Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Donut Experiment

This didn't actually start out as an experiment, but it's one of those things which came about naturally and has now become a source of experimentation for me. Awhile back, my husband picked up a big box of small donuts. Each one is about 150-170 calories, but I wasn't particularly interested in them and there were more than he could eat in a short time so we froze about 12 of them. They've been sitting in the freezer for over a month now.

Three days ago, I decided that I wanted a donut for breakfast. As I've mentioned before, on occasion, I allow a sugary treat for breakfast. More often than not, said treats are bigger than these and weigh in around 200-280 calories. Since I usually eat a muffin or baked oatmeal bar that is low-fat, sugar-free, whole grain, and made with applesauce and fruit, my "regular" breakfast is around 150-180 calories, eating a donut usually means eating more calories than usual for breakfast. However, the small size of these puts the caloric value of these particular donuts squarely on the same calorie footing as my healthier alternative.

After eating my muffin with coffee made with milk, I've eaten about 200-250 calories for breakfast (depending on the type of muffin or baked oatmeal bar and if I use margarine with it or not). Usually, about 2-2.5 hours after I eat, I get hungry again and have a piece of fruit. I don't see a problem with this. I don't eat much for breakfast so I can hardly expect it to last long before I might want to eat again. I have a banana or orange usually, and then wait for lunch .

I paired the small donut with the same coffee preparation I always have for a similar calorie total, and I waited to get hungry in a couple of hours. Since the donut is sugary and fried, I expected a crash and a blood sugar spike and more intense hunger two hours after eating. Here's the thing, I was much less hungry than usual. In fact, I have had this same breakfast for the last 3 days with the same result. The donuts do not leave me hungrier. They leave me fuller.

I'm not fooling myself in any way that the donut is "better" for me at all. It absolutely is emptier calories and the homemade stuff has more fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In terms of pure nutrition, I'm better off with the homemade things even when all calories are equal. However, this has confirmed something I've experienced for quite awhile, and that is that fruit and any food which contains substantial amounts of fruit makes me hungrier and the inclusion of a higher amount of fat keeps me sated. This appears to be the trend regardless of the protein content that is included with the meal.

The lesson I take away from this is not that I should eat a small donut every morning to keep full and lose weight. I love fruit, and I love whole grain baked goods as well. Frankly, though I enjoy the occasional donut, I wouldn't want to have one every morning as it gets boring, even when there are different varieties on hand.

What I have had reinforced by this is that there are no rules for eating that apply to everyone equally. I've read loads about blood sugar and nutrition and they all talk about how refined flour and sugar will have you gnawing your arm off in hunger after consuming them and that protein is the hunger-fighting warrior. Clearly, it's not working that way for me, particularly at present.

It's not as if I didn't already know that we're all unique in these aspects, but the donut experiment just brought home how vastly different a particular individual's biochemistry can be from that of another. You have to write you own book, because no one else's will apply to you.