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The Important Difference Between Nutrients And Calories


Being healthy is a lifelong struggle and it is made no easier because of confusing information that is out there. We are told from day one that all that matters is counting calories. The calories you eat versus the calories you burn is what keeps you thin, or fat, for that matter. The problem, however, is that the mantra of ‘calories in, calories out’ is actually not entirely correct.

Most people in this country are not just overfed (too many calories), they are also undernourished (too little nourishment). In fact, malnutrition is a significant problem in this country. Much of that is due to poverty, meaning people (children and the elderly, in particular) go hungry, but it is also because of dietary deficiencies.

Vitamin deficiencies are a form of malnutrition, and one vitamin deficiency in particular has become a health concern in the United States. More than 75 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin D, according to a 2009 study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.”

Some scientists have now started to refer to people who are in this situation as ‘skinny fat people’. This is because they may not be overweight, they are also not healthy. They are not able to heal or repair their body and therefore don’t feel great either.

Some Definitions

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It is important to understand the difference between food and nutrients. Food is any substance that you are able to consume in order to sustain your growth and life and to furnish energy and repair the body. This is not exactly the same as a nutrient, some of which are essential.

An essential nutrient is a nutrient that the body cannot synthesize on its own — or not to an adequate amount — and must be provided by the diet. These nutrients are necessary for the body to function properly.

For humans, there are six essential nutrients. These are proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, water, and minerals. Clearly, therefore, as humans, we need nutrients, which are found in our food, in order to survive and thrive. So what is a calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy. 1Cal is the amount of energy required to raise one kilogram of water by one degree Celsius.

As such, calories have nothing at all to do with health, nutrition, regeneration, body repair or even sustaining life. Rather, it is the potential to produce energy. Yet, the only thing many people seem to worry about is calorific content in the food they eat.

Calories are complex things. For instance, a single gram of carbohydrate is the same as four calories. Eating 100 calories in kale gives you all sorts of nutrients needed to sustain life. Eating 100 calories of pasta or cinnamon buns, on the other hand, gives you almost zero usable nutrients. In fact, it is full of things like phytates that will make it hard for you to absorb any nutrients you do consume during the day. This means that, while you are eating the same amount of calories, you can either be healthy or malnourished.

Unfortunately, in this country, we eat too many ‘foods’ that are very low in nutrients. Some of those are even seen to be ‘healthy’ (because people equate healthy with the ability to lose weight). Examples include no fat products, diet drinks and cereal.

Balanced Meals


If you have been wondering why the ‘calories in, calories out’ mantra has been so unsuccessful for you, it may be time to start looking at your nutrients. You need to find foods that are nutrient dense, and that they are fresh and organic as well. Stay away from processed foods, as well as anything that has a beige to brown color.

In order to be healthy, it isn’t the calories that matter, but the nutrients. Those are responsible for your bodily functions, your overall health, your body’s ability to repair itself and so on. Yes, you need to understand calories in terms of energy in, energy out, but if you do not have nutrients, you won’t have sufficient energy to actually spend any either.


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Written by Ingrid Macher

Certified Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Motivator - I have a passion for helping people change their lives. I started out helping my friends and now I give advice and tips to perfect strangers who have now become my friends. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change my life even if I could. This kind of happy is truly a gift and I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to give this gift to others.


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