As far as most people are concerned, calories are the enemy. However, that belief isn’t entirely accurate.
The word calorie gets a bad rap. Calories cause weight gain! Count your calories! But where did this belief come from? Are calories really that bad for us? What is a calorie anyways? I’m here to set the record straight: the path to good health and weight management does not include counting calories.
We all know that calories come from food, but what is it exactly? A calorie is simply a unit by which energy is measured. When food is broken down in our digestive system, energy is created and that energy is calories. We then use this energy for a variety of things like working, dancing, playing sports, and for all our metabolic functions such as breathing, digesting, and blood pressure. Basically we need calories to live.
Why Do We Count Calories?
So if they’re that important, why do we get so caught up in counting calories? A lot of traditional weight loss programs are based on the assumption that when we consume fewer calories than we expend, we start burning stored up energy in our fat, thus leading to weight loss. This is true in theory and I’m not saying you should eat any amount of calories you want, but it misses a very important point: not all calories are created equally.
What a Calorie is Worth
The truth is that if we eat too many calories we will gain weight. But it’s also true that we need to consume daily the macro and micro nutrients which support our health. That’s why it’s so important to consider the nutrient value of the calories we consume. Whole plant-based foods provide us with all the nutrients our bodies need for optimal health. Nuts and seeds do have a higher calorie count than fruits and vegetables, but they come with a lot of health benefits too. They are an excellent source of protein and healthy fat, both of which we need and won’t get as much from lesser calorie plant-based foods. They also supply us with a variety of important vitamins and minerals. It’s certainly not beneficial for us to avoid nuts and seeds in our diet because they’re high in calories, just be thoughtful about how many of them you eat.
Let me give you an example. When that craving for a mid-afternoon snack hits you, what do you reach for? How about a chocolate chip cookie? A large cookie can contain over 150 calories. Unfortunately, that cookie also comes with a lot of refined sugar and preservatives and offers very little nutrient value. Now, for the same amount of calories you can eat a large fruit salad, which comes with the added value of vitamins, minerals, and a high amount of dietary fiber. Not only do you get more food, but it’s rich in color and flavor and will provide you with energy, help your digestion, and satisfy your craving. What more could you ask for from a snack?
Just remember this: a calorie is just one of many measurements by which we can judge our food. Try not to get too caught up with the numbers, and consider the nutrient value of the food instead. Your body and health will love you for it!
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