It’s time to bury the world’s most misleading measure…the calorie!

The most common advice you receive when you want to lose weight is to cut calories.  The problem with that simple advice is that all calories are not equal.

The calorie as a scientific measurement is not in dispute. A calorie of carbohydrate and a calorie of protein both have the same amount of stored energy, so they perform identically in an oven.

The calorie counts that you see printed on food labels are based on how much heat a foodstuff gives off when it burns in an oven. But the human body is far more complex than an oven. When food is burned in a laboratory it surrenders its calories within seconds. By contrast, the real-life journey from dinner plate to toilet bowl takes on average about 24 hours but can range from eight to 80 hours depending on the person.

Besides the differing speeds that calories journey through our bodies, each of us processes calories differently.  Research studies have shown that when different people consume the same meal, the impact on a person’s blood sugar and fat formation will vary according to their genes, lifestyle, mix of gut bacteria and even the length of their intestines (shorter intestines absorb fewer calories).  Even the time of day that you eat matters.     

The amount of energy we absorb from food also depends on how we prepare it. Chopping and grinding food essentially does part of the work of digestion, making more calories available to your body by ripping apart the cell walls in the food before you eat it. That effect is magnified when you add heat: cooking increases the proportion of food digested in the stomach and small intestine, from 50% to 95%. The digestible calories in beef rises by 15% when cooked, and in sweet potato up to 40% depending on whether it is boiled, roasted or microwaved.

In addition, the calories in some foods are much more likely to add weight than calories in other foods. A lollipop and an apple may contain a similar number of calories but is there any doubt which is better for us?   While the apple is healthier, both apples and lollipops are types of carbohydrates – as are all sugars and starches.  Carbohydrates break down into sugars, which are the body’s main fuel source. But the speed at which your body gets its fuel from food can be as important as the amount of fuel. The body absorbs the sugar from a soda drink at a rate of 30 calories a minute, compared with two calories a minute from complex carbohydrates such as potatoes or rice. That matters, because a sudden hit of sugar prompts the rapid release of insulin, a hormone that carries the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the body’s cells. When there is more sugar than the body needs, the liver and muscle can store some of the excess, but any that remains is stashed as fat. So consuming large quantities of sugar and even excess “healthy” carbohydrates is the fastest way to create body fat. And, once the insulin has done its work, blood-sugar levels slump, which tends to leave you hungry…as well as plumper.

The other two macronutrients (protein and fat) have different functions. Protein, the dominant component of meat, fish and dairy products, acts as the main building block for bone, skin, hair and other body tissues. In the absence of enough carbohydrates, it can also serve as fuel for the body. But, since it is broken down more slowly than carbohydrates, protein is less likely to be converted to body fat.

Fat is a different matter again. It should leave you feeling fuller for longer, because your body splits it into fatty acids more slowly than it processes carbohydrates or protein. We all need fat to make hormones and to protect our nerves (a bit like plastic coating protects an electric wire). Over millennia, fat has also been a crucial way for humans to store energy, allowing us to survive periods of famine. Today, even without the risk of starvation, our bodies are still programmed to store excess fuel in case we run out of food. No wonder a single measure – the calorie – can’t capture that complexity.

If these issues with the ‘calorie’ are not troubling enough, the number of calories listed on food packets and menus are routinely wrong.  Government regulations allow food labels to understate calories by up to 20% to ensure that consumers are not short-changed in terms of how much nutrition they receive.  Susan Roberts, a nutritionist at Tufts University in Boston, has found that labels on American packaged foods miss their true calorie counts by an average of 8% and some processed frozen foods misstate their caloric content by as much as 70%.

The calorie system lets food producers off the hook: “They can say, ‘We’re not responsible for the unhealthy products we sell, we just have to list the calories and leave it to you to manage your own weight’.”  Large food companies are obviously driven to maximize their profits and not to optimize your health.  Your answer should be to take charge of your own health!

The more we learn, the more we realize that counting calories will do little to help us control our weight.

The LOVIDIA Way doesn’t focus on calories or calorie restriction.  Instead, our focus is on what foods to eat and when to eat them and making your hormones work for you, not against you.  We believe the quality of your food is much more important than the quantity (calories). The combination of LOVIDIA, intermittent fasting and a reduced-carb diet will not only keep your weight in check but will help you avoid chronic lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

REFERENCE: The Economist

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