A calorie is a unit of energy. Historically, scientists have defined “calories” as a unit of energy or heat that can come from various sources such as coal or gas. In a nutritional sense, all types of food, be it fats, proteins, carbohydrates or sugars, are important sources of calories that humans need to live and function.
“Our brain, our muscles – every cell in our body – needs energy to function at an optimum state,” said Jennifer McDaniel , spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a registered nutritionist dietician in Clayton, Missouri . “So we want to feed our bodies right and our brains right. If we don’t get enough of these nutrients [that calories provide], there are negative consequences, such as losing lean muscle mass and being unable to concentrate. or not having the energy we need daily. “
In 1863, a calorie was defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water from 0 to 1 degrees Celsius, according to an article in the Journal of Nutrition titled “The History of Calories in Nutrition. In 1925, calories were scientifically defined in joules; these are units typically used by physicists to describe the amount of work required to force a newton into a meter. For this reason, you’ll find that calories are sometimes referred to as kilojoules, especially in Europe and Australia. One calorie is equal to 4.18 joules; 1 joule equals 0.000239006 calories.
The amount of heat required to make a calorie varies at different temperatures, so scientists decided to create different types of calories based on water temperatures. Different temperatures yield different types of calories, such as a gram calorie or a small calorie, also called a 15-degree calorie. This calorie refers to the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water from 14.5 degrees to 15.5 degrees Celsius.
A calorie in the diet is actually 1000 of those small calories. Some researchers use the term kilocalories to refer to 1,000 small-calorie nutritional units. These 1,000 small calorie units are sometimes referred to as large calories, dietary calories, food calories, food calories, and large C calories.
Therefore, what Americans see on food labels is actually kilocalories or kilojoules. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that a medium apple contains 95 calories, it actually contains 95 kilocalories. (This article uses the term calories instead of kilocalories.)
Different types of macronutrients have a standard amount of calories. One gram of protein has 4 calories. One gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories. One gram of fat has 9 calories, according to McKinley Health Center .
McDaniel said how many calories a person needs in a day depends on the individual’s activity level and resting metabolic rate, and this can be measured in a doctor’s or dietitian’s office. “There is a traditional notion that men should eat less than 1,500 calories and women should not eat less than 1,200 calories in order to achieve a balance between essential nutrients and micronutrients.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide general guidelines on calorie requirements for various ages and activity levels. A middle-aged, moderately active woman should consume 2,000 calories per day. A moderately active male in middle age should consume 2,400 to 2,600 calories per day.
Official Dietary Reference Intake Amounts (DRIs), published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine , for an adult, 45 to 65 percent of calories come from carbohydrates , 20 to 25 percent from fat, and 10 to 35 percent from protein. Children need a higher proportion of fat, between 25 and 40 percent of their calories. No more than 25 percent of the total calories should come from added sugars.
Beyond these general guidelines, McDaniel said, the amount of macronutrients needed depends on a person’s level of activity. For example, an athlete needs more carbohydrates. Food preferences also play a role. “I love bread, so I would never go on a low carb diet because I want a sustainable approach,” he said.
According to the Mayo Clinic , foods that are considered high-calorie or calorie-dense have a high amount of calories relative to their portion sizes. Oils, butter and other oils; fried foods; and sugary desserts are high-calorie foods. While high-calorie foods are often associated with junk food, some are also high in nutrients.
Healthy foods high in calories include avocados (227 calories each), quinoa (222 calories per cup), nuts (828 calories per cup of peanuts), olive oil (119 calories per tablespoon), whole grains, and in moderation, the USDA Nutrition Database ‘ e by dark chocolate (648 calories per bar).
Raisins are an example of a high-calorie food that may surprise some people; You can eat 1 cup of grapes and get the same amount of calories as a quarter cup of raisins, according to the Mayo Clinic. Dried fruits are generally high in calories; it is therefore popular with hikers who burn a lot of calories.
Foods that are considered low-calorie have a low calorie content compared to their portion sizes. Fruits, and especially vegetables, are generally relatively low in calories. For example, 2 cups of shredded lettuce or spinach have 16 calories, a large celery stalk 10 calories, 1 large head of corn 123 calories, 1 cup broccoli 15 calories, and an orange 70 calories. USDA Nutrition Database.
