We know that the calories from an apple aren’t the same as the calories from a fun-size Snickers bar. So how do I factor that in when I’m reviewing my overall daily calorie counts? Should I be concerned that my calories are exceeding 2,000 even if I review the foods consumed and see whole foods rather than processed and healthy choices rather than desperate ones? –Candice M.
A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie, scientifically. So, if you are trying to lose weight, then YES, you should be concerned if you are going over your daily target.
However, your body processes and responds to them differently, which is what I think you’re referring to as not being the same. Digestive and metabolic responses vary with the source and content of fat, carbohydrate, and protein; though these differences are small. Your intake would need to be extreme to really observe separate outcomes.
For example, exclusive daily intake of only a micronized protein, short chain fat and simple carbohydrate drink might cause a gain, versus the same Calories from whole foods. The reason for this is that it has easily digested and absorbed components which can mean a faster rise in blood sugar and perhaps insulin response, and this is a stimulus for fat deposition. Again, this would have to be the only thing that you consumed all day, every day and over a long period of time. This is not healthy, and most certainly not recommended.
So to answer your questions:
A) My suggestion as to how you can factor the difference between wholesome foods and junk into your Calorie counts is this: assume you’ve taken in 5% fewer Calories if you’ve consumed over 25 grams Dietary Fiber for the day. Since fiber is non-caloric, that’s approximately 100 Calories (4 Calories per gram for other carbohydrates) you’ve freed up.
B) If you’re surpassing your goal with great choices, I’d still keep an eye on the scale every now and then. It seems a specific Calorie target may be arbitrary anyway. One’s actual metabolic rate is rarely measured (by indirect calorimetry test), thus equations predicting how much energy you need are just an estimate, anyway.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
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