To lose weight, some people find calorie counting helps them track how much food they’re eating, but does it actually work? There is a lot of debate surrounding the subject, and Dr Megan Rossi laid out the truths behind the myths and demonstrated why comparing calories isn’t necessarily the best option for those looking to shed a few pounds.
It’s a method of controlling people’s diet that has been around for more than 100 years.
But during an appearance on This Morning on June 29, Dr Rossi explained that calorie counting doesn’t always “lead to the results that people deserve”.
“In many cases, it leads to weight gain,” she warned.
Following the Government’s decision to include calorie information on menus in restaurants across the country in a bid to tackle obesity and encourage people to maintain a healthy lifestyle, she explained the “science just doesn’t support the calorie counting”.
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“The researchers worked this out by feeding them to healthy adults and measuring in their stools how many of the nuts (and, therefore, calories) they didn’t absorb,” she said.
“That’s because, unlike in the laboratory studies, humans don’t extract every last calorie from whole-plant foods such as almonds.
“This is largely down to what we call the ‘food matrix’.”
She explained that the more manufacturers break food down, often the more fibre it loses, along with that all-important food matrix.
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Whole foods such as fruit, veg and nuts that need chewing, breaking down and more digesting have a higher thermogenic effect than ultra-processed foods.
And the calories from highly processed foods are much more readily available.
“For example, a KitKat and a banana might contain similar calories and your food-tracking app won’t treat them any differently — but your body will,” Dr Rossi said.
“If you want to feel fuller for longer after a meal, opt for a piece of fruit rather than juice, or choose jumbo oats not refined quick oats — think whole plants that have been minimally ‘tampered’ with.”
So if calories on the labels are inaccurate, Dr Rossi recommended switching to eating more whole-plant foods that can help with weight management, without the need to fixate on restricting portions.
She also referenced a “secret weapon” that can can “affect appetite”.
“Your gut microbes and the chemicals they make when they digest plant fibre can affect appetite,” she said.
“These chemicals, such as short-chain fatty acids, tell our body we’ve had enough.
“This halts the production of hunger hormones such as ghrelin, and increases the ‘I’m full’ hormones such as leptin.”