### What is calorie a measure of?

What is calorie a measure of? There are some foods I like high in calorie but all natural----there are some diets that will make you count calories and some others that will just make you avoid certain food groups... does calories really matter?

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1. Calories measure how fat you're gonna get since you can't even do a little basic Google research before posting an query on this board! : )

2 Replies
1. re: Blumie

Agreed!

And yes, Calories DO matter, they are a unit of measurement for Energy. Your body uses a certain amount of Energy for all your activities and anything in excess of that is stored. What form is the storage - fat. So yes, eating 50 bananas a day will make you gain weight (ignoring all the other issues it will probably cause)

Does this belong on the Manhattan board?

1. re: Blumie

Perhaps carla needs some help: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=what%27s+a+calor...

(Courtesy of some chowhound lovelies.)

2. Old definition- What nature puts in food to make it taste good.

Food Science: The amount of heat to raise the temp of 1Kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.

5 Replies
1. re: phantomdoc

Not to be pedantic but as an engineer:

The "calorie" (small "c" is important) is the energy required to raise the temp of 1 gram of water 1 Celsius degree. The "kilocalorie" ("Calorie" - the capital "C" is important) is the amount required to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 Celsius degree. (Note: The amount of energy required depends on the starting temp of the water and its composition - amount of gas, etc. dissolved in the water.) There are various definitions, depending on the starting point, but 4.185 joules is a good average number. Now, don't you feel better?

1. re: KevinB

Yep I feel better - but there are still about 3500 calories to a pound - and that just hurts.

1. re: alwayscooking

A pound of what? I bet a pound of butter has way more calories than a pound of broccoli (for example).

1. re: Emmmily

A pound on my hips - the left is broccoli and the right is cheese.

1. re: alwayscooking

Don't forget the chocolate tummy and pasta love handles. It's tough to be a 'hound. :-)

2. In other words:
A unit of energy-producing potential equal to the amount of heat that is contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body.

This query should be posted on the General Chowhounding Topics board.....

1. Yes, calories matter. If calories in are more than calories burned, you will get fat

1. The simple answer is the amount of energy contained in food (other countries label calories as kiloJoules on packaging). If you don't expend that energy, it has to go somewhere, so the body stores it as fat to be burned later.

1. A calorie is a calorie whether it. comes from refined sugar or organic whole wheat rice. The key to a good diet is to have the calories that are consumed be useful - they should contain the basic nutrients needed to keep the body healthy. Some diet plans focus on one food group or another, typically eliminating those foods high in refined sugars and fats. Other plans basically count calories - like a bank, they start out with the total needed and then the dieter subtracts during the day.

Ultimately, the best diet is full of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains with dairy, fat, and meat consumed in moderation.

You can still get very fat eating 'all natural' food.

17 Replies
1. re: alwayscooking

Except on the weekends. Food has no calories Fri 6PM 'til Sun midnight.

1. re: billieboy

Oh yeah - and neither does alchohol

1. re: billieboy

Also no calories if you eat them while standing up.

Celery was said to have negative calories, takes more energy to chew than consumed by eating.

1. re: phantomdoc

You are right. Celery is about 90% water....just like beer :-)

1. re: phantomdoc

I heard something similar once, except it was cucumber.

1 calorie is a little less than the amount of energy required to sit down on a sofa.

1. re: Paulustrious

I guess that celery takes more energy to chew than cucumber.

Ice water will take away more calories than hot.

2. re: phantomdoc

This is just a part of The Three Laws of Calories

1: If you eat standing up, the calories fall into your feet and leak out.

2: If you break it in half, the calories fall out.

3: (Most important of the three) If you eat off of someone else's plate, you get the food but he keeps the calories.

3. re: billieboy

And if you eat in front of the open refrigerator door, you lose weight, because your body has to work to keep itself at 98.6 degrees. This is also true if you eat over the sink, but I'm not sure why, exactly. Definitely true, though.

1. re: small h

too funny!

I'm heading for the cheese now . . .

1. re: alwayscooking

Put it in the freezer first! The pounds will melt away!

2. re: billieboy

...and thank goodness there are no calories if you eat them off of someone else's plate. My fiance is always ordering the good stuff like bacon cheese burgers and chili dogs, so I can simply eat a couple bites (or half) of his meal and something healthy for myself. Such a great system!

