Calories get a bad rap, but they’re actually just units of energy that fuel our day-to-day activities (think: breathing, working, exercising – even shopping). By making smart food choices, we’re providing our bodies with high-octane calories to keep us on top of our game.
What’s the deal with protein, carbs and fat?
Calories come from three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat), which are packaged within the foods we eat. Each contains a specific number of calories per gram. Alcohol also provides calories, but because it’s not necessary for survival (ahem), it is not considered a macronutrient.
- Protein: 4 cals/gram
- Carb: 4 cals/gram
- Fat: 9 cals/gram
- Alcohol: 7 cals/gram
Fat is the most calorie dense, so high-fat foods like ice cream, peanut butter and olive oil automatically pack more calories than low-fat foods like carrots, strawberries and chickpeas.
Calculate your personal calorie needs
How to make your calories count
By now we all know that it’s not just the number of calories that matter, it’s also the type. Foods made with mostly simple carbs (like soda, juice, candy, white bread, and bagels) get digested quickly, causing a short-lived spike in blood sugar that’s inevitably followed by a major crash-and-burn. Foods that contain nutrients like protein, fiber-rich carbs, and heart-healthy fat will help you feel fuller, longer without sending you into a sugar slump.
Where do vitamins, minerals and antioxidants fit in?
Wondering about all the other stuff food contains? That “stuff” (AKA micronutrients) includes things like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They don’t give energy per se in the form of calories, but they do help our bodies work behind the scenes – beta-carotene in carrots helps your skin glow, flavanols in cacao help your blood vessels stay flexible, magnesium in nuts makes your bones stronger, and anthocyanins in cherries helps your muscles recover after a workout.
Now that you’ve completed this calorie crash course, you’re ready to fuel up with the right amount of premium bites. Dig in — your body is worth it!