What are the different types of calories?

If you’re trying to shed some weight, you most likely heard about calories and treat them as your enemy. That shouldn’t be the case as your body requires a certain amount of calories to function, depending on your age, gender, weight, and physical activity level. Burning them is essential to losing weight, but calories are as vital to everyone to function adequately.

Truth to be told, calories aren’t actually a thing, it’s a unit of energy. It gauges the amount of energy you can get from the food and beverages we consume. They can come from a variety of sources, such as fas, proteins, sugars or carbohydrates. Yet, all are needed for you to live and function adequately.

Historically, a calorie was defined as the amount of heat required to increase the temperature of a kilogram of water from 0 to 1 degree Celsius. It was then scientifically determined as joules, a term usually utilized by physicists to measure the amount of work required to force a newton through a meter. In Australia and Europe, calories are often called kilojoules instead, with one joule equalling to 0.000239006 calories, or one calorie equalling to 4.18 joules.

The amount of heat required to produce a calorie varies at different temperatures. So, scientists devised various types of calories, depending on their water temperature. With that, there are two types of calories, the small calorie, and the large calorie, which are yielded at different temperatures.

A small calorie, or cal, is the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of a single gram of water from 0 to 1 degree Celsius.

A large calorie, or kcal, is the amount of energy needed to increase the temperature of a kilogram of water from 0 to 1 degree Celsius.

Both terms, however, are used interchangeably, making it misleading. A calorie in nutrition is actually equal to 1,000 small calories. Some experts still use kilocalories when referring to the nutritional unit of 1,000 of these small calories. The said units of 1,000 cal are also regarded as food calories, dietary calories, or Calories with a capital C.

So, what you see on food labels, actually pertains to kilocalories. If the food label states that a chocolate bar actually contains 200 calories, it actually has 200 kilocalories or 200,000 calories.

While those are the classifications of calories as a unit of measurement, they can also be divided into two in terms of nutritional value.

First are the full calories, which provide low amounts of calories but high nutrient content. The primary sources of this type of calories are vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, beans, seeds, and legumes. These foods provide the most energy and are readily metabolized by the body.

Meanwhile, the other type of calories, in a nutritional sense, are empty calories. They are calorie-dense food but have little or no nutritional value at all. Foods, such as chips, ice cream, candies, baked goods, are brimmed with empty calories. While they may provide quick bursts of energy, they are unable to sustain the body’s needs and are not readily metabolized either, causing you to gain weight.

Calories can also be divided based on the sources they come from, namely sugar or carbohydrates, fats, and protein. All three provide energy essential for our bodily functions. However, they give different amounts of energy. A gram of sugar or protein contains 4 kilocalories, while fat gives 9 kilocalories.

Moreover, they also differ in terms of nutrients and perform distinct roles in the body. Sugars serve as quick fuel and support metabolic functions. Proteins are essential for muscle development. Fats, while lacking in nutrients, but are brimmed with energy.

A balanced diet is a key to a better and healthier life. See to it that you consume the right amount of calories from the right sources.

More Readings:

Calorie (Wikipedia)

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