C is for Cookie: Calorie Restriction II - the Green Guys win!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Calorie Restriction II - the Green Guys win!

Well, it's been an interesting month. I've been plagued by a cold and respiratory problems and so haven't been eating as much as normal. However, I've learned something by tracking my calories at each meal. The foods that hog the most calories are processed and lacking in the most nutrients. Take my favourite: peanut butter. Yum! I could eat this on anything. But at 100 calories a teaspoon it blows through a lot of my calorie rations without offering much: monounsaturated fat, some protein, a few vitamins and minerals. Don't forget, the goal of calorie restriction is to eat between 1600 - 2000 cals per day, depending on your body type and energy requirements. This is not fasting.

Now my fabulous salad creations (e.g. green beans, lettuce, cukes, radish, fried egg, tuna, dressing ) on the other hand weigh in very low on the caloric scale and offer loads of vitamin, minerals, fibre and much-needed (for me) protein. The salad dressing costs a lot of calories (120 per tablespoon) but I always make my dressing with mostly flax oil and apple cider vinegar which means I'm getting much-needed Omega 3s, vitamins ACE and Bs and trace minerals.

Sticking to lean meats, healthy oils and lots of fruits and veggies still seems to be a winning combination, especially with the calorie restriction plan. I'm not saying that calorie restriction is the only way forward. This was initially just an experimental foray. And calorie restriction must be done in a way that is safe and provides one with adequate energy.

But why bother? The March 2006 issue of Scientific American features a story on how researchers have narrowed down the science between calorie-restriction and longevity to one gene called SIR-2. This gene is responsible for turning off certain normal functions within our cells that shut down naturally as we age. They found that calorie restriction activates SIR-2 production which means longer cell life and longer organism life. Unfortunately, the folks at Scientific American concluded that we need to make a pill that does this for us. Must everything come in a pill? When you think of the excesses that are the norm for our typical North American diet, and then look at all the age- and excess-related diseases we suffer, calorie restriction, seems like a healthy alternative that's at least worth exploring.

The challenges posed by changing one's behaviour, particularly around food, will be the topic of my next post.

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