Over the past 10 years, we have seen many developments on why we are gaining weight. There are ‘silver bullet’ nutritional supplements and new diets constantly hitting the market but there has been little improvement for the long-term. Many nations continue to pile on the pounds, including our own; recent NHS research has highlighted that that 1 in 3 in the UK are obese.
Food may be our problem, but it is also our solution. Health, healing and weight loss starts in our own kitchens, where we are in charge of what we eat. One path to sustainable weight loss and good health is to eat a wholefoods plant-based vegan diet and improving our understanding of what different foods do to our bodies.
The consumption of grains is reflected in global history. Grains have fuelled the development of civilisations for centuries and are a major source of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals for billions of people worldwide. A US study has found that some cultures that have based their dietary principles on grains, beans and vegetables have no weight issues until adopting a standard western diet. Still today, grains serve as the major source of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals around the world and there is much to be learnt from this for our own food choices.
Whatever our choice of diet, we all have a special relationship with plants. They provide us with the nutrients we require to survive as well as the oxygen we need to breathe. Not only are plants the source of our existence, they are the source of medicine and healing.
Knowing your carbohydrates
Many of us know that carbohydrates are our source of energy to sustain our lives, however there is much confusion around their nutritional value. They are not bad for you – they are a macronutrient – but not all are created equal in nutritional value, as there is a difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrate refers to unprocessed forms of carbohydrates which is the way they exist in whole foods. These foods include wholegrains, beans, peas, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits and dairy products. These can also be found in sweets, fizzy drinks, cakes and biscuits, except these are made with processed and added refined sugars. Critically, this means they lack the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fibre that slow down the metabolism of the sugars. Once consumed, these sugars flood our systems and create an excessive spike in blood sugar – what we know as a sugar rush. Eating too many refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, pastries and sugar rich foods is another way of eating excess sugar, which can also cause a rapid rise in blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are crucial for our diet but must be absorbed at a slow rate so that they can be used effectively. This is because excess sugars are stored as fat. Normalising insulin levels is essential to stop this storage from happening and reducing or eliminating these ‘refined’ carbohydrates and increasing is the best way to accomplish this.
Achieving hormonal balance to burn fat
Hormonal balance is an important part of understanding how weight loss works and how to get sustainable results. Hormones control your fat burning switch! There are hormones that both create weight gain and hormones that keep you lean.
Eating a hormone balanced diet is the way forward to not only losing weight but also creating great health and vitality. A great example of this is insulin, the hormone responsible for allowing sugars to be used for energy. Insulin rises and falls based on blood sugar levels and is greatly influenced by what we eat.
Insulin has a sister hormone called glucagon, which is a critical component of our fat-burning biochemistry. When our bodies need more energy and there is not enough glucose, glucagon is secreted. The purpose of this hormone is the exact opposite of insulin’s: glucagon stimulates the release of stored fats to be used as energy.
Therefore, if we reduce our consumption of simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, the production of glucagon is stimulated which then begins the burning of stored fats. If a healthy diet is combined with even moderate exercise, the combination of less fat storage and better fat burning is promoted.
Many people across the globe have not only been able to lose weight but also keep it off and live a more health lifestyle as a result. While we can follow recommended diets or take supplements, having the knowledge of which carbohydrates should feature in our diet and a better understanding of how hormones play their part in weight loss or gain is the best way to get meaningful results that can transform your life.
Top 3 foods to turn on your fat burning switch
Sea Vegetables: Seaweeds break down and digest slowly compared to processed foods. Seaweeds are also nutrient density, especially minerals; contribute greatly to hormonal balance too. Research has shown that seaweed speeds up weight loss by blocking fat intake and promotes fat burning.
Alginate is a natural fibre found in sea kelp that is very effective at blocking the body from absorbing fat. A 2010 study by Newcastle University demonstrated what has been known for centuries in the Far East: sea vegetables are a powerful tool for weight loss.
Shiitake Mushrooms: Dried Shiitake mushrooms have traditionally been used in macrobiotics and traditional Chinese medicine as an aid to the immune functions of the body and breaking down fatty tissue. Japanese researchers discovered that this is because of eritadenine, a substance that reduces cholesterol. Researchers S. Suzuki and Oshima found that a raw Shiitake eaten daily for one-week lowers serum cholesterol by 12%.
Daikon Radish: This is a natural diuretic with a very gentle action that is excellent for managing the fluid retention, which so often accompanies weight gain. The more fat cells we have, the more fluid we store.