Understanding calories


Okay, a simple guide to understanding calories. We’ve all heard of calories and we all know that to lose weight we must reduce our calorie intake. Calories ‘in’ must be less than calories ‘out’ right? Right.

And you may have heard the phrase ‘All calories are created equal’. In a sense, yes, as a calorie is simply a term for measuring energy. Furthermore, no matter the source, whether it be from carbs, fat or protein, a calorie is still a calorie. However, more important than the calorie count, is the QUALITY/SOURCE of the calorie.

The quality or source of the calorie can determine whether or not weight loss will be sustainable and whether weight loss will equate to good health. Who wants so be stick thin but sick?

So what do I mean by the quality or source of a calorie? Let’s take a look at some examples of what 200 calories looks like:

200 calories comparison chart

200 calories comparison chart2

Image source

I appreciate that the foods depicted are not necessarily equivalent – who replaces canola oil with bread?? But you get the gist – you can clearly see that the foods on the left are far healthier choices and in larger quantities than those on the right, even though they all equate to 200 calories. (The mixed nuts would be good if left unsalted!) You would need to eat way more of the right hand foods to consider it a substantial serving, and therefore you’d be taking in more calories, as well as missing out on all the essential nutrients that our bodies require to function healthily. They are empty calories that offer very little in terms of nutritional value.

What’s more, the origin of a calorie determines how the body digests and stores the energy. For example, calories from protein are used to help maintain and repair muscles, organs and tissues. Calories from carbohydrates are a major energy source for the body, while fat calories help protect organs and help with the absorption of important vitamins. Protein, carbs and fat are essential, but the body metabolizes them very differently and needs them in appropriate quantities.

If we were to live on a diet of poor food choices, we’d lack energy, feel hungry often, feel generally unwell, risk clogging of the arteries with saturated fats or inducing a stroke with too much sodium… you get the picture… For a sustainable, healthy lifestyle, we therefore need to stop counting calories and concentrate on the quality/source of the foods we consume!

I’d love to know your thoughts on counting calories, please let me know below. And if you’ve enjoyed this article, please consider sharing it or forwarding it onto anyone you feel could benefit. Thanks as always for reading!