From an early age, we are warned about what we eat, our calorie intake and our weight. But what really is a calorie? Is it a little monster that sneaks into our rooms each night to sew our clothes up tighter? Is it some form of food that we didn’t know about (hopefully yummy)? And is there science behind what we eat and how much energy we consume? Well, keep reading, because we’ll be explaining what a calorie really is.
What is a calorie?
In short, scientists have defined a calorie as a unit of energy. This energy could come off as heat from the likes of gas or coal, but in the foodie sense, all the food that we eat contains calories, and they all give us energy that we need to live and function. All of the cells in our bodies require energy to function normally, and if we do not take in the calories we need, we will lose concentration, energy and muscle mass.
How many calories should we eat per day?
Unfortunately, there is no set answer to this. Our required calorie intake depends entirely on how much we move about during the day (i.e., our activity level) and our resting metabolic rate – which is different for every single person. The best way to find out how many calories you actually need is to visit a dietician who will assess these aspects of your life. However, on average, women should eat around 2,000 calories per day, and a man should eat around 2,500 calories per day.
Where should we get these calories?
When it comes to consuming these calories, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have recommended that you get certain numbers of calories from each food group. 45 – 65% of your calories intake should come from carbohydrates, 20-25% should come from fats, 10 – 35% should come from protein, and you should consume no more than 25% in added sugars. If you stick to these limits, this should maximize your body’s potential and sustain brain and body function.
Which foods are high in calories?
As much as it is true that junk food and sweets contain the most calories, there are also many healthy and nutritious foods that can be highly calorific. Foods like fats, butter, oil are all highly calorific, as well as avocados, nuts, whole grains, quinoa, raisins and dark chocolate. However, it’s important to include plenty of healthy fats in your diet for your heart and immune system.
Which foods are low in calories?
The general rule of thumb is that most fruits and vegetables are incredibly low in calories – so you can normally eat as many of them as you want! For example, a stick of celery is just 10 calories, and an orange has just 70 calories. There are diets (quite extreme diets, in fact) that let you eat as many fruit and vegetables as you like in a day… But nothing else, so no cake unfortunately.