Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?

Health Writer

If you understand some basic rules in nutrition then you know that fats clock in at 9 calories per gram, carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, and proteins also have 4 calories per gram. You also know that these calorie counts are only valid if we are talking about, pure unprocessed fats, carbohydrates and fats, because as soon as you add other ingredients, you typically will add more calories. Take plain chicken and fry it and you add the calories from the oil and from whatever ingredients were added to the coating mix. Take a grain like rice and then add oil or butter and sautéed onions and mushrooms and again, you no longer have a dish with just 4 calories per gram, which accounts for only the rice, but you obviously have to add the calories from all the other added ingredients.

Now let's look at diets. There have always been dueling diets, meaning that at any given point in recent history, proponents of different diets have claimed theirs to be the best for weight loss. One of the most recent battles has been between low carb and** low fat diets.** The Atkin's Diet has claimed to be a superior diet for rapid and sustained weight loss. The low fat diet, for example like the ** Ornish Spectrum Diet**, recommends plant-based foods, and very low fat and only healthy sources of fat, and also claims sustained and excellent weight loss results. But let's also remember that there are other health issues at stake when you go on a diet. Does the diet keep your blood sugar stable? Does the diet help to reduce inflammation, which is considered a risk factor for conditions like heart disease and cancers? Does the diet allow you to hit a goal weight and sustain it?

Researchers at Boston Hospital decided to evaluate some prototype diets in a recent study. They looked at a low fat diet, which focuses on less dietary fat, whole grains and fruits and vegetables and derives 60% of calories from carbs, 20% from fat and 20% from protein and they compared it to a** low-glycemic diet**, which focuses on minimally processed grains, vegetables, healthy fats, legumes and fruits with a calorie breakdown of 40% from carbs, 40% from fats and 20% from protein, and also to a l** ow carb diet**, modeled after the Atkin's diet, with 10% daily calories from carbs, 60% calories from fat and 30% calories from proteins.

It was the very low carb diet that showcased the biggest impact on metabolism with however, a very important downside. People on this diet had increased cortisol levels which can lead to insulin resistance and heart disease. This diet also raised levels of C-reactive protein, which may increase the risk of heart disease. It should also be noted that a low fat diet , which is still the diet of choice recommended by the U.S. Government and Heart Association, can potentially cause an unhealthy lipid profile and insulin resistance. The researchers actually found that it's the low-glycemic diet that's easier to stick with day-to-day, because it doesn't cut out any food groups, making it easier for most people to follow at home and away from home.

So what's the takeaway message for you personally? As a nutritionist and health coach I always tell people that:

(a) The best diet for weight loss is the one that works for you

(b) You have to consider the quality of the foods you include in the diet, and not just the calories

(c) You have to realize that a diet is not a static program, but rather a dynamic situation. You may find that you need to tweak your diet intermittently to avoid weight plateaus .

(d) Weight is not the only consideration when you begin a diet, so know your risk for certain diseases and take those health parameters into consideration as you choose the template for your diet

(e) It's important to remember that a support team can help you to reach your goal

(f) It's important to remember that a support team can help you stay at goal weight too

(g) Adding in calorie burning cardiovascular exercise and weight training muscle building exercise to your lifestyle commitment can help fuel further weight loss.