Is a Calorie Really a Calorie?
Consider the theory “a calorie is a calorie.” Scientists have proven that there are at least four ways that a calorie is not a calorie.
1. Satiety. Many studies have proven that 300 calories of protein will satisfy us more and keep us full longer than 300 calories of carbohydrate. For example, in a study conducted at the University of Washington, participants ate an unlimited quantity of calories while having the percentage of protein in their diet increased from 15 percent to 30 percent. They responded by unconsciously avoiding 441 excess calories per day without feeling hungry. How is this possible? A calorie is not a calorie when it comes to how satisfying they are.
2. Aggression. Ask any diabetic if a calorie is a calorie. They will offer a resounding “nope” because they know 300 calories of sugar or starch does something different to their blood sugar than 300 calories of non-starchy vegetables, nutrient dense protein and whole-food natural fats. Calories vary wildly in the hormonal reaction they cause. Some rush into our bloodstream aggressively and cause hormonal chaos, while others take their time and keep our hormones in balance.
3. Nutrition. We intuitively know that 300 calories of soda does something different to our body than 300 calories of stir-fried chicken and veggies. Calories are not all equal in the amount of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, etc., they provide. A calorie of Coke isn’t the same as a calorie of carrots when it comes to nutrition.
4. Efficiency. When we eat, food enters our stomach as protein, carbohydrate or fat, and leaves our stomach as amino acids, glucose or fatty acids, respectively. It takes our body five to ten times more energy to turn protein into amino acids than it takes to turn carbohydrate and fat into glucose and fatty acids. Calories are dramatically different when it comes to how efficiently our body can convert them into useful energy or store them as fat.
When we look to science instead of marketing or politics, a calorie is clearly not a calorie, and we’re left with the key question: What are the highest and lowest quality calories?