Ever been confused when reading a food label and wondered whether you should be more concerned by the calorie count, or the amount of salt, fat or sugar?
Marking copy will have you believe that the words "natural" or "low calorie" ate the holy grail for healthy eating, when in reality calories don't really tell much of the nutrition story.
Calories don't really tell much of the nutrition story.
Not all calories are equal
iConsider the following breakfast options, which although both contain roughly the same calorie count, their nutritional value and effect on the body is very different.
Breakfast B: A glass of Orange Juice and a bowl of cornflakes with semi skimmed milk
Breakfast A contains a high amount of fibre, B-vitamins and unsaturated fat, as well as Vitamins C, E and K and potassium. The sugar from the whole wheat toast is considered a complex carbohydrate, meaning it will breakdown over a longer period of time, and therefore have a less dramatic effect on blood sugar levels. The small amount of fat from the avocado will also help to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Breakfast Option B contains a large amount of simple sugars both from the orange juice and the processed cereal. Simple sugars are quickly converted to glucose, meaning a rapid spike in blood glucose levels, and a resulting surge in appetite not long after eating. Although there is some vitamin C in the orange juice it contains none of the fibre that a whole orange would.
So all in all, calories shouldn't be the deciding factor when you're next faced with a food choice. Looking out for foods which are as natural and unprocessed as possible and which don't contain the words either sugar, fructose or refined white flour are a good start.