by Diana R. H. Winters
“What we…know, however, suggests that counting calories is very crude and often misleading…. a growing body of research shows that when different people consume the same meal, the impact on each person’s blood sugar and fat formation will vary according to their genes, lifestyles and unique mix of gut bacteria…[and] the amount of energy we absorb from food depends on how we prepare it..” -Peter Wilson, “Death of the Calorie”
Today I taught a segment of a pre-written nutrition curriculum to my son’s fourth grade class on serving sizes. Imagine my dismay when I picked up the script twenty minutes (oops) before I was to teach the class and found that it wanted me to teach the kids that serving sizes were recommended portions, not a reflection of what Americans actually eat (which they are, by law). The fundamental lesson, however, contained some decent guidance–people should eat less protein (although the lesson didn’t recognize any protein but animal) and processed foods, and eat more fruits,vegetables, and other whole foods. This simple prescription, also taught by Michael Pollan (“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”), is more effective by far than teaching people to rely on serving sizes and calorie counting to eat healthy and maintain body weight.
This article in The Economist’s 1843 magazine on our misguided reliance on calories to measure our food intake addresses this concept, and is a fascinating and important read.