The Big (fat) Calorie Con
A calorie is a unit of energy equal to about 4.2KiloJoules. What does this mean to you? As a nation we are currently obsessed with this little number that gets printed onto all the foods we buy. But how helpful is knowing our exact intake really. Perhaps not as helpful as we think, and in fact it can occasionally be harmful, as we shall see.
First of all let me say this, calories are our friend, we need them, without them we’d soon die. The problem is we have found that eating too many calories leads to us piling on the pounds. So calories were made the enemy and the big food and drink companies pounced on this idea and drilled into our subconscious that low calorie is good, and high calorie is very, very bad news.
It has gotten to the point that the main nutritional information we look at is the amount of calories in a product, not other more important things like vitamin and mineral content. We have three main types of food that provide us with energy, carbohydrates, fat and protein. It’s the second of these three that has become a sort of food outcast, nobody wants to go near it. The reason? Fat contains twice the amount of calories per unit compared to protein and carbohydrates. So the buzz words on the supermarket shelves ‘Low in fat’ and ‘Low calorie’ are the ones we flock to looking for that slim celeb look.
So what’s the big problem you ask? Well, we are being conned in more ways than you think. In low/zero calorie versions of soft drinks such as Cola, the ‘Diet’ version is simply the same drink without all the Sugar, but if you simply remove the sugar you end up with a product that is pretty foul tasting. So what’s the solution? Aspartame based artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners contain chemicals that are toxic to your body when high levels are present, leading to many side effects from depression to Brain Tumours. Furthermore, they have also been shown to increase carbohydrate cravings, leading to an individual to overeat and feel HUNGRIER… Not ideal when the drink is supposed to help lose weight. I won’t go any further into these artificial chemicals right now but I advise you to watch the documentary Sweet Misery for more information.
Then we have the low calorie ready meals from the likes of weightwatchers that apparently are made with our health in mind. These have often been processed to remove the fat content, making it ‘low fat’, but again in doing this you ruin the taste so again manufacturers look to artificial chemicals and often sugar to make it taste nice again. Not only has the nutritional benefits of fat been removed but a lot of the nutrients are lost in the processing. This leads to the foods we eat supplying us with calories and little nutrients. This may make us feel full, but it will never make us feel satisfied as we are still hungry on a cellular level and unless our cells get the nutrients they need, we cannot expect to feel satiated, happy and relaxed and our cells can’t make our skin beautiful, our bones strong and our hair shine.
Fat is a vital part of our diet. Certain vitamins are only soluble in fat so we must take it in from our diet. It also makes us feel satiated and puts us in tune with our bodies natural hunger responses. I strongly believe one of the causes for our obesity epidemic is ironically our fear of fats and calories. We would rather eat a chemical concoction of unnatural processed crap than a nice avocado salad, if the crap had fewer calories in it.
In the wild none of the animals know how many calories they have in their diet, they just eat foods from natural sources and their body tells them when to eat. You also never see animals that have become sick and diseased because of excess food intake. Except maybe the animals WE domesticate and feed.
There is now a low fat/low calorie version of almost every type of food available in supermarkets, and most of us will opt for these, yet we are fatter than ever. If you have the choice between a low calorie chocolate bar and a high calorie chocolate bar, have an apple.