Why you should STOP counting calories – the 4 reasons to focus on nutrients instead

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Counting calories makes sense to most people wanting to lose weight, as they want to make sure they’re in a calorie deficit or eating a certain amount of calories a day. However, calorie counting can become unhealthy and addictive, and it isn’t necessarily good for your body and mind. Express.co.uk chatted to Nutritionist Amanda Williams and CEO of Cytoplan to find out four reasons why YOU should stop counting calories and focus on nutrients instead.

A study of 2,000 adults by Cytoplan found more than a quarter of Brits are actively logging their calorie intake on a phone app.

One in five Brits also admits that they check every single product they buy for calorie information.

When faced with high-calorie foods, a third of those studied say they outright refuse to eat any high-calorie foods – opting to prioritise low-calorie foods, whether healthy or unhealthy.

If they do eat high-calorie foods or go over their limit, 45 per cent say they will exercise to balance it out.

While the results showed lots of us are on top of our calorie intake, most of us aren’t looking at the information that really matters.

More than half of those studied (52 percent) said they never look at labels for fats, and nearly six in 10 never consider whether the food they choose might contain vitamins and minerals which might benefit them in some way.”

Nutritionist and CEO of Cytoplan Amanda Williams said: “While it’s great to keep an eye on calories, there’s so much more to maintaining a healthy diet and it seems people are calorie counting in a bid to achieve that but with little understanding of the importance of nutrients.

“The research has shown there is certainly an appetite for keeping an eye on calorie intake but perhaps more focus is required on the importance of nutrients which could make all the difference to us feeling and actually being healthier both in the short-term and long-term.”

4 reasons why you should STOP counting calories

Not all calories are the same

Amanda said: “Not all calories are created equal and it’s important to make sure that if striving to meet a calorie goal each day, we don’t sacrifice nutrient-dense foods.

“A diet full of nutritious foods is more beneficial than a diet rich in processed foods that might be low in calories, but may not offer vital vitamins and minerals to support overall health.”

There is nothing wrong with calorie counting if you’re not restricting yourself dramatically and you’re choosing foods rich in nutrients over-processed foods.

If you want to eat 1,750 calories a day to lose weight, you need to make sure these are good calories.

Otherwise, you could be eating 1,750 calories of mostly sugar, bad fats, and simple carbohydrates without any fibres, complex carbs or good stuff.

That amount of calories could be a box of doughnuts and a bag of crisps OR three healthy, nutritious meals.

Be more active

You should prioritise eating well and being more active overeating a specific amount of calories.

Amanda explained: “Half of Brits have been more sedentary in the last year or so due to major lifestyle changes – estimating they eat more than 2,000 calories a day.

“Despite eating more calories, they believe they only burn around 1,800 with the Nutrition Gap research showing that a sedentary lifestyle is the number one reason for causing a deficiency in our nutrition levels.”

We need the nutrients, but not the calories

Researchers for the Nutrition Gap Guide found that in the Palaeolithic era Hunter-gatherers were active, lean and fit expending 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day and survival required a large amount of daily energy for activities such as finding food and water.

Today’s population of largely less active adults need no more than 1,800 calories.

However, there is still a need for the essential micronutrients found in 4,000 k/calories of food – just not the calories.

That means we need to make smart choices about what we eat, packing as much goodness into our daily meals without overeating.

The nutritionist pointed out that without these nutrients, calories alone won’t stop us from getting sick.

Amanda explained: “There are a number of factors as to why nutrient deficiencies exist today; from poor digestive health reducing our ability to absorb nutrients, the state of the soil in which our food is grown leading to nutrient-depleted food and the sedentary lifestyles we now lead.

“This means that most people are not getting the level of essential nutrients needed for health and protection which can increase the risk of many illnesses – so to have a better understanding of this for our health is very important, yet probably not thought of enough.”

Use the right app

If you’re going to count calories, make sure you use an app that shows you the nutritional content of products.

Amanda said: “Lots of people are regularly counting calories through various apps and programmes in the belief they are adopting a healthy approach to diet and nutrition, and while it’s sometimes beneficial to understand your calorie intake, it is just, or maybe more, important to look at the levels of vitamins and minerals that our food may contain too.

“Sub-optimal intake of essential nutrients and poor digestive health is linked to many of the prevailing degenerative diseases of our generation.”

In the study, 31 percent of Brits roughly guess their calories in their head rather than using an app, whereas three quarters do check the nutritional content of products.

This sounds promising, but we tend to only look at the sugars, fats and salts content rather than the vitamins and minerals.

Nearly half of us don’t eat our five a day or aren’t sure that we do, despite 63 per cent of us believing we eat a balanced diet.

Make sure you’re checking the selenium, iron, calcium and potassium levels in your food.

Amanda explained: “Without the optimal levels of vitamins and minerals, the UK population could be experiencing a shortfall in their nutrition, which is referred to as The Nutrition Gap.”

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