Every elementary school student has seen a picture of the food pyramid. The food pyramid is a useful tool to concisely explain the basics of nutrition to children.
The theory behind the food pyramid is that the areas in which the pyramid are larger, like fruits, vegetables, and certain meats are meant to be eaten more often than the areas of the pyramid which are smaller, such as refined carbohydrates.
However, there is another very important layer of complexity that is often overlooked. This factor is the ratio of nutrients to calories.
There are many foods that are very nutrient dense and calorie light, like many leafy vegetables. On the other side of the scale are nutrient light and calorie heavy foods, such as very sugary foods and refined carbohydrates.
By consuming large amounts of nutrient light and calorie heavy foods, such as fast food, people can experience the paradox of being both obese and malnourished. In countries such as South Africa, more than 25% of school children are overweight and more than 20% of school children are malnourished.
This comes from the dominating presence of fast food markets in countries such as South Africa; by eating foods that carry a large amount of calories but few of the nutrients needed to function properly, people suffer from the health detriments of both diseases.
Eating not only a low amount of calories but also the right things is more important to general health than people realize. The healthiest foods are the ones from animals and plants because they are nutrient dense and also lead a person feeling very satiated.
Satiation is also a huge part of choosing what to eat because it’s easy to eat a large amount of foods that aren’t very filling yet very high calorie, such as sugary sodas, sports drinks, or candy. 200 calories worth of soda is much easier to consume than 200 calories worth of broccoli – by constantly feeling hungry yet consuming empty calories, weight gain is inevitable.
The foods that feel the most filling are the ones that contain large amounts of protein, fiber, or water. These are typically natural meats, root, and leafy vegetables. In addition, the energy density of a food is critical to eating the right amount every day. According to simple science fitness, a Cinnabon is the energy equivalent to “19 slices of bacon, or 10 large eggs, or 63 extra large shrimp, or 1 huge 12 oz steak.”
Although today each popular item in a supermarket has a fat-free or low-fat variation, research indicates that this may not be as beneficial as they claim to be.
Many studies point to the rise of sweets and flour/corn based products to explain the obesity epidemic. These products, such as pastas, pizza, candies, and sugary drinks, are all extremely energy dense, nutrient poor, and not as filling as natural plants or animals.
Choosing the right things to eat can be hard for college students with limited resources. However, eating healthily throughout your college career will yield amazing benefits later on in life.