I advocate a diet rich in complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and grains, because when these foods are consumed in their natural state, they are relatively low in calories and high in fiber. On the other hand, fats contain 9 calories per gram and no fiber, which makes them very easy to over-consume.
It is the consumption of refined carbohydrates with added fats that has contributed to our weight problems. For example, 1 cup of mashed potatoes contains 130 calories. Add one tablespoon of butter and you have added 100 calories. But the calories from the butter do not fill you up, as it does not add bulk to the food. The key to eating well, being full and being fully nourished is to eat foods that are low in calories, high in nutrient density and high in fiber, because they give you the feeling of fullness. These are complex carbohydrate foods!
A good example of this is the Chinese people. They consume an average of 270 calories more per day than Americans, yet Chinese people eating a typical Chinese diet are thin. Exercise does not fully explain the difference, as the same holds true for Chinese office workers who are not as physically active as their rural counterparts.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman suggests that the reason is that calories from carbohydrates are not as easily converted to fat as calories from fat. Studies show that when people eat a very low fat diet, about 15% calories from fat, more calories are burned to convert carbohydrates into fat, so the body cannot store fat as easily. The body has to burn about 23% of the calories consumed in order to convert glucose into fat, but it converts dietary fat into stored fat more easily. 100 calories of fat can be converted to 97 calories of stored fat, burning only 3 calories. Converting ingested fat into stored fat is so easy – the process doesn’t even change the molecules. Researchers can take fat biopsies off the hips or waist and tell where it came from – pork, dairy, chicken, olive oil, etc. The fat you eat is stored in the exact form in which you ate it!
Your appetite is controlled by fiber content, nutrient density and caloric density. The single most overriding factor in fullness is the stomach being full. The stomach holds one liter of food. Following is the caloric density of a stomach full of food (from Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live):
Oils 4100 calories
Potato chips 3000
Green Vegs 200
The bottom line is that when you consume complex carbohydrates, you can consume so much more food and you will never be hungry. This makes losing weight and maintaining optimal weight easy!