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For many people wishing to lose weight, calories will become an everyday
preoccupation as reducing the intake of calories is an established, and some say
the only way to lose weight. Even those diets which don't use the counting
of calories as their basis in fact often cause weight loss due to the automatic
reduction of calories by means of cutting down or cutting out, high calorie
For example, a low fat diet is based on the premise that not only will the
calorie intake be reduced by cutting out high calorie fats but also the intake
of other relatively high calorie foods such as bread and potatoes will
automatically be limited because they are less palatable to eat in significant
quantities without additional ingredients such as butter, spreads, sauces or
items like cheese. The same is true for other diets such as high protein
or high carbohydrate diets. But what are calories and how do they work?
Calorie is the name given to a unit of energy, which is defined by the amount
of energy or heat it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by
1°C or 1.8°F so in fact, although most of us associate calories with food,
they apply to all energy sources, for example petrol, electricity or gas, which is why you will often see a
calorific value somewhere on your electricity or gas
In food terms, the general use of the base word "calorie" is technically
incorrect as 1 food calorie is equal to 1000 calories which is the amount
of energy/heat required to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram
(2.2 pounds) of water by 1°C or 1.8°F. Strictly speaking, when food
calories are being referred to on packaging etc., the term kilocalorie
should be used.
Although the above description may seem to confuse things where food calories
(kilocalories) are concerned, most food packaging or food calorie lists showing
the amount of calories will be referring to kilocalories.
The same generally applies to charts stating how many calories certain exercises
burn up. For the purpose of clarification, in this article the term "calorie," means
a food calorie i.e. kilocalorie.
Everything we do requires energy, from blinking to running a marathon, as
well as regulating normal body functions such as temperature control, growth,
cell replacement and breathing. We even use energy when we sleep. Through
various processes, the body converts the calories in food into energy or fuel
which can be used by our bodies.
The amount of calories required depends upon how much energy an individual is
using. Believe it or not, an active child can need more calories than an
adult who works at a desk.
If a person takes in more calories than is required to meet their energy output,
the excess calories are converted to fat which is merely a form of stored of
energy which can be called upon by the body in the future should it need to e.g.
in the case of famine and starvation. However, until such time the storage of
excess calories causes weight gain. By the same token, the intake of too
few calories causes weight loss as the body will use any fat which has been
stored for energy.
One pound (0.5 kilogram) of stored fat contains about 3,500 calories and ALL
food contains calories, albeit some a lot less than others.
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Here's a handy calculator to help you find how many calories are in particular