Not All Calories Are The Same

One of the most common nutrition misconceptions is that all calories are the same. The old adage of “calories eaten vs calories burned” being the only factor that determines someone’s weight is outdated and inaccurate.

Food is much more than calories. It’s a complicated mixture of substances that all play different roles in the body and even interact differently with our unique body chemistry from person to person. The effects one person has from consuming a peach will not be identical to someone else. 

This shows that calories are certainly not all the same, and food contains much many more substances of relevance aside from plain calories.

What Are Calories Anyway?

It’s common to think of food and calories as being the same thing, but what calories truly are is pure energy. Food is partially energy, but it’s also a source of nutrients and many other bioactive substances that have beneficial effects on the body without containing calories.

Calories come in three different forms from food. They come packaged as carbohydrates, protein, or fat. These macronutrient molecules can all be digested and broken down by the body to produce energy in the form of ATP. What’s important to note however is that they all have slightly varied digestive pathways, which means the body responds to them in specific ways.

Macronutrients Influence Hormones and Metabolism

An important thing to distinguish between the different sources of calories derived from food is how they affect hormones, and in particular the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and it has a few jobs in the body. 

Primarily, it signals to cellular receptors to take glucose derived from food into the cell to utilize as energy. This means the body will have ample energy to burn, and it will then influence other hormones to allow you to feel full.

Calories from carbohydrates result in a quick rush of glucose into the blood which means insulin is released quickly in response. This is why carbohydrates can be immediately satisfying and filling, but you may feel hungry again a short while later after insulin levels have gone down again.

This process can go awry if an excessive and unbalanced amount of carbohydrates are often consumed, sending blood sugar on a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Nothing occurs in isolation within the body, so the fluctuations of one hormone like insulin will affect many others and therefore have a direct impact on metabolism, energy levels, and more.

What Calories Should You Consume?

If not all calories are the same and they have varying effects on digestion, hormones and metabolism, which ones should you consume? This is a complex answer to fully explain, but the basis is that a balanced diet should contain all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats. This is what’s best for nourishing a healthy body and mind.

As mentioned earlier, foods also contain other substances involved in countless biochemical reactions in the body. They too can have an impact on metabolism, hormones, weight, and health, so eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is important.

The bottom line is not all calories are equal, so opting for calories that are balanced in their macronutrient distribution and come with a heavy side of micronutrients is your best bet for maintaining your best possible health. It’s time to let go of obsessively counting out how many calories are in a bag of potato chips and instead focus on consuming a variety of fresh and satisfying foods.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top