Are All Calories Really the Same?

Out of all nutrition myths, calorie myth happens to be the most pervasive and exaggerated. Some believe a calorie is a calorie be it from a candy bar or broccoli. We’ve all heard someone say that the cure for obesity is simply eating fewer calories and exercising more. This isn’t totally wrong, but calories from different foods have a different impact on your weight. Due to the complexity of the human biochemical system, some food might undergo different pathway which is inefficient and causes energy (calories) loss in the form of heat. Therefore, consuming a certain type of food in expectation to gain more energy might not be the case. Additionally, the idea of eating less, moving more and counting your calories was proven not to be the ideal way to lose weight.

Studies have shown that there are better chances of weight loss with low-carb diets compared to low-fat diets. Below are proven examples of why all calories aren’t the same.

The Satiety Index

Every food has a different effect on the satiety level with some foods giving a greater feeling of fullness. Also, we tend to overeat certain foods compared to others. For example, you can comfortably eat 500 calories or more of ice cream, which isn’t the case with 500 calories of eggs or broccoli. The type of food you eat determines the number of calories you’ll end up consuming.

Satiety effect is meant to measure the satiety value of different foods and reduce calories intake. Eating a food low in satiety index makes you hungry faster and you end up eating more. While consuming food high in satiety index, you eat less meaning low calories intake. Some of the foods high in satiety index and good for weight loss are boiled potatoes, beef, eggs, beans and fruits. While foods low on the index are donuts and cakes.

Level of The Thermic Effect of Food

Different foods go through different pathway some of which are efficient than others. If a certain pathway is more effective, the food will provide more energy since only a few of it is lost through heat. Take an example of proteins, they contain four calories per gram, but most of these calories are lost as heat during metabolism. Here are the common macronutrients and their thermic effect.

  • Fat: two to three percent
  • Carbs: six to eight percent
  • Proteins: 25 to 30 percent Clearly, protein requires more energy to metabolize than fat and carbs. If we use the thermic effect of 25% for protein and 2% for fat, consuming 100 calories of protein ends up being 75 calories while 100 calories fat ends up being 98 calories.

Glucose vs Fructose

These are the two main simple sugars in your diet which provide similar numbers of calories. However, the difference comes in during metabolism because glucose can be metabolized by all of your body’s tissue while fructose is only metabolized by the liver. Meaning at the end the number of calories you will obtain from consuming glucose are fewer compared to those from fructose. When people talk of calories being the same, they are making a huge mistake. Fructose stimulates the satiety centers in the brain differently from glucose, thus it leads to a decreased feeling of fullness. Furthermore, studies show that consuming a lot of fructose can cause insulin resistance, abdominal fat gain, increased triglycerides, and high blood sugar. Judging food by the number of calories isn’t correct. The same number of calories from different foods can have different effects on hunger, hormones, and metabolic health.

The Glycemic Index

Different scientists have different claims regarding almost everything. But the only thing almost all of them agree on is that refined carbs are bad. These refined carbs include added sugar such as sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, as well as refined grains like white bread. Refined carbs are easily digestible and are quickly absorbed due to low fiber content. They can also rapidly spike your blood sugar. Their glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly foods raise blood sugar, is high. If you prefer a diet high in carbs, then choose whole and unprocessed carb sources that contain fiber. Fiber helps reduce the rate at which glucose enters the body. The speed at which carb calories hit the system determines how much you’re going to eat and potentially gain weight. Studies suggest that foods with high glycemic index can lead to obesity and diabetes. That proves that not all carb calories are really the same. ”

Low Carbs Diets Automatically Lead to Calories Restriction

Over 20 randomized controlled trials have been carried out comparing low carb and low-fat diets. Each time the results indicated that low carb diets lead to more weight loss than low-fat diets. The reason being low carb diets automatically reduces your appetite and you start eating fewer calories without even trying. Low carb diets include more protein which takes lots of energy to metabolize. Even though calories play a major part in our bodies, counting them or being consciously aware of them isn’t necessary for weight loss. Choosing your diet correctly can lead to better results than restricting your calories intake.

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