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Are All Calories Equal?

Are All Calories Equal?
For many years, mainstream medical doctors and some nutritionists had the opinion that calories are equal or mostly equal. This is true only when speaking from a pure thermodynamics viewpoint; 500 calories of spinach will release the same amount of energy as 500 calories of soda, but that does nothing to explain how it interacts with the complex biochemistry of the human body. Every calorie of food is simply not digested and utilized by the body in the same way all the time. Also, the effects of antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and fat are all very different, and they can set off a complex chain of reactions that science still has not demystified completely. Essentially, calories are definitely not all equal and you need to be careful to think about the type of calories that you are consuming along with the number.

Calories from soda and vegetables have a very different effect

It should be obvious, but some people don't realize that 500 calories from soda and 500 calories from a vegetable like spinach or broccoli have a very different effect on the body. If you showed a picture of soda and a picture of spinach to a class of elementary school children, and asked them if they have the same effect on your body, they would almost all say "€œno!"€ - but somehow adults miss this important idea and just look at calorie totals when considering the foods that they are going to eat. The effect of the two foods is quite different, and this has been proven by science for several decades now.

How calories from junk and healthy foods are metabolized different

The calories that you consume from soda are very different from calories from foods like vegetables. Soda usually has high fructose corn syrup as one of its main ingredients. Fructose from soda and the starch and sugars in broccoli or spinach for example are metabolized in a completely different way, and there is a different biochemical and hormonal response that occurs as the result of digesting each one. Fructose goes straight to the liver where it is metabolized into fat. Also, when you consume fructose in soda it activates reward centers in the brain and you are driven to drink more of it without thinking much about it. In your liver, the fructose contributes to insulin resistance and can lead to a fatty liver, which can increase inflammation levels. High inflammation levels cause the release of hormones like cortisol, make insulin resistance worse, and have an overall negative effect on fat metabolism.

Soda doesn't trigger ghrelin

Drinking soda also doesn't trigger the reduction of ghrelin, an important hormone involved in appetite, so it is easier to drink many calories without thinking. This is one reason why people can drink 500 or more calories of soda per day and hardly realize it. Also, soda is mostly "€œempty"€ calories, meaning that there is very little nutritional value that comes with the calories. There are no vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds that are found in the calories in broccoli and other vegetables. When you eat food like a burger or vegetables with protein, your ghrelin levels drop down for a few hours, and your appetite is reduced. This never occurs when you drink soda, even if it has more calories than your main course. Also, the fact that soda is a liquid means that it is easier to consume large quantities, and because it is so rapidly absorbed it causes a massive spike in insulin, as indicated by the glycemic indexes of 60+ for most soft drinks.

Vegetables have a very different effect on the body

Spinach and other vegetables have a very different effect on the body compared to broccoli. They do not break down very quickly and they are rich with fiber so that your insulin levels don't spike. This means that they do not cause insulin resistance but instead help to reverse it. Also, it is much more difficult to consume 500 calories of spinach or broccoli compared to 500 calories of soda. 500 calories of soda is about 4 to 5 cans, depending on the brand, which many people can consume quite easily. 500 calories of broccoli equals about 16 cups! Most people wouldn't even be able to consume that much broccoli, and although most broccoli recipes have other ingredients like olive oil or parmesan cheese, these recipes are still much lower in calories per serving than soda. Also the reward center isn't triggered in your brain when you eat vegetables in the same way that it is with soda.

Are all calories equal? No! Calories from vegetables reverse disease

Instead of contributing to disease, inflammation, hormone imbalances and resistance, and other metabolic problems, the calories from vegetables like spinach and broccoli help to heal your body and reduce the negative effects of soda and other junk foods. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in spinach and broccoli can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. The fiber and nutrients in broccoli help to maintain homeostasis and provide the best nourishment for your metabolic needs. The phytonutrients in broccoli and spinach have several different positive effects on the body and can cleanse your liver, help it remove toxins, lower your body fat and liver fat, and more. Beneficial compounds in these vegetables can also help you balance your hormones and reduce the risk of a wide range of different cancers.

Calories from junk food dull your sense

When you eat high sugar foods and drink soda on a regular basis your senses will start to dull because of the constant overload of high sugar content foods. You start to become less sensitive to sweet foods; foods that are naturally sweetened are no longer sweet enough and you find that you have to eat a high sugar dessert or add extra sugar to fruits in order to be satisfied. Eliminating your intake of refined sugar for a week or two often results in the reversal of this taste sensation dulling; foods that are naturally sweet like blueberries or strawberries end up tasting much sweeter when your senses aren't overloaded with high sugar foods and drinks. This is why diets like the HCG diet can be very beneficial at helping you change your appetites.

Simply restricting your calorie intake isn't enough

You can certainly lose some weight by restricting your calorie intake, but if you still choose to eat junk or processed food you will get the negative health effects of those foods. Your metabolism can be affected to the point where you don't even burn as many calories as you did before, and you may not even lose weight even if you are on a restricted calorie diet. The foods that you choose to eat can make a major difference, and if you both restrict your calories and eat healthy foods you'll lose the most weight possible. That's why diets like the HCG diet work so well; they are based on the idea that a calorie is certainly not just a calorie, and also on the idea that calorie restriction is effective for weight loss. Both concepts are true and when combined they result in rapid and safe weight loss along with the hormone which helps the body metabolize abnormal fat.

If you are interested in how a low calorie diet combined with the right natural  fat burning  foods can help you lose weight and reverse your risk of many different chronic illnesses, speak to a medical provider at Nu Image Medical today.


About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

8 min read