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Why the calorie model is broken...

BBC Future Why the calorie is broken

A calorie isn’t just a calorie. And our mistaken faith in the power of this seemingly simple measurement may be hindering the fight against obesity.


Stashed in: #health, Awesome, Fat!, Nutrition!, Coconuts!, Nutrition, Calories!, Nuts!, Healthy Eating, Weight Loss

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Using the Beltsville facilities, for instance, Baer and his colleagues found that our bodies sometimes extract fewer calories than the number listed on the label. Participants in their studies absorbed around a third fewer calories from almonds than the modified Atwater values suggest. For walnuts, the difference was 21 per cent. This is good news for someone who is counting calories and likes to snack on almonds or walnuts: he or she is absorbing far fewer calories than expected. The difference, Baer suspects, is due to the nuts’ particular structure: “All the nutrients – the fat and the protein and things like that – they’re inside this plant cell wall.” Unless those walls are broken down – by processing, chewing or cooking – some of the calories remain off-limits to the body, and thus are excreted rather than absorbed.

Another striking insight came from an attempt to eat like a chimp. In the early 1970s, Richard Wrangham, an anthropologist at Harvard University and author of the book Catching Fire: How cooking made us human, observed wild chimps in Africa. Wrangham attempted to follow the entirely raw diet he saw the animals eating, snacking only on fruit, seeds, leaves, and insects such as termites and army ants. “I discovered that it left me incredibly hungry,” he says. “And then I realised that every human eats their food cooked.”

Wrangham and his colleagues have since shown that cooking unlaces microscopic structures that bind energy in foods, reducing the work our gut would otherwise have to do. It effectively outsources digestion to ovens and frying pans. Wrangham found that mice fed raw peanuts, for instance, lost significantly more weight than mice fed the equivalent amount of roasted peanut butter. The same effect holds true for meat: there are many more usable calories in a burger than in steak tartare. Different cooking methods matter, too. In 2015, Sri Lankan scientists discovered that they could more than halve the available calories in rice by adding coconut oil during cooking and then cooling the rice in the refrigerator.

I like that coconut oil trick. 

But yeah it does seem like raw food calories cause less weight gain than calories from processed food. 

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