The beginners guide to understanding calories

Posted in Nutrition

Food getting ‘fatter’? Sugar the root of all evil? Obesity crisis in schools? Trying to grapple with all the demands of keeping our bodies healthy and avoiding the trans-fat-traps is enough to give your cholesterol a coronary - but what if there’s an easier solution to watching what you eat?

Are you really ready for the numbers game? Stand by - here’s our quick countdown to calorie counting.

First off - what exactly is a calorie?

The exact definition of a calorie - in terms of what it actually represents - is the amount of energy it would take to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by 1°C.

But science aside, if you can think of a calorie like an energy cell - then tracking these is a useful way to measure how much your body needs - and how many will convert to excess weight.

Here’s a few examples:

The humble banana? 12o calories
The ‘good-fat’ avocado? 160 calories
That slice of frosted chocolate cake? 230 calories

Of course, all of these are averages, but you get the picture. It makes sense to keep your calorific content lower if you’re looking to lose weight.

Why should we count them?
If we eat too much (hello cake) but exercise too little (hello TV), then we risk putting on weight - and counting calories can be a useful indicator to put a measure on our munching. But don’t forget that there many other variables which need taking into account; from exercise, food types and our own metabolism.

How can I make counting easier?
Quick and easy calorie counting has been the motivator for marketers since they became wrapped up in our national zeitgeist. Yes - there’s an app for that. In fact, there are hundreds. But information on food packaging has become more informative too. A quick trip down your supermarket aisles will yield a wealth of numbers ready for you to tap into your calculator, if you’re a taking this as an exact science. Alas, remember those variables we talked about? None of those will be on the food labels.

Won’t it be easier just to cut out carbs and fats?
If you want to shed weight, it’s not always carbs and fats that are the problem. A varied diet is crucial to losing weight - and you should incorporate (good) fats into that, too. You’d be surprised how many hidden calories are hidden in ‘diet’ foods- primarily in the form of sugar. Eating lots of sugar raises insulin levels in the blood, which then deposits energy from food, straight into fat cells.

Dried or dehydrated fruit, for example, is laden in the sweet stuff: half a cup of dried apricots boasting 107 calories and 25 grams of sugar. A full bunch of grapes? 310 calories. We’re not telling you to give up those wonderful nutrients in fruit - simply eat varied and in moderation.

What will the benefits be?
If you’re doing all this counting correctly - and remembering to exercise - then the obvious outcome will be weight loss. But it’s also great to think about what you’re putting into your body too: awareness of what we eat is an essential part of choosing healthy options.

Would you recommend it?
Counting those calories is all well and good, but it’s tricky to put a penalty on everything. Our recipe for success? Balance your diet, take regular exercise, enjoy yourselves and be nice to one another.

Posted in Nutrition