LifePoints: The Instant Guide to the Goodness in Food

Peter Cox; Peggy Brusseau;

Verlag: Bloomsbury, 1995
ISBN 10: 0747518289 / ISBN 13: 9780747518280
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* No More Counting Fat Grams
* No More Counting Calories
* No More Avoiding the "Bad" Foods You Love

All of your favorite foods, from potatoes to fast-food burgers, have been assigned two numbers. The RiskPoint number tells you how much unhealthy stuff is in a particular food item and the corresponding Life Point number tells you how much healthy stuff is in that same food. To achieve your ideal weight and restore peak health, eat a minimum of 100 LifePoints each day -- but no more than 100 RiskPoints. It's that easy!

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1


* When you think about food you've been conditioned to think about calories. A fresh apple has about 80 calories. A serving of baked beans has about 300. A cheeseburger, about 600. That's how we've been trained to measure the value of the food we eat.

But calories are by no means a satisfactory gauge of a food's worth or importance to the human body and its well-being. What judgment can you truly make about a food that yields, say, 300 calories? Can you tell whether that food is good for you, or bad for you? Is it a healthy food or a health hazard? Will it tend to fortify or weaken your state of health? How well does it fit into the rest of your day's diet? Is it going to make you put on fat or lose weight? Does it contain health-enhancing nutrients or disease-promoting anti-nutrients?

Just knowing a food's calorie yield cannot possibly answer any of these vital questions. And yet, that's the only basis by which most of us have ever tried to assess the quality of the food we consume.

And what the heck is a "calorie" anyway? You may be surprised to find out. Unlike other nutrients in food, you can't isolate calories. Give an orange to a biochemist, and after some chemical manipulation in the lab, she'll be able to give you a test tube with most of that orange's vitamin C neatly separated out. Similarly with most other nutrients. But not calories. That's because calories have no tangible existence on their own. You can't see them, you can't taste them, and you certainly can't separate them out from the food itself. In Latin, "calor" means "heat," and that gives us a clue to the real role of the calorie. It is simply the name of a unit used to measure heat energy.

One calorie was originally defined as the amount of heat energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Centigrade -- from 14.5°C. to 15.5°C. Pretty obscure, isn't it? Today, a calorie is defined in mechanical rather than thermal terms, so that one calorie equals 4.184 watt-seconds (or joules). Like feet, inches, meters, pints, and liters, the calorie unit is a useful measure when used properly. For example, it takes 80 calories to melt one gram of ice. It takes 540 calories to boil one gram of water. Burn one gram of carbon and you'll release 7,830 calories. Run vigorously and you'll expend about 15,000 calories a minute (yes, fifteen thousand -- if you find this a bit puzzling, read on!). All interesting enough, but what does it tell us about the quality of our food?

Not much!

Merely knowing the amount of heat energy locked up inside the food we eat isn't going to tell us much about that food's quality, or its impact on our health. Scientists have conventionally used something called a "bomb calorimeter" to measure the calorie yield of a food. They take a portion of the food in question -- say a slice of cheesecake -- and seal it inside a container. The air is pumped out and pure oxygen is pumped in. Then, an electric spark ignites the oxygen and -- kaboom! -- the food burns, and heat energy is released. The container is immersed in a water bath, and by measuring the rise in the water's temperature it is possible to calculate the calorie yield of the food. Now does that sound anything like what goes on in your stomach? We hope not.

In fact, this standard laboratory technique is imperfect. Not all the energy locked up in food is available to the human metabolic processes. Although humans have an astoundingly large surface area of digestive tract through which the nutrients in foods are absorbed (if you spread it out it would be larger than a tennis court), we don't absorb all the nutrients in food, and we don't use all the potential heat energy locked up in foodstuffs. Real world systems, such as digestion, are always far more complex than laboratory models.

The calorie yield of a food, as approximated by the bomb calorimeter, tells us something about the amount of heat energy locked up inside a food, but nothing more. And by the way, just to complicate matters, a "calorie" when used in connection with food usually means a "kilocalorie," or 1000 calories. Sometimes you'll see it written "kcal," and sometimes "Cal." From now onward in this book, we're going to follow the normal, although rather illogical, convention of saying "calorie" when we really mean "kilocalorie." Well, no one ever claimed that nutrition was a perfect science.

So here you are, planning your diet. You're looking at food labels in the supermarket, and all you can really do is compare the calorie yield of one food with another. You pick up two cans, and both labels show approximately the same calorie yield. Which one are you going to choose? With only one nutritional dimension to work with, you might as well flip a coin. And what's even more disturbing is an awkward little fact that's received surprisingly little publicity: Food labels are often wrong! When scientists checked the actual calorie yield of foods (as measured by the bomb calorimeter) and compared it to the stated calorie yield on the label, they got a big surprise.

Take another scenario. You've decided to get serious about this calorie-counting business, so you've bought a calorie counter. Let's say you've decided to limit yourself to about 1800 calories a day. So you diligently plan your day's food intake, calculator in hand, pencil and eraser at the ready, and holy mackerel, is it hard work! Juggling all those portion sizes, searching for a food that you can just squeeze into the limit -- and, let's face it, doing a bit of cheating, too. Finally, you've done it -- 1800 calories, or thereabouts. But what have you really achieved? Have you assured yourself a good intake of all the essential vitamins? Probably not. Have you made sure that your day's food intake is healthily low in fat? Maybe. Have you achieved anything at all other than keeping your energy intake down to 1800 calories? You're probably not sure.

Here's the bottom line. Calories are merely a one-dimensional measure of a food's worth. They can tell you about its energy yield, and no more. Using calories -- and only calories -- to plan a healthy diet is about as sensible as trying to drive down a crowded highway with one eye shut.

You're simply not getting enough information to do the job properly.

If the Only Tool You Have Is a Hammer, All Problems Begin To Look Like Nails

It's not hard to understand why calories have loomed so large in our food consciousness in recent decades. The only dietary sources of calories are carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol. If your combined caloric intake of these substances greatly exceeds the amount of energy you expend, then your body very sensibly stores the excess energy as fat. We say "very sensibly" because this marvelous ability to store food energy efficiently is one of our most impressive biological characteristics. We should be proud of the fact that humans are one of the most successful species ever to walk, swim, or crawl over the surface of planet earth, and our phenomenally efficient energy storage system is surely one of the most important factors in our success. Did you know that we have more fat cells (called adipocytes) in proportion to our body mass than virtually any other creature -- only hedgehogs and whales have a greater proportion of fat cells in their bodies. Even animals that we traditionally think of as "fatties," such as pigs, seals, bears, and camels, all have proportionately fewer fat cells than we do! Far from being a curse, this high proportion of fat cells is actually a tremendous evolutionary advantage, because it allows us to cope with the uncertainty of a variable food supply -- we can smooth out the peaks and troughs. No food today? No problem! We can live o

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: LifePoints: The Instant Guide to the ...
Verlag: Bloomsbury
Erscheinungsdatum: 1995
Einband: Paperback
Zustand: Very Good.

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