A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, at least from a thermodynamic point of view. It is defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius (2.2 pounds by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
But when it comes to your body’s health and energy balance, not all calories are created equal.
For example, some studies have reported that diets high in protein, low in carbohydrates, or a combination of both result in greater weight loss than diets high in fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
If all the calories in foods were the same, you wouldn’t expect there to be differences in weight loss in people who eat the same number of calories, which are distributed across different types of food.
Nutritionists like me know that there are many factors that affect what a calorie means for your body. Here’s what we understood so far about calories and nutrition.
Energy that is actually available to your body
In the late 1800s, chemist WO Atwater and his colleagues developed a system to find out how much energy, that is, how many calories, different foods contain. Basically, he burned food samples and recorded how much energy they released in the form of heat.
However, not every bit of energy in foods that can burn in the laboratory is actually available to your body. What scientists refer to as metabolizable energy is the difference between the total energy in food ingested and the energy excreted from your body undigested in feces and urine. For each of the three macronutrients proteins, carbohydrates and fats, Atwood has determined a percentage of the calories contained that would actually be metabolizable.
According to the Atwater system, it is estimated that one gram of each macronutrient provides a certain number of calories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is still using these calculations today to come up with an official calorie count for every food.
How much energy do you use
What you eat can affect what scientists call your body’s energy expenditure. So much energy is needed to keep you alive Energy that you use to breathe, digest, keep your blood flowing and so on, along with what you try to move your body. You may have heard that this is called metabolism.
The quality of the diet can change the body’s energy expenditure, which is also known as the thermal effect of food. For example, in one study, people who ate the same number of calories per day but were on either a low-carb or low-fat diet had differences in total energy expenditure of about 300 calories per day. Those on a very low-carb diet consumed the most energy, while those on a low-fat diet consumed the least.
In another study, a high-fat diet resulted in lower total energy expenditure than a high-carbohydrate diet. Other researchers reported that people who increased their protein intake to 30 to 35% of their diet used more energy, although replacing fat with carbohydrates did not change energy expenditure.
In general, high-carbohydrate or high-fat diets, or both, result in a 4 to 8% increase in energy expenditure, while high-protein meals result in an 11 to 14% increase over resting metabolic rate. Protein has a higher thermal effect because it is harder for the body to break down. While these variations aren’t huge, they could add to the obesity epidemic by promoting subtle average weight gain.
Quality of the calories you eat
Nutritionists pay attention to a food’s glycemic index and load, how quickly and how much it causes your blood sugar levels to rise. An increase in blood sugar triggers the release of insulin, which in turn influences the energy metabolism and the storage of excess energy as fat.
Foods like white rice, cakes, cookies, and chips are all high glycemic index / high stress foods. Green vegetables, raw peppers, mushrooms, and legumes all have a low glycemic index / load. There is some evidence to suggest that foods with a lower glycemic index / load may be better at regulating blood sugar levels, regardless of the calories they contain.
Reward centers in the brain light up when people consume high glycemic index / high stress foods, highlighting the pleasurable and addicting effects of foods like sweets or white bread.
The fiber content of foods is another thing to consider. Your body cannot digest fiber found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans for energy. So foods high in fiber tend to have less metabolizable energy and can help you feel full with fewer calories.
Empty calories from foods with minimal or no nutritional value are another factor to consider. Things like white sugar, soft drinks, and many ultra-processed snacks don’t offer much, if anything, in the form of protein, vitamins, or minerals along with their calories. The opposite would be nutrient-rich foods that are high in nutrients or fiber, but still relatively low in calories. Examples are spinach, apples, and beans.
And don’t think of empty calories as neutral. Nutritionists consider them to be harmful calories as they can have a negative impact on health. Foods that are the major contributors to weight gain are potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and meat, both processed and unprocessed. On the flip side, foods that are inversely linked to weight gain are vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.
More health than calories and weight
It is undeniable that the most important factor for weight loss is the difference between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories consumed through exercise. But do not be mistaken. While weight does play a role in health and longevity, weight loss alone is not synonymous with health.
