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Post No.: 0534calories


Fluffystealthkitten says:


A calorie is a calorie, at least when talking about energy. Carbohydrate and protein contain ~4 Calories/gram, alcohol contains ~7 Calories/gram, and fat contains ~9 Calories/gram. Note that one Calorie or Cal (uppercase C) is equivalent to 1,000 calories or cal (lowercase c) or 1 kilocalorie or kcal. (Confusing much!) 1 Calorie is 4,184 joules of energy. So it is basically another unit for energy.


But don’t assume, say, a potato is 100% carbohydrate or has carbohydrate that is 100% bioavailable – a potato that weighs 250g will actually contain less than 250 Calories. There’s the water content and even though a particular nutrient is present in a foodstuff, it doesn’t mean the body will readily access or metabolise completely all of it.


And not all calorie sources have the same effect on our bodies, thus not all calorie sources are the same when talking about how the body processes them. For instance, sugar versus fat, or fructose versus glucose, or saturated versus unsaturated fat.


However, these energy sources can convert from one form to another (although not every kind of conversion is possible inside a normal human body). Carbohydrates (saccharides) are essentially made from molecules of varying chains of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen elements, and so are alcohols (ethanol) and fats (triglycerides or lipids) in different configurations i.e. the building blocks are the same. Proteins (amino acids) add nitrogen too.


So sugar is not fat, but sugar can convert into fat in the body, which is stored long-term around the internal organs and under the skin. They are both calorific and too many calories taken in compared to calories burned off equates to eventually putting on weight in the form of fat. Therefore something that’s marketed as ‘low-fat’ but is high in sugar can still potentially lead to fat gain. Sugar has added risks such as fang decay too.


Thus ‘low-fat’ doesn’t always mean that a product is low in calories. Many people also wrongly believe that if a product is high in fat then it is always the same as high in ‘bad’ LDL (rather than ‘good’ HDL) cholesterol. Or over-simplistically associate the terms ‘organic’ with the concept of ‘healthy’, which may lead them to assume that foods produced organically contain fewer calories than their non-organic versions, despite the fact that the ‘organic’ designation entails no such claim. Mental associations and generalisations are powerful cognitive shortcuts but they can lead us astray hence why we need more refined knowledge.


This all also means that consuming too many ‘healthy’ foods or drinks, such as fruit or fruit juices, will count towards excess calorie consumption and can lead to fat gain – too much of virtually anything is a problem for one’s health, not just too little of something that’s essential.


It’s about balance and variety. If you constantly and mindlessly graze on even ‘healthy’ snacks and eat more calories than your body needs – it’s still too much even though they’re still better options than unhealthy snacks because of the vitamins and minerals. Excess remains excessive. So whatever you are consuming, whether it’s considered healthy or unhealthy – if you are putting on weight then whatever quantity you think you are eating or drinking, you’ll need to consume less than your usual quantity if you want to lose weight. Yet at the same time don’t just fixate on calories otherwise you might end up choosing, say, a milk chocolate bar (which is mostly sugar) instead of an avocado (which is mostly monounsaturated fat), where the latter would offer far more beneficial nutrients and leave you feeling fuller for longer.


Lower-calorie and/or lower-salt versions of foods are worth trying – but still take a careful look at the nutritional facts on the packaging because the reduction may not be that significant!


It is largely a myth that there are some foods that contain so little calories that, after digestion, you’ll get ‘negative calories’ i.e. lose more calories than you gain because digesting them uses up more energy than the foods provide in return. Such purported foods include celery, lettuce, cucumbers, lemons and rabbit meat. The gain in calories for eating celery is indeed small but it’d still be a positive number, and although rabbit meat is lean in fat, protein provides calories itself. Some experiments have shown that eating celery will mean you’ll lose calories, but one would lose calories just by not eating anything at all – thus these experiments lacked a control group to compare how many calories a person would’ve lost anyway just for eating nothing. The claimed mechanism is the high thermic effect from trying to break down a lot of fibrous cellulose, but if celery has ‘negative calories’ then we should expect a person who eats it to lose more weight than someone who eats nothing at all. Drinking (cold) water or some other infusions is the only way to achieve this effect, but even so, the effect is minimal and you won’t feel sated. Even plain celery, either blitzed or whole, isn’t that satisfying and one will be craving for so much more! This myth is an example of something that sounds very ‘science-y’ but the empirical evidence doesn’t match up.


Of course, low-calorie foods can form part of a successful weight-loss plan, but it still won’t make them ‘negative calories’. If you want the effect of negative calories – move your body to burn some calories away!


