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I hear a lot of patients say things about eating healthy and losing weight that are simply not true. For the next few weeks I am going to share some of these myths with you and the truth behind them.
Truth: It is true that celery has almost no calories. A medium stalk contains all of 6 calories. It’s also pretty good for you in that a large stalk has about a gram of fiber and is high in calcium and trace minerals. Interestingly, celery is also fairly high in sodium for a vegetable at 50 mg for a large stalk.
The theory that many people put forward is that your body uses more than 6 calories chewing and digesting the celery. There are actually books written about this but, unfortunately, there’s no research to support the claim.
The body uses between 10 and 15% of the calories you consume for the total process of digestion. In someone consuming 1,500 calories per day that’s 225 calories in 24 hours. It takes the same 225 calories for digestion whether you eat 1,500 calories per day in celery or in bread. The difference is that you would have to eat 250 stalks of celery per day to eat 1,500 calories as opposed to about 15 slices of bread.
Here’s how celery can help people lose weight. It tastes good, it takes time to chew, it’s filling and it’s low in calories.
Truth: Cholesterol is actually a type of fat and in its raw form is a waxy yellow gunk. It is different from most fats because the cholesterol molecule is more like a steroid molecule. Your body uses it to produce different hormones.
It is actually pretty easy to eat a diet that is lower in cholesterol but we now know that the types of fats we consume are as important as the amount of cholesterol we eat. It is the way that saturated fats and trans-fats interact with cholesterol in the blood stream that can cause health problems.
Your liver produces about 300 mg of cholesterol per day which is about what is needed for the body to function properly. But we also consume cholesterol in the foods that we eat. Because plants don’t produce cholesterol, any that we eat must come from animal products. A lean cut of meat has the same amount of cholesterol as one with a lot of fat. The key is to eat the one that is leaner and thus lower in saturated fat.
Truth: Researchers call the amount of calories that one burns doing nothing “resting metabolism” or “Basal Metabolic Rate” (BMR). It is true that BMR can be important in helping to figure out how many calories a person needs every day but there’s never been solid research showing that people with “slow metabolism” gain weight any faster than others. In fact, as people gain weight their metabolism actually speeds up.
The key to weight loss is to eat fewer calories and burn more. Choose great tasting food that’s lower in calories, be careful with portion size and spend more time exercising.
Truth: Certainly exercise has a profound effect for you in your long term health. Regular exercise that helps you burn calories has been shown to help you live longer. Adding some type of weight (resistance) training can help you live better.
This doesn’t, however, allow you to eat whatever you wish. I have had more than one endurance athlete come for a check up only to find that their cholesterol profile was terrible. Simple changes in diet brings this back in line.
Keep in mind that elite athletes don’t eat just anything. There is, in fact, a tremendous amount of research now about nutrition targeted at the proper diet for athletic training.