3. re: alwayscooking

A calorie is NOT just a calorie. Different macronutrients have hugely variable hormonal effects, and it's the hormonal response that determines the fate of calories. Fat calories, for instance, do not stimulate fat storage hormones such as insulin and cortisol, or glucagon, which raises blood glucose. Fat raises caloric levels but not weight gain, which is why studies consistently show that low carb eaters lose or maintain weight on 50% more calories than high starch eaters. Starches cause fat storage and do pancreatic damage due to the stress of having to produce sudden, large bursts of insulin. This results, too, in all the ills that come with hyperinsulinemia, from endocrine disturbances to colon, breast, ovarian and prostate cancers. The healthiest diet isn't a once size fits all; endocrine status is wildly variable from person to person, as are activity levels. You can live without starches and sugar (calorie dense, nutrient poor as compared to colorful veggies) but without fat and protein, you will die. Protein promotes the longest lasting satiety response, and a slow, steady insulin response that maintains healthy, level blood glucose rather than spikes and troughs that make one hungry.

1. re: mcf

Great answer mcf but my question to you is how has knowing this changed your eating? SInce reading Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories", I can barely keep up my chowhound status. I'm healthier but I've cut out about 80% of things that I regularly used to eat- including delicious breads. Reading about the consequences of high insulin scared the heck out of me.

1. re: taste test

I changed my eating years before I knew all of this, back in 1998 when I'd developed severe insulin resistance and PCOS. Over the years, I've continued to read about metabolism across a variety of disciplines. My diet's evolved over time to pretty much zero starch and sugar, emphasis on grass fed meat and dairy, wild caught fish and boatloads of non starchy veggies, and a diet of about 50% fat. I've reversed all my diabetic complications this way, and my dyslipidemia without meds, too. It's not just the insulin that oughtta scare you, it's the endocrine feedback that leads to HPA axis dysfunction that it triggers, too. I haven't read Taubes, though I've seen some articles and interviews. Believe me, years ago, I left claw marks on that last box of pasta! I think eating this way has improved my chowhounding; I'm much more discriminating about food quality, wholesomeness and I no longer eat the starch, so I have a lot more of stuff with real flavor on my plate. :-)

2. re: mcf

yes, you will die without fat and protein. you will also die without carbs. carbs are actually the single most important of the 3 macronutrients- it is the only nutrient that can feed your brain. be very careful with low carb diets.

1. re: CoryKatherine

You don't die without carbs, go look it up. You're confusing dietary carbs which you don't need any of with glucose, which protein provides via gluconeogenesis. A recent study found that this process protects the liver against fatty liver disease.
Only fat and protein are classified as essential nutrients in human nutrition because we are unable to manufacture them ourselves. The brain actually prefers to function on ketones and will always switch over to them when they are present, reducing it's glucose (not carbs) requirement to about a maximum of 68 grams per day which protein readily provides.

1. re: mcf

First of all glucose and carbohydrate are the same thing. The definition of a carb is a sugar. The definition of glucose is a carb.
2) you cannot survive in ketogenesis forever. sorry. you are wrong. you cannot live without any carbs whatsoever for the rest of your life without damaging your nervous system and risking ketoacidosis, which is life threatening.
I am not confused I study this for a living.
Straight "protein" does not provide ANY glucose. Your body can convert other nutrients into glycogen for a period of time, but why would you make your system do all that extra work when you can just ingest a HEALTHY amount of carbohydrates on your own? It is so stressful to the system to eliminate all carbs. Again, this is why people drop 20 lbs in a month when they go on Atkins induction. It is starvation. It is stressful. This is not a healthy long-term solution to a weight problem. Again, you might be influenced toward a low carb lifestyle because of your endocrine pathology, but this is not the solution for most people.

2. Carlaross now has her very own definition of calorie and is probably the most confused person on the planet because of it.....(~_^)

1. re: Gio

She may even change her name Calarieloss

2. For me they are usually a measure of my lack of willpower

2 Replies
1. re: foodnwine

High insulin and/or cortisol levels will defeat will power every time. I know people with Cushing's disease who are too ill to eat but still gain hundreds of lbs of fat until the hormone producing tumors/cells are found and treated. But before you reach that point, there's a spectrum of milder endocrine imbalance that you can control with diet and/or diet and exercise.

