How many calories are in this?
We can all relate to this simple question asked in a way to define if this food is good for us or not. However, there are many factors to consider when using what was traditionally a scientific use of measuring units of energy as the benchmark for good nutrition. Is this supposedly simple measure actually causing more problems than its solving?
An article called “The Potential Energy of Food” was published in 1887 where Atwater defined the Calorie as the amount of heat that would raise the temperature of a kilogram of water by one-degree centigrade. This grew in popularity post WW1 with the stipulation of 1200 calories a day as a requirement to stay slim.
Counting calories have since been used to define nutrition in food education. We all know there are 4 calories per gram of protein, 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates and 9 calories per gram of fat. In the past, our dietary goal was little calories as possible which lead to the demonisation of good fats such as cold-pressed olive oil and avocados.
If only it was this simple though…
Even the food industry divides this down so as not to scare us with overtly large numbers. So 1 CAL listed on your food packaging is actually 1000 scientific calories.
Epi-caloric control is a new way of thinking about calories. It digs deeper into the aspects that affect the body’s consumption of calories instead of the simplistic method of counting calories.
I love the acronym used in the book Eat Smarter by Shawn Steveson – INTHEDEM. The book looks at 7 key areas of nutrition:
- Type of food
- How the food is prepared
- Energy exchange
- Digestive efficiency
- Microbiome makeup
So this takes us back to some nutritional basics: first, we are all different. Understanding your unique makeup is essential when making food choices. Being aware that what works for one person may not work for you, helps you to begin to find ways to tailor your diet. Getting the support to eat a whole-food diet that’s rich in the nutrients your body needs will give you the head start to getting the most out of every mouthful.