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The OnlineClinic Health Blog Everyone for your health

Calories don’t count

Posted in Personal Health 12 Sep, 2012

The less calories you consume the more weight you are likely to lose, right? However research into calories by the University of California, have shown that the way we calories are being displayed on packaging might not be equivalent to how many calories we are actually taking in.

As adults we are recommended to keep our calorie count below 2000 calories a day to ensure that we maintain a healthy weight. This leads to many of us reading food labels and making sums in our heads to ensure that we are under this limit. However, it appears that we might be taking in more or less than we think as a result of an archaic calorie measuring system.

Good and bad calories

Although experts are still in favour of calories counting as a rough guideline, they recommend that we look at what we eat and drink instead of just the calories. This is because our calorie expenditure is higher when digesting some foods compared to others. Meaning that a chocolate bar might have the same amount of calories as a chicken breast, but it the calories we get from the chocolate bar will be higher because it takes our body less energy to digest it.

What about negative calories

This doesn't mean that we need to bring up the whole debate about negative calories, it just means that we should review the way we look at the calories we consume each day and try and avoid being too much of a slave to the calorie calculator. The whole idea around 'negative-calorie' food was that eating them would help you lose weight because you are burning more calories consuming them than you are actually getting from the food itself. However, this is a myth, because the calories you use to consume and process food in your body is miniscule when actually compared to the calories you are actually getting from food.

Counting calories can be misleading

A kilocalorie is the unit in which the amount of energy is measured that it takes to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water at least one degree Celsius at sea level. An agricultural chemist put the table used to determine calorific value by manufactures together about 100 years ago. Since then this has been adjusted, but research has shown that there are many different variables to consider, such as whether foods are consumed as part of a high fat diet or low fat diet or whether the food you've eaten has been processed, cooked or if it's completely raw or not.

How to approach calories when wanting to lose weight

counting calories

So if you are just as confused as I am about what do to about calories, Professor Michael Rosenbaum, of New York's Columbia University, suggests that the key to successful dieting is to permanently cut 300 calories from your daily food intake to compensate for any miscalculations. However, we need to be careful that calories don't distract us from making important decisions for our health. Research has shown that high fat diets give our bodies a higher capacity to burn calories, although it places us at an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Contrary to this, when we follow a low fat diet, it has been shown that our body has a reduced ability to burn calories, but obviously cardio risk reduces.

The key therefore seems to be quite simple and something many of us already know. Avoid so-called ready meals, fast food and sweet and savoury snacks as best we can, use the 2000 daily calorie limit as a guideline and to eat as many fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish as possible. Basically start thinking about what you are eating, rather than just calories.

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