1. re: mcf

Um, high insulin levels actually signal the brain to stop eating by stimulating the POMC/CART cells in the brain which lead to satiety and actually increases energy expenditure.

It is Ghrelin that signals the brain during fasting to increase hunger to make the body eat.

2. I haven't seen this point yet, but calories mostly count versus how many you use during the day. Your body burns a certain number of calories just by existing. That's your metabolic rate and there are a gazillion counters on the net that will help you calculate your resting metabolism, meaning how many calories you'll burn in a day if you're doing nothing but breathing. This amount varies by sex and decreases with age.

There are actually a bunch of different ways to look at resting rate so don't get too confused. Your body will burn more calories by being larger and most calculators include your weight in the calculation. Note that muscle burns more energy than fat to maintain but nowhere at all near the extreme silly claims you might read. A pound of muscle may take 8 calories to maintain while a pound of fat needs 2 calories. (This is actually a subject under study and the most recent results are lower, not higher. I tend to believe the lower numbers.)

Beyond your basic burn rate, you expend energy. You eat and digesting burns calories - but almost never anywhere near the amount you ingest. If you drink cold water, you need to raise the water to your body temperature and that takes energy.

Beyond that, you burn energy doing stuff. Standing costs more in energy than sitting, running more than walking. The best calculators list activities and associate calorie burns with them but those are very generalized estimates. Most calculators ask you to estimate your general level of activity and then give you a multiplier. I suggest using more than one multiplier so you have a range.

A calorie is a measure of energy, but it's useful only in context. The primary context is your total intake versus your needs: take in more, gain weight and take in less, lose weight. The next context is the type of calorie; you need protein, fat and carbohydrate to survive. If you overdo carbs, you may have problems with what they now call insulin resistance. If you don't eat carbs at all, you may destroy your liver. There are only about 60 million theories about the right diet mix.

38 Replies
1. re: lergnom

There is no minimum requirement for dietary carbohydrate in human nutrition, only glucose, which is manufactured from protein or even fat as needed. There are only essential fats and proteins, there are NO essential carbs in human biology. Eating carbs is what harms the liver, not restricting them, by causing non alcoholic fatty liver disease.

You've got a lot backwards. I maintained my weight on 800 calories per day when I ate low carb and worked out regularly, on 1200 per day when I switched to low carb. Because I have cortisol problems, I don't lose on more than 1000 cals per day. Because exercise raises cortisol, it often promotes weight gain in Cushing's patients. Carbs cause diabetes, too, you don't get type 2 without them.

1. re: mcf

The amount of glucose you need to sustain your brain and nervous system cannot simply be created from fats and proteins. Yes, your body will produce glucose (via gluconeogenesis) to a certain extent, but it is not enough to sustain life- hence why people on no-carb diets (atkins induction) start rapidly loosing weight- their body is starving for nutrients. Without carbs your body goes into a process called ketogenesis, which is breaking down fats to ketones which can be used, to a point, as a substitute for glucose (a carbohydrate) in the Krebs cycle, which produces ATP which your body uses to move your muscles among other things. However, maintaining prolonged ketogenesis OFTEN leads to ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition in which the acidic ketones build up in your bloodstream and change your blood pH, which is highly dangerous.

MCF, I understand you have a unique health situation but people need to be very careful about encouraging low carb lifestyles. Carbs are one of 3 essential macronutrients in the human diet. The long-term health effects, especially on the nervous system (which sends electrical signals to your heart which keep it beating), of carb restriction are not well understood.
Furthermore, I hope everyone who reads this board realizes that except in VERY SPECIAL circumstances, such as the one that MCF outlined, 800-1200 calories is NOT ENOUGH to sustain yourself long-term. The odds of having a BMR (basal metabolic rate) that low are very slim.

