Food With No Nutritional Value

13

Food with No Nutritional Value claims to help people lose weight by eating food that is low in fat and calories. However, this diet plan has been heavily criticized by many experts in the health industry who claim that it could leave you lacking the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.

ADVERTISEMENT

Food With No Nutritional Value

Soda, candy, chips…what do they all have in common? They are all top sources of what many dietitians refer to as “empty calories.”

The American Heritage College dictionary defines “empty” as “holding or containing nothing.” And for all the calories these foods add to your diet, they bring along almost nothing else for your body — very little vitamins or minerals, very little fiber or phytochemicals.

There are basically two empty-calorie culprits in our diets:

  • Anything with lots of sugar or other sweeteners
  • Anything with lots of fat and oil

Culprit #1: Anything with Lots of Sugar or Other Sweeteners

There’s no way to sugarcoat the truth — Americans are eating more sugar than ever before. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill determined that, on average, Americans are consuming 83 more calories per day from caloric sweeteners than they did in 1977. And those extra 83 calories a day turn into a whopping 2,490 calories per month.

To what items do we point the finger as the primary cause of these extra calories? Shockingly, it’s not even food we eat — these added calories come mainly from soft drinks and fruit drinks.

The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals lists the top five food categories that contribute added sugar to women’s diets as:

FoodAverage number of teaspoons of sugar (or equivalent) per serving
1. Soda and sweetened beverages (mostly carbonated soft drinks, but also includes fruit “drinks” and “ades” and bottled iced teas).9 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving of soda; 12 teaspoons per 12-ounce serving of fruit drink or ade.
2. Cakes, cookies, pastries, and pies.6 teaspoons in 1/16 of a pie or frosted cake.
3. Sugar or sugar substitute blends such as syrups, honey, molasses, and sweet toppings.3 teaspoons per tablespoon of syrup or honey.
4. Candy.3 teaspoons per 1-ounce chocolate bar.
5. Frozen milk desserts (includes ice cream and frozen yogurt).3 teaspoons per 1/2 cup.
ADVERTISEMENT

So, besides staying away from soda, be sure to watch for sneaky sugar calories from these items:

  • Other sweetened drinks. Lemonades, sports drinks, and fruit drinks.
  • Fancy coffee and tea drinks (hot or cold). These can be loaded with sugar calories. A 9.5-ounce bottled coffee drink contains around 190 calories and almost 8 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Snack cakes, pastries, and breakfast/cereal bars. Toaster pastries, granola bars, and breakfast bars fall into this category. One little toaster pastry has around 200 calories and almost 5 teaspoons of sugar. A 4-ounce supermarket blueberry muffin can contain about 420 calories and more than 8 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Sweetened hot and cold cereals. Check out the labels before you buy your breakfast cereals, because they list the grams of added sugar per serving. A packet of flavored instant oatmeal contains around 150 calories and around 4 teaspoons of sugar! Sugar is usually the second ingredient listed in the ingredient list.
  • Condiments. Pancake syrup and even catsup can add on the sugar calories if you are heavy handed. A 1/4-cup serving of pancake syrup has about 210 calories and 10 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4-cup of catsup contains around 60 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar!

The Next Culprit Culprit #2: Anything with Lots of Fat and Oil

Although some fats and oils contain vitamins and important fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, foods loaded with fats and oils are often empty-calorie culprits. This is particularly true when the food is full of trans fats and saturated fats; deep-fried French fries, potato chips, popcorn chicken that has more fried crumb topping than chicken, and high-fat crackers made with white flour are all examples.

Since we’re talking about empty calories, it’s important to note that gram for gram, fat has more than two times the calories of carbs or protein. In other words, a gram of fat has around 9 calories, while a gram of protein or carbohydrate has 4 calories. When foods have lots of added fats and oils, the calories can go through the roof pretty quickly.

One of our biggest fat traps is fast food. That’s mainly because so many fast food items, such as French fries, onion rings, taco shells, chicken strips and fish filets; dressed in high-fat sauces such as mayonnaise; are either deep fried or garnished with fatty meats such as bacon or sausage.

A new survey from the Agricultural Research Service and Harvard University found a link between fast-food consumption by kids in the U.S. and increased calories and poor nutrition. Children who ate fast food on the two days surveyed took in more total calories, more calories per gram of food, and more total saturated fat than children who didn’t eat fast food. The fast-food-eaters also took in more added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages, and less milk, fiber, and fruit. Even children who ate fast food on just one out of the two days surveyed showed similar dietary problems on the day they ate fast food.

