What are Empty Calories?

Every food that we eat is filled with calories. It is calories that accumulate and equal weight gain or weight loss. How many of your calories are not doing anything for you?

Empty calories are just what they sound like. They give you all of the negatives and none of the positives when you eat them. There are foods that are high in calories but low in fat. We often look at the lower level of fat and feel that it is okay for us to eat that food. But, that high caloric content may be hiding an even more sinister effect on your body.

Foods that contain these kinds of calories have no nutritional value. We eat food in order to bring nutrients into our bodies. The body can produce some essentially-needed components, but not all. The bulk of them need to be introduced to the body through our food choices. Foods that can be broken down into components that the body can then absorb and use for maintenance, repair and function, are full of necessary nutrients.

With no nutritional value, the food is either eliminated or stored for later use. When it is stored it is stored as fat. The body doesn’t know what else to do with it. More fat is what you don’t want on your body.

These empty calories are often in the fat group of the food pyramid. If you’ve ever seen a food pyramid, the smallest portion is occupied by fats and oils. Go to www.mypyramid.gov to see an updated version for children and adults. Fats are essential but we mostly eat the wrong kind, and that is not helping our body.

Junk food falls into this category too. They come under sweets and fats. Think of foods fried in oil. French fries, fried chicken and chips are all high in fats. They may be made of potatoes and poultry, but the fat content is higher due to the oils. If they are fried in trans fats, then you are also increasing your cholesterol levels and that could spell trouble.

Sodas are culprits for empty calories as well. They are filled with sugars that get stored as fat. Think about a soda. It has 130 calories per cup. That same 130 calories when used to eat a turkey sandwich, a salad and water is more filling and will last longer. Excess sugars and fats can lead to high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity.

Eliminate those empty calories by eating natural foods for sweetness and also whole grains to increase the beneficial nutrients in your body. Go for fiber rich foods, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meat. Try to even go meatless sometime and opt for plant protein.

Truth or Myth – Does Low Fat Equal Low Calorie?

Maybe you have tried low fat foods or diets and low calorie diets. Which worked for you? What if neither has worked? Here are some facts to dispel any myths pertaining to a correlation between low fat and low calorie.

What does low fat mean?

Foods that are low in fat have a reduction in total overall fat. Usually they are labeled “reduced fat.” This can be your processed foods like chips, cookies, cakes and even cheeses, cream and other dairy products. Some of the fat has been removed.

Low fat does not mean that it is low in sugars. Increased sugars can lead to cravings and weight gain. Often when the fat is removed, more sugars or carbohydrates are added for flavor so you will buy the product. Even though you are not getting more fat, you could be getting more sugar.

What does low calorie mean?

Low calorie means that per serving, there are fewer calories in one version of a food than another. It could be that there is less per serving or something has been removed from the food to lower the caloric load. You will have to look at the nutrition label and read the information to find out which.

But, does low fat mean low calorie?

To find out the answer to that, you will have to compare food labels. Look at a reduced fat variety and a regular variety. Usually the amount of fat in the former will be lower by about ten percent. Also look at the serving size. Are you getting more, less or the same for the amount of fat inside?

Processed foods have added sugar and salt to preserve the product. you may not see sugar listed on the label but if there are any ingredients that contain the endings “-ose,” “-ase,” or “-ol” that means there is added sugar. In many low calorie foods, these sugars are present. When you look at carbohydrates on the nutrition label, it may or may not be listed out as to what types of carbohydrates are included. Sugars are simple carbs and can lead to empty calories in your body.

Fat is metabolized in the body as fuel. When it is not used, it is stored in fat cells. Sugars are carbohydrates but they are also stored as fat when they are not used. So, those fat cells can be filling up even if you eat a low fat food.

The conclusion would be that the low fat label doesn’t mean low calorie. There could be hidden ways that those calories are being returned to the foods you are choosing for low fat status.

Do your homework. When dealing with processed foods, know what is inside before you deem it okay to add to your diet.

Safe Exercise Practices for Seniors

Who says that you are too old to exercise? Exercise has benefits for the body no matter what the age. If you are in your golden years, go for it! However, follow a few guidelines to do it right.

There are many myths going around about getting older. One truth is that it is not for sissies. Getting older will mean a lot of changes in the body. People suffer more disease, more bodily breakdown and more mental issues. But, it is not set in stone.

As a senior, you may have restrictions but once you get started with an exercise program, the changes in your body can change your life forever. Here are some ways to get started safely.

* Go slow – You don’t have to hit the treadmill running your first time out. In fact, if you have osteoporosis or any arthritis, this is a bad idea. Start with walking about fifteen minutes a day to get the body used to the extra movement. Working in your garden, washing clothes or doing other housework qualifies as physical activity.

* Talk to your doctor – Always consult a doctor to see if you are safe to start an exercise regimen. Any pre-existing conditions may mean light exercise until you are stronger. He may also instruct you that by continuing an exercise program you can reverse your diabetes, lower your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. It takes time but it can happen if you are faithful.

