Understanding sugar, carbohydrates and the value of counting calories is very important to plan your way to a healthy diet. Sometime ago I was watching a popular British program, and one of the protagonists, a well know guy in British tv, actually said to his nephew to go slow with the strawberries, because they had the same calories of maltesers!

I was really struck by the fact that he could actually believe that eating strawberries or maltesers could provide the same number of calories, and mainly the same TYPE of calories, and I realised that I was taking for granted my knowledge of food and nutrition, not considering that this has always been a passion of mine.



Know what you eat

The sugar provided by fruit is different from refined sugar!

I thought that maybe making some clarity on this might be helpful, as there is a big difference from the 2 above mentioned types of food. Considering the amount of sugar they have is not helpful, because the sugar in strawberries is different from the sugar in maltesers, or in any other type of sweat for that matter.

The sugar you can find in fruit is fructose and is a natural one. The sugar present in sweets of any type is a refined sugar that contains only empty calories, basically provides only calories without any nutritional value. This is not the case for fruit, who contains natural sugar and vitamins and minerals, so comparing the calories between the 2 is useless in term of diet, as your body uses those calories in a completely different way!


Counting calories is not the way to control your weight

On a general note, it can be helpful, provided you already understand the difference between the type of calories you consume. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time that can be counterproductive on the long term. Calories from fruit and vegetables are different from the calories that carbohydrates provide, and complex carbohydrates provide a different type of calories from refined carbohydrates, and calories from fats are different form the one from proteins and so on.

The difference is in the use that your body makes of those calories, and how it stores them.

So on a general basis, the rule is that when you consume more calories than you burn with your daily activities, you tend to gain weight, and of course if you consume less calories than the ones you burn daily you tend to lose weight. When the number of calories is balanced between assumption and consumption, your weight stays the same.

When you consider only the number of calories of the food you are eating, you are missing out on some other important factors, that might clash with the goal of your diet, whatever it might be.


Carbohydrates are not the enemy!

Whole grain products are the healthy solution

When starting a diet many people think that just cutting on carbs will make the difference, and it surely is, but just on the short term. Let me explain this.

Carbohydrates are the most important source of nutrients in our diet, and they should be the base of each one of our meals, accompanied by proteins, abundant vegetables and a little bit of fat. (check here to read the recommendations for an healthy diet) Please consider that here I am referring to the alimentary requirements of adults, children and adolescents have different needs as their body is still growing, and older people have different needs too, as the processes in the body are slowing down, and they tend to need less food than an adult.

That said, if you eliminate carbohydrates form your diet, you will surely lose weight fast, but you will infallibly regain it back as soon as you are off the diet, and a carbs free diet is not advisable for long periods, as it is not sustainable for your body.


Which is which? Understanding carbohydrates

whole grains
whole grains

The problem with carbohydrates in our modern diet, is that we tend to eat only refined carbohydrates, which contains higher sugar levels than complex carbohydrates.

To understand this better, you need to consider which is which.

Refined carbohydrates are made by white flour, and sugar. Complex carbohydrates are grains, wholegrains, wholegrain flour, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain pasta, wholegrain bread and so on.

The difference is that with the refinement, the grain is stripped of its external cortex which is rich in nutrients and fiber, losing in this way almost all its precious nutritional content. Fiber are precious because they are essential for the good functioning of our digestive system and our body expels them, doing a good cleaning work inside our intestine in the process.

This means that for the same weight of white bread or wholegrain bread, your body assimilate more of the white bread, and less of the wholegrain one, plus the number of calories will be different as well, higher for the refined products, and lower for the wholegrain one.


Nailing your healthy diet

The best solution when planning your diet, if you want a long-term result, is switching to a wiser diet, one that is rich in complex carbohydrates. Once you get the habit to eat in this different way, any weight loss will be permanent, sustainable, as it will not put your body under stress, making you healthier.

What you can do is adding barley, rice, quinoa, oats, all preferably wholegrain, to your main meals, reducing the amounts of flour you eat, and when you do eat it switch to wholegrain bread and pasta, and wholegrain flour when you bake, prefer brown cane sugar (unrefined!) or better go for honey or agave syrup (Lower glycemic index and higher nutritional value).

Vegetables should be more than one third of your meal

Add a big quantity of vegetables to all your meals (At least five a day!) and cut out saturated fats (butter, most margarines etc) preferring vegetable oils, snack with fruit and dried fruit, and you will see a big difference with less effort. In terms of weight control and general health, plus you will ever experience again that gap in energy that comes all of a sudden when you eat mainly refined sugars and carbs, for you will avoid the peaks in your blood sugars, and fill satisfied for longer.


Drop a comment below if you found this helpful, and let me know what you struggle with when planning your healthy diet! If you want to know more about this, take a look at this article on 5 Tips to control your weight.



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