So here are my nominees for the top five high-fat, empty-calorie culprits:

Fast food. Swearing off fast food isn’t the only answer. We can make better choices at fast food chains, such as ordering charbroiled chicken sandwiches (hold the mayonnaise), bean burritos, and pizza with extra tomato sauce and vegetable toppings. And we can eat fast food less often — maybe once a week instead of every day.

Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise is basically made up of three ingredients: vegetable oil, egg yolks, and vinegar (it’s not the vinegar that I’m worried about). Mayonnaise makes this list because it is loaded with calories and fat grams. Many people slather around 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise or mayonnaise-based sauces on their sandwich. This adds up to 198 calories and 22 grams of fat. See what I mean?

Chips and microwave popcorn. Although the potato and corn kernels that go into making these popular snack items have some nutritional value, once you coat them in partially hydrogenated oil, they top the charts in calories and fat grams. A 2-ounce bag of potato chips contains around 303 calories and 20 grams of fat. A bag of microwave popping corn (not the light kind) totals 435 calories and 25 grams of fat.

Crackers. Crackers may seem like they would be good snack choices. But if you look on the ingredient labels, they’re usually just white flour with partially hydrogenated fat — neither of which does much for the nutritional value of your diet. Calories and fat can add up quickly here, too. A 2-ounce serving of Ritz Bits, for example, totals 302 calories and 17 grams of fat, while the same size serving of cheese crackers comes to around 285 calories and 14 grams of fat.

Packaged frozen snacks. Walk down the frozen-food aisle and you’ll find scores of packaged savory snacks just waiting to be popped into the microwave: hot pockets, pizza rolls, egg rolls, etc. Trouble is, these are full of partially hydrogenated fats and oils. Just one pepperoni pizza pocket totals around 510 calories and 26 grams of fat.

What makes empty calories bad?

ADVERTISEMENT

“One of the big problems with empty calories is that oftentimes they’re consumed in excess without a person even knowing it,” warns Ramirez. “They’re not just found in the obvious places, like desserts. Empty calories are also hiding in everyday foods, like drinks, breakfast items, snacks and condiments. I often refer to empty calories as stealth calories.”

Overeating any type of food can, of course, be unhealthy over time, but overeating foods that provide no health benefits…well, there can be implications.

“Just by virtue of the types of foods they’re found in, when you’re eating empty calories, you’re typically eating a lot of them. This can easily derail weight loss or cause weight gain,” says Ramirez.

Add to that the fact that empty calories, specifically sugars, are very quickly digested by your body, which means they don’t help you feel full for very long.

“Eating foods that don’t help you feel full is an easy way to consume more calories per day than you’re body actually needs — which leads to weight gain. If all you need is a quick energy boost and you eat a few empty calories, that’s one thing. But this often isn’t how we consume these types of foods,” adds Ramirez.

Then there’s the issue of food cravings. You know the ones — when you’re thirsty but the only thing you want to drink is a big glass of sweet tea. Or when you’re hungry and that bag of Doritos in your pantry is the only thing that sounds good.

“Food cravings may be rooted in your brain becoming addicted to these highly rewarding foods. But, if you’re eating mostly empty calories, these cravings might also be your body asking for food that actually provides the important nutrients you need to survive, which empty calories neglect to provide you. Regardless of the reason, these cravings also encourage overeating and weight gain,” warns Ramirez.

Lastly, eating empty calories in excess can lead to blood sugar spikes and increase inflammation — which, in turn, can lead to chronic health issues like diabetes and heart disease.

Eat this, not that — empty calorie edition

Given our fast-paced lives and the style of diet common today, avoiding empty calories is certainly easier said than done. But, Ramirez has tips for swapping those foods full of empty calories for healthier alternatives:

  • Rethink your drink. Liquid empty calories are by far the most stealthy. A single 12 oz. can of soda contains almost 40 grams of added sugar. And while a sports drink can help you replenish electrolytes after a particularly sweaty workout, your body may not need the whole bottle. Try swapping sugary drinks for unsweetened sparkling water or the diet version of your favorite soda.
  • Know how sugar much is too much. Small amounts of added sugars (less than 10% of your daily calories) are okay, but many children and adults exceed this amount. According to the CDC, added sugars account for 16% of the total daily calories for both boys and girls, on average.
  • Get familiar with reading labels. Empty calories are often hiding in plain sight, which means you may need to get in the habit of checking the nutrition label — even for foods items you think are healthy. The new food labels make identifying when sugar has been added to a product even easier. Under the total grams of sugar, look for a line item indicating the amount of added sugar. The nutrition label is also an important part of ensuring you’re sticking to eating a single serving size.
  • Embrace slow cooking and meal prepping. Eating mostly processed foods is an easy way to overdo it on empty calories. Cooking meals at home is a great alternative, as well as a way to ensure that your meals are healthier overall. If you’re short on time in the evenings, try cooking with a slow cooker. If your short on time at lunch, try meal prepping simple, healthy lunches ahead of time.
  • Avoid overindulging on alcohol. Limiting alcohol is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, and it’s also a good way to cut empty calories. There are no beneficial calories in alcohol, and each gram of alcohol carries seven calories with it.

Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food

WE like the idea that food can be the answer to our ills, that if we eat nutritious foods we won’t need medicine or supplements. We have valued this notion for a long, long time. The Greek physician Hippocrates proclaimed nearly 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Today, medical experts concur. If we heap our plates with fresh fruits and vegetables, they tell us, we will come closer to optimum health.

This health directive needs to be revised. If we want to get maximum health benefits from fruits and vegetables, we must choose the right varieties. Studies published within the past 15 years show that much of our produce is relatively low in phytonutrients, which are the compounds with the potential to reduce the risk of four of our modern scourges: cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. The loss of these beneficial nutrients did not begin 50 or 100 years ago, as many assume. Unwittingly, we have been stripping phytonutrients from our diet since we stopped foraging for wild plants some 10,000 years ago and became farmers.

These insights have been made possible by new technology that has allowed researchers to compare the phytonutrient content of wild plants with the produce in our supermarkets. The results are startling.

Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a “superfood.” A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. One species of apple has a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious displayed in our supermarkets.

Were the people who foraged for these wild foods healthier than we are today? They did not live nearly as long as we do, but growing evidence suggests that they were much less likely to die from degenerative diseases, even the minority who lived 70 years and more. The primary cause of death for most adults, according to anthropologists, was injury and infections.

Each fruit and vegetable in our stores has a unique history of nutrient loss, I’ve discovered, but there are two common themes. Throughout the ages, our farming ancestors have chosen the least bitter plants to grow in their gardens. It is now known that many of the most beneficial phytonutrients have a bitter, sour or astringent taste. Second, early farmers favored plants that were relatively low in fiber and high in sugar, starch and oil. These energy-dense plants were pleasurable to eat and provided the calories needed to fuel a strenuous lifestyle. The more palatable our fruits and vegetables became, however, the less advantageous they were for our health.

The sweet corn that we serve at summer dinners illustrates both of these trends. The wild ancestor of our present-day corn is a grassy plant called teosinte. It is hard to see the family resemblance. Teosinte is a bushy plant with short spikes of grain instead of ears, and each spike has only 5 to 12 kernels. The kernels are encased in shells so dense you’d need a hammer to crack them open. Once you extract the kernels, you wonder why you bothered. The dry tidbit of food is a lot of starch and little sugar. Teosinte has 10 times more protein than the corn we eat today, but it was not soft or sweet enough to tempt our ancestors.

Over several thousand years, teosinte underwent several spontaneous mutations. Nature’s rewriting of the genome freed the kernels of their cases and turned a spike of grain into a cob with kernels of many colors. Our ancestors decided that this transformed corn was tasty enough to plant in their gardens. By the 1400s, corn was central to the diet of people living throughout Mexico and the Americas.

ADVERTISEMENT

Continue reading the main story

When European colonists first arrived in North America, they came upon what they called “Indian corn.” John Winthrop Jr., governor of the colony of Connecticut in the mid-1600s, observed that American Indians grew “corne with great variety of colours,” citing “red, yellow, blew, olive colour, and greenish, and some very black and some of intermediate degrees.” A few centuries later, we would learn that black, red and blue corn is rich in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have the potential to fight cancer, calm inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect the aging brain, and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

EUROPEAN settlers were content with this colorful corn until the summer of 1779 when they found something more delectable — a yellow variety with sweeter and more tender kernels. This unusual variety came to light that year after George Washington ordered a scorched-earth campaign against Iroquois tribes. While the militia was destroying the food caches of the Iroquois and burning their crops, soldiers came across a field of extra-sweet yellow corn. According to one account, a lieutenant named Richard Bagnal took home some seeds to share with others. Our old-fashioned sweet corn is a direct descendant of these spoils of war.

