Food: more than just calories


Increasingly it is being recognised and accepted that food is more than just calories, with the health benefits provided by real food more comprehensive, complex and varied than previously known, while higher proportions of processed food in our diets help increase obesity and chronic disease. Yet the true irony is this is nothing new. The vital importance of the quality of food to our health was understood by Hippocrates, but scientifically proven early in the 20th Century by Sir Robert McCarrison, former Director of Research on Nutrition, India.

The greatest single factor in the acquisition of and maintenance of perfect health is perfectly constituted food.” Sir Robert McCarrison

Much of his work was pioneering, carrying out the first experiments to demonstrate the effect of nutrition on the epidemiology of disease. He was credited with being the first to experimentally demonstrate the effect of deficient dietaries upon animal tissues and organs. His book, Nutrition and Health, first published after a series of lectures in the 1930’s looked at:

  • the processes of nutrition
  • food essentials and their relationship to bodily structure and function
  • disease prevention and physique improvement by attention to diet

Over the years advances continue to largely fill in the details of the principles he recognised. Unfortunately, complacency about our food since then and focus instead on our weight means we now are in many cases revisiting long forgotten lessons.

Eating food for weight management and better health

What we eat, not just the calories consumed, or energy burned is what we are once again turning towards prioritising when it comes to both better health and weight management. Typically, this means a diet of good quality food that includes vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This means fruit, vegetables, legumes, fish, lean protein and prebiotics, to help feed the probiotics. Reducing highly processed products and instead rewarding our body and mind with real foods, we can surprise ourselves by the difference we will feel – but here are two practical examples of the health benefits that can be delivered to both body and mind.


Found in mangoes, figs, strawberries, white cabbage, green peppers, olives and olive oil, foods we might eat across the day in meals or snacks – they all contain lupeol, a naturally occurring triterpene, member of the phytosterol family. Lupeol has been found to possess a wide range of medicinal properties, being:

  • an anti-tumour agent
  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-arthritic
  • anti-mutagenic
  • anti-malarial
Gut bacteria, defenders of the body and mind

Eating too much processed food encourages bad bacteria in our guts to the detriment of our friendly bacteria. This is not only impacts our immune system and general health, but impacts on our brains, our behaviour and our cognitive functions.

Multiple studies have shown diets high in refined sugars are bad for the brain, promoting inflammation and oxidative stress. There is also a correlation between high sugar diets and mood disorders, such as depression. Studies have shown people who consume a Mediterranean diet, or a traditional Japanese diet have a 25%-35% lower risk of suffering from depression.

A daily probiotic can help – think kefir, homemade sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha tea to help boost the numbers of “friendly” bacteria in our gut, so they can boost our health and brain function as they provide a barrier against toxins and “bad” bacteria.


Move beyond calories.


Make eating real food Just Routine.

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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