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Good and bad foods
As we are going on to discuss choices of food there often become a hierarchy of foods normally we like to say these are “good for you” or bad for you, or we say this food is better than that one.
In fact there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods there are just some foods which are better to some at some times and others which are better at others times.
We should never feel that any food is banned and be aware that food is there as part of a fulfilled and balanced life, after all we don’t eat 25g or protein – or just protein, what we eat is a piece of chicken or fish.
To make matters more confusing some foods, begin their life being good for you “go to work on an egg” then they become bad for you (the dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol and cardio disease risk factors myth). Finally we are told eggs are fine and omega eggs are more than fine, but for how long?
That being said it’s hard not to fall into this trap of labeling things and we do know that some foods will have effects in the body which over time or when consumed in excess can have what we might call bad or negative effects. So if there is mention to a food being good or better for you this will normally means it’s a more appropriate choice of food at that time, or it’s just got more goodness in it!
Take flakes or corn for instance, a refined fast release high carbohydrate cereal with loads of added sodium. A nightmare for breakfast – in my opinion, but what a great snack for post workout recovery and electrolyte replacement!? With some protein of course…
The trick in all of this confusion is to find out what works for you, what suits your particular genetic make up and lifestyle and favorably affects your health and body composition. And that knowledge is a long journey of discovery which we will start with a discussion around carbohydrates.
In part 1 of the blood sugar control diet we looked at the way carbohydrate is metabolized and the effect this has on body composition and blood sugar control.
In part 2, we’ll go on to discuss the types of carbohydrate which work best at particular time of the day, and useful ratios and tips which you can employ to adjust your own diet.
To begin with you’ve got to know where you are at. In that you need to establish what your reason for changing the way you eat might be. Is it to stop gaining body fat, to gain muscle or perhaps both?
Or it might be to improve your general sense of well-being, health and energy levels.
The good news is whether it’s the former or the later you’ll likely achieve both, but only when you know where you’re at.
In order to affect change you must have a starting point, that starting point is your diet and exercise habits diary – if you haven’t got one then stop reading and begin recording what you’ve eaten and what exercise and training you’ve done for at least a week.
You’ll also need to be aware of one other thing; have I been gaining or losing weight over the last 3-6 months – maybe you’ve stayed the same. Maybe you’ve been monitoring you body composition so you know exactly what’s been happening.
If you’ve been getting fatter; you’re eating habits will need adjusting, if you’ve failed to gain muscle at the rate you’d like, your eating habits will need adjusting. Dietary adjustment need to be gradual to be effective and sustainable.
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE, KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING
The ‘secret’ for successful dietary change and body composition management is sustainability and part of sustainable change is gradual adjustment. For this reason I’m going to suggest and show examples of how individuals have gradually swapped and added bit to their diets which over 2-3 weeks has resulted in improved energy levels and body composition without having had a revolution.
How many times have you begun an alien diet plan and then simply drifted back into old habits once you got bored or felt deprived.
One thing which is for sure most of you should end up eating more – not less food and you’ll end up losing fat as a result!
Principle 1: Never skip breakfast
Traditionally breakfast is associated with starchy carbohydrates; cereals, breads, croissants, jam and so on.
First of all you need to forget about this, why not eat your left over supper for breakfast?
You’ve been over cooking right? So you can use some for snacks the next day, or, if your get cravings after dinner, to eat an extra bit of salad and salmon rather than some biscuits.
If you’ve been paying attention this is far more likely to get you off to a good start to the day than the classic protein light, wheat based sugary carbohydrate nightmare which most of us travel to work on – no wonder we get tired and grouchy and reach for the chocolate biscuits mid-morning!
So breakfast suggestion number one is to eat what you’ve cooked the night before.
As we talked about before, mixed meals require protein and fibre as pre-requisites, so switching from white bread (low fiber high glycemic) to whole-grain or wholemeal is a step in the right direction. As is switching form all types of refined and sugary breakfast cereals towards, unrefined whole grain based cereals.
Note there are loads of whole grain cereals which are better than sugar coated corn flakes, but some of these are still refined. This basically means manufacture has taken the grain, ground it down, reprocessed it and made it into little shapes and then packaged it up again. Processing essentially does part of the digestive process for us as well as robbing many of the vitamins and minerals from the grain in its raw state.
Don’t get me wrong these are still heaps better than double sugar / choc cluster cereal, but they are no where near as good as less refined grains like the ones you find in muesli complexes and whole oats.
Breakfast suggestion number two; jumbo porridge oats as porridge or as part of a muesli complex.
If toast is your thing, and there’s no way you’ll give it up, switch breads to those mentioned above and chose the ones with added linseeds, soya and things like that for additional goodness and texture.
Adding an omega egg to this is better still, eating rye bread or gluten free to avoid the allergy potential of wheat might be better than that still.
Eggs indeed lend themselves to a variety of perfect breakfasts, scrambled with smoked salmon as a treat, or just scrambled when you are too busy to poached or make an omelet.
Omelets have the added benefit of being vehicles for the most neglected carbohydrate group at breakfast; the vegetable.
Principle 2: in the diet of anyone interested in health and performance should be to eat more vegetables in fact try to eat them or some form of them at each feeding opportunity.
