Fats, Proteins, & Carbs

Calories come from four sources. Three are essential and the forth may provide some health benefits but is not essential for good health. They are:

  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Alcohol

At one time or another, there have been and continue to be diets attacking fat, protein, and carbohydrates, but to date there is no low or no alcohol diet plan. The reason is simple, everyone needs fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in their diet, but not everyone drinks alcohol. In fact, alcohol is the only energy source that was Constitutionally banned in the United States.

The Calorie

The calorie is simply a unit of energy. It is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one gram of water by one degree celsius. The unit is so small, that when it comes to food energy it is specified in kilocalories or 1,000 calories. A food that has 100 calories actually has 100,000 calories. If you need 2,400 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight, you really need 2,400,000 calories. While the accurate term is kilo or k-calories, foods are generally listed in calories. Even that 1 calorie soft drink or energy drink really has 1,000 calories.

Food Energy

An energy drink that has no calories has no energy. It may have vitamins and minerals that are essential for producing energy, but they provide no energy. In many cases, they provide caffeine that may improve alertness. Caffeine can also raise your blood pressure.

Not all foods are equal. Fats provide the most compact form of stored energy followed by alcohol, carbohydrates and protein. Calories per gram are:

Calories Per Gram
Nutrient Calories
Carbohydrates 4
Protein 4
Alcohol 7
Fat 9

As you can see, fat and alcohol provide the most calories per gram. The simplest way to cut calories is to reduce alcohol and fat consumption.


The debate continues over the health benefits of alcohol. But alcohol is known for producing more health issues than benefits. Giving a choice between drinking alcoholic beverages or coffee and tea. You are better off drinking coffee and tea.

An alcoholic drink or two before a meal can easily provide more than 20 percent of your calories or contribute to calories your body does not need.


Fats are essential. They provide essential vitamins that are not available from other food sources. Severely cutting fats  from your diet, like many low fat diets of the 1980’s, can produce vitamin deficiencies. Current guidelines recommend obtaining 30 percent of your calories from fat. The downside of fat is saturated fat. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol. There is no way to eliminate saturated fats from your diet without eliminating all fats from your diet. Every fat has saturated fat.

It does not matter if you eat a lot of olive and avocado oil, or vegetable oils. All fats have a perceptible of saturated fat. The amount of saturated fat varies. Fats high in saturated fat are solid at room temperature like butter and coconut oil. Fats with less saturated fat are liquid at room temperature. Theses fat are what we generally refer to as oil. One exception is coconut oil. Coconut oil sounds better than coconut fat.

Eating More Food With Less Calories

Diets high in fat provides more calories. It also provides less food for the same number of calories. By replacing some fat with protein and carbohydrates, you can eat more food while eating less calories. This is the opposite of the unsustainable starvation diets of the past. Sure you can eat substantially less, exercise more and lose weight. People paid thousand of dollars to do just that. But the diet was unsustainable and dangerous. It required medical supervision. And, unless you changed your eating habits to maintain a healthy weight, you’s gain all the weight lost and a few pounds more.

The goal of any healthy diet is to eat enough foods to prevent feeling hungry while maintaining a calorie balance between the number of calories you eat and the number of calories your body burns.

When you replace fat calories one for one with carbohydrate and protein calories, you are cutting calories by more than 50 percent (9 calories vs. 4 calories). The secret is replacing fat calories with healthy carbohydrates and protein calories.

Good Carbs – Bad Carbs

“I lost weight by cutting carbs.”

I’ve heard this for over 30 years and hate the phrase cut carbs. There are good and bad carbohydrates. Most Americans are still overweight because their diets consist of too many foods made from refined carbohydrates; sugar and flour. Many foods made from refined carbohydrates also contain a lot of fat. They are the sweet goodies in the bakery, frozen foods, and prepared areas of your grocer.

There is a huge difference between cake and cantaloupe, toaster pastries and tomatoes, ice cream and iceberg lettuce. You can easily get over 70 percent of your calories from prepared foods made with refined sugar, flour and fat. By reducing these foods in your diet, you can significantly cut calories without eliminating these foods.

One example of empty carbohydrate calories is soft drinks. They are essentially carbonated sugar water. About 10 teaspoons (160 calories) of sugar per 12-ounce serving.

Soft drinks use to have some medicinal benefits. Colas were developed by pharmacists. They contained pepsin or coca. Cola meant the beverage was made using the kola nut a source of caffeine. Today, colas made and sold in the United States are made with high fructose corn syrup, caffeine, and caramel color.

Replacing soft drinks with coffee and tea can cut calories by up to 100 percent.

Good carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains


Your body needs protein for essential amino acids it cannot make from other food sources. But, it does not need a lot of protein for a healthy diet. Since protein has 4 calories per gram, substituting healthy sources of protein for fat can cut calories by up to 50 percent. Unfortunately, there are many unhealthy sources of protein like high fat beef and pork, and sugary protein bars and drinks.

Protein comes from two sources; animals and plants. Plant proteins like beans and lentils are low in fat and calories compared to beef protein. Chicken and fish are good sources of animal protein. They can be low in fat and calories compared to beef and pork protein.

Wether you need to lose weight or want to maintain your weight, it comes down to total calories. But, you need not starve to lose or maintain your weight. You may have to give up some foods, but for most people it comes down to reallocating the foods they eat.

Corporations do not care about your health. They care about making money. The table loaded with baked goods that greats you when you enter a supermarket or the soft drinks and candy at the checkout counter are there for a season. People love them and buy them. But, your body does not need them.

If you want to lose weight or maintain your weight to avoid serious health problems, you need to rethink what you eat. You do not have to give up foods. You need to think smarter about the foods in your diet.

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