combination with nutrients required for their digestion and usage. Let’s take a look at something simple like Vitamin E. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble Vitamins—this means they can only be utilized in the presence of fats. The best sources of Vitamin E are also good sources of healthy fats—this means that you can ingest these foods and will have all you need to utilize this important nutrient. A link to various food sources and Vitamin E levels:
How about Vitamin A? (I almost used D, but is not found in high levels in food, as our bodies can produce their own Vitamin D as a result of sun exposure and a few physiological processes.) Some of the richest sources are animal products that contain fat. The form found in the animal sources is retinol–a form your body does not have to convert. The beta-carotene found in carrots is not in a form the body can use–your body will only convert it to retinol if your Vitamin A stores are depleted and you are lacking.
These foods are designed to help you function at your best—they were not created in a processing plant. On that note, applesauce and dried apple rings will never trump the nutritional value of an orchard-fresh apple, nor will they have the accompanying satiety. The heat used in processing destroys some of the nutritional value, which is altered as a result of something as simple as chopping or slicing due to oxygen exposure. Can you imagine slicing them up and letting them be exposed to heat or oxygen for a long period of time? The sugars and fiber remain, but the water and nutrients are decreased, if not destroyed—these are the very things your body uses to maintain its physiological processes. You’ll be getting empty calories. For the elite athlete looking strictly to fuel up, this MAY be of lesser concern, but I leave it at “may” because of the oxidative damage (which affects your DNA and the basic functions of your cells—the “building blocks” of your body) that can occur due to the stressors placed on your body—the “antioxidant” vitamins are extremely crucial to your health and recovery! You need all the micronutrients you can get. I recommend supplementing those nutrients using their natural sources, not in their lab-processed form.
A side-note to consider in comparing raw foods (whole foods in their unprocessed, unheated, un-messed with form) with their baked, cookied, processed relatives: heating foods increases their energy-availability. Put simply, eating equivalent amounts of a given food cooked will give you greater caloric intake than that same food eaten raw. This applies to most foods–fruits, vegetables, grains, protein. I was a bit surprised to see that Charles Poloquin wrote about more than functional fitness, muscular balance, and conditioning–here we have an excellent post on raw foods v. heated (cooked, baked, processed) and their effectiveness in getting lean: http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/911/Eat_Raw_Foods_to_Get_Lean.aspx
As an added bonus, here is a link to some common, misleading labels often placed on food. If you read at the bottom, they recommend eating whole foods as well.