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Humans Are Supposed To Eat Whole Grains, But Most Of Us Are Eating Their Refined Versions

Humans Are Supposed To Eat Whole Grains, But Most Of Us Are Eating Their Refined Versions

Whole grains don’t have the best reputation

Whole grains have a bad reputation as dull, stodgy foods eaten by people who spend too much time worrying about their diet. However, whole grains are actually delicious when properly prepared. Moreover, they are much better suited to our digestive systems compared with more refined foods. Even if you feel as though your digestive health is currently good, you will be pleasantly surprised by the positive side effects of eating whole grain foods on a regular basis.

Why whole grains are important for good health

Whole grains such as wheat and rye are naturally rich in nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins, but these are lost during the milling processes involved in producing “white” or refined products. This means that when you choose white bread, white pasta or other refined products, you are missing out on the valuable nutritional benefits of whole grain products. Switching to whole grain foods will boost your energy and overall health.

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Whole wheat vs white bread

The following table provides a great example of how whole grains are the better choice compared with refined foods. Consider the nutritional advantages of eating 100g of whole grain bread compared with a highly-refined white version of the same food:

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    Information Source: U.S. Department Of Agriculture 

    Not only does whole grain bread have significantly more protein and fiber, it also contains much higher quantities of calcium and iron. These nutrients are important for key bodily functions such as maintaining a resilient immune system and healthy red blood cells.

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    The role of fiber

    Popular wisdom teaches us that vegetables are the best source of dietary fiber but, in fact, whole grain foods often contain more fiber, gram for gram, than veggies. For example, consider the fiber content of a bowl of lettuce. Typically, a portion of lettuce contains only a couple of grams of fiber. When you bear in mind that we should be aiming for around 25g of fiber per day, it quickly becomes apparent that this will not make an appreciable difference to your digestive health! On the other hand, a serving of whole grain pasta contains at least 6g of fiber. Therefore, it is sensible to make whole grains a staple source of fiber in your diet.

    Fruit also contains fiber and should be eaten regularly, but relying on it as a main fiber source is not a sensible idea. While fruit contains healthy vitamins and minerals, it is often high in sugar which can place a strain on the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels if eaten to excess. To see how this might work in practice, consider the fiber content of an orange. Each orange has 3g of fiber, so eating several oranges each day would help you increase your fiber intake. However, an orange contains nearly 10g of sugar and so eating them on a frequent basis may not be the smartest move from a health perspective.

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    Caution: Introduce new foods slowly

    If you are looking to increase your intake of whole grains, change your diet over the course of a few weeks. Making a sudden change from a diet high in processed foods to one based around whole grains may trigger gastric side effects including flatulence and diarrhea. These symptoms are not dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. You can make life easier (and help your stomach adapt) by gradually phasing out refined or “white” carbohydrates and substituting whole grain versions in their place. Start by swapping your white bread for a whole grain brand, then your spaghetti, and so on. Within a couple of weeks, you should notice an improvement in your energy levels and digestive health.

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    Jay Hill

    Jay writes about communication and happiness on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on November 15, 2019

    Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

    Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

    Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

    How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

    Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

    The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

    Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

    Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

    When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

    Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

    Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

    The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

    Shocked? Well, I was too.

    The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

    When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

    On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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    Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

    Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

    Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

    Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

    Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

    It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

    Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

    As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

    In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

    A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

    Your metabolism is like your bank account.

    To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

    Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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    What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

    That’s exactly how your body reasons:

    More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

    Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

    Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

    For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

    Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

    Foods That Increase Metabolism

    Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

    Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

    Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

    • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
      When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
    • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
    • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
    • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

    Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

    To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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    1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
    2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
    3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

    Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

    Sugars and Carbs

    Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

    Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

    Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

    Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
    • Dried fruit
    • Commercial and packaged corn
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • All sorts of candies and lookalike
    • Packaged fruit juices and purees
    • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
    Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
    • Bread and flour-based products
    • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
    • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
    • Potatoes and potato starch products
    • Oatmeals and other grains
    Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
    • All berries except strawberries
    • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
    • Sweet potatoes
    • White rice
    • All green vegetables

    Fats

    Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

    Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
    • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
    • Lard
    • Gmo oils
    • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
    Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
    • Nuts
    • Meat fat
    • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
    • Seeds
    Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
    • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
    • Avocado
    • Coconut oil
    • Butter (organic)
    • Egg yolks (free-range)
    • Bone marrow

    The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

    Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

    Proteins

    Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

    Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

    Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

    Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

    For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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    Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
    • Cheap whey proteins
    • Soy proteins
    • GMO meat
    • GMO eggs
    • Packaged meat
    Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
    • Canned tuna
    • Canned fish
    • Canned meat
    • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
    • Farmed fish
    Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
    • Free-range meat
    • Free-range eggs
    • Wild meat and fish
    • Whey protein isolate
    • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

    Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

    Other Foods and Supplements

    Cold water

    Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

    This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

    MCT Oils or Powders

    Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

    You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

    Caffeine

    Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

    Green Tea

    Green tea

    is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

    Bottom Line

    In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

    For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

    Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

    And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

    Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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