A Calorie Is Not a Calorie

Cliff Sheats, PhD., F.R.S.H., Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Nutritionists used to think that a calorie was a calorie was a calorie. But now they know better. Calories from fat head straight to the tummy and hips. That's because fat from food is chemically similar to fat in the body and thus easy to store. Many studies have shown that overweight people prefer foods higher in fat and sugar. An excess of these foods can make the pounds pile on.

Let's say you eat 100 extra calories from a fatty food like candy or French fries. Your body may burn just three of those calories and stockpile the rest as body fat. In other words, 97 percent of all fat calories are turned into body fat.

But, if you eat 100 additional calories from a complex carbohydrate such as rice or sweet potatoes, you burn 23 of those calories. The rest is socked away in the liver muscles as glycogen(the body's storage form of carbohydrate), awaiting use as energy for activity or exercise. It really is better to eat oatmeal or a sweet potato than ice cream or pizza!

By limiting the amount of fat and eating"good" calories, you can whittle away body fat, without cutting calories.

You can obtain the "good"calories you need by following a program that emphasizes low-fat,high fiber foods,which have been shown in research studies to help peel off pounds and banish them for good. Proportionately, this plan is high in protein, moderate in carbohydrate, and low in fat.This approach suits the needs of active people and has been found in numerous studies to effectively promote fat loss.

Also, such foods yield " high-nutrient density." This describes the ratio of nutrients in a food to the energy it supplies. Natural starchy food like potatoes, yams, legumes, brown rice, and whole grains are packed with carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fibrous vegetables are rich in minerals, water, fiber, and carbohydrates. And, lean proteins ( white meat poultry, fish, and egg whites) are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

In short, high-density nutrient foods pack a lot of nutrient wallop, and that's why they're on this program.Try to stay away from low-nutrients density foods. These are typically " junk foods" such as processed foods, sweets, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and high fat foods. Low-nutrients density foods are easily converted to body fat or, as in the case alcohol , can interfere with the body's ability to metabolize fat.

Food choice has more to do with weight control than any other factor, such as calories. By selecting wholesome, close-to-natural foods, you can make a huge difference in the way you look or feel.

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