What Are Calories and How Much Do They Matter?

Cloth measuring tape wrapped around green apple on light wooden table

It’s hard to believe but there was a time when people didn’t obsess over calories. It was only in the late 1960s when baby boomers began to come of age and TV commercials began advertising weight loss products to a population that was, ironically perhaps, much thinner on average than we are today that calorie counting became a thing. But the origins of what would become our calorie fixation go back much further than that.

In this post, the team who bring you Sparkling CBD Soda look at what calories are, how we came to use them as a measuring stick for health and whether it’s actually all that healthy to obsess over how many calories you’re consuming.

The Calorie is Born

It’s generally agreed that the word “calorie” can trace its origins to France during the late Napoleonic period. At that time chemist and entrepreneur Nicolas Clément taught classes at the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris and surviving notebooks from some of his students contain the first ever recorded mention of the word “calorie”. Clément, however, did not show much interest in the dietary significance of the calorie.

In 1918, Lulu Hunt Peters, an American physician and author, published what would become a seminal work on dieting entitled "Diet & Health: With Key to the Calories". Peters leveraged research done over the past 100 years on calories and condensed it into an easy-to-understand tome on how calories controlled your destiny as far as weight was concerned. The book slowly climbed best-seller lists of the day until it finally reached #1 in 1922 and stayed in the top 10 until 1926.

Peters’ book was groundbreaking for several reasons:

  • First, it introduced the idea of caloric intake as something you could measure and thereby control.
  • Second, it posited the revolutionary idea that all you had to do was eat fewer calories than you burned and you would lose weight.
  • Third, it recognized that psychological factors often interfered with people’s ability to lose weight and keep it off.

With her book, Peters opened the door to a new way of looking at weight and nutrition. However, it would be another 40+ years before her message would be widely adopted.

What are Calories?

In simple terms, a calorie is a unit of potential energy. These units of potential energy are used by the body to power vital organs and muscle activity. If you ingest more calories than your body needs to function effectively excess calories are converted into adipose tissue (i.e. fat) and stored for future use. If a person continually consumes more calories than they burn the amount of fatty tissue in their body will increase.

Every type of food contains these units of potential energy, with some foods containing more than others. Something like our Sparkling CBD Soda Water contains 0 calories, while our other Sparkling CBD drinks contain only 100. An average serving of broccoli contains about 45 calories and a scoop of ice cream may contain as many as 400, depending on the brand.

Is it Healthy to Obsess Over Calories?

As a general rule, it's not particularly healthy to obsess over anything. However, it can be equally dangerous and unhealthy to simply ignore how many calories you are consuming in the belief that everything will just work itself out in the long run.

The fact is we are in the midst of an unprecedented obesity epidemic. In the 20+ years since the turn of the century, the number of obese Americans has increased from 30% of the population to 42% of the population. So if there was ever a time when calorie counting could be considered a worthwhile practice, it's now.

The High Cost of Ignoring Calories

A person doesn’t need to obsess in order to keep an eye on their caloric intake and the effects it has on their overall health. They do, however, need to make smart choices regarding what they eat and when they eat and, just as important, their activity level.

Numerous studies indicate that women need 1,600 to 2,300 calories per day while men require anywhere from 2,200 to 3,200 calories per day. That said, levels of physical activity matter. Eat more than the recommended calories and live a sedentary life and you’ll likely gain weight. Eat more and stay active and you may not.

For both men and women being overweight brings with it the potential for a number of very real health problems including Type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Finding a Balance

It's not a good idea to obsess about anything. At the same time, you ignore your caloric intake at your own peril. Instead of obsessing, the goal should be to create new habits that include eating smart and staying active. For instance, our zero calorie Sparkling CBD Citrus Water and Hibiscus Tea flavors contain zero calories per can, while our Sparkling CBD Sodas each have only 100 calories.

Instead of ice cream for dessert, consider trying fresh fruit. And instead of sitting around after you eat, get up and go for a walk. It's often the things we eat without thinking about it that do us in as far as weight is concerned so be mindful of snacks, desserts and fast food. And remember to reach for our zero calorie CBD beverages instead of the ice cream sundae or the Mocha Frappe (670 calories).