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Recipe for Confusion – Understanding Calories (What About Kcal?)

The amount of energy found in food is measured using a unit called the Calorie.
But when you look at the nutritional labels on food, you may sometimes see a different unit being used – kcal.
The abbreviation kcal stands for ‘kilocalorie’. If you know about the metric system
you will realise that kilo means 1,000 so for example one kilogram is 1,000 grams and one kilometre is a 1,000 metres.
So does this mean you need to multiply the number of kcals on a food label by 1,000 to find the number of Calories?
The short answer is no! There is an unusual convention when it comes to food as the word Calorie (with a capital C) actually means the same thing as kilocalorie.
You see calories (with a lower-case c) are really small. The average apple contains about 52,000 calories! So nobody (except maybe scientists) is really ever talking about calories when they talk about food – always assume they are talking about Calories/kcals instead.
Really. Even when someone forgets to use a capital C, which they often do!
[Note: It is true that there is another measurement of energy called the Joule, so some food labels show kilojoules (‘kJ’), but those food labels will usually also show the number of Calories/kcal too.]
So Calories measure the amount of energy in our food, but why does that matter
Well, it takes energy to do things like think and move, so we need to make sure we are getting enough energy in our diet.
But if we eat too much energy, or in other words we eat more Calories than we need to, then we may store up the unused energy in our bodies. 
One way that our bodies can store energy is in our fat, and you should realise that carrying too much fat can be very bad for your health.
So how many Calories should you be eating?
Well the recommendation for the average a man is to consume 2,500 Calories per day and for a woman 2,000 Calories per day. 
Few of us are entirely ‘average’ though, so these figures might have to be adjusted for personal circumstances – for instance if you are a particularly tall or short person, or if you have a very active job. 
Therefore you can use this daily Calorie-needs calculator to find the right figure based on your personal dimensions and circumstances.
Generally the advice given to lose weight is to eat 500 fewer Calories per day than the calculator says you need whilst maintaining the activity level. However do not go below 1,200 Calories unless under your doctor’s instruction, and do not try to cut Calories too quickly.
In reality, if your current diet is quite poor and you make some basic changes like cutting down on sugar and processed carbohydrates, then you may find you can lose some weight without having to resort to what is known as ‘Calorie counting’.
Calorie counting involves constantly thinking about how many Calories are in the food you eat so that you do not exceed your daily allowance – it can get quite tedious and so people can find it hard to stick to in the long-term. 
When it comes to trying to lose weight you need to find lifestyle changes that you can stick to for a life time – temporary changes will only ever change your weight temporarily!
Written by Doug McCarthy © 2014.
Please visit my website http://ift.tt/1bNu1Xr for more information, tips and guidance about healthy diet and exercise.
In particular, if you have liked the above article, you may be interested to learn more by looking at my page explaining about carbohydrates.
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Recipe for Confusion – Understanding Calories (What About Kcal?)

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