Yes, some high-protein diets seem to promote weight loss, at least in the short term. However, epidemiologists know that in areas where people live an average of nearly 100 years, people have a predominantly vegetable diet, with very little or no animal protein and little or moderate fat in the form of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
I often hear friends or clients saying things like these carbohydrates that make me fat or I have to follow a low-carb diet. But these ailments drive dieters like me insane. Carbohydrates include foods like Coca-Cola and candy canes, but also apples and spinach. Avoiding simple carbohydrates like soft drinks, refined baked goods, pasta and sweets definitely has a positive effect on health. But avoiding carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits has the opposite effect.
A plant-based diet high in plant-based protein and carbohydrates, mainly from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes, is the healthiest diet known to researchers for longevity and preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and many other ailments.
The modern western diet suffers from an increase in the amount of calories consumed with a simultaneous decrease in the quality of the calories consumed. And researchers now know that calories from different foods have different effects on satiety, insulin response, the process of converting carbohydrates into body fat, and metabolic energy expenditure.
When it comes to your health, you rely more on the quality of the calories you eat than on the number of calories.
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Sick Day Management for Diabetes: How to Plan Ahead
If you have diabetes, it’s especially important to take care of yourself when you’re sick — even if the condition is as common as the flu or a urinary tract infection.
To avoid complications, it’s a good idea to plan ahead how you’ll deal with sick days, illnesses, and infections.
This article provides some expert guidance on:
- how to prepare for sick days
- how to make a sick day checklist
- when to see your doctor if you have complications of the disease
If you have diabetes, an illness or infection can deal a powerful double whammy to your body. Here’s how.
Illness can make it harder to control blood sugar
One reason to plan ahead is that illness or infection can make diabetes symptoms worse.
Your body responds to it the same way it responds to stressful events. It produces a surge in hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone.
When your body becomes flooded with cortisol, your blood sugar can spike for several reasons:
- Cortisol causes your body to make glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for fuel.
- Cortisol sends a message to your pancreas to lower your insulin levels.
- Cortisol causes insulin resistance. As a result, the cells in your muscle and fat don’t respond to insulin and don’t take or use as much glucose.
Both can cause your blood sugar levels to spike when your body is struggling with an illness or infection.
Diabetes can complicate an illness
If you have diabetes you may be at higher risk of certain types of infections or diseases.
Research from 2021 shows that people with diabetes are more likely to develop certain types of infections, including pneumonia and cystitis (urinary tract infections).
If you get sick, you may be at a higher risk of hospitalization. For example, 2021 research linked diabetes to longer hospital stays, more complications and a higher risk of death with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
That’s why it’s so important that you work with your diabetes care team to plan ahead so you know how to manage an illness, injury, or infection should it arise. Your plan can give you some peace of mind now and protect your health later.
Advocates from the American Diabetes Association and the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommend that your sick day schedule address the following key questions.
Let’s tackle these questions one by one.
Manage blood sugar when you are sick
To prepare for the sick days you’ll face sooner or later, talk to your diabetes care team about tests, medications, and warning signs.
When you are sick, your blood sugar can rise for a number of reasons:
- Hormones released by your immune system can increase blood sugar.
- Being sick can change your eating and drinking habits.
- Other medications can affect your blood sugar levels.
What to eat and drink
To keep your blood sugar within your target range, eat and drink as close to your usual routine as possible. That might be easier said than done, especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
If you have trouble eating and drinking, aim for the following:
- 4 to 6 ounces of water or sugar-free beverages every 30 minutes
- 50 grams of carbohydrate every 4 hours, either from food or, if you cannot eat solid food, from a sugary drink
If your blood sugar is too low, you may need to follow the 15-15 rule. That means you have to eat 15 grams of carbohydrates and test your blood sugar 15 minutes later.
Talk to your medical team about whether candy or glucose pills would work if you are unable to keep food or drink down.
When and what to test
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend testing your blood sugar levels every 4 hours if you are feeling unwell.
Keep a notepad nearby so you have an accurate record to share with your doctor. You don’t want to rely on your memory of readings at a time when your memory might be clouded by lack of sleep or worsening symptoms.
You may also need to test your urine for ketones. Ketones are a sign that your insulin levels are low and your body is using fat for fuel.
Testing for ketones in your urine can tell you if you’re developing a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. This condition is life-threatening, so it’s important to know ahead of time how to identify these chemicals in your body.
The NIDDK recommends testing ketones every 4 to 6 hours during illness.
