Not always healthy to count calories

While I agree with Mr Li Ze Zong that overconsumption of calories can contribute towards obesity and diabetes, obsessive calorie counting is not only ineffective, but could also be detrimental to both our physical and mental health ("Get ranking-obsessed S'poreans hooked on calorie scores"; Monday).

Calorie counting encourages us to judge the nutritional value of food solely on its calorific content, ignoring other aspects, such as ingredients and sugar levels.

This can cause us to mistakenly choose processed, sugar-laden food (such as diet sodas and fruit yogurts) over unprocessed food (such as avocados and nuts), simply because they are lower in calories, which can greatly derail our weight-loss efforts.

Studies have also shown that calorie counts on nutrition labels and restaurant menus can be inaccurate, with the actual calorific values of some types of food differing from their estimated values by a shocking 50 per cent.

People of different sizes, genders, ages and levels of physical activity require different quantities of calories daily, making it even more difficult for us to determine the exact number of calories we are entitled to a day.

Most importantly, religious calorie counting can encourage an obsession with food, which would provide a fertile breeding ground for eating disorders.

Therefore, instead of getting Singaporeans to count and compare calories obsessively, we should focus on encouraging them to eat wholefoods and teaching them how to read ingredients lists.

By eating fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible, we not only consume more beneficial nutrients and vitamins, but also control our calorie intake at the same time.

Audrey Chua Le Qing (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Not always healthy to count calories'. Print Edition | Subscribe