Do you truly believe that a 300 calorie plate of organic vegetables is equal to 300 calories of lollies? Common sense says they are not, but unfortunately when we are looking at our food choices, many of us use the amount of calories way too much in the decision process.
The message about portion control and calorie restriction has been so loud that it has eclipsed some of the basic and most important factors to making healthy food decisions.
Here are 7 other food considerations that can be more important than the actual calories amount:
Fresh is best – This is an old adage but it is still one of the most important factors to choosing great tasting and enzyme-rich foods. Enzymes are critical for digestion, energy production and so many other bio-chemical reactions in the body but are lost with time and heat.
Think about it: Would you prefer to eat a freshly picked apple or one that was six months old? “Enzymes are substances that make life possible. They are needed for every chemical reaction that takes place in the human body. No mineral, vitamin or hormone can do any work without enzymes. Our bodies, all our organs, tissues and cells are run by metabolic enzymes.” Dr Howell, Enzyme Nutrition.
“You are what you eat” – This is a foundational principle in nutrition as our body can only build and repair based on the raw materials that you feed it. If you have poor food quality you can only get poor quality results with, for example, your energy, mental acuity and disease prevention. Nutrient-dense foods can sometimes be higher in calories, but the positive impact to the body can be significant.
Limit your sugar intake – In the ‘low fat message’ era, an understanding of the negative impacts of sugar has now led to it being considered more of a health threat that fat. Checking food labels will show the sugar content, especially on low-fat products.
Increase fibre – Another critical element to a healthy digestive system and the elimination process of the body is fibre. Proven to stabilise glucose and cholesterol levels, it reduces diseases and disorders such as bowel cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diverticulitis. Food labels show the fibre content and, although not a general consideration in the calorie equation as it is fairly low, it must be thought of due to the positive health impacts.
QUICK TIP – As a minimal we should be consuming 25–30g a day.
Eliminate food additives and preservatives – Similar to fibre, additives and preservatives are not high in calories but must be considered in healthy food choices. Although some are safe, adding chemicals to our foods for extended shelf life and improved colour and flavour can have a negative impact on the nutrient quality plus the chemical impacts on our body and the reactions to those with sensitivities.
Macro-nutrients type – Although this does not have a lot to do with the calories of the actual food, understanding your body’s macro-nutrient preference is critical to not consuming too many calories. We all have different macro-nutrient (protein, fats and carbs) requirements based on our individual genetics, which includes the type and volume of muscles. Hence, why some higher protein type diets work better for some people and not for others. As an example, if someone needs a higher protein requirement and eats a diet low in protein, they will not feel satisfied and will be looking for more food after a meal.
Thermic effect of foods – Some foods are ‘harder’ to digest and as a result take more energy (calories) to process. It is reported that this can be up to 30% for protein, while some vegetables are over 100%, named ‘negative calories’ foods.
Calories are an important consideration when choosing healthy food options, but they are not the only consideration. We have listed these simple and critical principles that can have more of an impact on your health than just looking at the calories alone.