5 Things You Didn't Know About Calories

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Consider yourself a calorie connoisseur? Here are five facts you may not know...

5 Little-Known Calorie Facts

1. Calories from fiber don't always count.
Here's the deal: Your body doesn't absorb calories from insoluble fiber, a.k.a. indigestible fiber. So when you chomp on a 65-calorie cup of raspberries, you're only really taking in around 35 calories. WOW, right? Now, on some high-fiber products, these indigestible calories have already been subtracted from the total calories listed: Fiber One Original bran cereal, for example. To determine if the calories from fiber have already been subtracted, just multiply the number of fat grams by 9, the number of carbs by 4, and the number of protein grams by 4. Add those up to get the total calories. If that number is significantly higher than the calorie count listed, there's a good chance those fiber calories have already been subtracted. If not, go ahead and subtract 4 calories for each gram of insoluble fiber. Another source of indigestible calories? Sugar alcohols, like the kinds in certain low-carb and sugar-free products.

2. The numbers on food nutrition labels are allowed to be inaccurate by up to 20 percent.
This one is a bit unsettling, but it's true: The US Food and Drug Administration allows the nutrition facts on packaged foods to be up to 20 percent off. That means your 350-calorie frozen meal could have more like 420 calories. What can we do with this information, aside from cooking every single thing we eat from scratch? First of all, trust your instincts if something seems too good to be true -- especially when it comes to mom & pop companies touting diet-friendly stats. Supporting small business is great, but big brands often have better resources to ensure accuracy. And here's a smart way to check the accuracy of multi-serving snacks: Weigh out a portion to see if it matches the serving size listed on the label. Read more on this topic here...

3. You burn calories doing nothing.
Even if you were to just lie around doing nothing but existing all day long, you would still burn some calories. That’s because your body still needs energy to do things like breathe and circulate blood. Think of it this way: If you consume around 1,800 calories per day and maintain your weight, that means you're burning about 1,800 calories per day... even if you're not exercising. So if you burn 400 calories during an hour-long exercise routine, you won't break even by eating 400 extra calories. (There goes that excuse to overindulge!) Everybody's resting calorie rate (a.k.a. BMR) is different -- click here to calculate an estimate.

4. Sometimes, a calorie isn't just a calorie.

Sure, a Mango Coconut Soyjoy bar and a can of regular Coke both have 140 calories each... but one has protein and fiber, and the other is basically sugar. That protein and fiber will keep you satiated much longer than those sugary calories. Similarly, healthy fats (like avocado) and complex carbs (like whole grains) are the types of calorie sources that will stay with you for a while. On the other hand, refined simple carbs like corn syrup and white bread won't keep you satisfied for long. Keep these ideas in mind when selecting snacks and treats. 

5. Reduce your calorie intake by too much, and you could stop losing weight as a result.
Cutting your calorie intake down to a low number might sound like the fastest way to drop pounds, but that's not necessarily true. When you consume too few calories, your body can go into "starvation mode," storing fat to conserve energy. In other words, your metabolism may get super slow, causing a stall in your weight loss. While there's some debate on this subject, most experts agree that dropping below 1,200 calories per day is never a good idea. Want to burn some extra calories without going overboard? Click here for some ideas...


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Today, May 8th, is National Have a Coke Day. You may want to rethink that after reading number four on this list...

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