Tips for Healthy Living: Not All Calories Are Created Equal

Tips for Healthy Living

We’ve partnered with III Pillars, a gym in Menlo Park which educates its clients and the community on the importance of exercise, restoration and nutrition to lead a well-balanced and functional life, to bring you monthly healthy living tips. — Carmelo Sigona


Not All Calories Are Created Equal

Studies show understanding the difference between liquid and solid calories is crucial in weigh control.

By Erik Heywood, BS, CSCS, CES, a Certified Metabolic Typing Adviser

Many people have heard the phrase “a calorie is a calorie.” It’s an adage that leads many people to believe that all calories are the same when it comes to weight loss. Does it matter if those calories come from beverages or foods? According to some researchers in this area, you may want to take a closer look at some of the beverages in your diet and see if they are keeping you from finding a healthier body weight.

One study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” compared liquid vs solid foods using 800 men and women aged 25 to 79. These researchers found that the participants that cut 100 calories a day from liquids experienced a weight loss of about 0.5 pounds at 6 and 18 months. The other group that cut 100 calories a day from solid foods saw a weight loss of only 0.1 pounds at 6 and 18 months. The researchers also found that eliminating 1 serving, or 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages a day resulted in the greatest weight loss, about 1 pound at 6 months and 1.5 pounds at 18 months. The authors of the study suggested the high fructose content in the sugar-sweetened beverages may be partially to blame since consuming large amounts of fructose can lead to increased fat storage.

In another study in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers had participants consume 450 calories of either jelly beans or soda every day for four weeks. At the end of the study, the group eating the jelly beans had gained only a small amount of weight compared to the soda group. According to the researchers, the difference in weight loss between groups was attributable to the jelly bean group reducing the number of calories they took in from other sources to compensate. The soda group made no such compensation, since liquid calories do not provide the same feeling of fullness as solid foods. They theorized that small hormonal responses from the consumption of solid food kept the jelly bean group from overeating.

How many liquid calories do we really consume? Well, here are some interesting facts to consider about our increased intake in liquid calories…

  • Soda consumption for Americans has doubled since 1971, from 25.5 gallons per person per year to nearly 50 gallons in 2003
  • Nearly 50% of all Americans over the age of 4 drink sugary beverages on any give day
  • Americans drink nearly one-fourth of their total calories each day, mostly in the form of soft drinks
  • More than one-third of all the added sugars Americans consume come from soft drinks

With statistics like these, it is easy to see that our country’s increased consumption in sugary beverages may be contributing to the skyrocketing rates of overweight and obese people. If you are one of the many people who consume sodas or other sugary beverages on a daily basis, your goal should be to reach for plain water every time you feel like a soda. If you don’t like the “taste” of water, try to initially add a splash of juice to add a little sweetness, but remember to not overdue it. Another alternative is to try some of the flavored seltzer waters (lemon, lime, etc) with the ultimate goal being, pure clean water.

More research definitely needs to be done on the many aspects of weight management when it comes to different caloric sources. Just remember that calories are not the only story when it comes to losing and keeping off weight in a healthy manner. Choosing the right foods and beverages according to the hormonal responses of those foods is a good place to start (see our articles “Understanding Carbs — How To Gain Maximum Benefits From Your Diet” and “The Skinny on Fats” for more information).

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