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Calories: The Good, The Bad + The Empty

Calories: The Good, The Bad + The Empty

4 min read

If you are confused about calories, you’re definitely not alone. What we choose to put on our plates may have the biggest impact, but there are other factors that play a part in your keeping your body healthy. Low, high or empty, your body needs energy to function but it is important to know that not all calories are created equally. In this need-to-know summary we debunk all the myths.

To most people there are three types of calories: low, high and empty. Low calories refers to foods that have a low calorie count relative to their serving size. Fruits and especially vegetables are usually considered in this group. Whereas high calorie foods are the opposite and have a high count relative to their serving size. However a common misconception is that ‘high-calorie’ foods are bad for us, some are high in nutrients as well and offer many health benefits. Empty calories contain few to no nutrients. They often come from added sugars and solid fats, which are fats that solidify at room temperature, like butter and those found in some meats. They can occur naturally, but are often added to foods.

"Not all calories are created equal" - Harvard Medical School

A recent study by Harvard Medical School found that saturated fats, like those found in butter, whole milk, and fatty meats, may override the body’s natural satiety mechanism (which enables you to feel full), whereas unsaturated fats, from plant sources like olive oil, avocado, and nuts, may enhance satiety, even when the calorie levels don’t differ.  

Dr Giles Yeo, Principal Research Associate at Cambridge University, outlines the benefits of focussing on nutrient dense foods instead of calorie counting in his book: ‘Gene Eating: The Story of Human Appetite.’ He describes the science of how calorie-counting ignores the fundamentals of calorie absorption, and is at best a very rough guide.

"This idea of ‘a calorie in and a calorie out’ when it comes to weight loss is not only antiquated, it’s just wrong." -  Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford

Getting enough nutrients through diet becomes increasingly challenging as we age. Our bodies don’t absorb nutrients as well as they once did, yet we tend to need fewer calories and eat less. So it’s important to make the most out of the foods we do eat. One way is by choosing more nutrient-dense plant-based foods. To boost your intake, you can change your approach to meals, think in terms of power-packed plant-based plates, and make every calorie count. 

"The brain likes foods that are healthy and in their natural form." -  Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford

 

 

Image credits: Aaron Tilley, Goodfish & Peas Thank You