Why the vegetables you ask? Well cancer. Eating less than 5 servings of vegetables and fruit (more on fruit later) can significantly increase your risk factors for developing cancer. And guess what ¾ of us eat less than 5 pieces a day. Eating more than 5 also reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, and well – they taste nice!
So breakfast suggestion number three is a vegetable based omelet, plus to add some berries to your breakfast cereal.
The cool thing about the disease protective components of veggies and fruit is that it’s measured, by something called the ORAC scale; this is the measure of how much free-radical quenching ability the food has.
Free radicals are molecules with unpaired electron’s in their outer shell. If you remember back to basic chemistry these guys are desperate to ‘pair up’ with another electron to stop their infinite spinning into eternity (you can hardly blame them) trouble is they’ll steal from healthy molecules, making them unstable.
If they steal from healthy body cells the body will shut these down and self destruct it’s own cells in a vain attempt to prevent further damage. Often the body is so good at this however that it will also destroy other healthy cells around itself.
One way to imagine this might be the overzealous home defense person who landmines the front garden to such an extent that the first burglar to approach blows the whole house apart.
Free radicals occur in pollutants, both environmental and intentionally consumed. They are also generated through exercise! One reason why excess cardio, and inadequate antioxidant consumption can accelerate the aging process.
The list is getting bigger all the time with recent research showing cloves and their oil as well as thyme and cinnamon as scoring very highly. Oh be careful with clove oil it’s not generally used for eating neat, adding clove powder to cooking or using loads of Chinese five spice is a good idea though, as is cooking meats (hams especially) with cloves.
For another useful list go to https://www.mendosa.com/diabetes_update_73.htm, always a good read and worth subscribing to mendosa’s diabetes newsletter.
Generally if you eat the recommended five a day you’ll consume around 1500 orac points, eating more concentrated sources like blueberries will give you a substantial boost – reaching 5000-6000 easily.
For athletes I’d suggest a minimum of 5k of oracs each day and more, up to double that on recovery days.
The great thing about oracs is they occur in tasty foods like berries and herbs, but also in high concentrations in dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is also an excellent functional food with implications and benefits for athletes who are border line over-trained or training.
If you are watching you body fats you’ll need to chose sources of these foods which don’t come with a load of sugar – natural or otherwise attached to them. In this instance the green leafy sources are the best, a large serving of spinach will double antioxidant capacity in the blood shortly after eating it, contains virtually no carbohydrates and a massive dose of folic acid amongst its other trace minerals and nutrients.
Similarly vitamin C will increase the blood levels of antioxidants; supplementation will be the subject of a future article.
When distinguishing between the groups of carbohydrates the most useful distinction is between the energy density.
Starchy carbohydrates contain the most energy per weight, and if refined have the worst effect on blood sugar. These include all root vegetables and grains like wheat or rice.
Starch proteins are beans and pulses; these contain a reasonable amount of energy, substantial amounts of fibre and protein and have low glycemic indexes and loads.
They are also good sources of vegetarian protein and have favourable effects on gut health. If you cook them with baking soda (1 teaspoon per 400g) you wont burn the house down with methane production either!
The fibrous carbohydrates are those which grown above the ground, these tend to have lots of valuable nutrients and health benefits and are also the lowest energy density per weight. You can eat loads of these and not gain fat.
For these guys the ones which lie on the ground, aubergines and corgettes tend to be starchier than those which have to maintain a structure; broccoli and asparagus.
As we are interested in staying lean and muscular and performing to our maximum potential it makes sense to eat more energy at times when we’ll need it and more energy at times we need to replace it.
Eating more energy at times when we don’t need it, like right before bed, will just mean we store it as fat.
Cycling our energy intake like this also favourably affects the hormonal environment as well, more on this subject in another article.
Most of us need most of our energy earlier in the day, so eating unrefined starchy carbohydrates at breakfast seems sensible.
Eating loads of these at night might not be so wise, unless we’ve trained beforehand – which means these are necessary to recovery.
So in summary:
• There are no good and bad foods it’s just the timing and frequency of these foods which make them better or worse for you.
• Although it’s good to know your way around macronutrients at also important to remember we eat nice balanced, ‘mixed’ meals not gram of this and grams of that, so practical what should I eat then ideas are essential to success.
• Knowing where you are and where you want to go are the first things you should do before embarking on any changes.
• This means goal setting and diet diaries please.
• Gradual changes = sustainable changes and sustainability is the key to any successful change to the way you eat.
• Breakfast builds champions and porridge and eggs are breakfasts of champions.
• Overcooking whenever you cook saves time and makes success in your goals more likely.
• Eating for performance involves eating ‘clean’ and cleaning up you diet means identifying and reducing with a view to avoiding all refined carbohydrates.
• Unless you’ve trained; when refined carbos elicit a profound insulin response aiding the recovery process.
• When you make your carbohydrate choices remember the ORAC score, these foods have a ‘function’ a health benefit above and beyond their calorie and basic metabolic effects in the body. Dark chocolate is one example of a functional food.
• Understanding the energy density on carbohydrates enables you to make the right choices to maximize performance.
• Simply put eat more energy dense carbohydrates at times when you are more physically active and less when you are less active.