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A recent study investigating calorie intakes has found that mice fed certain types of food responded differently depending on the food, even if calorie intakes were the same.
If, for instance you eat a food high in fiber and protein, it takes your body longer for this to break it down than a food high in sugar or refined flour.
If both these foods have 200 calories, traditional, basic thinking would indicate that both would have the same effect on weight loss and body composition. However, researchers found that the digestibility of the food had an impact on the calories used to break it down.
This is a concept known as the thermic effect of food.
The more of a challenge it is for your body to break down, digest, absorb and use a single food group, the higher this thermic effect of food and the higher calorie burn.
This is very similar to the idea of the glycemic index – a concept which was held in very high regard in dieting circles throughout the 1980s and 90s. To illustrate the points, take two foods – almonds and fruit juice from concentrate.
For arguments sake, say you were to eat exactly 100 calories worth of each food. Now the almonds have a much higher content of protein, fiber and healthy fat, compared to the fruit juice. Fruit juice has already been partially broken down, and due to a lack of pulp and flesh, is low in fiber and easy to digest.
It would take much longer for your body to digest the almonds, than it would the fruit juice. Hence a higher calorie burn during the digestion process, not to mention 100 calories of almonds probably making you feel much more full and satiated than 100 calories worth of fruit juice.
You could also add two more points to the idea that calorie counting is redundant.
Plus, many foods, particularly fresh produce, and anything bought from markets or local producers often don't even have calorie values listed, making it very difficult to track.
Finally, to many, calorie counting feels like a chore. Many people do far better simply by basing their diet around these high fiber, high protein, low sugar, more filling foods. By eating more of these, you’ll probably eat fewer calories anyway than if you were gorging on sugar all day.