In order to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume in any given day. Different foods have varying nutritional values, with some foods being better for you than others. The points system, common with a popular weight loss program known as Weight Watchers, is a system in which every food has a points value, based on its calories, fat and fiber. You are given a points allowance each day that you must maintain for weight loss. Knowing that, some people fall victim to a common misconception that it is okay to eat anything you want as long as your points and calories are in line. Is this true? Can you truly eat anything you want as long as your points and calories are correct? The short answer is: No.
From vegetables to crackers, sodium can be found in the majority of foods that you eat each day. While your body needs sodium each day, healthy adults should only consume approximately 1,500 mg of sodium a day. The problem is that most people do not pay attention to how much sodium is added to the foods they consume, either before, during or after preparation. The average American consumes three to ten times the recommended amount, which is a leading factor in many health-related issues, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and kidney disease. For example, a leading brand of frozen spinach (with no sauce) has only 25 calories in each serving, which is 1/2 cup. However, the sodium content is 200 mg. You might choose to eat spinach all day, in an effort to stay under your point and calorie limitations. If you ate 5 cups of spinach (10 servings), you would only consume 250 calories, but you would consume a whopping 2,000 mg of sodium!
Refined sugar is found in a variety of foods that you consume every day, even in foods that are not typically thought of as “sweets.” Examples include pasta, bread, peanut butter, condiments, etc. Refined sugars raise insulin levels in the blood and turn into fat cells, leading to weight gain. Sugar also suppresses the immune system, causes periodontal disease and leads to diseases of the heart, liver, pancreas and digestive system. In one slice of white bread, there are approximately 3 teaspoons of sugar.
Carbohydrates exist in two forms: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates include white rice, oatmeal, barley, vegetables, fruits and whole grain breads, while simple carbohydrates include candy, cookies, pudding, soft drinks, canned fruits in syrup and breads/pastas made with white flour. The difference is that complex carbohydrates are broken down into glucose at a much slower rate than simple carbohydrates, providing energy for the body throughout the day.
While the food may be considered low in calories and points, making it enticing to eat, eating foods high in sugar is associated with diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. When you eat too many carbohydrates and the body does not have enough time to break them down, the pancreas produces increased amounts of insulin, leading to insulin spikes. During an insulin spike, your body begins to store the excess carbohydrates as fat, which will lead to weight gain.