If you want to lose weight, the basic premise is to eat less and move more, right? Cutting calories is perhaps the most important factor in dropping pounds. I know when I’m trying to squeeze into my skinny jeans, I tend to cut back on the sweets, and eat smaller portions in general, which works. But… I always feel I have license to eat as much fruit and veggies as I want. So, an important question is… when cutting calories, is it necessary to also watch the amount of fruits, vegetables and “healthy” fats we eat? Do our bodies use “empty” calories differently than calories from healthy foods? Are 1,000 calories of broccoli used by our bodies the same way as 1,000 calories of candy or soda? Well, research has shown that it’s not as simple as “a calorie is a calorie.”
Obviously broccoli and soda will have very different effects on our bodies. Broccoli is chock full of nutrients and fiber, which slow our digestion, improves bowel function, fills us up and doesn’t lead to a blood sugar spike. On the other hand, soda has zero nutrients, no fiber, and causes a major sugar spike. Our bodies process these two very different foods very differently! Another thing to keep in mind is this: because fruits and veggies usually have a lot of fiber, they’re more filling, so you end up consuming less food, which means fewer calories. So you’ll be full well before you can consume 1,000 calories of broccoli, but can still feel hungry after consuming 1,000 of “junk” food. And as I’ve written about previously, the blood sugar and insulin spikes cause a cascade of hormonal events that can lead to fat storage.
So calories from different foods have different biological effects on your body: some encourage fat burning, and some encourage fat storage. The main point, again, always goes back to this: make sure your diet has plenty of fruits, veggies, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, lean protein and whole grain carbs (anything “white” or “bleached” has no fiber and is much more likely to cause the dreaded blood sugar spike). So try to limit the amount of anything “white” (bread, bagels, muffins, non-whole wheat pasta, flour), sweets, soda and candy, because your body will store the calories from these foods as fat! You’ll end up feeling much fuller when loading up on the fruits and veggies!