Lastly I would just like to give my input on the definition of a calorie since no one has mentioned a few key points-
Calories are, as many have stated, a unit of energy. How many calories are in a food describes how much energy that food will provide you. Each gram of fat contains 9 calories, while each gram of protein or carbohydrate provides 4 calories. The energy taken in is used by muscles and organs, or stored as fat OR glucagon (the body's storage mechanism for glucose that will be readily used for mechanical energy).
It is true that endocrine (hormone) responses to certain nutrients will dictate how this energy is used and stored after intake, and that these hormonal responses can trigger certain health consequences, (such as insulin resistance when your sugar intake is too high, which can lead to diabetes). It is also true that these sorts of consequences are becoming more prevalent in our society. However, to know if you are pre-diabetic or have "syndrome x" as it is called (insulin resistance paired with high LDL cholesterol, obesity or hypertension), you should consult your doctor. If you do not have any pathologies, it is generally acknowledged in the world of nutrition that the best diet for human beings involves a balance of all 3 macronutrients, from whole, unprocessed food sources.

and now i'll get off my soapbox

1. re: CoryKatherine

What she said :-)

1. re: mcf

Sorry mcf, but this master's degree in biology agrees with CoryKatherine 100%.

Pop-culture books and blogs are not science. Taubes has been widely debunked as a conspiracy theorist, and tells people what they want to hear- that you can sit on the couch and lose weight.

And, I don't think anyone is advocating the mass consumption of refined carbs, but you must realize that glucose IS a carbohydrate, and the primary component in all ATP creation in the body. Your body does indeed need carbs, just as it needs fats for cell membranes, sodium and potassium for action potentials, etc. But nobody's recommending all-butter diets or living on a salt lick.

Excluding entire food groups from your diet in a permanant way is a very bad idea, and advocating it to others is downright dangerous.

1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

If you're asserting that carbs are essential in human nutrition, you should ask for a refund of your tuition. :-)

Now, I'm going to have to figure out my nutrient deficits due to removing calories dense nutrient impoverished starches from my diet and replacing them with plates full of colorful veggies. :-)

1. re: mcf

VEGGIES ARE FULL OF CARBS!
veggies ARE carbs!!!!!
If you've done as much research as you say you've done and you can't make that distinction then you have a problem

1. re: CoryKatherine

Thank you CoryKatherine. I have had this conversation dozens of time. Usually with someone saying they aren't eating carbs, while chowing on a big green salad. I've pretty much given up trying to explain it to them...

1. re: CoryKatherine

Yes, they are, GOOD carbs that make them a super low percentage of my caloric intake daily. So my diet is high carb by volume, low carb by percentage.

2. re: mcf

arg.

I really think you don't understand the biological processes of the citric acid cycle, gluconeogenesis, or other basic real science.

And no refund necessary, I went on academic scholarship. I studied LDHm and it's isozyme LDHh. Interestingly for this discussion, lactic acid is one substrate for GNG.

mcf- can you explain this process as it related to glycolysis? What's the difference between LDH m and h?

CoryKatherine- I'm a scientist, God had nothin' to do with it ;P

1. re: mcf

I'm with you mcf. The only carbs I eat are vegetables. I am thin and healthy- not starving- and I know many who have overcome huge health problems by making dietary changes.

Taubes is a science writer, not a conspiracy theorist (I find that those who say this have never actually read his book). My aunt is a thin nutritionist and says that she can eat all the carbs she wants and not gain weight. To me that's like a non alcoholic telling an alcoholic that they should be able to drink socially. Many people just can't handle carbs. Look around you. See rampant obesity and diseases of civilization.

1. re: taste test

Fine- he's a science WRITER. He's still not a scientist. He challenges that which he knows will be controversial, but that he clearly does not fully understand. Science bashing is real fun, but it doesn't make replicable science less real.

And in this thread, the question is about calories and nutrition. Tossing in unsubstantiated writings and opinions isn't helping people to understand what the real deal is, or help them to be healthy.

Moderation. Not crazy zero-carb plans that are harmful, moderation.

1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

I've never heard of a zero carb plan, so that's just further proof that you're talking about things you have ZERO knowledge of. Signing off this thread.
I'd rather spend time discussing with folks who know the subject. You might try reading Taubes highly respected review of the objective science, or the work of Gannon, Nuttal, et al, or Duke researcher Eric Westman, et al...

2. re: taste test

Yes. And stupid people who have dogma and opinions confused with facts. 58% of the protein we eat converts to glucose. In a slow, sustained way that prevents insulin resistance and pancreatic damage.

