Nutrition 101: Calories

By Annette Demeny

For the next couple of weeks, I will be highlighting basic Nutrition 101; Calories, Carbs, Fat, Salt, and Sugar. This fabulous information was received through Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert during a recent episode of Deliciously Ella. If you’ve never tuned into this amazing podcast, you are missing out! I will provide a link to this popular podcast at the bottom of the Nutrition 101 blog segment. Now, let’s get to know more about CALORIES!!!!


Should we count calories? What is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy and a very scientific guesstimate. To create a calorie, it’s how much energy it will take for the body to heat up one (1) kilogram of water.

Below are the calorific values of three main components of food;

* 1 g of carbohydrates contains 4 kcal
* 1 g of protein contains 4kcal
* 1 g of fat contains 9 kcal

Calories have created a whole platform of confusion. People look at the number of calories they eat or should eat instead of why do they eat the foods that they eat? The body is a very complex system and a calorie isn’t just a calorie. Not all calories listed on the package is actually absorbed into your body. A good example is corn. Corn eaten in its whole form, is not digested completely in your gut therefore, you won’t absorb 100 percent of the calories. However, if you would ground the corn down, you’d be able to absorb more of the calories and nutrients. It’s the way the biochemical system of our bodies absorbs it. Almonds are another example. In a 100-calorie pack of almonds, only about 70 calories are actually absorbed. This is because of the amount of fiber that isn’t broken down. The casing around the almond also prohibits the amount of fat you absorb.

Helpful Tip: if you want to get the full beautiful fat from almonds, soak them in filtered water overnight and then peel casing off prior to consuming them. This process helps with the digestion and nutritional absorption of the almond.

Are all calories equal?

Is an avocado and a Snickers bar the same just because they roughly have the same amount of calories? No! Both will be broken down differently in the body. With the chocolate bar, you will absorb all of the calories because of the makeup of it compared to the avocado, which is richer in fiber. To complicate things even more, if you eat different types of food groups, your body will only use 2-3% of the calories in fat as energy and 25-30% of calories in protein-rich foods as energy. There are also different types of energy; sucrose, glucose, fructose, fruit sugar. They all contain the same number of calories gram for gram but they differ in chemical structures and the way the body digests and metabolizes them. These are found naturally in fruits, dairy, grains and a lot of processed foods. When choosing a food, think of nutrients as well as numbers (calories). A good example is the 100-calorie snacks often found at your local grocery store. Even though these snacks market “only 100 calories”, they may not be necessarily nutritious. 100 calorie chips versus a banana or a handful of almonds? Do your body good…choose whole, nutrient-dense foods!

We now have too many calories and too many of those calories are low quality. Over the last 30 years, the number of calories we eat has increased, but so has the number of those calories that come from highly processed foods.

How many calories should I aim to eat daily?

Determining how many calories you need daily is very individual and based on your activity level and resting metabolic rate. Also, our bodies expend different quantities of energy to deal with different kinds of foods. Talking to a Registered Dietitian can help in creating a plan that’s right for you. But, no matter if you are looking to heal your body, lose weight, gain weight, or just maintain a healthy weight…one thing that’s universal is avoiding highly processed foods and choosing more natural, nutrient-dense foods.

Next week, we’ll be taking a deep dive into CARBOHYDRATES!


SFY Recommends ~

Deliciously Ella ~ Podcast


Questions about Calories?


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