Most of us know that to lose weight it is important to balance calories. At a glance, nutrition is a simple function of intake and expenditure. A calorie is a calorie…or is it? In order to improve health, enhance well-being and optimize weight loss, it is essential to not only pay attention to the number of calories consumed (this should be a given), but also be aware of the following factors: glycemic index, nutrient density and frequency of eating.
Glycemic index(GI) is a measurement of how fast a particular food raises blood sugar levels. It is relevant to our weight and to our health. In simple terms, the GI tells us whether a food raises blood sugar levels dramatically, moderately, or just a bit. Foods that have only a slow, small effect on blood sugar have a low GI value, while those causing a rapid and massive rise in blood sugar have a high GI value. High glycemic foods stimulate insulin over secretion. Overproduction of insulin, a fat storage hormone, in turn causes blood glucose levels to crash resulting in increased appetite. Chronic over consumption of these foods commonly results in a pre-diabetic insulin resistant state and eventually diabetes.
Nutrient density is the amount of nutrient per unit of energy (calorie) in food. Emphasizing consumption of nutrient dense food is one the healthiest ways of losing weight. Nutrient dense food saves calories and provides vitamins, minerals, and fiber! Nutrient dense foods include vegetables, fresh fruit, legumes, whole grain (preferably 2.5+ grams of fiber per serving), eggs, seafood, lean poultry, and nonfat or low-fat dairy.
Frequency of eating is important as well. One large meal is NOT the same as several smaller ones, even if the calories add up the same! Small, frequent meals help to stabilize blood sugar, reduce appetite, and improve mental focus. Eating small meals often is not only healthy but also a great weight loss strategy!
A calorie is not just a calorie! A calorie is an opportunity to give your body the nutrients it needs! So, next time you look at the calories per serving, remember not to be so quick to judge the nutritional value of a particular food based solely on its caloric content.