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Not all calories are created equal – a nutritionist explains how important it is to eat different foods

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, at least from a thermodynamic point of view. It is defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius (2.2 pounds x 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

But when it comes to your body’s health and energy balance, not all calories are created equal.

Eg, Several studies have reported that diet rich in protein, low in carbohydrates or a combination of the two do Lose more weight than diets with different levels of fat, protein, and carbs.

If every calorie in food were the same, you wouldn’t expect to see a difference in weight loss between people eating the same amount of calories split in different foods.

Nutritionist like me Know that there are many factors that influence what calories mean to your body. Here’s what we understand about calories and nutrition so far.

Real energy available to your body

In the late 1800s, chemist W.O. Atwater and his colleagues devised a system for figuring out how much energy — that is, how many calories — different foods contain. Basically, he burned food samples and recorded the amount of energy they released as heat.

However, not all the energy in food that can burn in the lab is actually available to your body. What do scientists call it? energy can be converted is the difference between the total energy of food consumed and the energy released from your body, undigested, in the stool and urine. For each of the three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fat — Atwood devised a percentage of the calories they contain that are actually metabolizable.

According to the Atwater system, one gram of each macronutrient is estimated to provide a certain number of calories. The United States Department of Agriculture still uses these calculations today to give a Official calorie count for all foods.

How much energy do you use?

What you eat can affect what scientists call your body energy expenditure. It’s the amount of energy needed to keep you alive – the energy you use to breathe, digest, keep your blood flowing, etc – along with what you use to move your body. You may have heard this called metabolism.

Diet quality can change the body’s energy expenditure, this is also known as Thermic effect of food. For example, in one study, people who ate the same number of calories each day but followed a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet had difference in total energy expenditure about 300 calories per day. People on a very low-carb diet used the most energy, while those on a low-fat diet used the least.

In another study, High fat diet leads to reduction more total energy expenditure than on a high-carb diet. Other researchers reported that although substituting carbs for fat did not change energy expenditure, those who increased their protein intake by 30%-35% of their diet use more energy.

In general, a high-carbohydrate diet, fat or both produces a 4%-8% gain in energy expenditure, while meals rich in protein increases 11%-14% on resting metabolic rate. Protein has a higher thermic effect because it is harder for the body to break down. Although these variations are not large, they can contribute to the obesity epidemic by subtly encouraging average weight gain.

Quality of calories you eat

Nutritionists note a glycemic index of food and glycemic load – i.e. how quickly and how much it will raise your blood sugar. An increase in blood glucose triggers the release of insulin, which in turn affects energy metabolism and the storage of excess energy as fat.

Foods like white rice, cakes, cookies, and chips all have a high glycemic index/load. Green vegetables, raw peppers, mushrooms, and legumes are all low on the glycemic index/load. There is some evidence that food lower on glycemic index/load probably Better to keep blood sugar regulated – regardless of how many calories they contain.

The reward centers in the brain light up when people eat high glycemic/loaded foods, highlighting Pleasant and addictive effects foods such as candy or white bread.

Dietary fiber content is another thing to consider. Your body can’t digest fiber — found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans — for energy. So foods rich in fiber tend to less metabolic energy and can help you feel full with fewer calories.

Empty calories — those from foods with minimal or no nutritional value — are another factor to consider. Things like white sugar, soft drinks, and many ultra-quick snacks don’t provide much, if any, benefit in the form of protein, vitamins or minerals along with their calories. The opposite would be Nutrient-rich foods High in nutrients or fiber, while still being relatively low in calories. Examples include spinach, apples, and beans.

And don’t think of empty calories as neutral. Nutritionists consider them harmful calories because they can have adverse health effects. Foods that contribute the most to weight gain are chips, potatoes, sugary drinks and meats, both processed and unprocessed. On the other hand, foods that are inversely associated with weight gain are vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt.

More health benefits than calories and weight

It is undeniable that for weight loss, the difference between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories burned during exercise is the most important factor. But don’t fool yourself. Although weight plays an important role in health and longevity, weight loss alone is not synonymous with health.

Yes, some high-protein diets seem to promote weight loss, at least in the short term. But epidemiologists know that in the areas where people live the longest — almost 100 years on average — they eat a mostly plant-based diet, with little or no animal protein and low or moderate fat in the form of mono and polyunsaturated fats.

I often hear friends or clients say things like “those carbs are making me fat” or “I need to go on a low-carb diet.” But these complaints drive nutritionists like me crazy. Carbohydrates include foods like Coca-Cola and candy, in addition to apples and spinach. Cutting back on simple carbs like soft drinks, refined flour cakes, pasta and sweets will definitely have a positive impact on health. But eliminating carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits will have the opposite effect.

A plant-based diet rich in vegetable protein and carbohydrates mainly from vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes are The healthiest diet researchers know to prolong life and prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, hypertension and many more.

The modern Western diet suffers from increase calories Consumption at the same time reduce the quality of calories consumed. And researchers now know that calories from different foods there are different effects about satiety, insulin response, the process of converting carbs into body fat, and energy expenditure for metabolism.

When your health is concerned, rely on the quality of the calories you consume rather than the calories.


Terezie Tolar-Peterson, Associate Professor of Food Science, Nutrition & Health Promotion, Mississippi State University

This article was republished from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read original article.

https://www.salon.com/2022/01/01/not-all-calories-are-equal–a-dietitian-explains-how-eating-different-kinds-of-foods-matter_partner/ Not all calories are created equal – a nutritionist explains how important it is to eat different foods

Caroline Bleakley

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