Not all calories are equal

In a quest to fight against the continual growth (literally!) of obesity in both children and adults, Public Health England have altered their healthy eating advice. Action to help improve long term health is a good thing, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they are focusing on the right issue to create the level of change that’s required.

The new guidelines focus on the amount of calories consumed at each meal, broken down into a 400-600-600 parameter for breakfast, lunch and dinner. To anyone who has spent any modicum of time on a diet, this might seem a reasonable guide. But if calorie counting actually worked, would there still be such a huge problem with obesity and other weight-related issues?

I believe Public Health England are missing the point. For it’s not just the amount of calories consumed during a day that’s the issue, but the quality of the food itself that’s causing the problem. Anyone who eats processed and refined products are just not getting the nutrients they need to keep their weight under control, their digestive tract happy and their body healthy. Low calorie processed foods are bereft of the very nutrients the body needs to function well – essentially they’re full of empty calories.

One of the things I share with people who come along to my Eat Well Live Well course is that all calories are not equal. For what is a calorie in the first place? Simply put, its a unit of energy, fuel for the body to function effectively. We use different sources of energy to fuel our metabolic functions. Diet gurus will tell you that you need a certain balance of fat, protein and carbohydrate to do this, and then argue about what that balance it. Food packaging details the amount of each group, and how many calories there are contained within. But what they miss out is all the other important nutrients contained in the food, all of which are equally essential for the body to function. Micronutrients, phytonutrients and fibre all have massively important jobs to do – and many of these are lost as soon as you start processing a food source. This leads to an imbalance in the nutrient profile, which has led many people to the current state of being overfed and undernourished.

When you follow a mainly whole-food plant-based way of eating, the focus is not on calories. It’s on the whole-food! When you eat the whole product, you consume more fibre, more nutrients and – very importantly – more vitality. All of these things benefit your body. Let’s have a look how:

  • You feel full up more readily because of the high fibre content
  • You don’t experience sudden sugar lows that make you ‘hangry’ and head for the biscuit tin
  • You consume wonderful amounts of nutrients found in fresh fruit and vegetables than benefit your skin, hair and nails, as well as your health, and give you more energy and vitality
  • You naturally lose weight as your body is flooded with the right nutrient combination
  • Your body stops being under attack from toxic, highly processed chemicals and fats
  • You look after your telomeres, the key to slowing ageing, and minimise chronic health problems
  • You can reverse and even cure some chronic health problems
  • Lastly, and most importantly, you can eat loads of food!

Some health insurance companies in the US are beginning to recognise the value of using a whole-food plant-based diet as their first line treatment for ‘lifestyle’ health conditions. Here in the UK, we’re a little behind. It can be hard finding how to eat the right way, but with the right help, knowledge and support, it can be a real journey of food love.

As someone who spent many years ‘on a diet’ to lose weight, I love that I no longer have to  count calories. It’s a shame that Public Health England still think that’s the way to go. Hopefully they’ll change soon. But you don’t have to wait for them, just start making your own changes. And if you need some support, I’m always here to help.


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