Is it time to ditch ‘everything in moderation’?

 

Do you have food cravings? Does it seem like you are always hungry? Does food dominate your thoughts most of your waking moments? Are you a serial dieter, forever fighting a weight war?

If any of this describes your experience and how you feel, it’s worth a moment to find out why it would be a good idea to review your diet – and why ‘everything in moderation’ might no longer hold true.

What’s the harm of ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’ or heavily processed foods?

There are lots of products designed to be tasty and ‘moreish’, so no wonder it’s hard not to finish that jumbo bag. Yet these ‘fake foods’ that never quite satisfy, leaving us craving more, are at best useless in providing our bodies with nutrition, while at worst they load us up with substances that can harm us.

Can we ever feel full eating empty calories?

Empty calories are a measurement of the digestible energy present in high-energy foods with poor nutritional values, as most of the energy comes from processed refined carbohydrates, fats and sugars. An empty calorie, although the same energy content as other calories, lacks nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, minerals and dietary fibre. If such products dominate our diet, we are cheating our body and brain out of the nourishment needed daily to function correctly.

Empty calories mostly come from solid fats and/or added sugar.

Products loaded with unhealthy fats include:

  • Those full of trans-fats, such as chips, deep-fried chicken, crisps, burgers
  • Fast/Junk foods are one of the biggest traps of unhealthy fats

Products that contribute added sugar empty calories include:

  • Fizzy drinks, sodas, fruit juice drinks and sweetened beverages
  • Cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries
  • Sweets/Candy
  • Ice creams and frozen yogurts
  • Breakfast/cereal bars
  • Salad dressings/ketchup/dipping sauces/cooking sauces

Other products high in empty calories include:

  • refined grains such as crackers, biscuits and white bread
Why this is important to our health

When our immune system becomes activated by a foreign body – say an invading microbe, plant pollen or chemical – this can trigger a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation protect our health when they are directed at such threatening invaders, however if the inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when we are not threatened by a real foreign invader, this is when inflammation can become our enemy. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have all been linked to such ‘chronic inflammation’.

What many of us fail to appreciate is food can be either a frontline of defence in fighting chronic inflammation, or one of its biggest instigators. Choose the right foods, and we may be able to reduce our risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and we can accelerate an inflammatory disease process. No wonder products full of empty calories – ‘food’ that fills but never quite satisfies – can be harmful, and even more so the higher proportion of our diets it dominates. In the US this is on average a staggering 60% of peoples’ diets, with the UK, Ireland and Canada not far behind at around 50%. In Australia 6 out of 10 of Australian packaged foods are highly or ultra-processed and only one third are healthy, according to The George Institute for Global Health.

Foods to combat inflammation

This is a great selection of simple and easily available anti-inflammatory foods to include in our diet:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

All these foods have been found to reduce the risk of inflammation, and with it, chronic disease. Fruits and vegetables, such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens, with their high levels of natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants – are to be particularly favoured. Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory eating

The Just Routine App has been designed to help identify the foods that can benefit us – as well as the foods that can harm us – through its unique database. Anyone wishing to prioritise anti-inflammatory eating for an overall healthy diet might adopt a plan that embraces the Mediterranean diet – one high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and olive oil.

“Man is what he eats”

The German philosopher Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach made this observation some 150 years ago. It turns out the microbial world we are now discovering bares out his philosophical observation.

What we eat and how it is prepared has an incredible impact on our physical health and state of mind daily, with an even larger cumulative effect over time. Unfortunately, modern food processing has rendered obsolete the simple rule of thumb that has guided people toward a healthy diet for generations; ‘everything in moderation’. Today there are foods that can benefit us and foods that can harm us. The higher the proportion of real food in our diets, food with minimal processing and refining, enabling us to maximise nutrition from natural ingredients rather than artificial substances,  the better our chance to reduce the risk of chronic disease and increase our odds of a longer and healthier life.

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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