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Why Most Diets Don't Work
by Don Bennett, DAS

You eat for two basic reasons: 1. For fuel (measured in calories), and 2. For nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.). There are also emotional reasons for eating, but the above two requirements are the only reasons your body needs to have food. Keeping these two requirements in mind, let's look at how they can keep you from being the weight nature intended you to be.

The amount of calories you need during a day depends on your energy output. If output equals input, you neither gain nor lose weight. So, optimally, the food you eat should meet your daily energy requirement. If you eat more than you need to satisfy your caloric requirement, you gain weight. If you eat less than you need to satisfy your caloric requirement, you get hungry. So under normal circumstances, you become hungry as a signal to satisfy your caloric needs.

You also have daily nutrient needs. If you consume more nutrients than you need, unlike calories, it's no big deal. But if you consume fewer nutrients than you need, your health will suffer. Not overnight, but over time... chronically. Malnutrition contributes to chronic degenerative disease.

That being said, let's look at how food is structured as it regards these two components: fuel and nutrients. If you were the designer of the foods meant for human consumption, how would you determine how much fuel and nutrients a food should have? Since daily caloric needs do not necessarily mirror our daily nutritive needs, it would be impossible to design a food to have just the right amount of both calories and nutrients. So in nature's infinite wisdom, our food contains far more nutrients than we need in a day. That way, no matter what our level of activity (no matter how many calories we need), we will still get enough nutrients. Or if the food has lost some of its nutritional value because it's been "off the vine" for a few days, there's still plenty of nutrients to fulfill our needs.

So our foods have a ratio of fuel-to-nutrients, with nutrients being the bigger of the two. Again, this insures that even if we are eating lightly, or the food has been sitting around for a few days, we can still get enough vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and all of the as-of-yet undiscovered substances that we need.

But there are some things that can change this natural ratio of fuel-to-nutrients. If a food is grown in nutrient depleted soil, it will be lacking in nutritional value. Normally, spinach is a good source of iron, yet I've seen spinach that contained no significant amount of iron due to unhealthy soil! And I understand that a downside of genetically engineered corn is that it doesn't pick up zinc from the soil, while traditionally grown corn normally would.

But by far the biggest factor that affects the fuel-to-nutrient ratio is cooking. When a food is exposed to temperatures over 115 degrees, many nutrients are damaged, becoming unusable by the body. For example, vitamin C and the B vitamins are especially heat sensitive.

What happens when your body doesn't get enough fuel? You get hungry. But your body also lets you know when you aren't getting enough nutrients. If you're eating foods whose fuel-to-nutrient ratio is the opposite of what nature intended due to cooking (more fuel than nutrients) your body says, "Yep, I've got enough calories, but not enough nourishment; keep eating." And you do. But you're eating in an attempt to satisfy your nutrient needs, not your caloric needs. So what happens? You gain weight, or maintain an already overweight condition. And this is why diets that contain cooked foods aren't the most effective way to lose weight.

Empirical evidence shows that a person eating a diet composed mostly of uncooked plant-based foods will find their unnatural weight eventually "melts off", and stays off. Is there a dietary lifestyle that contains a healthy amount of uncooked food that is also delicious, satisfying, and not boring? You bet there is! And once you give your body what it needs, and stop giving it what it doesn't want, your eating becomes less of a response to cravings, and more of a desire to eat foods that you love, and that love you back... as nature intended!

Recommended reading: "The 80-10-10 Diet " by Doug Graham

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