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Not all calories are created equally

Calories are often at the centre of our decision as to whether or not to eat a certain food.  Many of us are counting our calories and many weight loss programs require you to do the same, but is it an effective long-term strategy?

We would say no, for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s very time consuming, and not a realistic long-term strategy for most people.
  2. Manufacturers are allowed up to 10% leeway when estimating calories in their products, so you may be eating more or less than you think.
  3. Calorie amounts found on food labels are based on something called the Atwater system, which basically involves estimating energy of foods by measuring the heat given off when it is burned. However, the accuracy of the system is strongly disputed –  for example, a 2012 study by a USDA scientist concluded that the measured energy content of a sample of almonds was 32% lower than the estimated Atwater value. Furthermore, it is known that some calories are lost in waste, without ever having been chemically converted or stored. It is really just generally accepted as true because there is no better way to estimate calories from food at this point.
  4. Calories from different foods are not all equal. 

Calorie Inequalities

Professor Robert Lustig carried out a study. For example, you could eat a doughnut which is around 240 calories. The same calories are in a cup of avocado.  One is a highly processed food and the other is picked off a tree.  Same calories, same effect?  Absolutely not.

With that in mind, let’s look at some examples at how the body breaks down, metabolises and uses food. Food contains the macronutrients fibre, protein, fat and carbohydrates.

  • Fibre

Nuts are high in fibre and there is some research to say that lean, healthy people tend to eat a lot of them. How can this happen given they’re high in calories?  Let’s say you eat 160 calories in almonds. Because of the fibre in the almonds, some good things happen. First the fibre keeps your blood sugar from rising too high, which keeps your insulin down.  Secondly, the fibre bipasses the small intestine and goes intact to the large intestine and the good bacteria living there end up chewing it up instead of you absorbing them. So, even if 160 calories entered your mouth, only around 80% of those are actually available for you to absorb. This is because not all calories are created equal.

  • Protein

Digestion of food requires energy to create energy. This is called the thermic effect of food and protein requires over twice the energy to digest it if you compare it to fat and carbs.

  • Fat

Next let’s look at the demonised fat. There are good fats and there are bad fats. Some fats are incredibly good for you and and others will, over time, make you sick.  Good fats are like omega 3s of salmon, flaxseed and walnuts or monounsaturated fat from avocado. Bad fats include trans fats which are found in many processed foods and junk food. Calories from fat are not all equal either.

  • Carbohydrates

Let’s look at carbohydrates. Like fat, there are good carbs and there are bad carbs. Like fat, there are good carbs and there are bad carbs. Good carbs from from real, unprocessed food such as vegetables, legumes, fruit and whole-grains which are high in fibre. Refined carbohydrate is found in processed food, which is low in fibre.  This is the reason the current western diet is low in fibre, which is a major factor as to why people are getting sick.

Ritualize has a simple approach to nutrition – we call it the 80/20 Lifestyle where 80% of your daily food intake is from real, whole food that was recently alive and 20% is your treat food.  This approach means you don’t feel deprived, but maintain control of the treat food while getting all the nourishment your body needs to stay healthy.

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Binge-watching before bedtime…

Are you guilty of it?

Since the introduction of streaming companies, such as Netflix and Stan, the era of scheduled programming has seemingly come to an end. Everyone can watch the content they like when they like. This unprecedented access has introduced a new viewing style: Binge Watching. Binge watching is defined as “watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen, be it a television, laptop, computer or tablet.”

Prior research has indicated that media bingeing was associated with more anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Binge viewers also reported higher levels of loneliness and depression. In more recent studies, conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, it was reported that binge-watchers had more fatigue, insomnia symptoms, poorer sleep quality, and feeling more alert before going to sleep. Those who binge-watch before bed had 98% more chance of having poor-quality sleep than those who didn’t.

Looking at bright screens, especially at night, can wreak havoc on your biology, because it is one of the cues that helps maintain our circadian rhythm, or body clock. When it gets dark, our bodies start to prepare for sleep, but bright lights can trick our brains into thinking it’s still daytime and it reduces our ability to secrete melatonin, which makes it not only harder to fall asleep, but also reduces the amount of sleep you get once you do fall asleep.

While we don’t expect you to stop watching shows, there is a way to help combat the binge-watching addiction. Dr Robert Oexman, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says the best way to do it is on the weekend, and earlier in the day instead of the late evenings. Ideally, binge-watching should occur before 6 pm, and if that’s not possible, you should at least stop watching shows an hour before you start getting ready for bed.

