Nutrients vs. Calories: Why Knowing the Difference Can Improve Your Health by Dr. Michael S. Boss, DC

June 2013 - images_Page_24_Image_0002

When it comes to what you put in your body, what is most important – nutrients or calories? If you’re like most people, the focus is on calories. “Calories in, calories out!” is the rallying cry, the mantra of many doctors, nutritionists, dieticians and trainers.

The problem is, it doesn’t work. Studies have shown – and I see it every day in my practice – the vast majority of Americans, adults and children, are greatly overfed and undernourished. Simple metabolic blood markers indicate that about 90 percent of the clients I see initially are malnourished for one reason or another. They are eating (a lot) every day, but they are malnourished. To understand what I mean, let me start with a few definitions:


FOOD: Any nutritious substance that is consumed in order to sustain life and growth, repair damage and furnish energy.

NUTRIENT: A substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of metabolism and life.

Both food and nutrients are taken into the body to maintain life and growth, sustain growth and repair, provide energy and support metabolism.

Now, here’s another definition:

CALORIE: The energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water 1 degree Celsius.

Another way to describe a calorie is a unit of energy producing potential equal to this amount of heat contained in a food. You notice that there is nothing in the definition of a calorie about nutrition, growth, repair, building, healing or anything about sustaining life. It is basically a measurement of energy producing potential. Of course, your body must be able to digest, absorb and then process the food’s energy-producing potential – many bodies can’t. Yet we give calories so much attention when it comes to our weight and our food consumption. “How many calories are in that? How many calories are in this.”

What’s key to understand is not all calories have the same value. For instance, one gram of carbohydrate equals four calories. One hundred calories of kale packs a healthy punch, bringing nutrients that allow your body to function properly and at a high level. These nutrients include very highly absorbable and functional forms. The same 100 calories of cinnamon buns or pasta or refined boxed breakfast cereal contains little to no usable nutrients. Plus, they include compounds such as phytates that actually block the absorption of other nutrients and lead to malnutrition, inflammation and the breaking down of the body.

If you have tried the outdated “calories in, calories out” approach and seen no results, you likely have a metabolic issue that needs to be investigated and addressed. You also likely need to make some alterations in the food you eat. Health, real health, is largely about the quality of nutrients we put in our bodies because the nutrients are what make our bodies function. It is also about getting your body’s systems to function the way they are meant to function. Even if you are ill or have a chronic disease, your body function can be restored with the right plan.

Nutrients support normal metabolism, healing, repair and function, not calories. Nutrients are like the gas we put in our cars. If you put bad fuel, or not enough of the right fuel, in a Ferrari, are you going to get high performance? Of course you won’t. It is the same with the foods we put in our bodies.

Nutrients are the key to healthy eating. Load up and live long!

Dr. Boss has been a practicing chiropractor and wellness practitioner for more than 20 years. He is the creator of the Elevate Life Program, affiliated with Juicer Heroes, and he provides treatment programs in the areas of functional healthcare, nutrition, acupuncture, exercise, hormone function and balance, chronic diseases, nutriceuticals and more. He also cohosts the weekly ELEVATE LIFE Wellness Hour on 550 KTSA. Call 210-264-2570 for an individual consultation, or visit for more info about Dr. Boss and Elevate Life.

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