It’s also important to track your weight, body temperature, and blood pressure. These metrics are important clues that can tell you if:
- You become dehydrated.
- Your blood sugar reaches an unhealthy level.
- Her condition worsens.
- An infection develops.
It is especially important for people with type 1 diabetes to measure their blood sugar more frequently when they are sick. Insulin levels can drop sharply as the body fights a disease or infection.
What medications to take
An illness can change your insulin needs. Talk to your diabetes care team about when and how much to adjust your insulin dose and other medications you take.
It’s important to continue taking insulin, especially long-acting insulin, on the schedule recommended by your doctor. It’s also important to keep taking long-acting insulin, even if you’re not eating.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications — especially those that treat cough, cold, and flu symptoms — contain sugar. Other types of medicines can affect how your diabetes medicines work.
Your diabetes care team may be able to give you a list of medications to avoid if you are unwell from a common condition.
Put together a sick leave kit
It’s a good idea to stock up on easy-to-prepare foods, sick-day drinks, medications, and diabetes-care items so you have these items on hand for those days when you’re not feeling well. Here are some items to include in your medical journal:
to eat and drink
Have a stock of:
- soups and broths
- Popsicles or sorbet
- milk or yogurt
- fruit juice
Your medical journal should also include the following:
- Contact information for your doctor
- insurance information
- a current list of your medications
medicines and supplies
Make sure your kit comes with the following:
- Batteries for your surveillance devices
- Consumables for your blood glucose meter or monitor and insulin pump
- Ketone test strips
- glucose tablets or gels
- a 7-day supply of your glucose management medication
- OTC cold and flu medications that don’t affect your blood sugar
If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor or someone on your diabetes care team immediately:
- Fever greater than 38.3°C (101°F) for more than 1 day
- Diarrhea lasting more than 6 hours
- Vomit more than 3 times in 24 hours
- Blood glucose above 240 mg/dl, even after taking supplemental insulin if recommended in your sick day schedule
- moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a medical emergency: it can result in coma or death. Get medical help right away if you have symptoms such as:
If your employer or insurer offers telemedicine services, consider downloading the app or saving contact information to your phone so you can easily get advice if you’re not feeling well.
According to a 2020 study, diabetes can damage your immune system. Because of this, it’s important to take good care of your health year-round, not just during cold and flu season.
You can do this by:
- Eat foods that boost your immune system and keep your blood sugar in a healthy range
- Drink plenty of water, as dehydration can increase your risk of some types of infections, according to a 2019 study
- Rest, as sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, which sometimes overlap with diabetes, can increase your risk for health concerns
- Get the recommended vaccinations to protect yourself
The CDC recommends that people with diabetes get the flu shot every year. This is especially important for children, who may have more severe flu symptoms over a longer period than children without diabetes.
Diabetes can make a common illness more challenging – and feeling unwell can make managing your diabetes more difficult.
If you have diabetes, talk to your medical team to plan how to respond to an illness or infection. Together you can decide in advance how to control your blood sugar when you feel sick.
You can also stock up on any food, drink, test supplies, and medication you may need.
A good sick day schedule includes information about which medications are safe to take, which to avoid, the best way to test your blood sugar, and steps to follow so diabetes or other health issues don’t leave you sidelined longer than necessary.
I’m a nutritionist and here’s 5 carbs you CAN eat to lose weight faster
Whenever we decide to get lean and lose weight, quitting carbs might be the first thing on our agenda.
After all, some of our favorite high-carb foods like bread, pasta, and potatoes are just food fat traps that land right on our stomachs. Right?
Cold noodles in particular make you feel full for longerPhoto credit: Getty – Contributor
Well, actually no.
Good news just arrived; Certain carbs can actually flatten our tummy and help shed unwanted pounds.
Also, they are a pretty important food group that helps us go about our daily lives.
“Carbohydrates are the body’s largest source of energy.
“They supply the body with glucose for energy production, which can also be stored for the future.
“Carbohydrates also play a valuable role in our gut health by providing beneficial fiber to the digestive tract,” says Rhiannon Lambert, nutritionist and author of The Science of Nutrition: Debunk the Diet Myths and Learn How to Eat Well for Health and Happiness.
“There is now a link between our gut health and maintaining a healthy weight.”
