You might be surprised to find out that the calories your body takes in is different than the calories your body uses. A daily diet of 2000 calories might make some people gain weight while a diet of 2000 calories of different foods may cause no weight gain or even a weight loss. It all comes down to how your body digests what you eat and how calories are counted. Read on for an overview on calorie intake and use.
How is calorie count measured?
Follow along closely: One calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at normal atmospheric pressure. Following us? In other words, calories are the units of energy we use to measure our diets.
Calories from food
Calories from food are actually considered to be kilo-calories. One scientific kilo-calorie is equivalent to one thousand calories. Every wonder how manufactures know just how many calories are in the food they produce? Using a “bomb calori-meter,” food is placed in a sealed container that is also filled with water at normal atmospheric pressure. Electricity is used to burn the food. Once burned completely, the temperature of the water is measured and a calculation is made as to how many calories are present in that food.
How your body uses calories
The inherent issue with the bomb calori-meter is that it measures every available calorie in our food. The problem is that we don’t always use up every available calorie. Fiber, for example, will register in the bomb calori-meter, yielding real calories. Except fiber is not absorbed by our gut, nor is it digested. Fiber instead passes through the body to make up the bulky part of stool. One benefit of eating high fiber foods is you are actually consuming fewer calories than expected. Good reason to boost the fiber in your diet!
The Atwater System
The Atwater system is an alternative way to find out how many calories are in food. In this system, the calories are broken down into the number of calories in the protein, fat, carbohydrates and alcohol in each food. There are reference tables based on the energy density of the food.
• There are four kilo-calories in each gram of protein
• Each gram of carbohydrates contains four kilo-calories
• Organic acids contain three kilo-calories per gram and fats contain 9 kilo-calories per gram
• If you drink alcohol, it takes up seven kilo-calories per gram of alcohol
The food is broken down into the amount of each of these components and the calorie count is added up.
So which method is more accurate?
Neither the bomb calori-meter, nor the Atwater systems are true to the actual digestibility of food. The truth about calorie count comes down to how your body digests the food you eat. Calories are not created equal. 100 calories from a carrot is different than 100 calories of potato chips. Each food poses completely different biological effects.
A case study: soda vs mushrooms
182 calories worth of soda versus 182 calories of mushrooms: how will your body handle this competition of calories? Let’s look into it.
A 22-ounce serving of soda has 44 grams of sugar, 182 calories and not much else. Your stomach quickly absorbs the sugar, causing a spike in blood glucose levels and a variety of bad chemical reactions in the body. This leads to increased storage of belly fat, increases in bad cholesterol and blood pressure, and may even contribute to infertility in women. The flood of insulin also blocks Leptin, an appetite-controlling hormone. As resistance to Leptin grows, people never register satiation, and can lead to overeating, out of control cravings and sugar addiction.
Soda does not send a signal to the brain that the body just received calories, so they are not registered as food. This means that it will also impact Ghrelin, the appetite hormone that is reduced when the body receives actual food. Soda, in turn, leads to more hunger, more cravings and overeating.
Mushrooms are carbohydrates, but instead of being simple sugars like the soda, they are complex and digest slowly in the body. Mushrooms are digested slowly and provide essential nutrients, like potassium, fiber, protein, iron, vitamin D and magnesium. Compared to the soda, these nutrients heal the body instead of causing harm. Mushrooms support numerous healthy results in the body. They also help protect against chronic disease, including various cancers and heart disease. The nutritional profile, slow digestion and fiber found in mushrooms allow you to feel full and satisfied. The best part? Mushrooms will not contribute to weight gain!
How does it all add up?
The difference between the calories in soda and mushrooms is drastic. There is not one thing about mushrooms that is harmful. Compared to the soda, which is entirely harmful, mushrooms are quite literally a super food. One study revealed a correlation of sugar and calories to risk of diabetes. It found that simply adding 150 calories a day to a diet barely raised the risk for diabetes, however when those calories were from soda the risk increased by 700%.
186 calories worth of mushrooms is almost 9 cups, which is a lot of mushrooms, especially in comparison to the 22 ounces of soda. Most people will not consume 9 cups of mushrooms in one sitting, but think about how much more food you can actually eat when choosing complex carbs and whole foods?
What does this mean for counting calories?
It’s simple: Eat whole foods. Skip the simple sugars and junk food and enrich your diet with complex carbs.
Read food labels to find foods high in fiber. Plant foods naturally contain a great deal of indigestible fiber that bulk up the stool and won’t be counted as real. Remember, real fiber is not digested or absorbed by the gut. Vegetables are your best choice, as are low sugar fruits like berries.
Meats, proteins and other low fiber foods are more fully digested and absorbed, so those foods will count more towards calorie counts than vegetables.
Cake, donuts, cookies, potato chips, candy bars, some fruit juices, soda and other junk foods are empty calories. They are your worst choice by far and do nothing good for your body. Instead, these foods, especially over the long term, will hurt your body. The lesson for today is stock up on high fiber real food for your health!