27 Jun Calories: are they all equal?
When it comes to calories, they are not all created equal. Yes, a calorie is a calorie, but your body doesn’t think so. With the rise in calorie-counting apps and dieters, there are more people focusing on just the number of calories. Alarmingly, they’re not really looking at the sources of those calories. As a result, people may not be meeting their daily nutritional requirements for a healthy diet. Depending on the foods you eat, you may experience a decrease in energy, mood swings, unhealthy food cravings and illnesses such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. On the other spectrum, choosing whole foods can give you energy and the right nutrients for a healthily functioning system. Let’s look at the different sources of calories and see their different effects on the body.
Sugars: Glucose vs Fructose
The two main sugars we consume come in the form of glucose or fructose. Glucose comes from starchy foods like potatoes, rice and pasta. On the other hand, fructose comes from sweeteners that are often added into processed foods. The former can be digested and converted into energy in all parts of the body; the latter goes straight to the liver and turns into FAT! Once there’s no more room in the liver, fat goes to all the other organs in the body and into the blood stream. Therefore, eating too much fructose can lead to liver disease, heart disease, insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity.
Although fructose is also found naturally in fruits, they contain nutritional benefits and fibre which can slow down the absorption of its sugars. For this reason, sugar calories from fruits and whole grains are much healthier than those from sugar, sugary drinks and processed foods.
We already talked about glucose in carbs, but there’s more to carbs than just its sugars. If you compare simple to complex carbs, the latter tends to have more fibre and minerals. This means the complex carbs are more slowly digested, keeping you fuller for longer. Also, a slow release of glucose means your blood sugar won’t spike so you won’t crave another sugary, carby food right away. For this reason, it’s best to choose wholegrain instead of white for bread, pasta and rice.
When it comes to calories from protein, you actually burn the most calories digesting protein. This is because the thermic effect for protein is 25-30% meaning if you consume 100 calories from protein, you only digest 75 calories. In addition, protein is more satiating than carbs or fat so it’ll keep you full for a longer period of time.
Not all fats are equal so the calories from those fats cannot be treated the same way. We mentioned coconut oil and its health benefits in a previous blog post, but this is a fat that was demonised in the past for its saturated fat content. However, not all saturated fats are bad and lead to heart disease. Trans fat, on the other hand, does increase the risks of heart disease so try to choose natural healthy fats like coconut, avocado, olive, nuts and seeds over margarine and processed foods. Keep in mind that fats are essential for a healthy diet as they give us energy, insulate us and help digest important fat-soluble vitamins.
Conclusion: don’t just count the calories but look at the source of those calories!
In summary, counting calories could be harmful to your health if you are not carefully choosing the sources of those calories. Try to not only look at the number of calories but also at the colours, variety and quality of your food. Eating processed foods that have many hidden sugars and artificial ingredients can make it difficult for you to control what goes into your body. That’s why home cooking and eating whole foods is essential to a healthy diet. If you don’t have time to cook, all of the dishes from Laura’s Idea are made from scratch in our kitchen using just a few, quality ingredients. For inspiration, visit a health food store near you that carries our products!