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Not all calories are equal – what matters to your body in a dietitian’s opinion

by Terezy Toler-Peterson, Mississippi State University

Starkville (US), Dec 29 (The Conversation) A calorie is a calorie, at least from a thermodynamic point of view. It is defined as the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius (2.2 pounds times 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).

But when it comes to health and your body’s energy balance, not all calories are equal.

For example, some studies have shown that diets with high protein, low carbohydrate or a combination of both lead to greater weight loss than diets with other levels of fat, protein, and carbs.

If each calorie in a meal was the same, you wouldn’t notice a weight loss difference between people who ate the same amount of calories in a variety of food.

Dietitians like me know that there are many factors that affect the calorie count for your body. Here we’ll take what we understand so far about calories and nutrition.

the energy actually available to your body

In the late 1800s, chemist W.O. Atwater and his colleagues devised a system for finding out how much energy—that is, how many calories—in different foods. Basically, they burned food samples and recorded how much energy they released as heat.

Not all of the energy from food that can be combusted in the laboratory is actually available to your body. What scientists call metabolic energy is the difference between the total energy from food consumed and the energy that is released from your body undigested, in stool and urine.

For each of the three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrate and fat — Atwood worked out a percentage of the calories that would actually be metabolizable.

According to the Atwater system, one gram of each macronutrient was estimated to provide a certain number of calories. The US Department of Agriculture still uses these calculations today to calculate the official calorie number for each food.

how much energy do you use

What you eat can affect what scientists call your body’s energy expenditure. How much energy do you need to keep you alive – the energy you use to breathe, digest, maintain your blood flow, etc. as well as move your body.

You may have heard this referred to as metabolism. The quality of diet can alter the body’s energy expenditure, also known as the caloric effect of food. For example, in one study, people who ate the same number of calories per day but on a low-carbohydrate diet or a low-fat diet had a difference in total energy expenditure of about 300 calories per day. Those eating the very low-carb diet used the most energy, while those on the low-fat diet used the least.

In another study, high-fat diets reduced total energy expenditure compared to high-carb diets. Other researchers reported that although substituting carbs for fat did not change energy expenditure, people who increased their protein intake by 30%–35% used more energy.

In general, diets high in carbohydrates, fats or both produce a 4%–8% increase in energy expenditure, while diets high in protein cause an 11%–14% increase in the rate of resting time of the metabolic process. is formed. Protein has a greater thermal effect because it is harder for the body to break down. Although these variations are not huge, they may contribute to the obesity epidemic by encouraging subtle average weight gain.

the quality of the calories you eat

Dietitians look at a food’s glycemic index and glycemic load — that is, how quickly and by how much it will raise your blood sugar levels. An increase in blood glucose increases the release of insulin, which in turn affects energy metabolism and the storage of excess energy as fat.

Foods such as white rice, cakes, cookies and chips have a high glycemic index/load. Green vegetables, raw peppers, mushrooms and legumes are all low on the glycemic index/load. There is some evidence to suggest that foods low on the glycemic index/load may be better for keeping blood sugar levels in check – no matter how many calories they contain.

A plant-based diet consisting mostly of vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes rich in plant-based proteins and carbohydrates is the healthiest diet that researchers have suggested for longevity and prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and many other conditions. know.

The modern Western diet suffers from an increase in the amount of calories consumed as well as a concurrent decrease in the quality of calories consumed. And researchers now know that calories from different foods have different effects on insulin response, the process of converting carbs into body fat, and metabolic energy expenditure.

Yes your health is concerned, rely on the quality of the calories over the number of calories.

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