3. re: mcf

I'm going to have to agree with everybody else. In starvation your body goes into ketosis just like it does when on a lowcarb diet. Usually, people die due to lack of energy reserves (fat & muscle) but in extremely obese people it is the ketosis that kills them due to the damage it causes to the body.

Carbohydrates are essential in the long term as the body is not designed to withstand ketone bodies indefinitely.

4. re: caviar_and_chitlins

thank god for you, caviar

5. re: CoryKatherine

"How many calories are in a food describes how much energy that food will provide you."

I understand scientifically what a calory is. I have always assumed that the caloric values on food labels is the amount of energy that can be released by the total 'combustion' / breakdown of a food. However you seem to be saying that it is the amount of energy that would be a released by the food in the process of being broken down by the body, and that any chemicals in the food that could be burnt, but can not be broken down by the body do not count.

Can you clarify which it is - I'm just curious, cus a long held and never-questioned belief of mine is about to be overturned.

1. re: Paulustrious

I don't think I perfectly understand your question.

"I have always assumed that the caloric values on food labels is the amount of energy that can be released by the total 'combustion' / breakdown of a food. However you seem to be saying that it is the amount of energy that would be a released by the food in the process of being broken down by the body,"

these seem to be saying the same thing. "amount of energy released by the breakdown of a food" and "the amount of energy that would be a released by the food in the process of being broken down by the body" ... phrases that sound the same?

the second part, about any chemicals in the food that could be "burnt" but cannot be broken down by the body- I don't think I said anything of this nature, I'm not even sure what that means, but I can address that concept a little- for a food (any macro or micronutrient) to ultimately have an effect on the body (give you "energy- either by being stored and then broken down in the one of the metabolic proceses such as the krebs cycle to make ATP, or by stimulating the endocrine system) it must be absorbed from the GI tract into the body...all food is broken down into it's components. Even micronutrients which have no calories and therefore are not always stored, but which can have an effect on the endocrine system resulting in any number of processes, are first absorbed. So you'll have to explain to me what you mean specifically by "burnt but not broken down"

1. re: CoryKatherine

Let me try that again.

If I burn1 gm of fat it will release approx 9.6 kilocalories of energy. I have here a new imaginary type of fat (let's call it a left-handed fat). It can still be burnt to release 9.6 KCalT. However the body does not have the necessary enzymes or whatever to process it. It just passes through the digestive tract untouched. It can still be burnt. However it does not release any energy into the body. Does the package labelling reflect the amount of chemical energy (9kc), or the amount that is available to the body (ie zero).

So if I take your original quote:

"How many calories are in a food describes how much energy that food will provide you."

... do you see the question I am asking?

1. re: Paulustrious

I definitely do see the question you're asking much better now.

My answer answer is that if a fat goes through your digestive system untouched, it is neither absorbed or "burnt" at all. It can't be "burnt" or have anything done with it if it is not incorporated into the system (as energy leaving the GI tract and entering the cells). What would happen is you'd end up with approximately 9.6 calories worth of fat in your stool, and also a bad case of what is known as steathorrea, which is the pathology of not absorbing fats into your lymphatic system properly. It's the syndrome that causes anal leakage in patients taking Alli, the weight loss drug that inhibits your body from absorbing fat out of the GI tract.

In other words, a healthy person does not release any fats in your stools or urine. Therefore all fats are absorbed and transported (as triglycerides) until they are used for body processes and mechanical energy or stored as fat.

The only instance in which the number of calories listed on the package does not provide your body in one sense or another with that amount of energy is if you are sick (or taking a drug)... and then it would be the amount of potential energy that you have in your poop, basically.

1. re: CoryKatherine

Or, some parts of food do not digest. Some fiber, for example. Some people can't digest certain nutrients so they pass through. The numbers listed on a carton, if honest, are what breaks down in a normal person, the amount available to a normal person.

Oh and thanks, CoryKatherine for the posts about diet. I know the subject quite well and was kind of surprised when I popped in and saw this long discussion after a pretty basic post about how to use the internet to guesstimate your daily caloric needs.

