Quality is at least as important as quantity
In the previous chapter I briefly touched on 'empty calories' and the way satiety (the feeling of wanting to stop eating because of the sensation of having 'had enough') is reached more rapidly when food is rich in nutrients. You can easily experiment by noting how much less (in weight and calorie content) wholemeal bread (packed with nutrients) you would eat at a meal, compared with pure white bread with its empty nutritional content. The same applies to 'white' rice compared with unpolished rice. Wholemeal bread, or unpolished rice, requires far more chewing and will bring you to a point of satiety far sooner than would be the case were you eating the empty calories of pappy, nutritionally deficient, white bread or white rice.
This emphasis on vitamin and mineral-rich food is of major importance, as it will lead to a host of additional benefits from the diet, the most notable of which is the level of essential nutrients it will provide. This is not to say that you can never eat junk food, but that such empty calorie foods should play a very small part in any serious life extension programme.
This puts a ban on refined foods, wherever possible. No white polished rice (brown unpolished instead). No white bread or foods made from white flour (wholemeal instead, including pasta). No sugar of any color added to anything, if at all possible. Little if any alcohol. These negative injunctions should
be taken to heart as the use of such foods will quickly add calories to your allowable total of 1,800 or 2,000 daily. If you were eating refined products these calories would also be arriving without the essential nutrients which have been such a key reason for the success of life extension programmes in animals to date.
Remember Sir Robert McCarrison's studies on the effects of human diet on animals. He showed that health, vigor and wellbeing were all dramatically affected (negatively) by introducing sugary, refined foods and that where whole foods were used, with a high level of these eaten raw, health was enhanced and longevity achieved. Remember also the work of Dr BircherBenner (see Chapter 4) and his evidence of the benefits of raw, enzyme and vitamin-rich foods in the diets of even very sick people, and the wonderful results he achieved. The ideal pattern of eating should therefore include a large amount of uncooked food, in the form of fresh fruit and salad, and this will be emphasized in the menu sections.
So, calories do count, but only as part of a balanced, wholefood-oriented diet which uses them as a guideline, not as a fetish.
Exchange unit diet
The idea of an exchange diet is that in each category of foods a fixed measure is given (say a cupful, or a tablespoonful) of a variety of foods within that category (there are six of these in our use of exchange units: Dairy, Fat, Grain/Starch, Fruit, High Protein and Vegetable). You will be told how many cupfuls (or other measures) of each category you should eat daily in order to provide a balanced and nutritious diet for yourself. You will also be told how many calories each exchange unit (KU) or measure (cupful, ounce, tablespoon etc.) produces so that you can keep tabs on your calorie intake and avoid consuming too much.
Within each category (Dairy, Fat etc.) many different foods will be listed and it is from these that you can make your choice for your daily diet. For example, you might be told that you need to choose (in order to keep within the criteria of sound nutrition and limitation of calories) two EUs from the 'Dairy' category daily. On the list of foods in that category you will find low-fat yogurt, low fat cheese, skimmed milk, soya milk and many others. Each of these will carry next to it information on how many EUs it represents. This will give you the chance to make your choice based on your personal likes and dislikes, and to rapidly see that you have filled your quota from that category for the day.
It is because you can exchange any measure from a particular category for any other in that same category that the system is so named. You cannot, however, exchange a food from one category for a food from another (a Grain/Starch for a High Protein, for example) as this would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, which is to ensure a balanced diet.
Incidentally the 'Dairy' category, somewhat surprisingly, does not contain cheese, which is found in the 'High Protein' category. Such apparently arbitrary allocation of foods to seemingly inappropriate categories is actually necessary to ensure adequate protein intake. 'Dairy' refers almost totally to various forms of milk and yogurt (including soya milk).
Important Note: In some cases one food will contain EUs from several categories. For example, some of the 'High Protein' category foods, such as medium-fat meat, will have both a protein and a fat exchange value. Other examples:
- An ounce of mozzarella cheese or loin steak contains a 'High
Protein' exchange unit and half a 'Fat' exchange unit.
- A meal which includes a third of a cupful of cooked soya beans
will contain a 'High Protein' exchange unit, half a 'Fat'
exchange unit, and half a 'Grain/Starch' exchange unit.
It will not take you very long to get to know automatically how many EUs a particular quantity of food contains, and how many measures (representing a given number of EUs) you are 'allowed' in order to fulfill the criteria which your life extension diet demands.
Don't forget the protein, fat and calorie requirements
When a particular measure of a food is described, say a cupful of yogurt, it will not necessarily carry with it information on how many grams of protein, how many grams of fat and how many calories (how much energy it will produce) it contains. This information will need to be calculated from data presented at the start of the description of each category, which will indicate how many grams of fat or protein, and how many calories are present in foods on that list. So, when a cupful of plain, unflavored, low-fat yogurt is listed, it will have the following information: Exchange units -1 Dairy EU and 1 Fat KU. The category (in this case Dairy) will have under its heading the information that each Dairy EU contains 8 grams of protein and provides 80 calories. Some Dairy EUs also contain Fat EUs, and these will be listed.