Empty calories contain little or no nutrients. According to the Choose My Plate campaign run by the USDA, these often come from added sugars and fats. Fats are fats that solidify at room temperature, such as butter, fats, and fats found in some meats. They can occur naturally but are often added to foods.
Most typical American foods have a lot of empty calories. Select My Plate lists popular foods that are high in empty calories, such as ice cream, soda, cheese, pizza, and processed meats such as hot dogs and sausages. Some of these foods, such as cheese and pizza, also contain nutrients (cheese is high in calcium and contains protein; pizza sauces, sauces, and crusts can contain nutrients), but other foods such as sodas and most sugars only contain empty calories. Select My Plate calls these empty calorie foods.
While consuming ethereal calories is important, counting and reducing calories can help many people lose weight. Calories are expended through physical activity. For example, running a mile can burn 112 calories, according to Runner’s World magazine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to the balance of calories burned and calories consumed as a calorie balance. It works like a scale; When you are in balance, the calories consumed are balanced by the calories burned. This means you will maintain your body weight.
According to the CDC, if you maintain your weight, you are in calorie balance. This means that you consume roughly the same amount of calories you burn each day. If you have more calories, you are eating more calories than you burn and you are gaining weight. If you are calorie-hungry, you will burn more calories and lose weight than you eat.
When people want to lose weight, they usually try to lose calories. But even a person with a calorie deficit needs to consume enough calories to function and stay healthy. McDaniel said consuming enough calories helps preserve muscle mass during the weight loss process. It also helps to make weight loss sustainable. “If someone cuts calories to lose weight, where would they go from there? Does this mean they continue to eat less? ” asked.
Consuming enough calories during the weight loss process is also important for maintaining a healthy metabolic rate. “Chronic binge eating – eating 800 or 1,000 calories a day over time – lowers your resting metabolic rate, which affects how many calories you burn and your metabolic machinery,” McDaniel said.
Counting and cutting calories can be a practical approach to weight loss. However, there are other approaches to weight loss for those who do not want to count calories, such as regimens that focus on changes in dietary behavior rather than calorie counts.
McDaniel said whether someone chooses to count calories or adopt a behavior change approach, it is important to “find ways to cut calories, while also replacing them with healthier options that are emotionally and physically satisfying.”
McDaniel said anyone interested in losing weight should consider how many calories they eat, how many calories they need, and the differences between these numbers. If someone is eating more calories than necessary, that person will have to change their behavior.
It’s important that behavior evolves into a “sustainable model that cuts calories,” McDaniel said. He gave the example of a man eating 300-500 calories of ice cream every evening after a meal. “We could change this to putting a frozen banana in the blender and adding some cocoa powder to make soft serve ‘ice cream’… it cuts the calories in half and still gets the same mouthfeel, taste and sweetness.”
defines low-calorie diets, such as meal plans that provide 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day. This number is sometimes adjusted according to age, weight, and activity level. Low-calorie diet plans typically consist of regular foods, but sometimes meal replacement foods.
McDaniel does not support low calorie diets. “Low-calorie diets are not something we see supported as something that works in my research or in my practice for the long term,” he said.
“Cutting calories is not sustainable. It also puts you at risk of losing lean muscle mass, ”he said. People often regain weight lost on low-calorie diets when they return to normal calorie intake. “Sometimes, they follow a low-calorie diet so that they find themselves craving high-calorie foods or going into overeating patterns,” McDaniel said. The unsustainability of low-calorie diets, combined with loss of muscle mass, means that regaining weight is usually fat, not muscle.
McDaniel said it was twice as harmful when this happened. “Not only did they make them feel like they could not sustain something and fail, but they also disrupted the right ratio between good weight [muscle] and bad weight [excess fat] and put more [bad weight]. in the body. “
While McDaniel does not recommend the continued use of low-calorie diets, it may be a time and place for low-calorie meal plans. “The concept of intermittent fasting is gaining some popularity,” he said. Intermittent fasting can consist of a low calorie intake of one day a week. Intermittent fasting has gained attention after a series of animal studies have shown that it increases longevity. A 2014 review published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that intermittent fasting can help “reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis” in humans.
“Something like this could be one of the tools someone can lose in their toolbox for weight loss,” McDaniel said.
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