I came across this article during my readings the other day…. whilst keeping track of your calories is important, it demonstrates the importance of nutritional value. Enjoy!!
Apple Vs Doughnut
By Paul Taylor
The apple, contains water (about 80%), carbohydrate (15%, mainly fructose with some dietary fibre) and a small amount of protein (5% or less) releasing the nutrients contained in the apple. The body uses up energy and nutrients to complete the digestion process, but it is rewarded with an abundance of nutrients from the apple. Firstly, there are amino acids from the protein, which are sent to a pool from which individual cells can access in order to repair themselves and communicate with other cells. Next, we have energy released from the carbohydrate, which goes to fuel our muscles, nervous system and brain. Because most of the sugar is fructose, it is stored in the liver until it is needed, helping blood sugar to remain relatively steady.
The humble apple also contains an abundance of nutrients for the body. Just under the skin lies half of the Vitamin C content of the apple. It also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin A and a healthy dose of potassium. In addition to those, the skin contains a compound called quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that reduces cardiovascular risk. If that wasn’t enough, the flavonoids and phytochemicals that it contains seem to help fight against cancer. Finally, the skin contains lots of fiber, which helps to improve bowel function and reduced cholesterol absorption.
The doughnut, however, is a different proposition altogether. It is loaded with saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugar and is largely devoid of any nutritional value, other than energy, which it has in abundance. Digestion of the carbohydrate component will start in the mouth and the stomach will assist in further breaking the doughnut down. The simple sugars will be readily digested and then absorbed. The bile that is released by the gallbladder will help to break down the different fats, but the picture here gets a little complicated. Saturated and trans fats take a different pathway than the more healthy fats, such as monsaturated or polyunsaturated, and the pathway dictates whether the fats are healthy or unhealthy. The healthier fats generally are absorbed, whereas saturated and trans fats are converted into triglycerides, the main form of fat storage in the body. They are also coated in cholesterol (from the liver) and hence the fats in a doughnut will raise the bad (LDL) cholesterol and reduce the good (HDL) component.
Trans fats, however, surpass saturated fats in the damage that they do. They have been shown to wreak havoc with the body’s ability to regulate cholesterol and massively increase your risk of heart disease. They also get into the membrane (outer lining or skin) of our cells, causing them to harden. This has a negative effect on the functioning of our cells and disturbs the delicate ecosystem. In addition to that, a 2006 study reported by the American Diabetes Association showed that replacing healthy fats with trans fats (so that trans fats accounted for 8% of energy intake) led to a very significant weight gain (around 7%) – despite the fact that the amount of energy was the same. Also known as trans fatty acids, trans fats are the most damaging of all fats to our health, even more so than saturated fats. Although a small amount of trans fats are produced in nature (through the digestive processes of cows and sheep, hence they are present in small amounts in beef, dairy products and lamb), the majority of trans fats in our diets come from the food processing industry. They are produced by the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils, which turns oils into solids and increases the shelf life of products, as well as improving the texture of a food. The greatest source is deep fried foods, such as French fries, but trans fats are also present in high amounts in cakes, cookies, biscuits, some breads (especially croissants and pastries), processed foods (especially pies, sausage rolls etc), snack foods (potato chips, some muesli bars) and margarines (in small amounts). All US and most European foods must declare how much trans fats are in the product (Denmark has banned all foods with more than 2% trans fats), but there is no requirement to declare it in Australia and NZ. Look out for trans fat on the label or the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. My conclusion? Trans fats are the fats of the devil and should be avoided at all costs.
Take Home Message Hopefully this article has demonstrated why nutritionists and dieticians are always harping on about eating natural foods. It is not just the energy content that is important, but the nutrients within the foods play a large role in our long-term health. Although there is room for everything in moderation, the vast majority of your food should be natural and healthy. As a general rule, I tell my clients that if a food looks like it has never been alive at any point, then it’s best avoided or at least put in the category of “occasional food.”