How many times have we heard of the term “calories“? Very, very often. We worry about them, and for many of us they might often become an obsession. But, do you really know what a Calorie is? To understand this, let’s brush up some of the basics facts:

  • Energy is essential to carry out our vital body functions.
  • The nervous system uses electrical means to send and receive messages.
  • Muscles transform chemical energy into mechanical energy.
  • Chemical energy can be used to synthesize a diversity of molecules in the body.

We obtain energy from the macronutrients found in food.   Although usually we talk about calories, the correct term is kilocalorie (kcal), which is standard unit used to express the amount of energy provided by foods (kcal/g). The amount of kcal we consume will affect our weight, which in turn influences our risk of suffering from prediabetes and diabetes.

Just one gram of carbohydrate or protein provides only 4 kcal. On the other hand, fat and alcohol provide 9 and 7 kcal, respectively. Vitamins and minerals do not provide any calories.

It is recommended that between 55% and 60% of total daily energy be supplied by complex carbohydrates. The recommended daily protein intake should be 12 to 15% of total energy intake. While fat intake is essential, it should be consumed in moderation and should not exceed 30% of total daily calories.

What are “Empty Calories”?

The term empty calories refers to foods that supply food energy but little or no other nutrient. Empty-calorie foods such as sugars and fats are commonly used in the food industry to improve the sensorial quality of the processed foods. A high intake of empty-calorie foods may cause weight gain and nutritional imbalances. It’s fine o enjoy empty-calorie foods occasionally, but an excessive intake may lead to health problems.

Eating 100 g of white sugar will provide 400 kcal, but no other nutrient. High intakes of sugar will require the pancreas to secrete more insulin (hormone that regulates glucose level in the blood) and stimulates fat synthesis leading to overweight. Similarly, ethanol (type of alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits) is also another example of an empty-calorie food, which only provides energy, but no other nutrient.

It can be said that losing weight works in the same way as gaining weight, but in the opposite direction. If you eat 100 kcal less each day, you can end up losing half a kilo of body weight in a month. So, with regard to weight loss, what matters most is the total number of calories consumed, rather than where they came from. If you consume excess calories you will gain weight if, conversely if you eat fewer calories you will trim weight away and look slimmer. As simple as that. However, such effort requires discipline and determination. Can it be done? Absolutely! That is if you want to be slimmer. If you want to look good and feel good. It is entirely up to you.

After reading this we would like you to be feeling more confident. We hope you might also feel in a better position to answer for yourself the question posed in this tittle of the article.


About the author

Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez

Dr. Montserrat Rodríguez