Not All Calories and Created Equal
The statement “fat makes us fat” arose due to the fact that fats are so high calorically. This led to the thought that the more calories you eat the fatter you will be. This has been the mentality for decades now – yet treating a calorie as any other calorie has not helped us solve the obesity problem or any of the health issues associated with it.
In fact, cutting fats (calories) from the diet and increasing more processed foods labeled with the exact number of calories in each serving has developed the fattest nation in the world. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie may not be quite that simple.
What is a calorie?
A unit of energy
A calorie is energy consumed through eating or drinking, used through physical activity
Small calorie (cal): the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1g water by 1 degree C
Large calorie (Cal): the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1kg water by 1 degree C (1Cal = 1000cal)
Calories are how humans get their energy – without calories we will die. The number of calories each person needs depends on many variables. The amount of calories from different food sources also varies.
“The number of calories food contains tells us how much potential energy they posses. Below are the calorific values of the three main components of the food we eat: (1)”
1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
1 gram of protein contains 4 calories
1 gram of fat contains 9 calories
Fats contain the most calories per gram and peanut butter is the highest calorie food at 588 calories per 100g
Types of calories and how they are processed
There is no denying that fat has more calories than carbohydrates. However going by that way of thinking, a pop is “better” for you than a handful of nuts or an avocado. Studies have shown the complete opposite. We need to look at the metabolic effects of each and every calorie. Depending on where the calorie comes from it will be digested differently and how you recover the energy will also vary.
Let’s take a look at carbohydrates. A lot of us are familiar with the terms simple and complex. Simple meaning that the food can be broken down quickly to be used as energy in the body and complex being a polysaccharide composed of hundreds of monosaccharide’s needing a little more time to break down to get the energy. By this way of putting things simple carbs are looked down upon as they consist of processed refined flours and sugars, but also fruit. Fruit is a lot healthier than consuming a chocolate bar, so a better way of describing the processing of calories is by categorizing high glycemic and low glycemic foods.
The glycemic index is a system that ranks foods based on their effect on blood sugar levels – measured from 0-100. The more sugar in the blood, the more insulin that needs to be secreted in order to get the sugar out of the blood. “The most significant factor in fat storage is the level of insulin in the blood. Insulin has many effects on the body. With respect to fat storage, insulin increases the storage of fat in fat cells and prevents fat cells from releasing fat for energy”(2).
Now let’s look at fats. Almost all fat in your diet comes in the form of triglycerides. These compounds contain three fatty acids held together by a molecule called glycerol. In order to store or use fats for energy, this bond must be broken by pancreatic enzymes released into your stomach acid. The resulting monoglycerides and free fatty acids are then absorbed by your intestines. After passing your intestinal wall, these compounds recombine into triglycerides. These triglycerides then bond with other fats, proteins and cholesterol to form lipoproteins before entering your bloodstream. Upon reaching their destination, these compounds are either broken down and stored as free fatty acids in your liver or as body fat, or are fully metabolized and used as a source of energy by your muscle fibers.
Most fatty acids -- called long-chain fatty acids -- have 12 to 22 molecules of carbon. Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are saturated fats containing 8 to 12 carbons. Most fatty acids go through a special digestive process, which allows them to travel through your bloodstream to tissues that metabolize or store fats. MCTs are different because they’re easily absorbed, then metabolized in the liver and used for energy. The three MCTs -- capric acid, caprylic acid and lauric acid -- are naturally found in a variety of animal and vegetable fats, but few sources contain significant amounts.(3)
Whether from carbohydrates, proteins or fats, your body will convert and store any excess food energy as body fat. However, your body typically converts proteins to energy or body fat only if you are eating insufficient amounts of fats or carbohydrates.
Choose Nutrient Dense – Not Calorie Dense?
Eat mashed cauliflower INSTEAD OF white potatoes
Nut, oat or brown rice flour for baking INSTEAD OF white refined flour
Dried fruit INSTEAD OF candy
Salsa INSTEAD OF ketchup
Kind bar INSTEAD OF chocolate bar
Lettuce wraps INSTEAD OF wheat wraps
Sliced zucchini INSTEAD OF spaghetti