Not all foods are created equal, not even if it’s the “same” food.

You’ve heard me tout the benefits of eating whole foods, unprocessed, untouched by man. But have you wondered what the reason is behind it? Why whole oats as opposed to quick oats? An oat’s an oat, right? Wrong.

As you eat, many complex processes go on in your body. We know that weight loss is really about calories, but it’s much more complex than just how many calories are in the food you put in your mouth.

Take oats for example: oats are healthy; you eat them, in some form, every day now because they help reduce your risk of heart attack and increase the efficiency of your digestive system. This is good.

You first started by eating whole oats, but realized they take forever to cook so you changed to quick oats, which take only a couple of minutes and you can even throw them in the microwave.

An oat’s an oat, right? There’s nothing added to the ingredient list. The only difference is some machine has chopped them up to make them quicker to cook. The calories per serving are the same.

Wrong. I am going to attempt to explain.

As I said, your body is a complex machine. It’s designed to work as efficiently as it can and to keep you alive through famine. Your metabolism is how many calories your body burns through all of the functions it performs, and this includes your digestion process.

Step one is when you are eating a tablespoon of whole oats, uncooked, you will find it a way longer process for the first step of digestion, chewing. This is because the oats are dry and whole and your body has to create more saliva, which takes energy/calories, and you have to chew more to break down those whole oats (more energy/calories).

Step two is getting those oats through your esophagus and into your stomach to be digested and step three is breaking down those oats in your stomach. These processes take longer because the oats are whole and your body has to create more energy to break them down (more calories).

As well, our mother always told us to eat slowly, and this is smart. It takes a while for the food to reach our stomach and, in turn, it takes a while for the hormones to be secreted to tell our brain we have eaten enough.

So, not only do we have to burn more calories in the digestion process by eating more whole food, but we also get a better-functioning digestive system because the system has to actually function and work to break down the food and absorb the nutrients out of the food that we need.

Then, one morning the power goes out; we sleep through our alarm and we grab an oat bar of sorts. The wrapper says “Made of whole oats”, so that’s the same, right? Well, it’s better than a doughnut, but it’s not the same as eating whole oats.

Not only is it processed, which means it’s changed and, in some cases, partially broken down, already, but it is also filled with artificial ingredients that our body does not know how to deal with, making our system even more inefficient in digestion and metabolic function as it tries to figure out how to deal with these unknown, manmade ingredients.

As with every nutrition discussion, it all comes down to eating as much whole food as possible, untouched by man. Grow a garden and find a good local farmer.

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.