The Calorie Fallacy

The recommendation: Men should eat 2500 calories a day and women 2000 calories. So, everybody is getting crazy counting calories.

Believe me, calories are not your enemy. Calories are a mistaken belief. 

The problem is not the number of calories you consume per day, but where those calories come from.

The number of calories might be the same but eating fast-food does not provide the same energy or nutritional value as eating whole foods.

Processed-Fast-Junk Food

Man-made foods, chemically processed and designed for over-consumption, these are not REAL foods and are products created by companies to increase their profits, not to provide nutritional value to the consumer.

Fiber is removed for:

  • longer life shelf
  • making the food easier to chew and swallow (so you can eat more and eat faster)
  • making the food easier to digest (fiber makes the digestive process slower so you feel fuller for longer)
  • increased insulin requirement and production: without fiber, all the sugar enters the bloodstream quickly, raising insulin levels which cause the sugar to be stored as fat in your body.

Refined sugar is added for:

  • sweeter taste, something we all inherently like 
  • sugar is highly addictive, which is why you have sweet cravings
  • the more added sugar you eat, the hungrier you feel

A high sugar diet causes:

  • weight gain
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • tooth cavities and decay 

There’s also a strong link between a high sugar diet and cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

You can learn more about why Sugar is Makes us Fatter and Sicker here.

Whole Foods

Natural foods contain fiber and naturally occurring sugars. They are also low in salt, contain protein, and have all the nutrients your body needs.

Example: Whole Foods (Banana) Vs. Processed Food (Cheerios)

Let’s look at an example: Banana Vs. the best-selling breakfast cereal in America – Cheerios

cheerios calories

One portion of Cheerios (which is a very small portion) has 110 calories. As we will see later, these calories are loaded with refined sugars (9 grams per serving) and some salt, without any fiber, and very little potassium. 

If you eat two servings per day, the high sugar content in Cheerios will keep your blood sugar and insulin levels constantly elevated. This will lead to weight gain, create cravings, and increases your chances of developing insulin resistance and diabetes type 2 in the future. 

This is not an exaggeration; this is exactly what’s happening today.

In contrast, a medium-size banana (7” to 8” long, 118 grams) has roughly the same number of calories.

banan medium size calories nutrition facts

However, the calories provided by the banana contains virtually no salt, is high in potassium (very good for your health), contains fiber (very important to your gut to help you go to the toilet and clean your intestines, preventing colon cancer), and yes, it contains sugar too. 

Yes, a banana has more sugar than one small serving of Cheerios, but it’s naturally occurring sugar, and not refined or added sugar.

Refined VS Naturally Occurring Sugar – What’s the difference?

Bananas have fiber which slows down sugar absorption in the gut. This makes sugar absorption slow and steady, with no blood sugar spike and no need for crazy amounts of insulin. This is the best and the only sugar your body needs; the naturally occurring sugar in fruits.

You can eat one, two, or even five bananas a day, and you will not gain weight, or develop insulin resistance or diabetes. You will, in fact, improve your bowel movements, load your muscles with potassium to help you recover from exercise better, and enjoy the best natural and healthy breakfast that you can possibly have.

However, eating the same 110 calories from Cheerios is a nightmare for your body.

It’s Not the Calories!

Only looking at the number of calories in our food doesn’t give us the full story. That’s only the sum of the energy provided by each element of the food.

Refined sugars are converted into calories the same way dietary fiber is, or naturally occurring sugars are, but these are three very different things.

Don’t just look at the number of calories in your food. That’s only a small part of the information you need about what you are eating. Food is much more than just calories! 

Is it 110 calories of junk or healthy food? Is it 105 calories with fiber or no fiber at all? Is it 110 calories with refined or natural sugar? Is it 110 calories of processed food or whole foods?

You need to do more than a little math to understand whether a food is good for you or not. 

Real Food is Better than Calories  

Processed-Fast-Junk food is not really food. It’s just a bunch of chemicals, sugar, processed fats and empty calories. Instead, choose Real Whole Foods.

Fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, whole grain, and nuts.

Get your groceries from markets, pick fresh ingredients, prepare your meals in advance, and enjoy real food for every meal.

For the few things you do need to buy at the supermarket, make sure you read the nutrition label first.

Nutrition Labels

Nutrition labels are not intuitive, but we can quickly use them to differentiate between healthy food and junk. 

Does it have too much sugar? Too much salt? Both?! 

Check my recent post about how to quickly scan nutrition labels at the supermarket. You can find the article here.

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Fast food calories have a totally different effect on your body when compared with eating whole foods. Not all calories are the same.

About Author

Diogo has lived and worked in many places around the world including Madrid, Berlin, São Vicente (Cape Verde), Indonesia and Macau. Traveling, he says, is the best way to learn about himself and the people he has met along the way. With his degree in IT, and after seven years working as a web programmer, Diogo has stepped out of his comfort zone and used the experiences he gained during his travels to move into web design, SEO, and content creation. He loves to tell stories and inspire people to follow their dreams, but he knows that to do this effectively, he must first live those stories himself first

"There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self"

Aldous Huxley

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