Getting the most from your calories by choosing nutrient dense foods high in protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats is a great health strategy, no matter what your goals.
What about counting calories? There’s been a recent spate of articles in the popular press about the life-extending effects of reducing calories. Calorie reduction as an anti-aging strategy made the cover of New York Magazine, and, in the same week, was written up in both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The Times, for example, showed pictures of two monkeys, both 25 years old, one of which had been fed just 1/3 less of its usual monkey chow for the past decade. The difference in the two monkeys was remarkable—the monkey fed the “normal” diet looked like a little old man, while his cage-mate, fed a mere 30 percent less calories of monkey chow, looked like the monkey version of a “teenager”.
Researchers have long known that restricting calories by about a third extends the life of a variety of creatures, from yeast cells to monkeys, and now many humans are trying out the strategy for themselves. These folks are not restricting calories to lose weight, but to extend life. While strict adherence to the guidelines of the “Calorie Restriction Society” (yes, there’s such a thing) may seem extreme, you don’t have to go that route to get anti-aging benefits. The take-away from the research is simple: eating too much of the wrong foods shortens life. If you simply cut away the junk, you’d actually be doing exactly what the folks in these experiments are doing: eating somewhat less calories, but making sure all of them counted.
By simply cutting out junk foods, you’d be left with foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats and protein, and because these foods are so nutritious you actually need less of them. Hey- that sounds exactly like the nutrition principles of Atkins!