Flickr Commons: Julia Frost
In the book The Calorie Myth: How to Eat More, Exercise Less, Lose Weight, and Live Better , the author Jonathan Bailor recommends we eat what he calls “SANE foods.” SANE foods are those that trigger body fat burning hormones. Understanding this principle has been key for me in making nutrition simple. The acronym SANE stands for:
S – satiety
A – aggression
N – nutrition
E – efficiency
I will give a more detailed explanation of each category below. But to get you started, some good examples of SANE foods are non-starchy vegetables, lean meats, fish, whey protein, citrus, and berries. These types of foods are foods that we get from the earth, not manufactured in a factory. Bailor calls foods that are not recommended “inSANE” foods. Examples of the foods to avoid are processed food, dairy that has added sugar and fat, starches, sweets, and high-fat meats.
S stands for Satiety.
Satiety is a measure of how much a food fills you up. How much it satisfies you. In this respect a calorie is not a calorie. The fewer calories it takes to fill you up and the longer that food keeps you full the higher satiety value. We want to choose foods with a high satiety value. High satiety foods contain high amounts of protein, fiber and water.
Multiple studies show that if you eat more protein and high quality fat and less starches and sweets you will automatically eat fewer calories and yet feel fuller. This is good news! This means you can eat more nutrient dense, satisfying foods and still take in fewer calories.
A stands for Aggression
This term refers to how likely the calories you eat are to be stored as fat. When your body is working optimally, the calories you eat are used to repair damage, to fuel you for your activities and then to storage as fat. When the body is overwhelmed by too many aggressive calories at once it gets overwhelmed and stores more as fat. The glycemic index is a good tool to tell how aggressive calories are. The higher a food is on the glycemic index, the more aggressive it is and therefore more likely to be stored as fat. Key point from The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor,
“Body-fat storage is not caused by eating a lot of food. Body-fat storage is triggered as a response to eating food that causes us to have more glucose in our bloodstream than we can use at one time.”
This does not mean that you need to run around checking the glycemic index all the time. If you stick to having most of your foods in the SANE category you will automatically eat more non-aggressive foods and you won’t have much room left for the aggressive starches and sweets.
N stands for Nutrition
Back to the concept that a calorie is not a calorie. For example 250 calories of cake is not equal to 250 calories of broccoli. Calories differ by how much nutrition is provided to our body. It’s important to focus on the quality of our calories.
We hear a great deal lately about how whole grains are more nutritious than other refined grains. That may be true in when comparing grains to grains, but there are better choices. For example if you eat 250 calories of non-starchy vegetables you get about 46 grams of fiber. On the other hand, you would have to eat 2,000 calories of whole-grain bread to get the same amount of fiber. So, if you eat your bread for the fiber, it’s not the best choice. Non-starchy vegetables also pack more protein per calorie than foods like nuts, bread, pasta, oats, milk and beans.
Quoting from The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor,
“Nutrition quality also affects whether we are burning body fat or slowing down and burning muscle. When we eat more water-, fiber-, and protein -packed food, we get more essential nutrients while avoiding overeating or overwhelming the body with glucose. Combine more nutrients with less overeating and fewer glucose spikes and we burn body fat without the negative side effects of starvation dieting.”
E stands for Efficiency
Some calories we eat are more efficient. What that means is that some calories are more likely to be stored as fat. We want to choose inefficient calories. These are calories that takes work for the body to digest. The most inefficient foods are fiber and protein. Fiber is inefficient because it is not digested and the body burns additional calories trying to digest it. Protein is inefficient because it can’t directly be stored as body fat. It takes 5 steps to convert it to glucose to be stored as fat and each of those steps burn additional calories. You can read the Calorie Myth to understand more about these steps.
Body fat cannot be stored without the hormone insulin and a substance called glycerol-3-phosphate. Both insulin and glycerol-3-phosphate are produced when we eat inSANE foods like starches and sweets. Eating less of these foods makes it tougher for our bodies to store fat.
So to summarize Jonathan Bailor’s SANE eating guidelines:
“We avoid overeating thanks to high-Satiety.
Calories are released into our bloodstream slowly and they trigger little insulin thanks to low Aggression.
Our bodies benefit from a number of essential nutrients thanks to high-Nutrition.
We burn a lot of calories during digestion thanks to low-Efficiency.”
(The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor)
To summarize we want to eat more of these foods: non-starchy vegetables, lean meats, fish, whey protein, citrus, and berries.
And eat less of these foods: processed food, dairy that has added sugar and fat, starches, sweets, and high-fat meats.
I hope these posts have not been too “science-y” for you. I just really enjoy understanding why I should choose certain foods over others. If you want to dig deeper I highly recommend that you get the book. Jonathan covers all the conventional wisdom and uses evidence-based information to uncover why there is a better way. Then he outlines the simple principles to help you make better choices and move towards optimal health.