Find out how many calories you need to keep your body fueled and fit.
If you're interested in nutrition or weight loss, you no doubt pay a lot of attention to calories. But do you know what exactly calories are, and how many you really need?
Calories: The Good, the Bad, and the Empty
There is really no such thing as "good" or "bad" calories. "Your body processes each calorie the same," says Kimberly Lummus, MS, RD, Texas Dietetic Association media representative and public relations coordinator for the Austin Dietetic Association in Austin, Texas. But Lummus adds that some foods are far more nutritious than others. "We strive to make our calories the most nutrient-dense that we can, meaning that we are packing in a lot of nutrition for a very small amount of calories. You are optimizing your calorie budget, so to speak."
While calories get a negative rap when it comes to weight control, calories are actually an important source of fuel you cannot live without. "Your body needs calories for energy," says Lummus. Calories are the force behind everything we do, including eating, sleeping, and breathing.
"Calories are how much energy your body gets from the food and beverages that it consumes," says Lummus. Most food sources are composed of some combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and each of these nutrients contains calories. Yet it's important to stay away from "empty" calories in foods like sweets and soda, warns Lummus.