Credit…Noma Bar
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Up until this time, nature had been the primary change agent in remaking corn. Farmers began to play a more active role in the 19th century. In 1836, Noyes Darling, a onetime mayor of New Haven, and a gentleman farmer, was the first to use scientific methods to breed a new variety of corn. His goal was to create a sweet, all-white variety that was “fit for boiling” by mid-July.

He succeeded, noting with pride that he had rid sweet corn of “the disadvantage of being yellow.”

The disadvantage of being yellow, we now know, had been an advantage to human health. Corn with deep yellow kernels, including the yellow corn available in our grocery stores, has nearly 60 times more beta-carotene than white corn, valuable because it turns to Vitamin A in the body, which helps vision and the immune system.

SUPERSWEET corn, which now outsells all other kinds of corn, was derived from spontaneous mutations that were selected for their high sugar content. In 1959, a geneticist named John Laughnan was studying a handful of mutant kernels and popped a few into his mouth. He was startled by their intense sweetness. Lab tests showed that they were up to 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. 

Mr. Laughnan was not a plant breeder, but he realized at once that this mutant corn would revolutionize the sweet corn industry. He became an entrepreneur overnight and spent years developing commercial varieties of supersweet corn. His first hybrids began to be sold in 1961.

Within one generation, the new extra sugary varieties eclipsed old-fashioned sweet corn in the marketplace. Build a sweeter fruit or vegetable — by any means — and we will come. Today, most of the fresh corn in our supermarkets is extra-sweet. The kernels are either white, pale yellow, or a combination of the two. The sweetest varieties approach 40 percent sugar, bringing new meaning to the words “candy corn.” Only a handful of farmers in the United States specialize in multicolored Indian corn, and it is generally sold for seasonal decorations, not food.

We’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of other fruits and vegetables. How can we begin to recoup the losses?

Here are some suggestions to get you started. Select corn with deep yellow kernels. To recapture the lost anthocyanins and beta-carotene, cook with blue, red or purple cornmeal, which is available in some supermarkets and on the Internet. Make a stack of blue cornmeal pancakes for Sunday breakfast and top with maple syrup.

In the lettuce section, look for arugula. Arugula, also called salad rocket, is very similar to its wild ancestor. Some varieties were domesticated as recently as the 1970s, thousands of years after most fruits and vegetables had come under our sway. The greens are rich in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates and higher in antioxidant activity than many green lettuces.

Scallions, or green onions, are jewels of nutrition hiding in plain sight. They resemble wild onions and are just as good for you. Remarkably, they have more than five times more phytonutrients than many common onions do. The green portions of scallions are more nutritious than the white bulbs, so use the entire plant. Herbs are wild plants incognito. We’ve long valued them for their intense flavors and aroma, which is why they’ve not been given a flavor makeover. Because we’ve left them well enough alone, their phytonutrient content has remained intact.

Experiment with using large quantities of mild-tasting fresh herbs. Add one cup of mixed chopped Italian parsley and basil to a pound of ground grass-fed beef or poultry to make “herb-burgers.” Herbs bring back missing phytonutrients and a touch of wild flavor as well.

The United States Department of Agriculture exerts far more effort developing disease-resistant fruits and vegetables than creating new varieties to enhance the disease resistance of consumers. In fact, I’ve interviewed U.S.D.A. plant breeders who have spent a decade or more developing a new variety of pear or carrot without once measuring its nutritional content.

We can’t increase the health benefits of our produce if we don’t know which nutrients it contains. Ultimately, we need more than an admonition to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables: we need more fruits and vegetables that have the nutrients we require for optimum health.