As a partial response to the comments about carbs, I think there's merit in some of what Taubes says but the state of knowledge is far from fixed. It's also fairly difficult for me to believe a person could manage a diet with no carbs. I mean manage to have such a diet because carbs are in so many substances. Such a diet would exclude fruit and vegetables. I had to eat a nearly fiber free diet for many months after contracting a parasite in Latin America and that was very difficult but still much easier than eliminating all carbs. As an example, I've heard of people gorging on whipped cream on an Atkins style diet, but that has carbs, just not much.

1. re: lergnom

my pleasure, truly. lol as you can probably tell i'm pretty passionate about the subject. i was going to go into a discussion about fiber and other true insoluble nutrients in my last post but i didn't want to go crazy.
bummer about the fiber-free diet though. The irregularity that can be associated with low-carb diets is alone enough to deter me... that and I just can't get enough of hearty, heart-healthy, delicious whole grains...

1. re: CoryKatherine

I have a question that is similar to (and might be the same as) what the above posters have asked. My understanding is that calories are measured by using a bomb calorimeter, which literally burns the food with fire and records the amount of heat (and therefore, energy) released. Obviously, the human digestive system isn't as good at breaking down matter as fire is, so could there be calories that are measured by the calorimeter that aren't accessible when eaten, such as fiber or other indigestibles?

1. re: Humbucker

I haven't heard of this method for counting calories but that is interesting. This is one area I haven't read much about, but if I were hard pressed, I would have to say that I believe they determine the weight in grams of each ingredient in the food to determine the number of calories- 9 calories per each gram of fats and 4 calories per each gram of protein or carbohydrate. micronutrients have no real caloric content.

1. re: CoryKatherine

I used simple calorimeters many years ago in physics and chemistry - nothing as complex this...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomb_cal...

A calorimeter measures the energy of combustion / oxidation- that's why I kept on using the word burnt. Some foodstuffs will pass through the GI relatively untouched - or at least not absorbed. That's why I was questioning the phrase...

"how much energy that food will provide you."

I have had a look round now via the google god and as far as I can can see the values on labels are combustion values and do not take into count whether that food is digestible.

Happy to be shown I am in error though.

(Edi after seeing other comments: CoryK - you are knowledgeable and helpful, please don't take any disagreement to heart. We need you and your ilk)

1. re: Paulustrious

Thanks, I appreciate it. As i mentioned, how they actually "measure" is an area I really haven't read about. I would be interested to learn more.

2. re: CoryKatherine

CK-Whenever I teach or TA Intro Bio, the students taking it to fulfill a requirement whine, "why do we have to learn this, we're never going to use this". I tell them they need to know some basic bio and have some basic knowledge of the scientific process so they don't get taken in by poor science reporting and pseudoscientific fads, often related to food and diet. That mcf rejects so vehemently the word of someone who works in the field is bizarre and a terrible reflection on science eduation in the US. I think you explained everything quite well, so I'm sure someone else will benefit from the time you took to post.

--a PhD in anthropological genetics, studying Type 2 Diabetes in Native Americans

1. re: CoryKatherine

Irregularity is not a problem in those eating more veggie fibers as compared to grains. Only *some* Atkins induction dieters ever have any problem, but a little psyllium or fish oil helps that. I don't think induction levels are necessary to get benefits, with the exception that most morbidly obese folks find that it's the first time in their lives that their appetites are controlled.

2. re: lergnom

Low carbers substitute tons of high fiber, colorful veggies and some fruits for starches. Low carbers eat far more veggies than other people do because veggies other than corn, peas and most winter squash are low carb. My typical dinner meal, in addition to the chosen protein/fat is a large mixed baby greens salad plus a large helping of grilled, roasted or steamed veggies. I get more nutrtition for much less digestible carb calories this way. If you haven't ever seen an actual low carb diet plan you shouldn't be commenting on it. My husband low carbs for his health, he has no weight or medical problems. He eats gyros with the salad but not the pita, or souvlaki on greek salad, without the pita or rice. It's just a matter of subbing healthful, nutrient loaded carbs for unhealthy, calorie and sugar laden carbs. Low carb is not zero or no carb, unless you're using the extreme ketogenic diet used to treat uncontrolled epilepsy, which is almost all fat, because protein converts to glucose.