If you were to include a cup of plain yogurt in your diet on any given day you would automatically have taken up one of your Dairy and one of your Fat exchange units. You would also have met some of your daily fat (5 grams) and protein (8 grams) intake requirements for the day (these requirements, you must remember, are based on your personal body weight, and will alter as time passes with changes in your weight).
You will not really need to count the calories in this instance since your overall 'allowance' of EUs of dairy-based foods will take into account the calorie factor. However, knowledge of how many calories etc. EUs from different categories contain will give you a way of keeping tabs on the calorie level of your diet. All that it is necessary for you to do is to ensure you consume the correct number of EUs in each category, and the correct level of protein and fat intake as well, and the calories will take care of themselves.
Protein/fat/calorie contents will be provided under each category list in the next chapter. They are as follows:
- Each Dairy exchange unit contains 8 grams of protein and provides 80 calories.
- Each Fat exchange unit contains 5 grams of fat and provides 45 calories
- Each Fruit exchange unit provides 40 calories and contains no fat and minimal protein.
- Each Grain/Starch exchange unit contains 2 grams of protein and provides 70 calories. Some of the Grain/Starch products also contain Fat EUs which are listed.
- Each High Protein exchange unit contains 7 grams of protein and some contain up to 3 grams of fat (some contain none) and provides 55 calories. Where even higher fat content exists this will be made dear.
- Each Vegetable exchange unit contains 2 grams of protein and provides 25 calories.
Keeping a check on fat and protein
An important additional check would be for you to periodically add up your protein and fat intake in grams, using the information provided, in order to see that you are within the guidelines given above (where you multiply your body weight by 0.8 and 1.0 to give you a range within which you should stay, of the number of grams of protein to be eaten daily; and by 0.4 and 0.6 for the range of fat intake in grams per day).
How to put it all together
- In the next chapter you will find category lists (Dairy, Fat, Fruit, Grain/Starch, High Protein, Vegetable).
- Each of the items on each list will be described in terms of a unit of measurement (cupful, ounces etc.) and will contain information as to how many exchange units this represents. Each category list will tell you how many grams of protein and fat each EU represents as well the number of calories.
- There will also be diet lists (in fact just two lists, a 2,000 calorie list and an 1,800 calorie list) which recommend the number of EUs from each category which you need to consume every day in order to fulfill the requirements of under-nutrition without malnutrition - a balanced, calorie-restricted diet.
- You need to calculate your 'set point' weight and your current weight (they might be the same) and from your current weight work out your present fat and protein requirements.
- Based on your age you should decide on a 2,000 calorie diet (automatic if you are 50 or over) or an 1,800 calorie diet (a personal choice if you are under 50 and over 20).
From the very beginning of your diet you should take daily supplements in the form of good multivitamin and multi mineral capsules or tablets. You should ask the advice of someone in a pharmacy or health store to ensure that the supplements you are buying supply you with all essential nutrients at a level which meets your RDA (recommended daily amounts) requirements. Many nutrition experts regard RDAs as a guideline only, seeing them as an absolute minimum requirement. For this reason, taking them in a supplement form, as well as receiving a fairly abundant supply in the food you will eat, is not 'overdoing' things. It is ensuring that your RDAs are met, that optimum levels of nutrients are present, and that there remains no chance of deficiency when following the calorie restriction diet.
Note: Supplementation as advised is not an option, it is an absolute requirement of the diet.
How to start slowly
There are several ways of sliding gently into programmes such as these:
- For the first month eat normally, as you have always done, but introduce a reduction in your food intake of 10 per cent (leave around 10 per cent of the food on your plate at the end of the meal, or more sensibly put 10 per cent less food onto the plate in the first place). At the same time (during this first month) start applying the 2,000 calorie per day diet on one day each week.
In the second month (don't forget you will be taking vitamin and mineral supplements all the while) start to consume 20 per cent less food on your normal feeding days, and also increase the calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern to two days per week. These days should, at this stage, not be consecutive, but should have at least one 'normal' day in between. You should continue to eat the reduced amount (20 per cent less than you were eating before the diet) of regular food on the 'normal' days.
Each month that follows, increase the days on which you use calorie restriction/exchange unit pattern by one day a week, until by the time you reach seven months you will be fully on the diet. As month by month you increase the number of days each week, which are based on calorie restriction/exchange units, make sure that these are spaced out. For example, in the third month, when three days a week are modeled on this pattern, ensure a day between each diet day on your 'normal' (20 per cent reduction) diet.