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Why Calories Don’t Count – They Can’t Make You Slim, But Really Sick
Everyone is counting – and no one knows why, or even what they are counting. It is rather interesting that a unit of measure that is above each ingredient label is a virtual number that has positioned itself as a standard for expressing how much food we should eat. Its origin is somewhat unclear, as is the reason why we use it. The concept was first defined by the French professor Nicolas Clement in 1824 as a unit of heat. Apparently, the calorie as a unit of food was brought to America by a man named Wilbur Atwater in 1887 and soon after popularized by author Lulu Hunt Peters in her bestseller, Diet and Health, with the key to the calories, Peters outlined 100-calorie portions of many nutrients and first advocated counting calories as a way to manage weight. The amount of food energy in a certain food can be measured by burning food in a machine called a “bomb calorimeter”, then the amount of ash and heat indicates how much “energy” was released and thus how much “energy” was in the food. The idea caught on, and people started counting calories – that is, calculating exactly how many calories were consumed when eating certain foods, or “burned” when doing various activities.
In the meantime, we have thought and accepted as a normative measure that an adult person needs about 2,500 calories – or rather kcal (kilo-calories) per day. The common perception is that if we reduce the calorie intake – we will lose weight. In our post-modern digital age, this counting method is an undeniable convenience – with just one problem: as anyone who has tried to lose weight will attest: it doesn’t work! Certainly, as countless studies have proven, reduced calorie intake leads to longer life expectancy. But we don’t need calorie numbers, just common sense to not eat when we’re not hungry.
Well then why do we obsessively rely on Calories? Because it makes money, big money! Just think how the calorie is commercially exploited: low fat, no fat, low sugar, no sugar, diet sodas, NutraSweet, Equal, Splenda, Neotame, Ace-K, Saccharin and a plethora of other products are flourishing on the market low or zero-calorie pitches. Despite the overuse and abuse – however, denigrating the life source food into calories has not worked, as evidenced by obesity statistics. Counting calories as normative numbers is much easier than actually understanding the complex effects food has on our bodies and weight balance. Food activates many hormones in the body for different functions: some store fat; others give out sugar; helping others build muscle. Studies consistently show that diets based on the same amount of calories, but different ratios of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, result in incomparable amounts of weight loss. However, the calorie myth is exploited by the industry, and consumers continue to count numbers that never match, instead of reflecting on how food is designed to fill the heart with joy!
It is clear that food is not calories! Yes, whatever we fill our stomach to avoid that annoying feeling of eating is quantified and the unit of measurement is the Calorie; but some calories make us sluggish and sleepy, and others invigorate our mind and make us energetic and creative. Some calories create a feeling of fullness and bring to mind the problems we face – while others beautify our heart and fill it with gratitude.
Deep in our hearts, we know that the same given number of calories – embodied in food – can create a wide range of different effects. We can also be aware that those meals that leave us tired after eating make us sick and grumpy over time, while with the others we can enjoy continued vitality when we find ourselves in a pleasant mood.
We have been led astray to believe in myths, and failed to correct the calorie paradigm – why? Because calories fuel a billion dollar industry, so why leave the hen that lays the golden eggs? When the Calories concept was first introduced a century ago, the human knowledge base was very different than it is today. It was well known that health is determined at the dinner table and that we should sit and eat slowly, chew the food well and eat a balanced diet. Food was not pasteurized or irradiated; it was preserved by fermentation and other natural methods. People knew what and how to eat healthily from what they learned from their parents over generations. There was no method to objectively measure the nutritional value of food, nor was there a need for it before the mass industrialization that brought us processed convenience foods.
Meanwhile, despite the obsession with calorie counting, we are getting sicker and fatter to the brink of bankrupting the health care system. Doesn’t this mean that nutrition by calories is a futile task? So what is the delusion? When we crunch caloric numbers we are focused on highly processed foods with most essential nutrients removed and synthetic substances added; Natural food can do without caloric nutrition labels, as it did since Adam and Eve. Moreover, the numbers in labeled foods are arbitrary at best, trying to meet regulatory standards, which were politically influenced in the first place. Then we must be aware that we really don’t know much about the actual health ramification of any set of numbers, let alone the accumulation of a variety of label values. For example, if we cut fat because we want to reduce calorie intake, we cannot absorb the fat-soluble nutrients and digest the food properly, and instead of losing weight, we can actually gain – this in addition to the fact that the food has lost its allure and tastes boring. In addition, we must consider that the labels refer to what is in the package, but not what comes to the table, which can be a completely different food, changed by cooking. Cooked food is a digestive challenge anyway, because the heat in cooking destroys the enzymes that were in that food in its natural state for the purpose of making it digestible.
