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Forget calories! You should be counting the CHEMICALS in your daily diet to stay slim, says weight-loss doctor

Amid the obesity epidemic we've been conditioned to count calories

But Dr Sally Norton says we should be focusing on the chemicals in food

Warns we don't know the long-term effects of substances used to preserve, and flavour food, as well as make it look more appealing

Advises we fill our shopping baskets with fruit, veg and wholegrains


PUBLISHED: 04:49 EST, 14 May 2015 | UPDATED: 07:07 EST, 15 May 2015

Amid the obesity epidemic, we've all been conditioned to focus on the number of calories in our foods, says Dr Sally Norton

With so many of us now overweight, we’ve been conditioned to focus on the calories present in food.

We work under the assumption that simply by reducing how many calories we consume, we can help to control our weight… right?


Not only is calorie counting alone an ineffective way of controlling our weight, but by focusing all of our attention on how many calories we are putting into our bodies, we aren’t paying attention to the other stuff in our food – the excess fat and sugar, and – one thing that is so often ignored – the chemicals.

Real, long-lasting weight loss is not about dropping the pounds any way possible.

Rather, it's about helping our bodies to be as healthy as they can possibly be – making diet and lifestyle choices that keep our bodies working as effectively as they can. 

And the quality of the food we consume could have a pretty big effect on that.

Are there really that many chemicals in our food?

In short, yes. 

In fact, processed and manufactured foods are often full of chemicals that most of us simply don’t know are even there. 

While many may be completely safe and ensure that our food doesn’t spoil and give us health problems in other ways - food poisoning for example - some are there for other reasons.

These include colourings to help foods look more appealing, flavourings and sweeteners to make them taste better, and preservatives to allow them to keep for far longer than is strictly necessary. 

Not to mention many of the other chemicals added within the manufacturing process to make foods cheaper and more cost-effective to produce.

Often, we think we are being healthier by choosing a ‘low-fat’, or ‘sugar-free’ version of our favourite food.

But, in actual fact, these may be just as bad for us, with extra chemicals lumped in to make up for the lack of natural fats or sugars. 

But instead, we should be focusing on the chemicals present in processed foods and drinks. Past studies have shown sweeteners could actually result in people eating more and gaining more weight than if they had just eaten plain sugar - though sugar is not good for you either

Take sweeteners, for example.

Some studies have shown that chemically-produced sweeteners could actually lead us to eat more, and put on more weight than if we had plain sugar - not that sugar is good for you either.

"The scariest thing is that we don't really know what these chemicals could be doing to our bodies over time"

Dr Sally Norton 

And over the years there have been numerous concerns over the safety of various sweeteners, the research continues.

The scariest thing is that we don’t really know what these chemicals could be doing to our bodies over time. 

Of course, I know that if there were any immediate significant risks then these chemicals wouldn’t be allowed in our foods.

But what about the long-term effects of consuming regular, small doses? 

We are hearing more and more how diets high in processed foods are detrimental to our health and waistline – whereas fresh foods such as fruit, veg, nuts, healthy fats, wholegrains can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. 

What we put inside our body does make a difference to our health – so personally I’m all for keeping it as fresh and simple as possible.

Dr Norton said to reduce the chemicals in your diet, it is important to fill your trolleys with natural ingredients, including fruit and vegetables, as well as wholegrains

So, what’s the answer?

By avoiding processed food and canned or bottled food and drinks as far as we can, we can all enjoy a more balanced diet.

Not only will we reduce the amount of chemicals we are consuming, but we'll ensure we eat a natural diet, that is closer to its source than the processed foods that fill most supermarket shelves.

Choose food full of natural ingredients like fruits, vegetables and healthy, wholegrains.

And if that’s not enough, by avoiding pre-packaged and processed foods, we’ll also be doing our bit to help the environment – two birds, one stone, in my opinion.

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