In fact, carbohydrates are so important that Rhiannon says they should make up about a third of our daily caloric intake.
Although natural, high-fiber carbs like whole grains are more nutritious than those that have been stripped of their fiber content, even white carbs have their palace; White flour in the UK needs to be fortified with iron, as well as the nutrients thiamine and niacin, which are needed for energy.
So before you vow to never indulge in a bowl of pasta or rid your kitchen cupboards of bread, you might want to reconsider the carb ban.
These 5 Carbs Might Help You Go Faster…
PORTION CONTROL: two handfuls (dried)
“The whole wheat pasta is an easy way to increase your fiber levels, which will help keep you fuller for longer, support digestive health, and lower your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes,” says Rhiannon.
Although a warming pasta bake is an ideal winter meal, a great way to support a healthy weight is actually cold pasta.
“When people eat noodles hot versus cold, they are released into the bloodstream more quickly, while when cooled they form more resilient starches, which studies say can support people at a healthy weight or help them lose weight. It can help with gut saturation and people.” keep you fuller for longer,” says Rhiannon.
PORTION CONTROL: two handfuls (dried)
Opt for brown rice, a great option to serve with curries and tajines.
“It has a nutty flavor and is a great source of fiber,” says Rhiannon, who goes on to explain that a lack of carbohydrates, such as on a high-protein/low-fat diet, can lead to poor mood.
This in turn can lead to binge eating; especially eating foods that are loaded with sugar.
In order to stay in a good mood, it is important to ensure that serotonin levels are constant.
“Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps relay messages from one area of the brain to another and is thought to affect a variety of psychological functions; it’s known as our “happy hormone” because of its mood-stabilizing properties,” reveals Rhiannon.
She adds that eating high-quality carbohydrates along with a protein source that contains the amino acid tryptophan (think milk, tuna, chicken, turkey, and oats) may also be good for boosting serotonin.
A baked potato with beans and cheese can be part of a healthy diet — it’s packed with fiberPhoto credit: Getty – Contributor
PORTION CONTROL: a fist-sized potato
Get potatoes back on the shopping list; and yes, we are talking about the so often feared delicious white potatoes.
While fat-coated fried potatoes might not be the healthiest choice, try baking a potato and topping it with a veggie chili or even the classic bean and cheese combo.
“Baked potatoes aid in digestion due to their high fiber content and they are rich in vitamin B6; an important vitamin for the body,” says Rhiannon.
“B vitamins play an important role in keeping the nervous system healthy and helping our bodies release energy from food.”
Also, root vegetables like potatoes, butternut squash, beets, and parsnips are high in starchy carbohydrates.
“Everyone should aim to eat modest amounts of starchy vegetables.
“Because these are starchy carbs, they typically contain around 8g of fiber per 100g, which is almost a third of your daily fiber needs.
“Opt for starchy vegetables over refined carbohydrates (like white bread) if you’re looking to lose some weight,” says Rhiannon.
PORTION CONTROL: one apple
Apples do contain carbohydrates.
What may surprise you is that a small apple contains about 21g of carbohydrates, more than the amount contained in an average slice of bread.
Apples are also a good source of fiber and vitamin C, which helps keep cells healthy.
“To make your apple even more filling, try pairing it with a teaspoon of nut butter,” says Rhiannon.
Although fruit is one of the most natural foods we can eat, Rhiannon recommends sticking to around two to four servings of fruit a day, including a 150ml serving of fruit juice.
PORTION CONTROL: two discs
Bread, also known as the stuff of life, is undoubtedly one of the most dreaded carbohydrates.
But there is no reason to eliminate bread from your life.
“Whole wheat bread is packed with nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals,” says Rhiannon.
Also, the energy in bread is released slowly as a slow-release carbohydrate, which can keep you from crashing later in the day and then reaching for the cookie jar for a shot of sugar-based energy.
“Bread also has prebiotic effects that help maintain your body’s healthy balance, and many breads contain zero grams of trans and saturated fats per serving.”
Another great bread option is sourdough, which is said to support gut health.
Studies have shown that healthy gut bacteria may actually play a role in our ability to lose weight.
Rhiannon’s new book The Science Of Nutrition is available in all bookstores and online. Follow Rhiannon on Instagram @rhitrition.
