Understanding Calories: What They Really Mean

The calorie is a unit of measurement first developed by Nicolas Clément, a French physicist and chemist in the 19th century. But it was the American chemist, Wilbur Atwater who first invented a system that would value food items in terms of calorific units.

Atwater noted that when you burned food you could measure the amount of energy it gave off. For instance, if you took a sample of carbohydrate (such as rice of pasta) or a sample of protein (such as fish or egg) burned four calories per gram, but fat contained as much as nine calories per gram. Most foods available in the supermarket offer a complex mix of the major food groups. Take, for example, your daily bread. A humble slice of brown bread (without butter) is just 74 calories; but a white crusty roll is a lot more, weighing in at 140. A bagel is even more and can be as much as 216 calories — and that’s before you’ve filled it with anything.

Almost everything you put in your mouth has a calorific content. Alcohol, because it is fermented with sugar, is especially heavy in calories. A glass of wine is about the same a slice of cake and a pint of lager as calorie intensive as a burger.

Understanding how to balance the right amount of calories for your body type helps create a healthy lifestyle. Men and women are offered different guidelines about how many calories they should consume each day. Men are afforded 2500 calories a day, while women a slightly more meagre 2000. However these are just rough guidelines, some men can consume more calories and not put on weight, while some women need to consume fewer calories to keep weight off. It also depends on how active you are: a cyclist in the Tour de France needs as much as 6-8000 calories a day.

calories intake

Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juhansonin/3158720014/

In recent years a number of fad diets have spread a few myths about calorie intake, for example, the idea that low-carbohydrate diets are a sure-fire way to lose weight. In fact, low-carb diets are no better than low-fat diets. Indeed, they are actually worse. Sure, a low-carb diet can shift weight in the short term, but they do so by reducing lean muscle fat from your body. For most nutritionists, it is far better, in the long run, to enjoy a diet where roughly half your calories come from carbohydrates.

Similarly dairy products have fallen out of favour in recent years. But again, as part of a balanced diet, dairy products can provide lots of essential nutrients that can help the body stay healthy. If you want to know more about calorie intake then try a proper medical website such as the NHS, to get further information and help.

Obsessing over calories has become an addictive pastime for many, but the key to maintaining your health is to eat sensibly. You can try using an online calorie counter to help monitor and understand with your daily eating habits. Watch what you eat by all means, but try to avoid faddy diets as sensible eating and exercise is the real key to maintaining your ideal weight.

Written by Kat Kraetzer, an experienced blogger working in the health-care sector for several years.

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