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July 23, 2020
ARE ALL CALORIES ALIKE? | By Hubert Cormier
''A calorie is a calorie whether it comes from a Pepsi or from a carrot.'' How many times have we heard such a statement? Now, is this actually true, or is it a myth that’s been circulating for years? Let's delve deeper...
🍴 WHAT IS A CALORIE?
In nutrition, a calorie is the unit of measurement used to quantify the energy delivered to the body by the food we eat. Back then, a calorie was considered a unit of energy. It represents the amount of heat required to raise a gram of water by one degree. However, it was never part of the recognized unit within the International System of Units (SI) and today its use is specific to the nutrition industry.
A balanced diet should include the following macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These have a caloric value of their own. For example, one gram of carbohydrates and protein respectively contain about 4 calories per gram, while one gram of fat has about 9 calories. Instinctively, you’d be tempted to minimize the fat in your diet. However, it would be premature to do so. Our bodies need each of these macronutrients to function properly. It’s simply a matter of properly distributing them. Also, don’t forget to include alcohol when calculating calories, since one gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.
🍴 HOW THE BODY ABSORBS FOOD
Based solely on the numbers from a Nutrition Facts table, 100 calories of orange juice look similar to 100 calories of soft drink. However, this isn’t the case inside the human body where the situation is much more complex.
The number of calories absorbed by the body varies from food to food. For example, almonds are said to provide 20% fewer calories than previously thought, due to insufficient chewing, which doesn’t allow the fat to be absorbed completely.
The same principle applies to fibres, which are a type of carbohydrate and are not digested in the intestine. As a result, we consume fewer calories than we think when we eat high-fibre foods!
Finally, there are nutritive sugar substitutes (called sugar alcohols or polyols) and non-nutritive substitutes (such as aspartame and sucralose) which, being digested only partially or not at all, provide little to no calories to the body. Thus, these can serve as a replacement for refined sugars. They’re used to preserve the sugary taste and are often recommended for foods that aren’t very nutritious, like diet soft drinks.
DID YOU KNOW?
''Almonds are said to provide 20% fewer calories than previously thought, due to insufficient chewing, which doesn’t allow the fat to be absorbed completely.''
''We consume fewer calories than we think when we eat high-fibre foods!''
🍴 HIGH GLYCEMIC INDEX FOODS
The glycemic index reflects how quickly the carbohydrates in a food are digested. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the blood sugar level (known as glycemia) will rise. For example, foods like pasta, white bread, white rice, sugary beverages, cookies, and cakes all have a high glycemic index and therefore have a significant impact on energy.
That said, to lose weight, it isn’t enough to simply reduce the total number of calories ingested, without considering the foods you eat. Avoid fast-absorbing carbohydrates in processed foods and switch to healthier foods, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, brown rice, and quinoa.
In a nutshell, all calories are not created equal. The solution isn’t knowing whether you consume 1,800 or 2,500 calories a day, but rather having a complete and balanced diet. You need to eat quality food and limit the quantities you consume. Think about it: you may not gain weight by eating burgers and fries every day, but you won’t be getting quality food.
🍎 Eating a balanced diet with the same number of calories is the key to good health and a long life!