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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Calorie Counting is a Popular Misnomer: Something we eat is either usable by the body (nutrient) or unusable (toxin); Dr. Harlan Sparer helps explain the difference and its impact on appropriate food choices.

May 25, 2016 07:50AM ● By Dr. Harlan Sparer

The term “calorie” never was a unit of nutrition. Specifically, it is a unit of physics and energy, the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water one degree Celsius. The value of a nutrient ingested by a person for food is not a measurement of physics. It is defined as the capacity to nourish the body with the substances needed to live and grow. Essentially, something you eat is either usable by the body (a nutrient) or unusable (a toxin). If it is a toxin, it needs to be eliminated by excretion or chemical neutralization, or stored for later elimination.

If a nutrient is ingested, it has a relative positive value based on whether it is digestible, how taxing it is to digest and metabolize, whether it is usable in its form or must be biochemically converted, whether it is in excess of requirements or approximately in the amount needed; and if it is in excess, how and where it will be stored.

Digestibility is relative for each individual. Intolerances develop based on genetic predisposition, stress, lack of diet variation and toxic exposure from chemical and pesticide sources. A slice of whole grain bread can be nutritious for one person and impossible to digest for another.

Some foods, like beans and celery, take more effort to digest than they create, despite appearing to have a high caloric measurement. Some foods digest easily, but tax the body by utilizing an excess of minerals and enzymes to metabolize them, like refined sugar, even if it is from an organic source. None of these are measurements depicted on a label.

Some fats, oils and proteins need to undergo complex reactions to convert them for use. This is especially the case when they are subjected to the intense heat often applied in many common diets. The human digestive tract is designed as omnivorous, able to utilize a variety of food. The problem is that our conversion capacity is not endless, but finite. As a result, once taxed, it does not function optimally. This leads to incompletely digested proteins and fats circulating, causing autoimmune dysfunction manifested as cancer and autoimmune diseases.

When an excess is consumed, it is stored as fat. Obesity is a burgeoning problem that is seldom solved by an educational component, even in extreme bariatric cases. This leads at best to recidivism and recurrence, resulting in many health disorders such as diabetes, heart conditions and stroke, as well as musculoskeletal issues.

The food industry has inculcated itself into our psyche with advertisements and early consumer encouragement in schools. We need to un-brainwash ourselves and relearn how to eat in a healthy manner. The resources are available to all on the Internet. There are many responsible holistic health care providers available to explain and teach how the body digests and metabolizes food. We can all do better by decreasing our unhealthy consumption of refined sugar and flour, or possibly even eliminating it or reserving it for occasional recreational purposes. The alarm clock is ringing. It’s time to wake up.

Dr. Harlan SparerDr. Harlan Sparer is a DNFT chiropractor practicing in Tempe. He can be reached at 480-245-7894 or [email protected]. For more information, visit or

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