1. re: mcf

<Low carbers eat far more veggies than other people do...>

Huh? How can you possibly know this? Do you have some sort of vast database that tracks every meal on the planet? If so, link to it, 'cause I'd like to see it myself.

1. re: small h

Also, I just want to point out the one category of carbs you aren't addressing- whole grains. they are not vegetables, but they are certainly not "calorie and sugar laden carbs." In fact, they are an important part of many corrective diets for obesity, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis and heart disease. Why should I eliminate these?

1. re: CoryKatherine

More of my 2 cents: a person can look up the glycemic index for these different carbs. The difference seems mostly that they convert slower though there may be other hidden differences from what we think of as the typical carb. You can see clearly in the index number how quickly the carb metabolizes.

It's fairly easy to count carbs but quite difficult to reduce them to minimal levels for any stretch of time. I've done it. But if a person goes to very low carb levels - so ketosis is happening - then adding carbs in will cause rapid weight gain, if only because you'll retain more water in your system.

1. re: lergnom

the glycemic index debate is interesting to me- I admit I haven't really chosen a side. True hard-core followers of the "low glycemic index" type of diets seem to have taken it to a non-sensical level... you know, where they claim that some high-calorie, starchy carbs (such as pasta) are healthier to snack on than a piece of fruit (such as watermelon). I get the idea about the rate of metabolism and how much longer it will keep you full, keep you from craving more sugar... but I feel like it doesn't translate very well from theory to practice.

1. re: CoryKatherine

The problem with glycemic index, as those of us who test our blood glucose after eating know, is that it doesn't work. Glycemic load is a bit more useful, but individual response is wildy variable to the same foods, and by the time you're a person for whom low carb or low GI is important, it doesn't work. Lower GI may help folks who aren't overweight or insulin resistant at all, but it's not reliable.

2. re: lergnom

I don't know of any way of eating that doesn't fail if you go off it. :-) The index really doesn't work in practice for most folks, though it's a step in the right direction of considering food properties and quality. I've gone increasingly low carb over the course of 11 years, and it's the easiest thing I've ever done; it shuts hunger right down, cured my aches, pains, neuropathy and kidney damage and I want my parts to last. My total carb count is probably 50-70 or so per day, which keeps you out of ketosis most of the time after a few weeks, but much of those carb grams are indigestible fiber.
Since I eat veggies, not starch, my fiber content is very high.

3. re: CoryKatherine

Just compare the calories and nutrient content of, say, 100grams of raw spinach to 100grams of whole wheat, brown rice, etc. Whole grains are no longer whole grains if they're not in their kernel/indigestible state. Once they're ground or crushed, they're not whole grains. The "benefit" of the kernels is that they aren't digested, so can't do the damage that grain foods normally do.

4. re: small h

Yes, it's on Medline if you're curious enough to look there. That's what replaces the starches on one's plate. The stuff other folks put on pasta, I put on a bed of sauteed spinach, for instance, or atop a salad.

3. re: CoryKatherine

As a diabetic, this is a subject close to my heart (the pancreas is about six inches away...). I think you're both right. When I found out about low-card diets, I tried one, and immediately found my blood glucose numbers dropped to near-normal levels. However, I didn't go on an Atkins-type "no carb" diet; instead I went on what I call the "no white food" diet - no white bread, no potatoes, no rice, no pastas, etc. The only white foods I had were milk and the odd bit of mayo. I agree with MCF that the highly refined starches prevalent in North American diets trigger blood sugar spikes and other problems for diabetics like me. But I also agree with CK that the carbs from vegetables, whole grains, etc. are important for good nutrition.

I've backed off a bit from the complete "no white food" thing - I'll have a baked potato or the occasional pasta now - but I still try to eat a lot of vegetables, salads, etc. and keep the refined starches and sugars at bay.

1. re: KevinB

Kevin, you've misread me; I'm the one advocated a diet heavy on fresh, colorful, low starch veggies in place of starches. I dont' do Atkins style, either, I created my diet as I read my way through Medline. I read popular diet books afterward, not before changing my diet, and it's evolved. The only popular diet book to accurately reflect (and to cite) the available science is Protein Power by the Eades. Taubes has written an exhaustive review of the available science of metabolism, obesity, nutrition, etc. and lectures on it at universities.

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