Sometimes simplistic statements can confuse – as in, ‘all calories are the same; one calorie contains 4184 Joules of energy and that is it’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The simple fact is that the metabolism in each one of us is unique, as are our body’s basic energy needs as well as the efficiency with which each one of us burns fuel. Related questions that get raised are: ‘Is it possible to rev up our metabolism, so that we can burn more calories? Can we produce ‘clean’ fuel that has least side effects and ensures easy-to-eject waste matter? Are there foods that can put the spring back in our step and help us energetically take on each day with a fresh approach’? The golden rule is that the foods that we choose must be dictated by metabolism types and lifestyle patterns (like, sedentary vs. active). Not only is food a powerful medicine that can heal the body, it can indeed accelerate metabolism. We are born with a specific blood or body type – or a ‘metabolic’ type. For example, Type A’s love salty food, have a strong appetite, are outgoing and experience fatigue more often - which in turn makes them prone to anxiety. Type B’s are on the stout side, crave sweets, have a relatively weak appetite, are sensitive, organised, sometimes stressed and have a caffeine dependency. They require healthy carbs – which is often mistaken for a free licence to load up with ‘junk’ sugary foods. Type C’s are the mixed types. Importantly, the inherent metabolic type gets substantially impacted by choices that we make. Lifestyle choices directly influence our qualities of sleep, physical activity and stress. Positive stress (eustress) is good; negative stress (or distress) is bad. We have to learn the art of managing both.
It would be of great help to remember the basic principles of Nature. We are governed by the simple 7-step ‘I Am’ rule. Like everything in the cosmos, our body - a community of 70 trillion cells called the ‘microbiome’ – needs to first receive energy and then expend it. Nature does not take too kindly to the attempt to store it (layers of fat are a liability, not an asset!). The first four steps help us fuel-up: ‘I Am what I Think, Feel, Eat and Believe. Then, once the fuel tank is full, energy gets expended through the next 3 steps: ‘I Am what I repeatedly Do, I am the Company I keep and I am what I Celebrate’. This is how Nature’s cycle completes itself. When we master this art and science of living a full and balanced life, we can avoid any imbalance in the energy equation. Before going on to food choices, it must be stressed that physical activity is by far the most variable of the factors that determine how many calories are burnt daily.
Tip of the Week
All added sugars, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, as well as refined grain products like white bread, are seductive sweet killers. These get absorbed quickly, leading to rapid spikes in our blood sugar. These ‘wannabe foods’ have a high Glycemic Index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar. The ‘blood sugar roller-coaster’ makes us forever crave for the next high-carb snack. The speed at which low fibre carb-calories hit the system can have a dramatic effect on their potential to cause weight gain. Studies have consistently shown that people who eat the highest Glycemic Index foods are at the greatest risk of becoming obese and diabetic.
A great example of how all calories are not the same is provided by the two main simple sugars in our diet - Glucose and Fructose. These may appear to have the same chemical formula, yet, to the body the two are completely different. Glucose can be metabolised by all of the body’s tissues, but Fructose can only be metabolised by the liver in any significant amount. Fructose is highly avoidable.
Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week: Energy Efficient Natural Foods
For high ‘Energy-Efficiency’, the best is to rely on seasonal, fresh, mainly plant-based, high-fibre ‘organic’ diets that celebrate the diversity of all the VIBGYOR colours and leave an alkaline balance in the body. ‘Native’ diets, consisting of whole, natural foods - in a certain combination of proteins, fats and carbohydrates –are the kindest to the metabolic type we have inherited. Without exception, all these fat + protein + carbs ‘combos’ should be high-fibre and include a diverse array of colourful fruits and vegetables. Starting the day right is key. On getting up, the first step should be to reach out for a glass of warm water – ideally made into a ‘Master Cleanse’ by adding organic apple cider vinegar and fresh lime juice. A little fresh ginger on the side would be great! Breakfast can consist of whole eggs and other protein rich foods. Grains could be steel cut oats or quinoa, as these are lower in carbohydrates and higher in proteins. Dessert-like sugary breakfast cereals make you feel hungrier and crave for more sugar later in the day. During the rest of the day, 3-4 light ‘snack-like’ meals keep the fuel tank near full (at 80% stomach capacity) and the ‘Energy-meter’ nicely ticking. In between meals, lots of ‘aqua pura’ (natural clean spring water or lemon-water or tender coconut water) is best, to keep the body hydrated. Green and herbal teas are great too, as they add variety and an antioxidant boost.
Some examples of ‘Clean Energy’ foods that we can relish are:
Green vegetables, especially broccoli, kale, spinach, turnip greens, dandelion and other fresh salad veggies – which should form 50% of the plate
Yoghurt, kefir and other high probiotic fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi
High quality fats, like virgin olive oil for salads and for high-heat cooking, coconut oil, rice bran oil, sesame oil or selective use of natural organic butter or ghee
Mushrooms, especially antioxidant rich Chaga, Reishi
Sprouted whole grains or lentils or beans
Lean white meat, like range-grown chicken or turkey
Salmon and other Omega 3 rich fatty fish (ideally ‘non-farmed’ or wild)
Eggs, from range-fed hens
Organic apple and high Vitamin C fruits (guava, amla or Indian goose berry), blueberries and other colourful berries (e.g. Goji)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (chia, flaxseed)
Adaptogens, from immune boosting herbs like Ashwagandha and Ginseng
A dash of hot peppers (or a fermented sauce like ‘Tabasco’) can help raise body temperature, which is turn enhances the body’s fat burning abilities. Olives, tomatoes, garlic and spices help improve circulation and reduce fluid retention and bloating.u
For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions