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Do we really need to count calories?

I’d say no for the majority of us because eating unprocessed foods and drinking unprocessed drinks is enough to keep us at a healthy maintainable weight.

Packaged foods are allowed 20% leeway of calories on their food labels to account for the manufacturing average.

That means you can be out by 20% that’s quite a lot if you’re calorie counting.

But when does a calorie not equal a calorie?

The Thermal Effect of Food (TEF) is the amount of energy that it takes to digest your food.  The calories on the packet don’t take this into account.

For protein that can be up to 20-30%, carbohydrates 5-10% and fats 0-3%.

Generally 10% of your caloric intake is used to digest your food.  

For example if you’re eating peanut butter you’re likely to absorb 100% of the caloric intake as opposed to when you’re eating whole peanuts where you’re likely to absorb only 70% of the caloric intake as it’s already processed, broken down and your digestive process, chewing, masticating, churning, making stomach acids, creating enzymes, peristalsis all requires energy and therefore uses calories.

I’ve always said I’m not a fan of smoothies, juices or shakes and life is just too short to calorie count unless there is a specific reason like a competition or you really aren’t losing weight.

Chewing and mastication are an essential part of digestion and the smoothies, juices and shakes skip these steps and can help your digestive system become sluggish.  (If you’re making soup, make sure they’re chunky and thick and require some chewing)

A 100 calories of Mars Bar versus a 100 calories of celery is therefore not quite the same.  The Mars Bar is processed, isn’t nutrient rich and you’ll absorb 100% of the calories and the 100 calories of celery will have you in a negative calories because it takes more than 100 calories to digest it.  

Generally speaking if you want to lose weight eat whole unprocessed foods and let your body use it’s energy to breakdown the food and work for you.

Occasionally they’ll be someone that this doesn’t work for - I’d then suggest that they keep an eye on their macronutrient ratios.  Myfitnesspal works well as it tracks what you’re eating and how you can adjust or tweak your nutritional intake as long as you really do log everything you’re eating!






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