The 24 Hour Fitness Blog

Never Say Never!

April 1, 2015

With Joel Greene, Founder, Visual Eating and Exercise Program (VEEP)

Every dieter dreams about the day when he or she can indulge in the ultimate forbidden food: A grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread that’s toasted golden on the outside, and oozing gooey goodness on the inside.

That’s why Joel Greene likes to surprise people with news that there are times when a grilled cheese sandwich just might be the best thing to eat, for weight loss—and for scientific, not psychological, reasons.

“Life is a celebration and food is part of that celebration—and furthermore, the restrictions that come with dieting are usually drastic measures to avoid particular foods, and it’s really hard to make those temporary changes permanent,” Greene says. “What’s more important is that scientific evidence shows that food is not just calories: Food provides instructions for your body, and you can use that insight to make changes that stick, and reach your goals.”

Greene compares a blood orange and a regular orange. They taste different but otherwise, a weight-loss plan would likely treat them the same and “allow” them, because they’re just 100 calories, have a low glycemic index of 40, and are a source of fiber and beneficial nutrients.

What most weight-loss programs don’t factor in, however, is the blood orange’s distinct properties. For example, blood oranges contain pigment molecules called anthocyanins, and new research suggests these and other compounds may inhibit fat accumulation. The blood orange provides substances different from, say, a navel orange, and signals different responses in the body.

Food can signal inflammation, insulin production, and many other behaviors that ultimately may impact our predisposition to illness and other conditions. Greene points out that understanding food’s role as fuel and much more gives us the power to make choices other than just avoiding certain foods entirely—and potentially missing out on the benefits of those foods.

With scientific research to support his view, here’s how Greene looks at that “forbidden” grilled cheese sandwich:

  • The sourdough: fermentation aids beneficial gut flora production which may aid fatty acid uptake.
  • The cheese (dairy calcium):
    1. Shown to inhibit a key enzyme needed for fat storage.
    2. Helps fats to partially pass through the gut unabsorbed
  • Not simply independent ingredients (sourdough bread, low-fat dairy), but ingredients that may provide benefit in combination

You can find more scientific food insights—and more dieting taboos, lifted—in the current issue of 24LIFE, available to download free for iOS and Android.