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Why You Shouldn’t Just Rely On Counting Calories

Whether it’s using a kilojoule counting app or keeping a food diary, many of us have attempted to stick to something like 8700kJ each day.  That’s roughly the amount of energy the average Australian should eat to maintain their weight (equivalent to around 2000 calories), or consume less of to lose weight.

But there’s more to it than simply tallying up the kilojoules you’re eating from food labels. It turns out not all kilojoules are equal: some foods are digested differently, so won’t affect your waistline as much as you’d think.  It seems highly processed foods are much easier for our bodies to digest, which increases our risk of weight gain because we don’t have to expend energy trying to extract their nutrients.  In fact, the further a food has to travel through our guts to get digested, the better when it comes to expending kilojoules.

High GI foods, such as honey, are absorbed quickly and easily by the small intestine, but foods like nuts have to travel through to the large intestine where bacteria get to work, trying to break down the fibrous material and protein.  That means more energy is used by the body — which technically reduces the number of kilojoules we can absorb, and therefore reduces our chance of weight gain.

One study found that eating a whole food requires twice as much energy for digesting as a processed food with the equivalent kilojoules, which increases the likelihood of our body storing energy (that is, putting on fat) from the processed option. According to Scientific American, proteins require our bodies to use 10 to 20 times more heat energy than fats to digest, yet food packaging doesn’t take this into account on the kilojoule count on the side of a box or packet.

Nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton told Coach that emerging research is showing our bodies don’t seem to absorb all of the kilohoules in nuts.  “We have probably been overestimating the number of calories in nuts,” she says.

Dr Stanton says studies into people who eat lots of nuts show they don’t gain as much weight as you would expect.  “[One reason for that] is that nuts are quite filling, so when people eat nuts they can be quite satisfied by 10 almonds and don’t want to have two ice-creams and a Coca-Cola,” she says.   The other factor is that some of the calories in nuts aren’t available to the body.

“Nuts have quite a lot of fat but it’s bound up with fibre and protein. It appears that we don’t extract all of the fat and a lot of it ends up in the bowel and is excreted in the faeces,” Dr Stanton explains.  “Partly [people who eat lots of nuts] are not hungry enough to eat other things, but partly because some of those fats seem to go through and end up in the loo.”  One study found the average person will absorb just 536 kilojoules from a handful of almonds that are labelled as having 711.  “If they’re eating salted peanuts while they are drinking beer it’s obviously going to be different,” Dr Stanton points out.

See http://coach.nine.com.au/2016/12/05/11/33/not-all-kilojoules-are-equal#lli2dc3sSVcfcpU8.99 for the full article.

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