Why a Calorie is NOT just a Calorie!
23 April 2015
For so many years, we have been fed the same story about calories – that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what food it comes from. Using this deduction, this would mean that if we wanted to lose weight, eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, lunch and supper would be absolutely fine for us as long as our total chocolate consumption remained within the region of under 2000 calories per day and that we exercised.
Um wrong!! Contrary to what we may have been told by our parents, sports coach, or even doctors have, all calories are certainly NOT created equal.
It’s not just about calories in calories out.
Back to my chocolate example –in theory, lets say you decided to embark on this “chocolate diet” (how exciting – a diet that allows you to eat chocolate…hmmm). Straight after eating your first chocolate bar for breakfast, an instant sugar release occurs biologically, making you feel super energized at first…but not for long. Given the high sugar content in chocolate (there is more sugar in chocolate than there is coco), your bloodstream is quickly overloaded with sugar. Your insulin levels now have to skyrocket to assist your body in getting rid of all the sugar in your blood as too much blood sugar is toxic for us. With spikes in insulin comes a major energy slump as your body uses up loads of energy to dispose of the sugar. Now because you feel tired and lethargic, and you need more energy, your body starts craving foods rich in energy…particularly quick access energy…in other words, sugar…and so the cravings ensue!
Not even lunch time yet and you feel absolutely starved! More sugar is required! That chocolate bar you were supposed to eat at lunch is looking good, and so you eat it! Not even 12pm yet and you are 2 chocolates and 700 calories down. The same cycle occurs – energy spike – insulin release – energy slump – more cravings. Suddenly, by the end of the day you are 6 chocolates, a burger, 2 sundaes and a pack of chips down…and still hungry? So much for those 3 chocolate bars right? Oops Diet fail!!
So what happened?
Simply put, this all has to do with how the food you eat affects your internal bodily processes. Ideally, you wanted to eat 3 chocolate bars a day, which in theory would assist you in losing weight (if we are speaking about calories in terms of units of energy). However this reasoning does not account for the effect of these chocolate bars on your hormones, blood sugars and cravings. So yes if we are speaking technically, calories represent units of energy provided by a particular food. But what counts is the quality of this energy, how this energy is packaged within the food we eat, and what impact it has on our bodies when breaking the food down into its simplest form to acquire that energy.
Calories from nutrient-rich foods versus nutritionally-bankrupt ones from processed or refined carbs will have different effects on the body. Healthy, nutrient-rich foods will keep hunger at bay, help maintain stable blood sugar levels, minimize cravings, and enable your brain to signal your tummy that it’s full. Foods devoid of proper nutrients will have the opposite effect, wreaking hormonal havoc, spiking insulin, setting off cravings, dulling satiety signals and encouraging overeating. In other words: nutrient dense foods help keep weight in check naturally, no calculator required.
So stop worrying so much about how many calories are in a meal and start worrying about the quality of the energy you are receiving from a meal, and what effect that energy will have on your body.
To curb appetite, feed your body with wholefoods fill your belly, send the message of satiety to the brain and supply the body with health-enhancing nutrients. There is abundant evidence to show that low-carb diets generally satisfy far more effectively than high-carb ones.
Don’t fear fats! Trust me on this. I know it’s quite something to wrap your head around but fats are actually good for us! Fats such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts, wild fish and grass fed, organic meats, help balance hormonal and metabolic responses, in addition to being delicious additions to any plate.
Yours in Health Always,