For more tips and information on how to help improve your quality of sleep, check out our Ritualize app!

 

References:

https://www.google.com.au/amp/variety.com/2017/digital/news/binge-watching-health-risks-netlfix-1202447516/amp/

http://jcsm.aasm.org/viewabstract.aspx?pid=31062

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/tv-binge-watching-can-damage-your-health-2017-9

 

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Resilience of People
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That which does not kill us …

In the late 1800’s, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

It is a phrase often used to explain the resilience of people who have endured hardships. It turns out that it certainly contains more than a grain of truth.

My interest in this subject arose from undergoing a course called Air 427 in 1998, whilst serving as an officer in the British Armed Forces. The course was 10 days of rigorous combat survival and resistance to interrogation training, which involved walking 100’s of km over 10 days, with very little sleep due to sleeping rough in freezing conditions, and the only food over the entire 10 days was a chicken between 4 people – and it was alive when we got it. To ramp up the pressure, the final 5 days was an ‘escape and evasion’ phase, where we were to evade a Hunter Force that was equipped with helicopters, vehicles and dog teams.

At the end of the 10 days we underwent interrogation training, which consisted of alternating bouts of highly uncomfortable stress positions (blindfolded while exposed to very loud ‘white noise’), with interrogations of increasing intensity.

Once the course was over, the first thing that struck me was that I had a new-found appreciation for things that I took for granted – as well as the obvious such as food, shelter and warmth, there were lots of little things that I appreciated much more, such as a toothbrush, clean underwear and toilet paper!

It wasn’t until a few weeks and months later that I noticed something more long lasting – my view of what was stressful had completely changed and my resilience was greatly enhanced. I realised that this phenomenon was very well explained by knowledge from my first Masters Degree in Sports Science – that of training adaptation. Exposing the body to training stresses, such as sprinting or lifting heavy weights, induces changes in gene expression which result in a an adaptive response – and the body ultimately becoming bigger, faster, stronger.

This knowledge led to me reframing potential stress in my life as something that would make me stronger. When I left the Armed Forces and became more of an academic I looked deeper into the research in this area, and that is when I uncovered a topic that has real relevance to many areas of our life – that of hormesis.

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect results from low doses of a stressor or toxin that a higher doses is harmful or even lethal. As you will see over the next few blogs, we can harness this biological phenomenon in a systematic and deliberate way to improve many aspects of our health and move us beyond resilience to being what I call ‘stress adapted’.

If you choose to adapt the hermetic lifestyle, you will likely be changing how you eat, what supplements you take, how you exercise and your view of stress to enhance production of protective genes and enzymes that will protect you against disease and increase your lifespan.

I’ll explore how anti-oxidant supplements can be bad for you, the truth about why vegetables are good for you, and the best type of exercise for health.

This is not the lifestyle equivalent of a fad diet, but the application of years of research into areas as adverse as gene expression, exercise adaptation, dietary polyphenols, ageing, resilience, toxicology, radiation, immunotherapy and special forces training – all under the same fascinating umbrella called hormesis.

Benefits of the cruciferous family
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Welcome the cruciferous family to your life

What do broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy have in common?

They’re all members of the cruciferous, or cabbage family of vegetables. And they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins minerals and fibre that are important to your health.  Two big benefits to consider is that they may help reduce your risk of getting cancer and oxidative stress (which can lead to cancer).

There are many delicious ways to cook these super veggies, so if you have childhood memories of soggy Brussels sprouts or smelly, overcooked broccoli, forget the past, open your mind and get cooking!  They will soon become a daily addition to your plate and a massive benefit to your health.

 

Importance of Gut Bacteria in Your Diet
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Love your guts…

There is more and more research coming out on the importance of gut bacteria on our health and well being.  The bacteria in our intestines outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, which means we are more bug than human!  The gut is now being described as a second brain, with more than 100 million neurons.  Even happiness can stem from your gut.  In fact, 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, so if you’re bugs aren’t happy, then neither will you be!  Gut bacteria is negatively affected through poor lifestyle choices, such as processed foods, many vegetable and seed oils, alcohol and stress to name a few.

Working towards a healthy gut is about making healthy choices.  Fermented vegetables (found at many health food shops, or homemade) are full of good bacteria to help populate your gut.  You can feed your bugs on what’s called resistance starch from things like beans, cooled cooked potatoes and certain forms of fibre.  Vinegar is also great for your gut bacteria, so make your salad dressings from extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or apple cider vinegar.