Consumers are encouraged to read labels to determine the amount of calories a product delivers per serving. But not all calories are the same so it’s worth having a look at what the heck a calorie is.
A calorie is a unit of energy derived from the food or drink you consume. 3500 calories = 1 pound /0.5 kg
One might think 3500 calories of chips or chocolate is the same as eating 3500 calories of broccoli or rice. They’d be mistaken.
How does the calorie translate into nutrients?
In terms of energy all calories are created equally, but when we look at the nutrient profile those calories provide, a very different picture emerges.
In comparing three foods all providing approximately 200 calories; a fresh fruit salad, two slices of white bread and assorted chocolates we quickly discover the energy provided is similar. But, the nutritional quality of each food is very different.
Fruit salad, Mother Nature’s food, is loaded with nutrients, dietary fiber and helps to regulate blood sugar. White bread is processed and fortified (nutrients added back, in by the processing plant, to replace those removed during initial processing). The chocolates are empty calories. Empty because they provide little nutritional value and are high in fat and sugar.
I’m not demonizing the chocolates, they’re ok to eat, periodically as part of a balanced diet. Though, a healthier option that provides antioxidants and the same eating pleasure would be to eat a piece of dark chocolate with > then 70% cacao.
Healthy eating is not about deprivation or calorie counting, rather it’s about choosing healthier food options that provide taste and pleasure sensations without damaging health in the process of enjoyment.
A balanced diet low in processed foods will provide adequate calories and all your nutrient needs. The highest nutritive value is always in the whole real food. It’s worth making a mental note: Anytime a food has been processed it’s nutritional quality has been modified.
I hope this has helped to clarify the calorie debate. Energy wise a calorie is a calorie, nutrient quality wise they can be very different things.
Next time you head to the grocery store have a look at the food label, on the back of a packet, of processed foods it will tell the calorie and nutrient content per serve. Can you find a healthier option to purchase?
Leave a comment to let us know.
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