Bread isn’t the enemy – it can support gut health and is packed with nutrientsPhoto credit: Getty
Cam Newton Wants You to Eat This Vegan Chicken
For decades, vegan diets and athletes were seen as a contradictory duo, but stereotypes that obscure the benefits of plant-based eating and athletic performance have been debunked. Athletes like NFL star Cam Newton took on the harmful stereotypes that criticized plant-based eating to prove that a vegan diet can provide enough nutrients to not only maintain but improve athletic endurance. The soccer player recently explained why he went vegan and spoke about why he supports leading vegan chicken company, Daring Foods.
Newton is an early investor in the innovative vegan chicken brand, but recently the pro athlete explained how he believes investing in plant-based companies will help save the planet and promote healthy eating. He also mentioned that he hopes to enable a plant-based community for his Atlanta hometown.
During an interview with Fortune earlier this week, Newton opened up about meeting Daring founder and CEO Ross MacKay in 2019, which led to his first investment alongside other celebrities like Drake and DJ Steve Aoki. The football icon explained how he maintains a relationship with Mackay to build on each other’s perspectives and resources, noting that after his football career he hopes to make a difference by promoting a plant-based and sustainable diet.
“As a black man growing up in the South, fried chicken was a staple in most diets,” Newton told Fortune. “It was inexpensive and delicious; While not the healthiest option, we sometimes even had it twice a day. One thing I hope to accomplish with Daring is to educate the Atlanta community and others about the power of plant-based eating. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be expensive and can have the same taste, texture and feel as real chicken without the harmful consequences for our bodies, the environment and the chickens.”
Newton also hopes to make a difference through his home churches in Atlanta. By bringing delicious plant-based alternatives to Atlanta, he intends to persuade people to try vegan foods. Also noteworthy is his personal plant-based diet. As a professional quarterback, his vegan diet demonstrates the health and athletic benefits of not eating meat or dairy.
“I believe in everything Daring has to offer: his innovative approach, his vision to create a better environment and his ability to impact life, piece by piece,” Newton continued. “But before that came to life and materialized, I really invested in Ross: his resilience, his dedication and his ability to challenge the status quo.”
The celebrity supporters of Daring Foods
In addition to Newton, Daring boasts an impressive list of prominent supporters. Most recently, Olympian Miles Chamley-Watson has just announced his support for Daring’s vegan chicken. The fencing star has teamed up with Daring to highlight how dangerous the chicken industry is for the environment. A plant-based diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food production by up to 70 percent by 2050.
According to recent reports, the plant-based chicken industry is projected to reach nearly $19 billion by 2028. Companies like Daring aim to capitalize on consumer interest in chicken alternatives. With celebrity backers backing the innovative vegan chicken brand, Daring expects to continue its global expansion by enhancing its distribution and manufacturing capabilities. The expansion effort is made possible by the company’s recent investment of $65 million, which brought its total funding to $120 million.
Chamley-Watson and Newton may be the latest pro athletes to outwardly endorse Daring, but tennis champion Naomi Osaka has endorsed the company since 2019. Athletic interest in vegan chicken supports evidence that a plant-based diet improves athletic performance and recovery times.
Atlanta’s growing vegan food scene
The NFL star’s long-term goal is to promote plant-based eating in Atlanta, noting that Comfort Classic will be the way to bring plant-based eating to the South. Currently, vegan visionary Pinky Cole is doing whatever it takes to make vegan food a part of Atlanta’s cuisine and culture. The Slutty Vegan founder has curated a menu full of Southern comfort food that will and will appeal to everyone in Atlanta.
While serving vegan comfort food is her priority, Cole devotes her resources to giving back to Atlanta. The vegan entrepreneur founded the Pinky Cole Foundation to help communities in Atlanta. Last year, the foundation provided scholarships to 30 juvenile delinquents and set up college funds for the children of Atlanta native Rayshard after he was killed by police last summer.
Last year, Cole teamed up with PETA to help launch the organization’s Food Justice Campaign, which aims to hold government accountable for food insecurity and the harm caused by animal husbandry. While food insecurity and nutritional deficiencies remain rampant in Atlanta, Cole and Newton’s efforts will help draw attention to the benefits and solutions that are putting plant-based foods at the forefront.
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