New Lily

Calorie Counting Isn’t the Way to Go

All calories are not created equal

Every once in a while I hear someone ask, “How many calories does that have?”.  The answer should be the same, no matter what the food is that they are asking about…”It doesn’t matter, really.” Calories are not created equal and so will not have identical effects on our weight OR our health.  According to physical therapist Alan Tyson, we should try to remember this fact when making food choices.  Last year’s Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committeee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans showed the following Top 10 sources of calories in the American diet:

1. Grain baked desserts (i.e. cakes, cookies, donuts, pastries etc.)….139 calories a day.

2. Yeast breads …..129 calories a day.

3. Chicken/chicken mixed dishes….121 calories a day.

4. Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, etc. ……114 calories a day.

5. Pizza …..98 calories a day.

6. Alcoholic beverages

7. Pasta dishes

8. Mexican mixed dishes

9. Beef/ beef mixed dishes

10. Dairy/ dairy desserts

Yikes!  It isn’t hard to understand after looking at the data why the American diet is disastrous.  It also shows why just counting a food’s calories isn’t going to help someone lose weight.  We need to look at the kind of calories we are consuming.  According to Tyson, there are two primary keys to successful weight management:

1. Restricting calories that come from carbohydrates like sugars, fructose, and non-whole grains, and

2. Giving our bodies enough healthy fats. (Remember Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health.)

Tyson says severely restricting these grain/sugar carbs can help to act like a U-turn for those who need to lose a lot of weight. But it is harder to do long-term. Maintaining weight after losing it, can be difficult if the person does not vigilantly look at the kinds of calories they are consuming.  “Many people make the mistake of drastically cutting back on these kinds of carbs and then introducing them back after a certain amount of time.”  Tyson believes moderation is key when looking at restricting certain foods because most people can’t keep it up that long and it can be unhealthy. A diet that includes a variety of foods, large amounts of fruits and vegetables and a fair amount of healthy fats is the most ideal.  If we look at the whole picture and see calories as important for energy, then we will be more likely to eat the things our bodies really need.  Tyson believes extreme restriction can backfire. An occasional candy bar or piece of cake is fine, he says…as long as we realize that it is a treat and not a great source of energy (even though it may provide some in the short term).

The kinds of carbs that many Americans eat regularly (like sugars and non-whole grains, etc.) affect the hormone insulin (a potent fat regulator).  However, fats and proteins affect insulin to a far lesser degree.  We can have the same amount of calories from fructose or glucose, fructose and protein, or fructose and fat- but the metabolic effect will be entirely different despite the identical calorie count.  Fructose is far worse than other carbs because the vast majority converts directly to fat – both in fatty tissue and in the liver.  Instead of looking at a foods calories, it is better to look at things like sugar content, fiber-content and whether it is whole-grain.  Another thing to look at is the kind of fat an item contains (Remember Saturated fats and trans fats are known as the “bad fats” because they increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol.)

For a look at some healthy ways to include “good fats” into your diet see the following links Health and Beauty Detox and Mediterranean diet.
Are you a calorie-counter?


Speak Your Mind