When we eat raw food like salad, fruits and nuts, we digest these foods easily, but what about cooked, roasted, grilled food? Nature created these incredible aromas that only disappear from heated food, so it activates the saliva, which releases digestive enzymes through chewing. In fact, chewing saturates the food with enzymes that convert starch into maltose, so digestion begins directly in the mouth. So smells that come from cooking and baking are no accident; rather, it is really intelligent design to keep us healthy, even if we eat less than optimal. Here’s another compelling reason to avoid processed fast food that doesn’t smell conducive to salivating – it’s essentially an accumulation of dead calories. Eating too quickly without properly moistening the food means that undigested food reaches the small intestine and burdens the pancreas to produce all the enzymes to turn starches into sugar.
The human species is designed to eat solid food in mouth-directed portions and churn it before swallowing. That is how we differ from the feeding habits of sharks and snakes. It also seems that God wanted us to eat slowly and consciously, so that our digestion can work optimally and the body can absorb all the nutrients in the food, to fill our hearts with joy.
It is interesting to observe how everything from the choice of food to the presentation, the environment and the circumstances in which we eat are all very dependent. The more the food is cooked to be really soft and easy to swallow, the more it is conducive to eating without chewing properly. Fast food is usually served in high-turnover premises, where everything is designed for quick turnaround, so that patrons instinctively satisfy by eating really quickly, usually taking the next bite before swallowing the first. It follows that digestive disorders under such stressful conditions, and nutrients – should there be – cannot be derived, and therefore overweight people are a common sight at fast food establishments, including children.
Then there is the almost forgotten aspect of thoughts and emotions. Most people are not taught that they can exercise healthy control over their thoughts or emotions, and instead are controlled by them. What is the link between digestion and stress? The gastrointestinal tract is a huge body of nervous tissue that lines the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon. So it makes sense that emotions play a big role in digestive health. In fact, emotions affect digestion already in the mouth; the salivary glands are easily exposed to disturbance, while fear and great sadness result in a dry mouth, so that we have difficulty swallowing. Morbid processes affect the tongue, which has a profound effect on the digestion of starchy foods. In turn, positive, pleasant emotions stimulate digestion – and long-term health and vitality!
Why do we see TV sets in sports bars and fast food restaurants, but not in upscale dining places? Is there a connection between the rampant obesity in America and the way calories are consumed? Does the failing health of Americans and their dependence on prescription drugs have anything to do with the way food is taken? The Japanese, who outlive Americans by many years, generally remain healthy into old age and are of normal weight, eat meals consisting of many very small portions, in which decoration and presentation are not as important as the food itself. Even “bentos”, packaged food to eat on trains or in the office, are beautifully wrapped as birthday gifts. No one counts calories. The French created the “nouvelle cuisine” in the early 1970s. It has become an immensely popular dining concept in Europe and features a wide variety of fresh food, served in many small portions, each arranged like a piece of art. It engages all the senses, like Japanese food, and everything about it is to fill the hearts with joy before it fills the stomachs. Counting calories is completely redundant, because the food is spread over a long period of time, giving the stomach enough time to signal the brain when it is full, so overeating is a non-problem. In America we refer to the “French Paradox”, which is our inability to understand that the French can eat fat without getting fat, for the way they eat – not what they eat.
Could it be that diverting our attention from calories to the actual meaning of food – could help restore a healthy America?
Confusion about calories is nothing new, says professor., Science Daily; November 20, 2006.
“IN FOODTURE WE TRUST, Nutrition for body and soul in times of trouble”; Heinz R. Gisel; Xulon Press; March 2009. ISBN 978-1607912651
“Enzymes of human saliva; I. The determination, distribution and origin of whole salivary enzymes”; Howard H. Chauncey, Fabian Lionetti, Richard A. Winer, Vincent F. Lisanti; Journal of Dental Research, J Dent Res 33(3): 321-334, 1954
Related reading: http://www.vitalityconcepts.com/
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