Calories on Menus

Feb 5, 2015 by

The calorie on menu debacle has raised it’s ugly head again as our nanny state tries to put a sticky plaster on the obesity epidemic. But does anyone know what calories are or how they are calculated?

The original formula was calculated by a Mr. Atwater at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. Without going into a lengthy scientific explanation, he essentially burned different food groups and measured the heat output. Not very scientific eh? His system fails to differentiate between different carbohydrates (sugars, starches and fibre) the latter being indigestible.

Fats for example must be broken down into their component fatty acids by the digestive system. To do this requires energy expenditure. Considerably more energy expenditure than metabolising sugars for example which can be quickly converted into energy for the cells and then the excess mopped up and converted to glycogen for storage in the liver for later use. This is all enabled by insulin production. Fats therefore make you feel full for longer, speed up your metabolism and helps you lose weight and you are less likely to overeat. Whereas high sugar foods give you a fast fix but lead to more cravings for sugars as you are not satisfied. This is the basis of the diet industry’s success as their mantra is decrease fat and replace the fat with sugar.

There is a theory that modern day sugar formats such as high fructose corn starch (HFCS) which has only been in existance for the last forty years, have confused our bodies metabolism.

Read the whole article here

“HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. It is extracted from corn stalks through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would not allow the investigative journalist Michael Pollan to observe it for his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. Some basic biochemistry will help you understand this. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together– glucose and fructose in equal amounts.The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body. HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose. And HFCS is cheaper than sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies. Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to balloon from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers but great human costs of increased obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease.Now back to biochemistry. Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.
The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more.”

This product was not even in existance when Mr. Atwater formulated his calculation and yet it is found in almost every processed food. I’d hazard a guess you’d have a job to find it in a restaurant that is cooking a fresh, varied, seasonal menu daily.

So calories are not all the same. There are less calories in a Mars Bar than in an avocado but the Mars Bar is full of HFCS.  There may be more calories in a steak served with a Bearnaise sauce made with butter and organic egg yolk than in a Big Mac meal but the calories in the latter are beneficial calories and may actually speed up your metabolism.

If the government is serious about educating the population about healthy eating then it should begin in primary schools. Anyone who has or has had children will know all about the “pester power” of children. I used teach small children how to cook and they were always fascinated at how easy it was to make their favourite fast foods. They learned how to make healthy fish fingers, chicken goujons, sausage rolls, chow mein, spring rolls, pizza, lemonade and Nutella. I heard from a few parents that because of this they now make all these foods at home with their children and they wouldn’t dream of buying a frozen pizza again.

Similarly, I now teach adults a nutrition and menu planning module as part of a professional cookery course. They all now understand how to read a label, how many different names are used for sugars and what the different additives are used for. This is a much more beneficial skill to have than relying on a nanny state forcing a restaurant to calculate calories for a dish. In this respect they can now make an informed decision on what foods they buy or what foods they eat when out for a meal.

Incidentally, when Mr. Atwater calculated the calories in alcohol, he threw it on the fire and it emitted a huge amount of heat. If you throw coal on the fire you will also get a load of heat but that doesn’t mean we can metabolise coal.The nanny state would do well to throw this bill on the fire and see how much hot air is emitted because it won’t make a whit of difference to the obesity epidemic.

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