Understanding Calories

by Babs ‘O’ Reilly
(Miami Beach, Florida, USA)

Calories….this word has been used and abused for decades. Yet, most people still do not know it’s meaning. When asked about its meaning, most people would attribute it to dieting. Although this is an acceptable answer, it still doesn’t relay the full meaning. There is more to calories than just a word that is linked to weight loss.

Understanding Calories

A calorie is a unit of measurement used to quantify energy obtained from food that is used by the human body for fuel. When there is an excess of calories, these are not burnt and would be stored by the body as fat.

There are different types of calories and different forms in which calories may be obtained.

The main types of calories include: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. All of them burn when used in the body and then turn into heat energy, which is generally called calories.

Each kind varies in terms of chemical and physical properties. They can be found in various kinds of food, whether alone, in combination or even all of them.

Here are the essential things that you need to know about each calorie type.

Getting To Know The Feared Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are probably the most common type of calorie. They contain 3.75 kilocalories/gram. It is found on foods that are rich on starch and sugar.

Most of them can be taken from plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, and grains. Legumes, such as lentils, beans, and peas, are also rich with carbs.

On the other hand, dairy products would be the only foods that come from animals which have a lot of carb content.

Generally, carbohydrates can still be classified into two subdivisions: simple and complex.

Simple carbs are basically sugars, such as glucose and fructose, which come from fruits and a few vegetables.

Another type would be lactose, which comes from milk. Last would be sucrose, which comes from cane sugar.

Sugar that is for everyday use is pure sucrose. A lot of simple carbs that you eat are sugars that are mixed with processed foods such as cookies, sodas and the like.

These add-ons are the major reason why sugar accounts for 16% of total calories that are consumed by Americans, presently.

The complex types are chains of simple carbs, which primarily consist of starches along with fiber, which can be found in all foods that come from plants.

However, plants store carbohydrates in the form of starch. Foods that have high complex carbs would include grains and products that come from it like bread and pasta.

Additionally, potatoes, beans, corn, and other vegetables are also high in complex carbs.

Overshadowed Proteins

Since carbohydrates seem to be the most popular type of calorie, proteins on the other hand seem to be the most over shadowed in comparison with the fame of fats and carbs.

However, it is an important kind of calorie that you’ll need to develop body muscle.

Proteins have 4 kilocalories/gram. Majority of this kind of calorie can not be naturally produced by the human body and must originate from dietary sources.

The main sources of protein would include: eggs, nuts, meats, legumes, grains, dairy products (milk and cheese).

According to recent studies, men between ages 19 to 70 should consume 56g of protein everyday in order to avoid deficiency. On the other hand, women within the same age range should get at least 46g/day.

People who aim for building up their muscles usually get a lot of protein in their diet.

Unwanted Fats

Fats, as the name suggests, would probably be the most unwanted kind of calorie by many. However, it still plays an important role in the normal function of the body.

For instance, the body cannot absorb Vitamins A, E, D and K if not for it. Also, they’re an important source of fatty acids.

They play an important role in the maintenance of healthy hair and skin. Protection is another function, since they protect various organs from shock.

They are insulators, which is very important especially for people that live in colder climates.

Fats can be obtained both from animals and plants. Some animal fats would include lard, butter and fish oil, while plant fats would include soy beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives, coconuts, sesames, and vegetable oils.

Click here to get more ideal body weight tips about Nutrition Healthy Diet Guide

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Updated: October 22, 2013 — 8:24 am

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