While counting calories for everything you eat may not be a good idea, experts suggest it can act as a marker to help you make a healthier choice. As such, don’t only keep a tab on the calories but on their source too. Intrigued? Here’s what we found.
The source of calories matters for several reasons, primarily because different types of calories have varying effects on your health and well-being, said Dr Hansaji Yogendra, director, The Yoga Institute.
Here’s why it matters
*Nutrient density: The source of calories impacts the nutrient content of your diet. Whole, nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, fibre, and other beneficial compounds. “Empty calories from sugary or highly processed foods lack these nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies,” said Dr Hansaji.
*Satiety: The source of calories can affect your feeling of fullness. Protein and fibre-rich foods keep you full longer, while simple carbs and sugary foods lead to energy spikes and crashes, making calorie control challenging. For instance, if you eat more processed and packaged food, the caloric content of the dish comes from fats and carbohydrates while a sprout salad bowl gets its calories from protein. So the latter will give more satiety value and give less hunger pangs, explained clinical dietitian Garima Goyal.
*Blood sugar regulation: Foods affect blood sugar differently. High glycemic index foods, like sugary snacks, cause rapid blood sugar fluctuations, leading to cravings and overeating. Complex carbs and fibre-rich foods stabilise blood sugar.
*Metabolism: Your body processes calories differently. Protein boosts metabolism and requires energy for digestion, while excess dietary fat can be stored as body fat. According to Goyal, protein has a high thermic effect which means the body needs more energy to digest and metabolise it. So any food that has a high thermic effect is better as it will aid in raising the body’s metabolism.
*Weight management: The type of calories you consume can affect weight management. “Reducing calories while maintaining a balanced diet is often more effective for sustainable weight loss than simply cutting calories from any source,” advised Goyal.
9 healthy calorie swaps to make right now
*Replace sugary drinks with water or herbal tea
Cut out sugary sodas and opt for water, herbal teas, or fruit-infused water to reduce empty calories and stay hydrated.
*Choose whole grains/millets over refined grains
Opt for brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains/millets over white rice or bread for more fibre and nutrients.
*Incorporate protein sources
Include lean protein sources like legumes and tofu to feel full and boost metabolism.
*Snack on fruits and nuts
Replace processed snacks with fresh fruits and nuts for nutrient density, healthy fats, fibre, and vitamins.
Sugar cravings can be substituted with nutritious berries such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries etc. These tiny foods are sweet in taste, low in calorie, high in fibre and loaded with vitamins and minerals. “Also being rich in antioxidants, they have beneficial effects on inflammatory conditions such as cancer and heart ailments. Polyphenol-rich berries such as anthocyanins are glycosidic-linked flavonoids that give red, violet and blue colour to the berries and impart cardio-protective effects. These superfoods have anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects,” Goyal added.
*Use healthy fats
Swap saturated and trans fats with nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil for better heart health.
*Limit added sugars
Cut back on foods high in added sugars and satisfy your sweet tooth with natural options like fruits, dates, figs, or raisins.
Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating and manage calorie intake effectively.
*Cook at home
Preparing meals at home allows better control over ingredients, making it easier to choose healthier options.
*Choose steamed or grilled over fried
Opt for steamed, grilled, or roasted foods instead of fried to reduce oil and calories.