Calories – Inside Out

We all know that there is a close link between body weight and heart health. In fact, obesity or excessive body weight in relation to height, is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Regular exercise along with a healthy diet can help maintain physical, physiological and mental health. Many of us want to reduce weight; some of us wish to gain weight. An important thing to understand before making any weight management plan is the concept of calorie intake and calorie expenditure.

Calorie intake per day refers to the amount of calories that is being taken in the form of foods or supplements by an individual in a 24-hour period. Calorie expenditure refers to the amount of calories that is being burned out by an individual in the same time period. The overall working of our body relies on these two things, in short, on our body metabolism.

Now let us see what Positive calorie intake and Negative calorie intake are. Positive calorie intake refers to calorie intake being higher than calorie expenditure and negative refers to intake being lesser than expenditure.

Positive calorie intake = calorie intake > calorie expenditure = Weight Gain

Negative calorie intake = calorie intake < calorie expenditure = Weight Loss

In India, an average working individual consumes around 2100 – 2500 kcal in a normal day (weekday) and goes upto 3000 kcal during the weekends (outside food consumption). Our body at a resting state expends around 1200 – 1400 kcal for carrying out our basic functioning. Overall an individual has around 600 to 700 calories being left unused post consumption. This results in calorie overload, leading to weight gain.

Incorporation of physical activity and exercises can help in depleting the additional calories. Moreover, a minimal modification in the calorie intake with the help of a dietitian can help you shift from a positive calorie intake to a negative calorie intake resulting in weight loss.

Use of indoor equipments like treadmill, cycle ergometer, and cross trainer with adequate speed, inclination and resistance, burns around 300 – 400 kcal/hr. Outdoor activities such as jogging, swimming, brisk walking, hiking and cycling burns up-to 400 – 500 kcal/hr. Individuals involved in sports such as badminton, tennis, cricket, basketball, volleyball, football etc expend about 450 – 600 kcal/hr. Other activities like Zumba, Pilates, Yoga and Gymnasium can also help you loose your extra calories and attain an ideal body weight. If you are underweight and are planning to gain weight, it should be a healthy weight gain resulting from the intake of a healthy balanced diet and engaging in appropriate exercises rather than taking nutritional supplements, eating junk food and performing excessive exercises and succumbing to injuries.

Some important points to keep in mind with calories…

  1. 3,500 kcal = 0.45 kg of fat
  2. Adequate calorie expenditure = 200 – 400 kcal/day (or) 1000 – 1500 kcal/week
  3. Exercise 3-5 days/week for aerobic training, 2-3 days/week for resistance training and daily 15-20 minutes/day for abs and core training for more calorie expenditure
  4. Healthy weight loss = 1-2 kg/month
  5. Adequate calorie intake for weight loss =1600 – 1800 kcal/day
  6. Spend more time in outdoor activities and sports that you enjoy; it will help relieve your stress and expend those extra calories
  7. Incorporate a combination of workouts (rather than the same routine everyday) for better calorie expenditure
  8. High intensity interval training and resistance training burns calories even after the workout session.

Regular exercise and a good diet are sure to help you reach your health goals. Additionally, having an idea of your calorie intake and expenditure is important to maintain fitness and body weight. This is especially true for those of us who are diabetic, hypertensive, obese and diagnosed with heart problems. Better weight management is a sure-shot strategy to improved health metrics. Eat right, stay fit and always believe that you can!

Food and Mood

Did you know that your mood can affect your food choices? Yes, it is a proven fact. And of course, your food choices can also affect your mood. Nowadays, people are often experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety like bad mood, irritability, lack of motivation and low energy levels that it becomes difficult to garner the attitude and motivation to make healthy food choices. Instead of opting for the time-tested local produce, we tend to choose convenience and comfort foods at times of stress, depression and anxiety.

Always remember that a healthy diet is important for your mental and emotional well-being and to prevent chronic ailments like depression and anxiety. When you are feeling well, you may find it easier to stick to a healthy diet, which will in turn help you to continue to feel well. On the other hand, bad mood leads to rash and unhealthy food choices which in turn worsen your mental stability.

How food can lift your mood 

Enjoying a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrain cereals, legumes, low-fat dairy, lean meat and oily fish are the best way to prevent and improve psychological problems. If you’re eating a healthy well-balanced diet of whole foods that contain a variety of nutrients, you’re more likely to feel calm, be in a better mood and think through workable solutions for your problems.

Some components of these diets that may be important for mental health include:

  • Increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts, to help fight off feelings of depression
  • Loading your plate with mood-supporting food by eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetable every day
  • Sprinkling in magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds which support sound sleep
  • Including whole grain products such as brown bread, brown rice, oatmeal, millets etc…which are fibre-rich foods and can promote the growth of good gut bacteria known to have a positive effect on mental health
  • Adding fermented foods like idli, dosa, kanji, dhokla, curd and cheese in the daily diet can also help the mood component through probiotics
  • Eating plenty of dopamine-building foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, leafy greens and legumes will increase your energy level, motivation and prevent depression, forgetfulness, insomnia etc
  • Limiting sugars in your diet as much as possible can help prevent abnormal body weight, depression and metabolic syndrome. Including natural sugars daily through whole fruits and root vegetables is an excellent health-promoting behaviour
  • Getting enough vitamin D rich foods in your diet is associated with low risk of depression and mood disorders. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, dairy products, egg yolks, orange, soy milk and sunshine
  • Keeping up your daily water intake is vital to maintain hydration and help you to feel more alert and productive.

How food can lower your mood 

Studies show that today’s diet is higher in processed foods with plenty of added salt, sugar and unhealthy fat and can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. If people feel a lack of motivation and energy they find foods such as chips, soft drinks, junk foods, preserved and processed foods. Unfortunately, a diet focused on these types of foods is more likely to aggravate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • If you aren’t eating at regular intervals and not getting enough calories, you may end up feeling foggy, tired and low in energy
  • Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, saps your energy and leaves you in a foul mood throughout the day
  • A diet lacking essential vitamins and minerals can cause depression, inability to concentrate and chronic fatigue. Moreover, it disrupts the brain cells and alters mood and behaviour
  • Chronic imbalance between the healthy unsaturated fatty acids (MUFA, PUFA) and unhealthy saturated fatty acids, particularly a lack of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet, has been linked to mental health problems
  • Habitual consumption of processed foods contribute to a larger waistline, feeling of sluggishness and quite often to insulin resistance and inflammation

Insulin levels: Some processed foods especially those with large amounts of added sugars can cause insulin levels to spike and drop rapidly, causing hunger to occur again fairly quickly.

Inflammation: Chronic inflammation can be a result of a diet that includes a large amount of processed and manufactured foods. This leads to elevated levels of C-reactive protein, which is associated with increased risk of psychological distress and depression.

As a nutritionist, my biggest challenge is to help my clients achieve their cardiovascular and overall health goals by altering their nutritional behaviour slowly but steadily. It is the integrated teamwork of the physician, physiotherapist, counselling psychologist and myself that helps achieve the desired physical and mental wellbeing in all our clients. We help our clients understand that just as heart rate and blood pressure are clear indicators of heart function, mental health, physical activity and dietary patterns are equally important parameters of cardiovascular health.

The take-home message:

  • Choosing healthy foods may help you to feel well and happy
  • A balanced wholesome diet may help to prevent and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Keeping a regular stock of healthy foods at home and work can help, eg. nuts, raisins, dried fruits etc.
  • Consume foods high in fibre to provide a sense of fullness
  • Drink fresh water throughout the day
  • Watch your alcohol intake