Diets Don't Work, Understanding Your Food Does

By Dr. Julie Monica


The first place to start is to know our food – always. It’s imperative if we are addressing our weight or our body composition. We must be “science-based” in understanding what and how much we eat.


“Diets” can be a good jump start but the incredibly high failure rate is majorly due to the drastically different macro nutrient make-up of the food we start to eat again and in way too much quantity after we have lost some weight. And if your weight loss was significant most likely you created a fat burning, hormonal – metabolic mode that is very hard to jump back into once sugar takes over again as your source of energy…. you’re not burning fat anymore. Your hormones have shifted and if you have experienced this you know your cravings are soaring and your motivation is gone. – An unhealthy, metabolic state. Actually, we never want to be here; disease creating spiking glucose thus insulin, precursor state to dementia, cardiovascular disease and liver disease. With this known, even in non-weight loss mode we want to stay much closer to this healthier, fat burning, metabolic state.


The glaring, underlying culprit, macro nutrient is sugar (carbohydrates) as we know! Protein need however is determined with a formula based on one’s individual, clinical picture. The role of fats as seen in enduring diets, Atkins to Keto is much more generous. In our clinic we do hone in on a target amount and greatly focus on the type of fats consumed, increasing omega -3s and deleting polyunsaturated.

We need to own basic concepts about carbohydrates and that even more problematic is - starch. It has been just the last 50 years that we are really starting to understand the impact different types of carbs have on our blood sugar and thus our weight gain and loss. They are categorized by their Glycemic Index (GI) and this is based on the amount of impact a carbohydrate food item has on blood sugar as compared to other, carbohydrate foods.

The GI was originally developed in 1981 by diabetes researchers to study blood sugar levels and potential, clinical controls. Researchers wanted to measure the ability that different foods had to raise blood sugar levels which is referred to as a “glycemic response”. The higher the response or rise in blood sugar levels that a food elicits the greater, coinciding insulin response occurs from the pancreas. All foods were categorized based on their ability to raise insulin levels into high, moderate and low GI response categories.


All foods are based on or compared to pure table sugar (glucose). This has the highest, single index of (100). Let’s compare similar low, moderate and high index food values. Higher value foods are definitely to be considered in smaller intake amounts due to their ability to quickly raise blood sugar/glucose levels and their generally higher calorie/carbohydrate values. High GI values foods are typically above an index of (70) like; parsnips (97), red baked potatoes (93), dates (97), Cheerios (106), cornflakes (119), pretzels (116), waffles (109).


Now, how can so many foods have index values above 100, pure sugar? These very processed foods, starches, are so refined they almost “melt” into your mouth and into your blood for that matter without much digestion process needed. Though many of the items appear to be a grain product they have been so mechanized (minus fiber and nutrients) that they are now the consistency of starch which is equivalent or above that of granulated sugar in their GI classification. When eating these foods, the blood sugar levels then become quickly high and the response is great,100 plus. Other foods similar to these are; white bread, crackers and chips. These are highly processed, come in a box and are very far from a whole food. Unprocessed, whole foods containing more fat, fiber and protein provoke a lower GI response – the gut has to “work” to digest these – that is what it was designed to do and makes for a healthier outcome.

In the case of these high index foods when consistently consumed the energy needs of the body from the Kcals. are often exceeded and the excess is stored as fat.


Moderate value foods are typically between 50-70. Some of these are; sweet corn (56), yams (54), pineapple (66), Special-K (54). I picked these foods to compare because of the similar foods that we cited in the high index category. The difference from the higher category in their glycemic response is largely due to the lowered sugar and higher fiber content of these moderate foods.


These are some of the lower ranked foods and are below 50, some may be surprising; black beans (43), chickpeas (47), apples (54), grapefruit (36) and rice bran (27). The beans, peas, fruits and grains have gotten reputations as “no-no” foods with low carbohydrate diets but they are “slow burning” more healthful, carbohydrates. Their glycemic responses are very low due to their very high fiber makeup and some with a protein component which facilitates a lower impact as well as in the case of beans. You can also put almost every green leafy vegetable in this low category as well. When eaten in the right amounts, in the correct time frame, these low glycemic foods can help create better body composition.


We just can’t get around it. --- We’re just going to have to start eating better. Lower rises in blood sugar elicits a lower rise in insulin which lessens fat storage and sugar highs and the sugar crashes. This is what we want!

Also, spikes in insulin create hunger pangs and make us want to eat more – it’s a bad cycle. We want to keep these to a minimum especially when we’re restricting our food intake in an aim to slim down. So, how much we eat is a big component as well. Target higher, healthier fat, protein and fiber foods to create a better energy/calorie burn that keeps us going on a more balanced basis.

We are staying in. Let’s be mindful. And be well.


In her Private Practice in Sea Girt, NJ Dr. Monica counsels individuals with guided plans specializing in optimizing metabolic health with clinical, nutritional approaches. Call 732.812.5187 for more information or to schedule an appointment, or visit DrJulieMonica.com.


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