A Calorie Is Not a Calorie

I have been asked many times whether the types of foods you eat make a difference in weight loss. Can I eat a couplehomemade namkeen of samosas for lunch, ice cream or a bowl of bhel for dinner — people think that as long as you are eating less calories, even junk foods, then they will lose weight. I keep advising that nutrition and weight loss go hand in hand and it’s not just about calories.Eating well isn’t easy when the fast food industry preaches that all calories are created equal, and eating healthy is all about personal responsibility and willpower.

Well, there is finally scientific proof that this is not the case and in fact all calories are not created equal. A study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that when it came to weight loss and maintaining weight loss, those who ate a low carbohydrate, high fat diet kept more weight off than those who were on either a low glycemic diet or a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

While all participants in the study ate the same number of calories, the types consumed varied. The low fat diet contained 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, and 20 percent fat. The low glycemic diet contained 40 percent carbs, 40 percent fat, and 20 percent protein (with a focus on minimally processed foods). The low carb diet had 10 percent of calories from carbs, 60 percent from fat, and 30 percent from protein.Compared to those on the low fat diet, those following the low carb diet burned 350 calories more per day and those on the low glycemic diet burned 150 calories more per day.It proves that all calories are not the same.

This is bad news for the makers of  nutritionally devoid processed fast foods. The food industry has been telling us that the calories of a burger or namkeen are the same as roti-subji — if all calories are created equal, then there are no bad foods.

It is known that simple carbohydrates and sugars actually stimulate appetite and cravings, while fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates like vegetables, beans, and legumes satiate and stabilize blood sugar. A recent report put out by the World Public Health Nutrition Association found that processing does matter, citing that processed foods are “habit-forming and some would say often at least quasi-addictive. They do displace healthy meals, dishes and foods and thus are liable to cause obesity or else at least mild malnutrition.”

No one thinks they can be addicted to food, but there is growing evidence that eating sugar makes you crave more of it. Now you know why you can’t stop at only one serving of desert. Stick to a low but good carb diet rich in vegetables, low fat protein and beans — aka roti-subji-dal and curds!

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