Why a calorie is not always a calorie

A calorie rich food is not always fattening, and a lower calorie food is not always less fattening. 

To demonstrate, consider these scientific findings:

  • Adding some calorie rich foods to your diet, such as nuts or olive oil, decreases waist circumference over several years.
  • Some other calorie rich foods, such as cheese, do not appear to be linked to weight gain over time. Yet some lower calorie foods, such as refined grains and potato, do.
  • Full-cream milk may actually reduce weight gain, whilst low-fat milk may not.
  • Diets high in calorie-rich foods can be better for body weight management than diets low in calorie-rich foods.

To understand this, consider the many ways a food can affect your energy balance, other than its calorie content. These include:

  • The amount of it you eat.
  • The other foods you might consume with it.
  • The foods from your diet it might displace.
  • How satisfied you feel during, and immediately after, eating it.
  • How full you feel several hours after eating it, and
  • The many ways it affects your bodies’ metabolic response, such as the resulting increase in your metabolic rate, the type and amount of hormones released to digest it, and how much your gut bacteria is fed by it.

In the short-term, weight loss is achieved by reducing calories, irrespective of food or diet.

But in the long-term, the regulation of body weight is far more complex. Some of the most calorie rich foods are among the healthiest foods that we can eat, and their consumption does not increase body weight in any way.

Much better than avoiding calorie rich foods, is to ask how you can consume more of your calories from health-promoting foods.

5 responses

    • Thanks, Debra!
      Dark chocolate is indeed richer in phenolic antioxidants than most foods, and the evidence suggests that the benefits of eating it likely outweigh the risks. I recommend a couple of squares as part of your evening treat, if you enjoy it. I can’t say the same about other chocolate types.

      Like

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