Clarifying Calories: Should We Be Ignoring Them?

Let me start by saying this: I don’t promote calorie counting. I don’t like that it creates a sense of anxiety around food, and that we ignore all the other aspects of nutrition because we develop tunnel vision around ‘that number’.

But right now, the wellness community seems to be in the middle of an ‘anti-calorie movement’. Health foodies and bloggers are shunning the C-word, and some have even gone as far as to claim that calories don’t exist. To say a calorie doesn’t exist is like saying that a kilometre doesn’t exist. Or that an hour doesn’t exist. Or a litre.

Should We Be Counting Calories? 

Calories are a measure of energy delivered by food. And if you are open to the fact that foods contain different levels of nutrition – high vitamin C or low fructose, for example – then you have to also accept that foods deliver different levels of energy. And as eighties as the concept of a calorie may seem, they’re still a very real consideration when it comes to weight management and health.

If the body takes in more energy than it expends, then it has to do something with the extra fuel. It stays in the body until the next time that you’re energy deficient, when it’s brought out of storage. But most of us rarely have trouble finding food. It’s stocked on supermarket shelves, or can be delivered through an app. So in fact, we are hoarding this fuel for a drought that is never going to come.

Things gets confused, of course, when hidden sugars trigger an inappropriate hunger signal. They’re confused further when we are dehydrated and our body thinks it need food. They’re confused when alcohol starts an adrenaline and insulin see-saw. And they’re thrown completely out when we eat foods we are intolerant to and unexpectedly blow up like a balloon. But that doesn’t mean that calories ‘aren’t a thing’.

The problem arises, then, when we only consider calories, and ignore other elements of a food, like its hormonal effects, or its delivery of vital micronutrients. As usual, nutrition is a little more complex than ‘cut that out’ or ‘eat only this’ so perhaps it’s time for a more balanced view of food and the human body: the energy it delivers, the effect it has on hormonal balance, its potential to trigger an intolerance, and the density of micronutrients it delivers for our bodies’ processes.

Where do you sit on the calorie counting debate?

About Reece

A self-confessed gym junkie, it was Reece's love of exercise and good nutrition that led him to his studies in natural medicine. Herbal medicine was...

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