Negative impacts of Nutrient-Poor Meals
In our current food environment, it’s pretty easy to eat empty-calorie nutrient-poor food. Between easy access to processed, hyper-palatable food, nutrient-depleted soils, and nutrition noise all around, it makes it hard to have a nutritious diet. But what are the consequences of eating foods with no real nutritional value and how do empty-calorie meals impact how we feel daily? If you think your diet isn’t impacting your digestion, your chronic disease, or your sleep, you might be surprised.
High Calorie, but Nutrient Deficient
This one might seem obvious, but it’s critical to understanding how empty calories can impact your lifestyle negatively. Our bodies require a host of micro and macronutrients to fuel thousands of intricate body processes, from the act of breathing to creating new cells and supporting our mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells). When our bodies, and in turn our cells, don’t receive the nutrients they need, they can’t do their jobs properly. They’ll skimp where they need to to survive, and eventually, this will cause downstream effects. We’re only just beginning to understand the impact of being overfed, yet undernourished, as this has historically not been an issue for our ancestors.
The Negative Effects
Hyper-processed food filled with a lot of empty calories is a blood sugar roller coaster waiting to happen. Whenever we eat carbohydrates, those carbohydrates turn to blood sugar (aka glucose) in the bloodstream. That blood sugar heads to our cells, where it can be stored, used for energy, or used for different processes. For the blood sugar to get into cells, our pancreas creates insulin to act as the “key”, helping blood sugar into each cell. When this process acts as intended, our blood sugar rises a little after each meal, and then goes back to normal. When we eat lots of carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods without much protein, healthy fat, or veggies for balance, our blood sugar rises high and fast, resulting in an inevitable blood sugar crash.
Feeling Hungry All The Time
Remember the blood sugar issue from the previous section? That’s why you’re hungry all day, every day, too. Every time you have a blood sugar crash, your body is looking for easy sources of quick energy, and even without the blood sugar component, highly processed foods are simply not as satiating as whole foods. Protein, followed by fat, is the most satiating macronutrient. That means it will easily help keep you full in between meals. Fiber, found in fruits and veggies, performs a similar function. Most hyper-processed foods contain little if any fiber or protein, and only contain highly processed, inflammatory fats. This almost ensures you’ll never be fully satisfied by your snack or meal.
A Decline in Athletic Performance
How can your body focus on performance if it can hardly perform basic functions? When we’re undernourished, and on a blood sugar roller coaster, performance is the least of our worries. Our bodies aren’t designed to perform under such conditions. Optimal performance requires optimal recovery, including eating enough protein, having the nutrients needed to repair muscles, and even getting enough high-quality sleep.
Everything we’ve already talked about can impact your sleep quality, too. Not only that, but nutrient deficiencies are often a big reason for interrupted or suboptimal sleep. Nutrients like magnesium (which about 80% of people are deficient in!) are essential for different sleep-related processes in the body. For better sleep, you need to avoid processed snacks and opt for real food instead by eating more veggies, fruits, and high-quality protein and prioritizing healthy fats.