Understand the value of eating a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight and you’ll discover that opting for a quick-fix crash diet is not the answer to losing weight and staying fit long-term!
Many people think that the primary reason an individual may choose to diet is to lose weight. However, there are several reasons why people might undertake particular diets. For instance, going on a detox diet has become popular. The emphasis on this diet is to remove all toxins and harmful substances to cleanse the body by only drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables to flush out the body. Weight loss is a potential side effect here, rather than the main purpose.
Diets work in differing ways (see Type of Diets), dependent on what they are being used to do. A standard, weight-loss or control diet will normally focus on lowering the individual’s caloric intake to an appropriate level below the body’s daily requirement. This will force the body to use its fat stores, bringing the individual’s weight down. A specific diet tailored to, say, a patient with a history of heart attacks will be carefully planned to ensure cholesterol and fat levels are low to reduce risk of further medical issues.
The problem with a lot of crash diets and popular fad diets is that they often ignore the tried-and-trusted fact that we humans must eat a balanced diet that contains all the food groups in moderation in order to function in every department. Intelligent eating and this ‘balance’ or ‘moderation’ of food groups is crucial to ensuring you get the best from your body. This is how we obtain the energy for optimum body operation as well as the minerals and vitamins crucial for body maintenance and cell regeneration. If an individual is not consuming a balanced diet – and is instead missing out vital food groups, or not receiving enough of a particular vitamin – they may suffer a whole host of illnesses. A lack of vitamin C, for example, can cause scurvy – an illness you might consider old-fashioned because historically it was common in sailors who had no access to fruit and vegetables for weeks on end. And although now extremely rare in developed countries, cases of scurvy do still arise. Likewise, extreme dieters who cut entire food groups from their diets can often be at risk of deficiencies if they do not get their intake of all the necessary nutrients. In developing countries, for example, a deficiency in protein can result in a disease called kwashiorkor, which, if displayed during growth, can actually affect intelligence of the individual.
So which foods are ‘bad’? Highly processed, high sugar foods are generally considered the worst as they are high in fat and sugars and low in both vitamins and minerals. These foods are often the cheapest to produce, which is one reason why we’re seeing a growing trend in obesity in a number of developing countries. Also, these food stuffs tend not to ‘fill you up’ in the way ‘good foods’ such as brown bread and fruit do, and consequently people then snack and eat more, even though it is probable that they will have exceeded their daily recommended calorie intake.
Our sedentary work lives, combined with all our household appliances and gadgets that make our life easier in our homes, also mean that our average daily energy needs are significantly lower than those of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. For instance, housewives back in the Sixties are thought to have burned over 1,000 calories a day just by doing housework.
So we understand that to maintain a healthy weight demands a balance of all good foods and even a spot of housework. We also know that we should not consume more calories than we require for our bodies to function. And yet in their droves people keen to lose weight quickly turn to so-called crash diets. These eating plans tend to promise quick and easy weight loss, either by eliminating a certain food group (such as carbohydrates) or by highlighting specific foods (such as cabbage soup).
While some do indeed have their good points such as encouraging you to eliminate excess sugar and saturated fats from your diet, many suggest cutting out healthy nutrients such as complex carbohydrates (oats, brown rice) and essential fatty acids. And as we all know, a balanced diet is key to ensuring the body functions.
So what’s wrong with dieting? Well, not only does a crash diet fail to address the ultimate problem – the fact that weight was gained in the first place – but also, by definition, they are quick-fix remedies that do little to promote long-term healthy eating and a sustainable diet. Initially you may lose some weight, but this is often in the form of fluid, not fat. This is because low-calorie diets make the body burn excess glycogen – the glucose that absorbs excess body fluids. This ‘water weight’ will be put straight back on again as soon as the diet is over.
Once they’ve lost a bit of weight, some dieters reach a plateau – when the weight loss stops – and often they’ll actually regain weight. The metabolism – or the rate at which the body burns calories – is linked to what’s known as the yo-yo effect. The body realizes it’s receiving fewer calories than usual, and automatically adjusts the metabolic rate to burn fewer calories in order for the body to function. A slower metabolism means you’ll burn calories slower and gain weight easier. So next time you’re thinking of going on a crash diet to lose some weight, you might want to think twice as you may actually end up packing the pounds on even quicker.
How villi absorb nutrients in the small intestine
Humans need energy to function, yet the food we consume is not readily accessible for use by cells. We must first process our food, and break it down into much smaller molecules before it can be properly absorbed and utilised. The process where food is broken into smaller pieces until the molecules and nutrients we need can pass through the intestinal walls is called digestion. Absorption occurs within the small intestine, which has a huge surface area due to the presence of villi.
How the liver turns your food into nutrients
The liver is one of the key organs involved in breaking down the food we eat into useable nutrient molecules for the body to release. These vital nutrients are then distributed around the body via the bloodstream to be utilised for growth, cell repair and movement. Excess energy can be stored around the body in fat cells or in glycogen granules and then broken down at a later date when necessary. If you’re on a diet that eliminates certain foods, your body will be nutritionally unbalanced, which can lead to long-term poor health.
How enzymes work
Enzymes are crucial in our processing of food. Many enzymes are present in saliva and they start the breakdown process of nutrients such as sugars and starches (carbohydrates) before food reaches the stomach. However, most of the breakdown occurs in the stomach, and three enzymes secreted by the pancreas and intestinal wall are crucial in this process; amylase, protease and lipase. Amylase is primarily used to break down starches and sugars, and will bind to them to do so. Protease works with proteins, breaking the large protein molecules down into amino acids. Lipase breaks down fat in smaller molecules so it can pass through into the lymphatic vessels and be transported to fat storage sites around the body via the blood.