“A calorie is a calorie IS a calorie,” they say … but is it true?
The truth is that the way the body breaks down carbohydrates, protein and fat, the three main sources of calories in our diet (four if you count alcohol), and the effect they have on our bodies differ vastly.
So your body knows whether you eat a 100 calories of candy or broccoli because different foods go through different biochemical pathways, some of which are inefficient and cause energy (calories) to be lost as heat.
Even more important is the fact that different foods and macronutrients have a major effect on the hormones and brain centers that control hunger and eating behavior.
For example, fats slow digestion, deliver important fat-soluble vitamins to the body, and provide important building blocks for every one of our cells.
Protein also keeps us feeling fuller for longer by slowing digestion, but its primary role in the body is to maintain and build new cells.
Our bodies use the different types of carbohydrates (such as fiber, starch and sugar) in very different ways. Fiber is considered a high-quality carbohydrate since it slows digestion (thus making you feel fuller, longer) and can moderate the absorption of other nutrients, like sugar.
A few years ago Weight Watchers eliminated the company’s popular “Points” system, which encouraged dieters to lose weight by eating any foods as long as they kept the portions small for this very reason.
David Kirchhoff, President and CEO of Weight Watchers International, explains their decision to change their hallmark system, ”we needed a program that recognized that calories are most definitely not created equal.
The new system tries to encourage dieters to consume more natural, less processed food.
“You’re not going to get healthier, even if you manage to shed pounds, by eating fewer cookies than you did before. If you really want to lose weight and improve your health, then you must replace empty calories and denatured foods with nutrients!,” says Kirchhoff.
As you can see, a calorie of carbohydrate is not the same as a calorie from fat or protein, nor are all carbohydrate calories created equal.
LISTEN NOW: Diabetes Late Nite inspired by the diabetes life and music of Ella Fitzgerald. Guests include Ansley Dalbo, Susan Weiner MS, CDN, RD, CDE, Mama Rose Marie, the Charlie’s Angels of Outreach and Poet Lorraine Brooks.