Calorie Counting v/s Nutrient Balancing

“That is an insane amount of calories!” or “the carbohydrate content in this bowl of rice is too high for a low carb diet.” or “ which one is healthy banana or an apple” are some of the many predicaments a weight watcher or a conscious eater faces all the time. Is calories really the correct representative when it comes to deciding which food is healthier and which is not? Truth be told, if it was that simple, the profession of a nutritionist would irrelevant.

You might also wonder that if calorie counting is not important to maintain/ lose weight then why has it become a word so disliked, why does a dietitian advice you to eat only a certain portion size? While it is true that the calorie intake and calorie burnt plays a vital role in order to maintain weight, the quality of these calories plays an even larger role is determining your health and fitness, a byproduct of which is a slimmer waistline.

Consider this, your car has a full tank yet it stops in the middle of the road, why is that? There can be multiple reasons; a heated engine, a flat tire, dead battery, loss of spark etc. The smallest issue can prevent a car from running smoothly. The body works in the exact same way. Give it calories and it will run but deprive it of nutrients and symptoms like fatigue, deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, body pains, migraines start presenting itself.

Now if calorie counting is the second most important thing after nutrient intake, how does one determine what kind of nutrient does one need or how to find them? The answer lies in the simplicity of the problem, something you have always been reading or heard but never really practiced and that is EAT WHOLE. For most of you who might be in a fix before buying a food product with a low carb nutrition label or healthy claims the food lobby made, here is a reality check, choose natural over processed, choose whole over refined, choose mindfully over mindless eating. Let me explain it to you with a very simple example:

A cup of refined flour and a cup of whole wheat flour has similar calorie content. So if you are going by the rule of calorie counting, it might not make a difference as to what you choose but if you are a person who would also want to eat wholesomely, there are components of whole wheat that are missing in the refined flour and those are the nutrients like B complex, calcium fibre and many more. These nutrients aid in the easier digestion of the macronutrients and use then as energy as opposed to refined which would be responsible in increasing the blood sugars, fat storage and contracting various lifestyle disease like diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol problems. Thus, a refined/processed item is the last choice you would make when opting for a healthy living.

After the choice of whole ingredients, the combination of these foods is important before you start calculating the calories. Take an example of the bones in the human body. When the bones turn weak, the doctor advices you to consume calcium but it does not stop at that. Calcium will need Vitamin D, collagen, magnesium, phosphate, vitamin C, K, B, zinc. Omega-3 etc to form strong bone structure. The lesson to be derived is that instead of concentrating only on whole healthy items, include a variety of food items that give you a variety of nutrients as well. E.g. a combination of cereals, pulses, and veggies over only cereals and veggies,

Calorie intake is a referential term. It might change with the environment, age, physical and mental stress levels, the bioavailability etc. Hence, rather than concentrating on how many calories you eat, eat mindfully. Rather than calories telling you when to stop, let your mind signal you when to stop when you are full.
Nutrient balancing and calorie counting rather portion size are not exclusive but mutually inclusive. One has to follow both the concepts to ensure a healthy mind, body, and soul.