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Don’t count calories, count nutrients!

I love listening to podcasts or audiobooks while running. I recently listened to the Sigma Nutrition Podcast with Danny Lennon. I really like it, and I follow his work. His guests were Professor Tim Noakes and Martin MacDonald from Mac-Nutrition.

Their subject was carbohydrate intake, insulin resistance and body fat regulation. Talking about high and low carbohydrate intake, and a high fat and low fat diet, Noakes said that if you are insulin resistant and a type 2 diabetic, then you must consume no more than 25 grams of carbohydrates per day. On the other hand, Martin MacDonald said that there is no scientific proof to show that eating a high carb diet can cause insulin resistance, and that it’s the calories that matter. The whole talk was based on studies and real life experience, both personal and from patients.

I respect both guests, but I just want to add some of my own opinions, and explain why it really doesn’t matter which diet you follow.

First, unfortunately no one even talks about the what type of carbohydrate or fat we’re consuming, and they never even mention the person’s individual history. Yes, if you are insulin resistant and you over-eat carbohydrates then it can spike and roller coaster your insulin, which in turn can cause many other complications in the body. But my point is that very few people are talking about the quality of the food that we consume.

The science can be perfect, but we so often really forget to personalize nutrition. We all have individual differences, every scientist and nutritionist knows this, but in reality they mostly still look just at the macronutrients (protein, carbs &fat) as the important factors of our diet. But what about our body’s needs — including the vitamins and minerals, and our own individual ability to absorb the food and fiber that we eat?

So why are we still trying to label the correct diet?

Let’s simplify: almost everybody knows that if you want be healthy, you should consume lots of green vegetables and whole fruits, avoid packaged and processed foods, and minimize your added sugar intake. So when looking at a diet, why don’t we start there, instead of trying to put a label on how much we eat?

I personally feel much better when I’m eating a low carb, and moderate-to-high fat diet. I don’t have any health problems, and I am not overweight, but I still feel the benefit for my body of eating this way. I don’t give any attention to calories — yes, it can be important if you are an athlete or if you have certain specific goals, but otherwise it really does not matter.

Don’t count calories, instead count nutrients.

For example, a lot of people are talking about the paleo diet. Do you think that our distant ancestors, in paleo times, counted their calorie intake or consumed package food? Of course not.

I think when we focus too much on scientific evidence and studies, we too often forget what truly matters and makes sense.

We should focus on our health as a whole. Consuming the right quality foods can help us not only lose weight, but improve our health, even reverse diabetes or other serious health issues. I would love to hear more talk about focusing on the quality of food, so we can help educate the people who are really interested in improving their health.

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Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892.

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