As a Nutritional Sciences graduate, I feel it is my duty to share what I have learned so far in university (as well as my daily life) with you.
Hunger vs. Appetite
Hunger: Physical drive to find and eat food (stimulated by a lack of nutrients, empty GI tract, the brain…)
Appetite: Psychological desire to eat certain foods (provoked by social events, location, stress, boredom…)
… are you hungry, or do you just have an appetite?
What Your Body Fears: Starvation
And your body copes with this by storing fat. Your body can store unlimited amounts of it as a method for survival. Fat provides long-lasting energy compared to carbohydrate and protein, so if there was a day without food, your body can be somewhat prepared for it (but that does not mean fasting is recommended for fat loss: fasting slows down the body’s metabolism, and the weight lost is mostly water weight and lean muscle mass, not fat. However, healthy eating and taking some classes at the gym is recommended!). So, what are some ways the body can store fat?
The “Dangerous Three.” You know what I’m talking about! Sugar, salt and fat*! In my opinion, the combination of those 3 things is the number one cause for weight gain, more so than boredom and emotional eating put together. The “dangerous three” are flavor enhancers, they are not foods you eat by themselves.
No one eats a bowl of granulated white sugar for breakfast, no one can swallow a palm full of sea salt, and surely, no one eats a couple sticks of butter for dinner (and if they did, I would be worried!). The human body evolved to favor these three enhancers because they are the easiest (and most of the time, tastiest) ways to get a person to eat too much, or, consume too many calories and therefore store the extras as fat. The body was designed to gain fat, not lose it. Because that is what your body wants, those three things are extremely addicting… you will always want more. I discovered this with a jar of Skippy’s natural peanut butter (ingredients: roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil and salt). After finishing a decadently filled PB&J sandwich, I would never be satisfied… I always wanted another sandwich (okay, maybe just a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter… but still!). No one can have just one Oreo, no one can take one Doritos chip, and no one can eat only one roasted walnut covered in a sugary maple glaze! It is amazing how much sugar is added into the foods we eat. From salsas to deli meats, from ketchup to mustard, and from pasta sauces to Boyardee’s canned ravioli! It’s crazy how much salt can be added to something, and the same with fat.
*Don’t get me wrong, healthy fats are not bad or dangerous. In fact, healthy fats are beneficial to the human body and for countless reasons! It’s the bad fats (trans fats, hydrogenated oils, GMO canola oil) that are harmful to your arteries, organs and overall health.
My Experience with “The Dangerous Three”
After New Year’s Day from 2010-2011, I changed my life around. I started exercising, eating healthy, and maintaining a positive self-image. I cut out added sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), and ate whole foods rather than processed foods. It helped to be prepared for what’s ahead. If I was about to have a busy day running errands, I would take healthy snacks with me so I didn’t have to go to vending machines or fast food restaurants. For a long day of classes, I would take a few homemade protein bars with me to sustain my energy levels. I would schedule times to go to the gym on my calendar to stay healthy and motivated. I was tired of living an unhealthy lifestyle deprived of nutrition and energy — chocolate bars only made me happy for a shot while!
Clean, whole foods made eating an entirely new experience. It opened up a new world that I wasn’t even aware existed! Sure, things taste different without added sugar, but we just need to work around that. If there was a deep pothole in front of your car on the road, would you shut off the engine and sit there? No! You drive around it and get to your destination.
One food I “gave up” first was conventional peanut butter made with hydrogenated oils, sugar and salt. I discovered natural peanut butter made with 100% peanuts — no sugar, salt or oil added. The texture took some getting used to, but it was still mighty tasty! And there was another thing… I didn’t feel like licking the entire jar clean after one spoonful, just like how the conventional PB made me feel. I realized it was because the natural peanut butter didn’t have all the excess sugar, fat and salt — “The Dangerous Three”
The second type of food I “gave up” were baked goods. The banana bread slices sold on campus, the chocolate chip muffins I used to buy everyday, etc. I started baking at home because I stopped buying the storebought baked goods. And that’s why I started blogging! I was circumventing that “pothole” mentioned earlier. Not only is it easy, but it’s FUN and 100% gratifying!
Cravings and Snacking
Have you ever experienced a day or two where you were unusually hungry? Where you couldn’t stop snacking, and food was on your mind all day? There may be a reason for it! The next time you experience that feeling, ask yourself these questions when looking over the past couple of days:
- Did I eat enough?
- Did I consume enough fat, carbohydrate or protein?
- Did I have any nutrient-filled foods?