* Increase muscle mass – Strength training increases muscle mass and also the strength of your bones. Even seniors can lift weights if done with proper technique and slowly. You don’t need heavy weights, just the repetition.

* Help lose weight – As you get older it can be harder to lose weight. Exercise can be the way to help you do that. Even thirty minutes a day can help you lose ten pounds or more a year. If you want to maintain your weight, exercise can increase your lean muscle mass and reduce your body fat.

* Cardiovascular exercise – To improve the functioning of the heart and lungs, get the body moving. Increase your heart rate through dancing, aerobics, walking, jogging or getting involved in group sports. It also improves your balance to help prevent falls and other accidents common to older people.

* Disabled can work out too – Don’t let anyone tell you that if you are in a wheelchair then you can’t get physically fit. You can do many activities for chair-bound seniors. And, sports like swimming and water aerobics gives you a chance to work your lower body without performing weight-bearing exercises.

Are you a senior? It isn’t too late to change your life and live longer. Use exercise to lower your risk of disease and increase independence.

Protein 101

We hear a lot about fats and carbs but what about protein? Keep reading to get the 101 on protein and how important it is in your body.

Next to water, protein is the next most abundant substance in the body. Think of the structure of a house. Before you add the walls, you have a basic framework. Protein is that framework for just about every system in the body. Without it, the body couldn’t support life.

That’s the big picture. Now let’s look at the smaller one. Protein is a building block of the body. It is found in muscles, blood cells, bones, marrow, hair, nails, organs, skin, tissues and teeth – to name a few.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. If you remember your high school biology class, then you know that amino acids are found in the body and in the food we eat. There are twenty-two amino acids that make up various proteins and enzymes in the body. The body only manufactures fourteen of them. The other eight have to come from food. What are they?

* Leucine
* Lysine
* Phenylalanine
* Tryptophan
* Valine
* Threonine
* Isoleucine
* Methionine

Without these additional proteins, functions in the body would cease. Proteins break down quickly. You need protein each day to replenish what was lost. One gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight is the minimum. If you exercise or are very active, you can add more protein to your diet.

Eating a well-rounded diet of food is essential to ingest all the amino acids needed for protein synthesis. Choosing foods high in protein is best since not all of the protein in a food is used for creating protein. Some is excreted as waste from the kidneys.

The body needs protein so it will get it from whatever sources it can. When you don’t take in enough or the right kinds of protein, it will rob it from immune system, bones and anywhere else it can get it. It will even steal it from the muscles, which means that you are losing muscle mass and gaining a higher body-fat ratio.

Lack of proper protein means that the body will show signs of deficiency. This means problems with bone cell synthesis, skin elasticity, joint function, organ function, hormones, immunity, mood and levels of neurotransmitters for brain function.

What we need is complete proteins. These are whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables. So how much do you need each day? It varies by age and gender. For children, that number is closer to between 10 and 20 grams. For men, that number can reach as high as 60 grams. For women it is slightly less at around 50 grams. During pregnancy and breastfeeding the amount is as high as 70 grams each day.

What do you know about protein? Are you getting enough? Find out what amount you need and if you are eating the right proteins.

Nutritional Benefit of Eating Whole Grains

We often debate the nutritional aspect of some foods. Today we are talking about whole grains. Here are some of the nutritional benefits of eating them.

What Are Whole Grains?

You hear in the news about whole wheat, cracked wheat, honey wheat, whole grain wheat and other labels that may have your head spinning. But, what is good for you and what is not?

Whole grains are grains that contain all parts of the seed. Have you ever seen a piece of popcorn before it pops? It is a kernel of corn. There is a hard but thin outer covering. The yellow that you see is the majority of the seed and is underneath this outer covering. At the bottom of the seed is a small portion that is another part entirely.

There are three parts of a seed. The outer covering is the bran. If you know something about bran, then you know that it contains lots of fiber. The bulk of the kernel is the endosperm. It is the part that is often kept after processing. The smaller portion is the germ. New plants spring from this part of the seed.

During processing, the bran and the germ are stripped away leaving the inside endosperm. With a piece of popcorn, this is the part that pops up nice and pretty. While it does have some nutritional value, it doesn’t have the same amount of nutrients that eating the entire seed does.

Whole grains are made of the seeds of various plants. Many seeds can be eaten as is. They can be eaten as cold cereal or sprinkled on top of yogurt or in smoothies. Eating whole grain breads you may encounter seeds inside the bread.

Even with cooking, using the entire seed component provides more nutrients. We are talking about selenium, potassium and magnesium. Potassium is a vital electrolyte for the body. Most people don’t get enough. Others are vital to brain function and cell function.

If you look at refined grains versus whole grains you will find that there is no real difference in the caloric intake. What is different is the amount of fiber. There is more fiber in the whole grains.

Fiber is a helpful aid in the body. Fiber helps remove fat when it moves through the system. It also promotes digestive health and healthy weight loss. Lower blood sugar levels and stable insulin levels are also a benefit of fiber.

You may already eat a lot of carbohydrates. Changing to healthier alternatives can increase weight loss, promote healthy elimination and provide vitamins and minerals for overall bodily function. Change your food staples today.