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Whats in a calorie?

I feel like after working on my protein shake recipe and exercising daily I’m in a pretty healthy place, which was my main goal.  But, it hasn’t helped my weight loss one bit!  It feels like balancing calories in vs calories out is really only half the story, the other half being exactly what those calories are made of.  I’m still quite a fledgling in these matters, so I’m making an easy summary of what calories are, and which ones are OK to eat.

I think it’s important to really understand what a calorie is.  I was a bit mind-blown when I first encountered an article that discussed what they really were, I never really gave it any thought before.  A calories isn’t something in your food – it’s a unit of energy.  A calorie is made up primarily of the three macro-nutrients: protein, carbs, and fats. Each gram of macro-nutrient gives it’s own calories, as explained here. And this article has some good formulas on calculating calories.

When I was growing up it used to be that “eating fat makes you fat,” but now it seems to be all about “good vs bad” fats.  Also, now it seems that carbs are the big problem, leaving protein as the last acceptable macro-nutrient.  So for this article, I’m going to do some digging into these three.  What kind of fats are good, what’s so bad about carbs, and what’s so good about protein.

Fats

I keep hearing “good vs bad” fats – but I don’t really know which ones are good and bad.  I found a nice article about it on BB.com, and the skinny of it is as follows:

Bad Fats

  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans fat
  • Cholesterol (not really a fat, but still bad)

Good Fats

  • Monounsaturated & Polyunsaturated Fat
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Carbs

For carbs, there are two kinds Simple/Bad and Complex/Good as explained here.  It seems in general simple carbs come from sugars and complex carbs come from starch. It seems tricky to figure out which ones are in your food, but I found this article with a simple explanation. So, in short:

Bad Carbs

  • Sugars

Good Carbs

  • Total carbs – sugars

Protein

I read a few articles, most notably this one, and it seems like they’re all in agreement: protein is good because it’s filing, and takes more energy (calories) to digest.  I did a little more digging to see if there where any kind of bad/good proteins, and I came across this thread and this article.   So, from what I can gather it’s a difference between incomplete/good and complete/best proteins – but it’s really not important enough to stress over.

All protein is good, yay!

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