Reason #2: You snack because you are constantly hungry:
Beware: Fat-Free & Sugar-Free Products
Something we need to watch out for these days, are foods advertising that they are “fat-free” or “sugar-free.” These terms are not metaphors for “healthy.” Healthy fats are needed in the daily diet to sustain life and regular bodily functions, like providing cell membrane structure, protecting organs and regulating body temperature. Fat-free foods generally tend to be high in sugars, which is a diet-backlash–sugars are carbohydrates, and too many carbohydrates are easily converted into fat in the body. In the end, that fat-free snack equals more sugar (aka, more carbs), which packs on the body fat. A balanced meal with fat, fiber and protein is the way to go, even if the fat level is low.
As for the sugar-free products, they tend to contain sucralose and other sugar alternatives. It’s hard to say what these ingredients can do longterm, as they are new to the food industry and there has not been enough time to show the effects of longterm use. Aspartame, another additive, on the other hand has been shown to have detrimental effects on the human body. If you are trying to cut added sugars, don’t keep making the foods you used to eat with Splenda or Sweet n Low, but instead, incorporate fruits into your diet (like pineapples and grapes) or use coconut sugar, date sugar, pure maple sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, molasses or stevia extract instead of granulated white sugar or brown sugar.
Beware: Food Fads
Vegan! Gluten Free! Paleo! Low Carb! Ahhh!
These terms might reel you in (maybe not the “ahhh” but the other ones might!) but they do not necessarily mean HEALTHY! In fact it could mean the opposite. On a regular basis I find recipes that prove this — I see recipes that shout VEGAN from the rooftops but are filled with refined sugar, pounds of margarine or butter substitutes and bleached flour… that’s what I call not healthy. I see gluten free recipes comprised of starches and sugar rather than whole grain flours so we are sent into a tailspin (sugar crashes from the high glycemic ingredients, constipation from the lack of fiber, etc)… also what I call not healthy.
Next time you hear about a fad, just think: will cutting out all animal products (vegan), all gluten (gluten free), all grains (paleo), all fruit (low carb), etc be beneficial for my muscles, my brain chemistry, my hormones, my feelings, and my body as a whole? Probably not. Health is about balance and moderation, not extreme dieting and cutting out foods for good.
Like I said above, health is about balance. Moderation is key in discovering health and wellness, there isn’t anything extreme about it. With food (and life) my goal is to reach and maintain balance (in science verbiage, “homeostasis“). Speaking of food, that means a balance of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber and complete proteins — a meal is not balanced without one of those things.
Typical desserts are most often never balanced as they are comprised of fats and refined carbohydrates, no fiber or protein in sight! I aim to make all of my recipes high in fiber and protein because dessert should be a balanced meal, so now we can eat it on a daily basis! How great does that sound?
My Peanut Butter & Chocolate Krispy Treats could easily be made up of only fats and carbohydrates but that combination isn’t nearly as satisfying as the version I made with a kick of protein! Protein lowers the glycemic index of a food so it takes a longer time to digest (keeps you fuller for longer and provides a constant and steady stream of energy — no one likes sugar rushes and sugar crashes!)
It takes time for our bodies to digest real food (especially with the balance of fats, carbs, fiber and protein) so we can live our lives without constant hunger pangs. When we consume unnatural, refined foods (like high fructose corn syrups, bleached sugar and flours stripped of their nutrients), our bodies digest the food at a rapid rate causing spikes in blood sugar, our capacity for fat storage and sometimes even food addictions and chemical imbalances.
If we consume disproportionate, irregular things then we will feel disproportionate and irregular.
If we strive for balance, we can acquire balance.
Why You Should…
- More Omega-3’s:
- Omega-3’s can be found in walnuts, salmon, tuna, flax, Barlean’s Omega Swirls (I like the lemon and mango peach flavors)
- Helps you burn fat when you’re asleep
- More Protein:
- Curbs your appetite
- Increases your metabolic rate when awake and asleep (of the calories you consume from protein, your body can burn up to 30% of it just from digesting it!)
- It is a superfood full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, which can will keep you healthy as you age!
- It is a low-calorie veggie that can help us reach our recommended vegetable intake as well as help us lose weight
- Green Tea:
- Raises metabolism (increases heart rate throughout the day, which increases fat burn)
- Green Monsters:
- When spinach is consumed with other fruits high in Vitamin C (like in Green Monsters) the body can absorb the iron in the spinach, whereas spinach by itself cannot release its iron
- They are tasty (and you can’t taste the spinach!)
- They can help us reach our recommended fruit and veggie intake (7 servings a day)
- More Water:
- The body is 50%-70% water, and helps dissolve substances like sugars, minerals and vitamins as well as regulate body temperature and flush out toxins
- Not enough water causes dehydration and possibly heat stroke if in a hot, humid environment