Body & Fitness

Why you shouldn’t always rely on calorie counting

For years, calorie counting has been touted as the best way to keep your weight in check, but it may not be the entire truth.

Chances are you have a rough idea of how many calories were in your breakfast this morning.

Whether doing a casual tot-up or an exact tally, many of us have made counting calories a part of our routines. For decades, health organisations told us keeping tabs on our calorie intake was the key to maintaining a healthy weight.

You’re probably familiar with the oft-quoted recommended figure of 2000 calories a day for an average woman, but new research reveals this number-based system could have led us down an unhelpful path when it comes to nutrition.

An easier way to keep track of your eating that works even better, is whether foods are “worth it” in terms of (benefits versus detriments) or not.

Worth it

Avocados may contain 400 calories each – the equivalent of one-and-a-half Mars Bars – but their high level of healthy monounsaturated fat helps lower bad cholesterol, according to research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Eggs are often dismissed as being full of fat, but the lipids in eggs are extremely healthy for your heart, plus they pack a lot of protein.

One egg is around 70 calories, the same as a chocolate digestive, although unlike the biscuit, the egg won’t spike your blood sugar and make you hungry again later on.

Extra virgin olive oil has around 120 calories in 1 Tbsp, but also plenty of heart-boosting antioxidants and healthy fats.

A Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil may also reduce risk of breast cancer, suggests a recent study from the University of Navarra in Spain.

Not worth it

Rice cakes are light on calories at around 35 per cake, but also light on taste and nutritional worth. Most of the calories come from white, refined carbohydrates, which raise your blood sugar levels so you’ll soon feel hungry again.

Instead, have a small handful of almonds. The fibre will keep you fuller and they contain high levels of vitamin E, which is good for your skin.

Fat-free yoghurt could contain up to 5 tsp sugar per 150g, according to recent analysis by Action on Sugar.

Instead, try plain Greek yoghurt, which contains 20g of protein per 170g – essential for keeping your muscles, skin and hair healthy.

Diet cereal bars often boast about being low in calories, but they’re also often packed with sugar. Some contain up to 40per cent sugar, says recent research for consumer website Which?, which looked at 15 popular bars.

So, always check the nutrition label and don’t be seduced by healthy sounding names.

For more, see the January issue of NEXT. And to follow NEXT on Facebook, click here.

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