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A calorie is not just a calorie

Posted: Jul 15, 2013

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A calorie is not just a calorie

All calories are not created equal. Well, they are in terms of how much energy they contain. But how we use that energy and what comes with it matters a great deal. Consider the following example: 45 calories from jam vs. the same number of calories from a whole apple. With the jam, the calories are all from refined forms of sugar. The apple, while still containing sugar also has fibre and phytonutrients such as antioxidants that help fight cellular damage that may help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Another example: 100 calories from a “special” wafer-crisp vs. 100 calories from tuna and whole-grain crackers. The wafer crisp’s calories are from refined/processed carbohydrates, sugar, some fat and a tiny amount of protein. The more something is refined before we eat it, the less work our body has to do to break it down, meaning that we digest and then store the nutrients relatively quickly. The result: feeling full for only a short period of time and then looking for something else to eat soon after. The tuna and crackers, on the other hand, will leave you feeling fuller longer thanks to the digestion-slowing fibre (crackers) and protein (tuna) which will hopefully lead to consuming fewer overall calories for the day.

Bottom line: calories count, but so to does their source.

Mark McGill, RD