Calorie queries

Answers to basic questions about how calories work

Counting calories has long been a strategy for people looking to lose weight, but there are still a handful of common misconceptions about what calories are. In short, a calorie is “a unit of measure for the energy in food,” according to Berkeley Wellness, a collaboration of UC Berkeley School of Public Health and a team of national writers. Here are answers to a few basic calorie questions:

Are calories bad? You need them to live. The problem is overconsumption, and the source matters: You may get 100 calories from eating broccoli or a small cookie, but the cookie doesn’t nourish you in the same way.

How many calories are in different foods? Here’s how the basic components break down: carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), protein (4 cal/gm), fat (9 cal/gm) and alcohol (7 cal/gm).

Why do calories make me gain weight? Calories themselves weigh nothing, but excess calories are stored as potential energy in the form of body fat, which has mass (i.e., weight).