There’s a classic scene in the 1977 movie Annie Hall where Alvie, played by Woody Allen, and Diana Keaton as Annie, are each discussing their relationship issues with their psychiatrists, separately. The two encounters are shown simultaneously in split-screen. Both their shrinks ask about the frequency they have sex. Alvie’s response is, “Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.” Annie answers the same question, “Constantly. I’d say three times a week.” What does this have to do with nutrition? I’ll get to it.
You body requires calories to function. Calories are not a substance in themselves, they are the energy content of our food. Even if we were to remain absolutely motionless, our bodies need considerable energy to keep our hearts beating, brains thinking, and our organs functioning. Humans get calories from three sources: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The first two provide 4 calories per gram (28 grams in an ounce), while fat provides 9 calories per gram. That’s why cutting back on fat is popularized as essential to weight control. The fallacy lies in that it’s unlikely that you’d ever add a teaspoon of fat to your morning drink, while you might add one, two, or three packets of sugar—pure carbohydrate—to coffee or tea minutes after getting out of bed. By the way, one packet of Domino cane sugar at Starbucks (where I sit as I write this) is 3.5 grams and 14 calories. One packet of Sugar In The Raw is 5 grams, 20 calories. One teaspoon of fat contains 45 calories, so two packets of SitR is basically equivalent—with regard to calories—to adding a teaspoon of fat to your latte. Kinda blows that “half-fat” nonsense right out the window, doesn’t it? And then there are the extra toppings.
Empty calories are those calories consumed with little or no vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds required for the healthy and effective functioning of your body. This is counter to nature where calories are always provided in the presence of supporting compounds that ensure energy is delivered to your metabolism in a measured and healthy manner. Sweets—cakes, pies, pastries, candy, chocolate, sugar laden breakfast cereals, and all products with high fructose corn syrup—are empty calories. In the absence of nutritional balance, they damage you in ways far beyond just adding weight to your frame. One of those destructive consequences is the dulling of your ability to taste. The saturation of our foods with sugar—and salt—dulls our taste buds to the point we can no longer enjoy the flavor of natural foods.
How many fruits do you eat in a day? In a week? I know people who will “leave room” for dessert, but would never reach for a sweet apple, pear, or peach. Bear in mind that “leaving room” often means skipping the tiny salad that’s provided with the steak and fried potatoes. When I ask why they are loathe to eat fruit, they say that it just doesn’t have much taste.
The challenge: Can you go through a week without eating anything containing refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or their bastard cousins, Splenda®, Equal®, and Sweet ‘n Low® which offend your taste buds in the same way? And that’s where the opening scene from Annie Hall comes in. To me, eating fruit every day is desirable. I enjoy it and look forward to it. It makes me feel good. Three pieces of fruit a week would be “hardly ever,” while for others, three pieces of fruit a week is “constantly.”
At the end of even a single week, your taste buds will have recuperated from the assault you’ve made on them for years. Try an apple, pear, peach, or plum; it will taste great. Fruits deliver a considerable amount of sugar, certainly enough calories to keep you going through the day. You should have 3 or 4 pieces of fruit a day, and 5 won’t hurt. Bananas are the only common fruit choice that is heavy in starch and calories. Keep to just one per day, if you’re concerned with weight-loss.
Try a morning fruit regimen. Instead of anything else you’re wolfing down before going to work—or grabbing at a fast food joint on the way—eat two or three fruits: a mixture of apples, pears, peaches, plums, grapefruits, oranges, or anything else that’s in season. In the absence of industrially refined sugar in your diet, they will taste great, provide energy, and help you avoid the 3:00PM wall. More about that in another posting.
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Nutritional Leverage is not just about weight loss, but shedding fat is a natural byproduct of being fully nourished. Few people who are concerned about their weight don’t have other health issues as well. This will show you how to deal with it all.