HOW TO MAINTAIN A BALANCED DIET

How to maintain a Balanced Diet
ADVERTISEMENT

A balanced diet is a diet that contains differing kinds of foods in certain quantities and proportions so that the requirement for calories, proteins, minerals, vitamins and alternative nutrients is adequate and a small provision is reserved for additional nutrients to endure the short length of leanness. In addition, a balanced diet ought to offer bioactive phytochemicals like dietary fiber, antioxidants and nutraceuticals that have positive health advantages. A balanced diet should offer around 60-70% of total calories from carbohydrates, 10-12% from proteins and 20-25% of total calories from fat.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF A BALANCED DIET

  • Healthy eating increases energy, improves the way your body functions, strengthens your immune system and prevents weight gain. The other major benefits are:
  • Meets your nutritional need. A varied, balanced diet provides the nutrients you need to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
  • Prevent and treat certain diseases. Healthful eating can prevent the risk of developing certain diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. It is also helpful in treating diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Following a special diet can reduce symptoms, and may help you better manage an illness or condition.
  • Feel energetic and manage your weight. A healthy diet will assist you to feel higher, provide you with more energy, and help you fight stress.
  • Food is the mainstay of many social and cultural events. Apart from nutrition properties, it helps facilitate connections between individuals.

HERE ARE SOME GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR HEALTHY EATING

  • The most important rule of healthy eating is not skipping any meal. Skipping meals lowers your metabolic rate. Normal eating includes 3 major meals and 2 snacks between meals. Also, Never skip breakfast. It is the foremost vital meal of the day.
  • Learn simple ways to prepare food. Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean complicated eating. Keep meal preparation easy, eat more raw foods such as salads, fruits and vegetable juices, and focus on the pleasure of eating healthy food rather than the calories.
  • It is important to stop when you feel full. This will help you maintain your weight to an extent. This also will help you remain alert and feeling your best.
  • Drink lots of water. Keep a bottle of water near you while working, watching TV, etc.
  • Variety of foods should be used in the menu. No single food has all the nutrients.
  • To improve the cereal and pulse protein quality, a minimum ratio of cereal protein to pulse protein should be 4:1. In terms of the grains, it will be eight parts of cereals and one part of pulses.
  • Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.
  • Keep a supply of healthy snacks to hand. This will stop you from eating an unhealthy snack when hungry.
  • Remove all visible fat from food before you cook it – take the skin off chicken and trim the white fat off any meat.
  • Limit stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar.
  • Limit the number of times you eat out to once a week. Take your own packed lunch to work.
  • Only eat things you like the taste of – find what works for you and don’t force yourself to eat things just because they’re good for you.

HEALTHY COOKING TIPS

With today’s fast life, cooking a meal in the traditional style is extinct. People mostly opt for eating less healthy fast foods, ready to eat meal packets, etc. To make a healthy meal, the most important thing is to cook it at your home, rather than opting for outside cooked food. Explore healthy ways to add variety to your meals as repetition can cause boredom. Infuse your diet with the excitement and good taste you crave for. Here are a few suggestions for cooking healthily.

Having to choose healthy food does not mean you need to give up on your favorites. Think of how you can turn your favorites into a healthy option. For instance:

  • Decrease the meat and add more vegetables to your dishes.
  • Use whole wheat flour instead of refined flour when you bake.
  • Blot your fried foods to take off the extra oil.
  • Use low-fat yogurt instead of mayonnaise
  • Add cut fruits to your curd, rather than having flavored yogurt
  • Try to skim milk instead of a normal one.
  • Use non-stick cookware to reduce the need for oil to cook.
  • Microwave or steam your vegetables rather than boiling to avoid loss of nutrients.
  • Fats in your foods should be maintained a minimum.
  • Choose lean meats and skim dairy products. Fats are good in the form of nuts, seeds, fish, olives when they are accompanied by other nutrients. Some amount of fats while cooking is good as to help the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
  • If you wish to use oil, try cooking sprays or apply oil with a pastry brush. Cook in liquids (such as vegetable stock, lemon juice, fruit juice, vinegar or water) instead of oil. Use low-fat yogurt, low-fat soymilk evaporated skim milk or cornstarch as a thickener instead of cream.
  • Choose to scrub the vegetables than peel as there are many nutrients in the skin. When you have to boil the vegetables, retain the vitamin-rich water and use it as a stock in another preparation.
  • Switch to a reduced salt wholemeal or wholegrain bread.
  • For sandwiches, limit your use of spreads high in saturated fat like butter and cream cheese; replace with scrapings of spread or alternative nut spreads or low-fat cheese spreads or avocado. Choose reduced-fat ingredients like low-fat cheese or salad dressing.
  • Add a lot of vegetables to your sandwich to make it healthier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Like
Close
TheSuperHealthyFood © Copyright 2022. All rights reserved.
Close