Why Counting Calories is Ineffective & Outdated

Ranjan Sinha

July 12, 2021

When you eat carbs, how do they really get processed in your body?

You probably know about metabolism as it relates to calories, but are you aware that for carbohydrates, your metabolism is unique? Your body breaks them down into sugars which serve as energy for your body. The sugars travel to where they are needed in your body. If they aren’t needed, insulin turns them into fat.

Should You Eat Carbs?

If you provide your body with more carb fuel than it needs for a long time, you may develop metabolic disorders like hypoglycemia and fatty liver disease. You could also develop insulin resistance which is a trademark symptom of diabetes. In this dysfunctional state, your fat storage is not readily processed.

How Your Gut Interacts with Carbs

Individual genes in your gut microbiome assist in carbohydrate metabolism. However, there are distinct gut microbes that encourage your body to store fat. Even if you have a metabolic disorder, modifying your diet will reduce your symptoms and future risk.

Counting Calories is Ineffective & Outdated

But how should you modify your diet? Everyone is different metabolically, so the answer is complicated. We do not fully understand the nuances of obesity, but we are beginning to read the signs. We know that diets based on reducing calories lack effectiveness and do not reflect the delicate balance of body systems. Calories are still a legitimate indicator of energy potential, but they do not tell the entire story.

According to research, a focus on glycemic load (sugar and carb energy) is a more accurate barometer of energy and fat storage potential than fat intake. Studies show that your metabolism benefits from a low-glycemic diet over a diet low in fat. In other words, a low-carb and low sugar diet helps your body’s metabolism process energy.

In new groundbreaking scientific theory, diet quality is a pivotal factor in the chain reaction leading to obesity. The decline in diet quality over the past 50 years has caused hormonal shifts which direct the body to section off calories for fat. As a result, there is less energy for the rest of the body. The brain thinks the body is starved and steers towards eating more and more. Interestingly, the fat cells in this paradigm play an integral role in weight gain; they are not simply storage sites.

The Quality Correlation in Your Gut Health

How many carbs you eat and the quality of the ones you choose quickly affects your gut microbiome. So, this is actually great news, especially if you currently consume a diet low in nutrients. You should also consider the diversity of your gut microbiota - greater diversity correlates with improved health.

You can improve your gut microbiota diversity in 2 simple ways:

  • Reduce processed foods
  • Increase fiber

Studies show a negative correlation in gut microbiota diversity with a highly processed, low fiber diet. These low nutrient diets are also associated with mental illness risk. You can decrease mental illness symptoms by increasing the quality of your diet.

Hope For Mental Health Via Gut Bacteria

Of course, mental health is related to stress and sleep. New research suggests a new gut bacteria, called Bifidobacterium longum, reduces cortisol levels, therefore improving sleep and stress. As we are constantly searching for new ways to improve the quality of your gut health, this bacteria strain could be used in the future to treat stress-related disorders like depression.

As you can see, the gut and brain communicate in many ways…

They “talk” to each other through the nervous system in the “gut-brain axis.” The communication isn’t just one-sided either; it’s bi-directional via neural pathways and the immune system. Descending communications involve the HPA axis, a vital system that regulates your stress responses. Ascending messages travel the vagus nerve, along with many other pathways. When these pathways complement each other, there are positive effects from gut microbiota on your brain and behavior.

Specifically, the gut controls your mental health through the intestinal mucosa. The mucosal factors connect with the intestinal lumen (opening inside the bowels), microbiota (gut bacteria), bile acids (digestion aid), and food. During this interaction, the mucosa sends information to the brain through the blood and central nervous system. In reverse, the mucosa can be affected by food quality and quantity. So, in feeding your gut through diet, you take control of your mental health.

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