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The Latest on Diets – Empty Calories Affect Our Metabolism

Neil E. Levin

Improper diet and lack of exercise are major risk factors in developing Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Prolonged stress and too high proportions of carbohydrates (carbs) in the diet also contribute to blood sugar problems. The problem carbs are excess levels of sugars and starches. Fibers, though called carbohydrates, are not a problem and are actually very useful to control blood sugar.

Complex carbs from vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains and beans are used to fuel brain activity and other body functions without excessively elevating our blood sugar. Fiber content will help the ability of food to make us feel full. Fiber also helps to slow the introduction of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, reducing blood sugar "peaks" after a meal. Another bonus of whole foods is that fiber can absorb cholesterol-containing bile salts, the key way to dump excess cholesterol from the body.

Eating a diet composed largely of processed/refined foods means that the carb level is probably too high and nutrients that help us to deal with blood sugar (fiber, chromium, etc.) are stripped from our food supply. This leaves us defenseless against weight gain, abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and elevated stress hormones.

We are literally drowning in excess empty calories that affect our metabolism. But skipping meals doesn’t help, nor does eating meals that lack adequate protein. Both habits discourage fat burning.

Spikes in blood sugar are the main enemy of dieters. Elevated blood sugar triggers the release of the hormone insulin, which can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which makes us fatigued after a meal. If this happens too often it can create insulin resistance, eventually causing a loss of blood sugar control that can result in Syndrome X (Metabolic Syndrome). This is a pre-diabetes condition defined as a combination of two or more of these symptoms: insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, abnormally high insulin levels, high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein (the “good” cholesterol), and hypertension (high blood pressure). Metabolic Syndrome increases belly fat and is a giant step towards developing adult-onset diabetes.

The balance of nutritional components within a meal regulates fat storage and fat burning. Balance each meal using the ZONE diet, where at least 30% of the calories in every meal is protein, about 30% are healthy fats and about 40% are complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits or vegetables. This balance will minimize blood sugar increases. Blood sugar spikes can lead to more fat storage and less fat burning, especially without enough protein to start the fat burning cycle after a meal.

Take a good multiple vitamin with a fat-containing meal. If you take green foods or other nutritionally dense dietary supplements, take them with a meal to help increase the total nutritional value of that meal. My recommendations are Adam for men, Eve for women, Eco-Green for anyone (iron-free and good for those not eating enough green foods), Liquid Multi for anyone and the new Tasty Vits chewable vitamins for kids of all ages (whether you’re 4 or 104).

Health Disclaimer. Content provided by NOW Foods. Copyright ©2006. Published with permission. Neil E. Levin CCCN, DANLA is a certified clinical nutritionist and is a professional member of the International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists.