100-calorie pack of Oreos vs. 100 calories of avocado

100 Calori Pack of Oreo (Image: Nabisco) vs. ½ of an avocado (Image: PaleoTerran)

100 Calori Pack of Oreo (Image: Nabisco) vs. ½ of an avocado (Image: PaleoTerran)

For years we have been taught the calorie myth - a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from. While in terms of energy a calorie is a calorie, the type of food the calories come from can make a huge difference on physiological impact.  Thus the concept of the calorie myth: a calorie may not be a calorie nutritionally. In a recent JAMA commentary, Dr. David Ludwig, head of the Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, compares the impact of two very different foods: 

The longstanding low-fat diet dogma and the concomitant calorie myth has caused many frustrated people to blame overeating and sloth for their inability to lose weight, and this is wrong, said Ludwig.

Eating refined carbs, such as a 100-calorie pack of Oreos, produces a huge surge of insulin that signals your fat cells to store calories. In contrast, eating 100 calories of avocado won’t produce the same insulin charge. You’ll also feel fuller, longer, after eating the avocado, while the Oreos will make your blood sugar spike and rapidly crash, causing you to feel ravenous in short order.

According to Dr. Bill Lagakos, author of The poor, misunderstood calorie:

The calories in food are not the same as those expended by the body. Carb-rich foods are easily over-eaten, producing a positive energy balance. The accompanying elevations in insulin cause net fat storage. Maybe all calories are calories, but not all calories are equally obesogenic.