Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Tale of Two Diets, Part 3: Dinner and Evening

We now return to our story, already in progress. You may recall that Tom has been eating largely fast food all day, whereas Paul has been eating a pretty varied diet, supplying him with a whole host of nutrients and health-boosting compounds.

4:30pm – The end of the workday is approaching, and both men are starting to get a bit hungry.

Paul has packed hummus and carrots and snacks on them as he winds down at work.
-       The combination of unsaturated fats and fiber in hummus makes it a great snack choice. On the one hand, it’s very healthy, as it contains significant amounts of both of these components, and on the other, it’s satisfying, with the combination of fat and fiber creating a sense of satiety that lasts.
-       And of course, let’s not forget the carrots! Carrots are best known for their beta-carotene content, but also supply some fiber and a reasonable amount of minerals.

Tom decides to power through the late afternoon. He’s fairly stressed out, due in part to the caffeine he’s consumed throughout the day, but also due to his blood sugar, which is dropping yet again, and quickly.

The tally after a late afternoon snack:
Paul – Calories: 1295, Saturated fat: 11.4g, Sugar: 45.1g, Sodium: 637mg, Fiber: 28.7g, Protein: 47g
Tom – Calories: 2410, Saturated fat: 29.5g, Sugar: 122g, Sodium: 2610mg, Fiber: 12g, Protein: 68g

7:00pm – It’s dinner time, and our heroes sit down for their respective meals.

Tom is tired after work, and so has ordered a large pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut. He sits down in front of the TV, opens a Budweiser and prepares to chill out. He’s not eating the whole pizza, of course, but he’s feeling hungry and in need of something filling, so he eats half of it, finishing the first three slices quickly, and going back for the fourth a little later on in the evening. Over the course of the next few hours, he has another beer before calling it an evening.
-       Of course, the same issues with sugar, saturated fat, and sodium still apply, but let’s move beyond that and talk about variety in Tom’s diet. Each of Tom’s meals today has consisted of a variation on the theme of bread and meat, with cheese being added to both lunch and dinner. While there is certainly a place in the world for each one of these things, when they comprise the backbone of every meal, we start to run into issues. As we’ll see when the tally is counted, Tom’s diet continues to be weighted heavily towards lots of calories, saturated fat, and sugar, at the expense of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
-        Additionally, though protein is an important part of the diet, especially early in the day, Tom’s diet is extremely high in protein, almost to a fault. A diet this high in protein starts to tax the kidneys quite heavily, as they are the part of the body that eliminates nitrogen, an element that primarily enters the diet through protein. This evening’s pizza in particular doubled his day’s protein intake, putting his total protein intake at a whopping 130g (the FDA recommends 50g per day).

Paul has headed home, likewise tired, but feeling alright. He’s not feeling up to making much in the way of dinner tonight, as he made curry last night, so on his way home, he picks up a salmon fillet (which he will grill on his trusty George Foreman), a bunch of broccoli (which he’ll steam), some soy-ginger dressing for the broccoli, and a bottle of red wine (of which he’ll have a glass). Paul’s dinner is remarkably easy, yet nutritious.
-       Fish, and in particular salmon, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, a group of very healthy unsaturated fats that help protect the heart, and are anti-inflammatory. The heat from grilling damages these fats somewhat, but their benefit is still present, and they’re a far sight better than saturated fat. Sushi is probably the healthiest way to eat fish, but Paul doesn’t feel like sushi tonight.
-       The broccoli provides the ever-popular fiber, but also provides a variety of compounds that help the liver detoxify efficiently. Sulforaphane, a component of broccoli, not only encourages the liver to produce detoxifying enzymes, but it also has been shown to have a direct cancer-preventing/tumor-suppressing activity. All other members of the Brassica species, including cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts have this same activity.
-       Paul decides to buy the salad dressing to make the broccoli a bit more interesting, and because Paul reads the nutrition labels on the back of the food he buys, he finds one that is comparatively low in saturated fat and sodium, though they’re it’s still a significant source of sodium for Paul today.
-       Finally, the wine. Unlike the Budweiser that Tom is drinking, which is low in nutrients, but high in calories, the red wine that Paul opts for is rich in antioxidants, just like the green tea he had with breakfast. Consumed in moderation, red wine provides some notable health benefits, and can be part of a healthy diet, not to mention the fact that Paul’s appreciation of good wine enriches his life, as it’s stimulated an interest in traveling to Sonoma Valley as well as Italy, to learn more about the wineries of the world.
-       Paul’s eating quite a lot of protein today, but as he eats a varied diet, there is not a lot of concern about this. Additionally, as Paul bikes to and from work, this extra protein is being put to good use, being broken down for fuel, and being used to build muscle.

The final count:
Paul – Calories: 1909, Saturated fat: 15.4, Sugar: 56, Sodium: 1306, Fiber: 32.7, Protein: 97g
Tom – Calories: 4022, Saturated fat: 53.5g, Sugar: 142g, Sodium: 6272mg, Fiber: 20g, Protein: 130g

10:30pm – Paul heads to bed, having spent the last hour reading last weekend’s newspaper and drinking chamomile tea. Paul drifts off within a few minutes and sleep soundly throughout the night.

Tom, however, tries to sleep, but tosses and turns, his mind racing. He’s exhausted, but he just can’t get to sleep. If we look back on his day, this shouldn’t surprise us – he’s had two 16 oz lattes and a similarly sized Coke! While we’ve been talking a lot about the long-term effects of Tom’s diet, regarding the likelihood that he’ll develop diabetes, heart disease and other diseases, it’s causing him problems in the short term, preventing him from sleeping. Tom won’t get to sleep until after midnight tonight, so when he’s up tomorrow morning, he’ll be groggy, just as he was today.

Tune in again tomorrow to hear me wrap this all up. Until then…