The quality of the calorie counts

I had a discussion with a friend who asserted that 1000 calories of pasta is the same as 1000 calories of any other food. He said that a person restricting themselves to 1000 calories of anything will lose weight. While this is a very simplistic overview of how our bodies work and it is true that a calorie deficit will result in weight loss, the health of your body, your satiety after eating meals, and your ability to sustain such a diet are all at risk. Not all calories are created the same, nor are their effect on our bodies.

When you eat refined sugar or foods with easily soluble sugars (carbs) like beans, grains, and pasta, the sugar is very easily extracted from the food. It doesn’t require a lot of work, and therefore, not much energy is used (calories) by the body. Thus, the net calories that get dumped into the blood stream is much higher than in natural foods. Then, the liver has to turn this sugar into energy the cells can use. If there is too much sugar in the blood, the liver gets enzymes from the pancreas to convert this sugar into fat. When the rate of fat creation exceeds the ability of the liver to send that fat to parts of the body for storage, a condition called fatty liver can be created. I suffered from fatty liver disease for a long time.

On the contrary, when eating natural sugars, the body has to spend calories to extract the sugar. Not only does this take energy (burning calories) to reduce the net calories taken in, but it also takes time which slows the release of sugar into the body. This allows the liver to keep up with processing the sugar in the blood into useful sugar (glucose) for the body to use. Since it’s a slow-release, the body can use the sugar in the blood as it’s extracted from the food which leads to less storage.

From a satiety standpoint, foods that are harder to digest (meats, vegetables, nuts, fruits) will give a steadier supply of energy and keep you sated, which means you won’t get cravings or get hungry soon after eating. This helps to keep eating down, and from snacking. It is easier to handle fewer calories when those calories are higher quality and take your body longer to digest.

Something I’ve learned through my own journey has been to eat until I’m full. I don’t count calories at all anymore. I eat as much as I need to feel comfortably full. It has made it easy for me to stick with the Paleo Diet because I never feel cravings, and the food I eat is both delicious and filling. I don’t worry about not eating enough or eating too much because I listen to my body. When I eat meat and vegetables, it’s easy to fill up and feel full long after you’ve eaten. It’s very hard to do that with pasta or bread.

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