Integrative Health Blog

Are Calories Important?

Posted by NIHA Staff on Tue, Jun 09, 2015

Calories in, calories out. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.... Crossing_brdge_to_Real_Food-1-anita

As long as you expend the same amount of calories that you take in then you can be healthy, not gain weight and feel good, right?

This has been taught - and still is being taught - by health professionals around the country and the world.

But is it sound advice?

Let’s take a look at caloric intake: 

Person A takes in X amount of calories from sweetened tea and chips.

Person B takes in X amount of calories from guacamole and veggies.

Both people burn off those calories by exercising. The difference is that while person B got a lot more nutrient dense calories from vitamins and a healthy fat that promotes health, person A got high fructose corn syrup, MSG and flavor additives that promote obesity and disease.

Are All Calories Equal?

They each got the same amount of calories but the calories had different effects on their health! I would say calories are NOT as important as quality of food. There are plenty of people who are malnourished at the cellular level and overweight at the physical level because all calories are not created equal!

The calories in processed foods typically come from unhealthy fats and an overabundance of sugar (look for words in the ingredients list ending in "ose", like glucose, sucrose, fructose, galactose, dextrose, etc.). Foods from nature also have sugar and fats. There are some fruits that have a great deal of fructose which can be unwise in excess for those with pre- diabetes, diabetes or heart disease, but you will not find unhealthy fats in whole, unadulterated foods!

The Latest News on Fats

As I wrote about in my blog, "Have You Heard the News Today", even mainstream medicine and government guidelines are changing their position on saturated fat consumption. In another related article the author writes: “But already, resources such as the American Heart Association have acknowledged that full-on avoiding saturated fat is misguided; they now propose it can be part of a healthy diet.”

Healthy fats like grass fed butter, coconut oil, avocados, olive oil and nuts/seeds all weigh in at 9 calories /gram of fat, more then carbohydrates and proteins- which weigh in at 4 calories/gram. If you relied on calorie counting, you might stay away from these fats. But, healthy fats feed the brain which is anywhere from 60-80% fat, and they contribute to healthy nerve conduction, and help us to feel satiated and full. Healthy fats help us to switch from being sugar burners to being fat burners which is important for energy and weight loss.

People who are consuming the majority of their calories from whole nutrient dense carbs, proteins and fats are nourishing their bodies at the cellular level and usually enjoy stable weight.

Calories from high fructose corn syrup (found in many sweetened beverages) get immediately stored in fat cells! Calories from honey, on the other hand, get used for energy or they get stored in the liver and muscle cells for later use.

Think quality vs. calories the next time that you reach for a snack or a meal.


Topics: carbohydrates, healthy fats, holistic nutrition