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are low calorie foods good for you?

9th August 2017 by Jess

Calories is such a poorly misunderstood area of nutrition, we decided to bust some myths around them. Once you understand them, your decision making process around food and health will change forever.

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Most people will tell you that you have to lose weight to be healthy, when these days, you actually have to be healthy to lose weight. We are seeing more and move evidence that not all calories are equal.

Jess, graze nutritionist

metabolising different calories

Our bodies react very differently to calories from different sources. They may go through similar digestive processes, but the biochemical reactions they trigger can be completely different. To put this into context, let's compare how 1000 calories from fruit juice are metabolised in the body versus 1000 calories from broccoli.

Same number of calories, but two very different sources.

juice

calories from fruit juice

When you consume fruit juice your body quickly absorbs the fibre-less sugars, the glucose (sugar) spikes your blood sugar, which stimulates insulin and subsequently signals to your body to store body fat.

Inflammation goes up, triglycerides are raised (essentially fat in your blood), and leptin, one of the hormones involved in appetite regulation, is blocked. Leptin’s role is to signal to your brain that you're satisfied, and if the brain doesn't receive this message, you are likely to continue eating.

This experience of never feeling like you are full, is a typical feeling of those who follow a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, and constant battle of willpower over wanting to feed that constant hunger, is a tough one, which almost always ends up in de-railing from the ‘diet’, ‘hangry’ moments’ and eating anything and everything in site.

Jess, graze nutritionist

Jess with vegetables

calories from broccoli

On the other hand if you were to consume 1000 calories from broccoli – a high fibre option that barely registers an effect on your blood glucose – your body doesn’t go through the same biochemical reaction at all.

Firstly, you wouldn't even be able to consume 1000 calories from broccoli as that would be close to 33 cups (3003 grams) which would mean your jaw would undergo a serious workout!

The hormone leptin would kick in and you would experience the feeling of being full, letting you know that you’ve had enough. To top this, you would also be incredibly nourished.

Jess PR shot balance energy vibrancy SMILE

I have personally witnessed this hundreds of time with my clients in my nutrition practice. When my clients stop counting calories and focus on nourishing their body by eating real food, irrespective of the number of calories the food brings to the body, they have a rapid improvement in their overall wellbeing, but they also feel satisfied, and never hungry - which is how life should be enjoyed. They don’t get it, but their bodies understand.

Jess, graze nutritionist
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healthy high calorie foods

Cashew nuts are an example of a high-calorie food which is good for you.

Some naturally high fat (and therefore high calorie) foods are some of the most healthy we can eat in terms of promoting weight loss and reducing our risk of diabetes or heart disease. Cashew nuts are a great example, a high calorie food full of helpful good fats.

the benefits of cashews

So to answer the initial question of ‘can low calorie foods be good for you?’

…the answer is yes, they can be.

But just because a food is low in calories, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good for you. 100 calories of sugar and refined foods is 100 calories that your body would much rather receive from more nutrient abundant sources like nuts, seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, sustainably sources meats and fish, eggs etc. This is a far better gauge for working out your food choices.

Jess flexing with baobab

Ditch calorie counting and focus on health instead.

Jess, graze nutritionist
jess snacking graze box

Your health, weight and everything else will follow suit if you follow this motto!

My 6 summarising tips:

  1. Eat real food
  2. Cut down on refined sugar
  3. Ditch using calories to steer your food choices
  4. Always check the label so you are aware what you're putting in your body
  5. Focus on health, rather than weight
  6. Focus on vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, high quality protein, good fats - the calories will be what they’re naturally designed to be!
shop our pre-portioned snacks - each one approved by Jess
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By Jess, graze nutritionist.

Our nutritionist extraordinaire, Jess trained at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and is a registered practitioner with the British Association for Applied Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She's the creator of our health badges, to help you choose the snacks and boxes that are right for you. Check out everything from Jess on our blog, with recipes and tricks to help you keep making better choices, or go to Jess's blog at jessipes.co.uk for even more.

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