Sometimes you can consume foods and not extract the full amount of calories from them though (which pertains to bioavailability again) – whole nuts aren’t usually chewed into a super-smooth mush until swallowed, and then they don’t get completely broken down in the gut either. This means that although they can be quite filling to eat, you’ll pass out any undigested bits through your poo and therefore won’t have extracted all of the calories from those nuts.


Fibre doesn’t get digested by the body and can therefore help you to feel full, and fuller for longer too, because it passes through your digestive system slowly. But do be aware that blending fruits, like into smoothies, breaks the fibre down into very small pieces thus making the fibre less effective – it’s therefore better to consume the whole fruit unblended. Similarly, whole oats porridge is better than processed oats porridge.


Calories taken in from soft drinks or alcohol won’t tend to curb your hunger, so even though they absolutely count as calories – they won’t help you to feel satisfied and may even make you want to snack.


The effects of crash diets and a sudden and prolonged drop in calories on the body was explored in Post No.: 0406.


It is somewhat erroneous to call some carbohydrates ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because it depends on our functional needs – sometimes we need the glucose fast and sometimes we want something slower-releasing. Likewise, although monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are far more preferable to saturated fats – you still can have too much of the former and some of the latter is fine. And like carbohydrates, we need fats to be optimally healthy. Trans fats – especially artificial trans fats, which are created through hydrogenation – are definitely bad and unnecessary though. Meow.


Still, it’s important to understand the differences in calorie bioavailability speeds (how fast a calorie source breaks down into glucose) for different carbohydrate sources, and we shouldn’t just look at how many calories we’re consuming in total but what types of sources too.


Sugary (‘white’) and starchy (‘beige’) carbohydrates, in most contexts, are less preferable to slower-release vegetable and high-fibre (‘green’) sources of carbohydrates. It’s not about cutting out all sources of carbohydrates from one’s diet but about reducing certain types of sources.


It is suggested that different people naturally break down carbohydrate sources into glucose at different rates due to naturally having different levels of the amylase enzyme in their saliva. Early research here appears to show that the slower (>30 seconds) you can start to taste the sweetness of a small, unsalted cracker after chewing it over in your mouth, the more you’ll have to be careful with your ‘white’ and ‘beige’ carbohydrate intake. This seems counter-intuitive because you’d think the slower you break down carbohydrates the better; just like slow-release carbohydrates are generally better for most of us most of the time.


Taste can sometimes be deceiving because some foods like rice, pasta or potatoes pack in a lot of calories even though they’re not considered sweet. The converted glucose from these sources, unless immediately used, will then be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, with the rest stored in adipose tissue as fat. Sometimes though, if you’re more mindful of what you’re eating, you’ll realise how sweet some foods actually are (like bagels).


Resistant starch is a form of starch that largely resists digestion in the stomach, but it passes into the gut to feed certain gut microbes, like rumincoccus, that help us to fight certain infections and diseases. Sources of resistant starch include whole grains. Toasting bread from frozen, or cooking then cooling starches like rice, pasta or potatoes (reheating them to piping hot is even better), apparently turns some regular starch into resistant starch. The oil molecules when cooking attach themselves to the starch molecules and make them harder to break down.


Eating more of the right and less of the wrong carbohydrates may even improve fertility, for both females and males. Your offspring don’t just inherit some of your genetics but also some epigenetic effects via the egg or sperm, which might affect their risk for certain diseases. So your own diet will possibly affect the long-term health of your children and maybe even grandchildren. The health of a child when it comes to diet is not just dependent on what they eat during their own lifetimes (which will obviously include what their parents feed them when young) but on what their parents ate before they even conceived them. Obesity in parents (both females and males) before the conception of a child brings about epigenetic effects in thousands of genes that may affect the child for the rest of their life.


Even type 2 diabetes can be reversed with the right permanent lifestyle changes that include changing the balance of which types of carbohydrates one consumes, regular physical activity, and losing weight.


‘2,000 Calories/day for women and 2,500 Calories/day for men’ is such a general guide – your personal needs depend greatly on your own personal activity levels, your age and your natural size. Relatively few people count their calories every day, at least so accurately, anyway! I’ve never been a calorie counter but I’ve always been conscious of every single thing I stuff into my chops and have always been a highly energetic catto (well unless I’m catching some zzzs, natch).


So it doesn’t have to be stressful. I say just give people fulfilling, tasty, varied and balanced meals, let them play in the sunshine, and make sure they care about and check up on their health regularly – because no one ever becomes overweight overnight!




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