Have We Been Counting Calories Wrong?


Everyone knows that counting calories can help you lose weight. Well, according to some scientists the century-old system for measuring calories doesn’t accurately measure the energy people get from food. To understand this, first we need to understand how calories are determined. The current system is call the Atwater system. It assigns carbohydrates and proteins 4 calories per gram, and fat 9 calories per gram. It doesn’t, however, assign any caloric value to fiber. So by eating whole grains, you’re eating more calories than you realize.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science had its annual meeting in Boston this week where they chewed over these problems of the calorie count:

– It’s much easier for the body to extract nutrients from cooked and processed foods than from whole or raw foods. People get more energy per ounce out of cooked hamburger than they would from a raw steak.

– Refined carbohydrates – foods with a high glycemic index — make people hungrier sooner than an equivalent calorie amount of whole grains, encouraging overeating.

– Some foods, like almonds, deliver a lot fewer calories than they contain, probably because we don’t chew them enough to fracture all the cell walls and release fats.

– Calorie counts don’t account for the 5 to 30 percent of energy used up in digesting and absorbing a meal.

These differences aren’t accounted for on food lables means that we can falsely think we’re cutting calories. The best course? Choose less-processed food. Highly processed food will always have more calories.

Check out the video below. Casey Neistat, a New York City filmmaker, took his favorite foods to test their actual caloric content against their label. Bet you can’t guess what he found!

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