The idea that calories are the most important part of the diet is one of the biggest myths of our “Nutritional Society”.
Saying that 200 calories of spinach are the same as 200 calories of soda is dead wrong. A calorie is a measurement of energy, a matter of physics. It isn’t a value judgment on where that energy goes a matter of biochemistry.
If we want to talk about health, we should think about it in biological terms, not only in physics because the human body is a complex machine that doesn’t work simply by math counting calories.
It’s time to find out the 5 reasons why not all calories are created equal:
The first example why a calorie is not a calorie can be explained by the Fiber content of foods.
When we eat foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, we are getting a lot of fiber which is a form of carbohydrate that contributes to satiety without contributing to the calorie content because humans being can’t use fiber as a form of energy.
For instance, when we eat 160 calories coming from almonds, we only absorb 130 calories because fiber present in almonds delays absorption of calories into the bloodstream, delivering those calories (fiber) to the bacteria in your intestine, which will “chew them up.”
Therefore, a calorie in a high-fiber food is not equal to a calorie of a low-fiber food.
2. Thermic Effect of Food
This fancy phrase is simply the name for energy used when digesting and absorbing a meal. Different foods go through different metabolic pathways, therefore, they use less or more energy to be metabolized.
Take protein, for example, the metabolic pathways for protein is less efficient (meaning it spends more energy) than the metabolic pathways for carbohydrate and fat.
On other words, your body has to put almost twice as much energy to metabolize protein when compared to carbohydrates.
We can say that calories from protein are less “fattening” than calories from carbs and fat because protein takes more energy to be metabolized.
3. Protein Kills Appetite
One of the secrets to fat loss is the control of appetite. And one of the “tricks” to take control over our appetite is to increase our intake of protein.
Protein is the most fulfilling macronutrient by far. I can tell you from personal experience that when I don’t have animal protein (meat/chicken/fish/pork or eggs) with my lunch or dinner, I’ve noticed I get hungry faster.
This study demonstrates that those who increased their protein intake to 30% of calories automatically started eating 441 fewer calories per day and lost 4.9 kg (11 lbs) in 12 weeks. And that is without counting calories. It happened automatically due to the different levels of satiety.
One more reason why a calorie is not a calorie.
4. Different Molecular Structure
Here is one of the most important conceptions that I would like you to understand. When we talk about sugar, we are not talking about just one molecule. We are talking about two (glucose and fructose).
Glucose can be metabolized in every cell of our organism (every body’s tissue can burn glucose as energy). On the other hand, fructose is a completely different molecule and it can only be metabolized by the liver in a particularly significant amount. That means that 100 calories of glucose are going to have a different effect in the body when compared to 100 calories of fructose.
A good practical example is to take 100 calories of potato and 100 calories of table sugar. Potato is pure glucose (with vitamins, minerals, and fiber), while table sugar is half glucose and half fructose (no nutrition). That means that the same 100 calories will have a different reaction in our body.
5. Empty Calories
This is my favorite reason. I love focusing on the quality of the food instead of quantity because of the nutrition value that each food has.
Obviously, 100 calories from an egg are not the same as 100 calories of processed juice. You get it right?
Real food like Kale has vitamins, minerals, fiber, enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and possibly dozens of other chemical substances that we don’t even recognize yet.
On the other hand, processed juice has pretty much nothing but sugar. That is what we call empty calories. It’s lacking nutrients. Focusing on the quality of the food over the number of calories is key to success when trying to be healthy.
The most important message of this whole article is to change our mindset when thinking about food. Forget about calories! They are not that important. A few decades ago, we didn’t know what a calorie was, but we were much healthier than today, which shows us that we don’t have to know how many calories are in our meals. If you like this article, I am sure you would love this even more: http://brazilianhealthnut.com/challenge
Your turn. Do you believe that not all calories are created equal?
What are your favorite fat burning foods? Share in the comments below.