For years, the scientific community told us that the only thing that mattered for weight loss was calories. And, in a sense, they were right. There’s no getting around the second law of thermodynamics.
But that advice kind of missed the point. While energy-in and energy-out had to be in balance, such a view of food is hopelessly simplistic when it comes to actually applying dietary principles to your life.
When you’re dealing with real human beings, other factors enter the mix.
Take the example of cayenne pepper, for instance. If you measure the amount of energy that cayenne pepper contains in the lab, you find that it’s similar to regular bell peppers – about 20 calories per hundred grams of raw food.
But the way that the spice interacts with the body is very different from regular food. It turns out that the food switches on genes in your body that cause your basal metabolism to increase. So most people find that they actually expend more energy on average when they consume the food. In other words, you’re taking in 20 calories, but doing so is causing you to burn 30 doing nothing, so eating peppers leaves you in a calorie deficit.
There are all sorts of little examples like this. For instance, some foods slow your metabolic rate down, so you wind up using fewer calories. And a lot of foods, like nuts, appear to contain tons of energy when you measure them in the lab, but the body can hardly get access to any of it.
The bottom line is this: our bodies aren’t just machines like cars. You can’t just give it a certain amount of fuel and expect it to travel a given distance. It doesn’t work like that. If you eat junk foods, you’ll prime your body to store fat. If you eat healthy foods, you’ll prime it to burn fat, even if the total lab-measured energy intake is the same.
In this post, we take a look at some of the body-sculpting foods you’ll want to include in your diet straight away if you’re trying to get in shape.
Berries are almost unique in the fruit world because you’re getting a mountain of nutrition with very little fructose.
Some people worry about fructose because of its association with fatty liver and obesity. And there may be a chunk of people out there whose genetics punish them if they eat a large amount of regular fruits, like bananas, melons, and mangos.
But berries contain a minimal amount of sugar and a host of nutrients that improve insulin sensitivity. And this, in turn, makes it less likely that the body will enter a state in which it is likely to put down fat.
You can put berries on your oatmeal in the morning or have them fresh as a dessert after your evening meal.
Sweet potatoes are nothing like regular potatoes. They’re not even the same species.
For hundreds of years, the inhabitants of the Japanese island of Okinawa ate them as a staple in their diet, getting more than 70 percent of their daily calories from them. And, they just so happened to be among the leanest and longest-lived populations in the world.
If you’re new to the vegetable, try this roasted sweet potato recipe. It tastes great and provides a shed-load of nutrition to boot.
Fenugreek is a spice often used in Indian cooking. But it has some very interesting effects on your body.
First, it makes your body odor smell like maple syrup – which is fun. But more importantly, it seems to increase the efficiency with which your body burns oxygen when you use your muscles.
So, if you keep running out of breath and panting during exercise, try adding a bit of the spice to your curries. You should find that it enhances your fitness levels when you’re on the trail or down the gym.
Lentils have come a long way in recent years. People are slowly learning how to include them in recipes and make them taste great.
And that’s a good thing because lentils are among the healthiest foods you can eat. These small legumes are packed with nutrients and can slow down the digestion of subsequent meals, reducing blood glucose spikes dramatically.
Try lentils in shepherd’s pies, curries, dahls, and salads. Once you get used to them, they become comfort food in their own right and taste delicious. Why not try them out today?