Surely all calories equal the same amount of energy. They certainly do, however the way the body converts the food we eat is certainly not equal.
If we eat a meal that contains 500kcal which are predominantly carbohydrates, they will transfer from the carbohydrates to glucose rapidly. For example, a white pasta dish with no protein compared to wholewheat pasta with spinach and tuna, will transfer into glucose at a much faster rate.
How does this make a difference to the way the body utilises these calories?
A high carbohydrate meal with no protein and very little fibre, will transfer into glucose
quickly spiking the blood sugar. This causes the adrenal glands to release insulin to regulate the blood sugar. The insulin will take ALL of the glucose out of the blood, causing the spike to rapidly fall. The adrenal glands will then release cortisol and adrenaline which sends a signal to the liver to release glucose into the blood. During this period the surge of the cortisol will also send a signal to the brain for you to eat and the sugar craving begins. The liver is also releasing glucose to combat the fall, spiking the blood sugar again and the rollercoaster continues.
This puts an enormous strain on the adrenal glands which can lead to adrenal fatigue. This overload of glucose in the body and the strain on the adrenal glands and liver can result in pre-diabetes and diabetes.
The liver is under strain to constantly store and release glucose to keep us functioning. If the
liver is full of glucose, it will then store this as fat, which can result in fatty liver disease and visceral fat being stored around the abdominals and organs.
Therefore, you can eat the same number of calories and still gain weight due to the glucose or fructose content.
How can you change this?
Eating complex carbohydrates which contain fibre. This slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood.
Eating protein with your complex carbohydrates, will also slow down the digestive process.
Try eating a fibrous starter before your main where possible, as the fibre will create a mesh around the small intestine again slowly down the digestion of anything that follows.
If you are going to indulge in a sugary treat, ensure it follows a meal containing lots of fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates.
In saying all of this, if you eat more calories than the body can utilise for energy, irrelevant of the content, it will be stored as fat.
The average woman should consume around 2000kcal and a man 2500kcal dependent
on age and lifestyle.
If you are aiming to lose weight start with a deficit of 500kcal per day, which will equate to approximately 1lb of weight loss over the course of a week.
Never eat carbohydrates on their own and go for a savory snack rather than a sweet snack. This includes fruit which contains fructose, a form of sugar. This is very hard for the liver to utilise for energy and will be stored as fat.
Fruit with the skin on, such as an apple, pear or berries which are high in fibre, vitamin c and antioxidant polyphenols are less likely to spike blood sugars. However, avoid tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple.
These are the glycemic categories, try to eat low to medium and avoid high.
Glycemic index categories
Low GI -1- 55
Medium GI - 56- 68
High GI - 70 and higher
Avoid eating sugary snacks, processed foods and foods with added sugar. Check the ingredients on the back of the packaging; if sugar features in the first 3 items listed, then don’t eat it!