Calories power our daily lives. Getting the correct amount of calories is important to staying healthy. But getting your calories from the right sources is equally as important.

What Does a Daily Calorie Intake Mean?

Every package of food lists information about how many calories the food contains, but what are calories anyway? Calories measure energy. Scientifically, you can define a calorie as the amount of heat you need to raise the temperature of one unit of water from 0 to 1 degree Celsius. Nutritionally speaking, a calorie stands for a unit of energy that you get from the foods you eat.

Your cells take energy from what you consume. One food calorie, known as a kilocalorie (or kcal), holds 1,000 calories. In other words, the calories you see on food labels are actually kcals, or units of food calories. This unit shows the amount of energy or fuel that your cells can get from metabolizing the nutrients in what you’re eating.

The Source of Your Caloric Intake Matters

Three macronutrients supply your calories: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. These macronutrients give you energy, and you need them to survive.

You’ll promote your top health when you consume the best sources of macronutrients. These sources include heart-healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and proteins that contain a large quantity of essential amino acids. The empty calories you get from alcohol, on the other hand, provide you with energy, but these calories displace essential nutrients.

You don’t get the same amount of calories from each macronutrient. Thus, keeping track of your calorie intake and the food you eat is key to making sure you get your calories from the right sources. You get 4 calories for each gram of both carbohydrates and proteins, while fats contain 9 calories in each gram.

A Caloric Intake Calculator Can Help You Achieve the Right Balance for Your Needs

Your diet’s caloric balance contributes to your overall health. If you want to lose or maintain weight, or simply make sure you stay healthy, a calorie intake app can help you calculate the calories you need — and the sources from which you need to get them — so that you can mindfully plan what you consume.

When the number of calories you consume matches up with the calories you burn through your metabolism and physical activity such as exercise, you’ll be able to maintain the proper caloric balance. Caloric excess refers to consuming more calories than you’re using, while a caloric deficit occurs when you burn more calories than you take in.

You need caloric excess for growth, but this overabundance can also lead to weight gain. Likewise, a caloric deficit leads to losing weight. You want to have a well-balanced diet that obtains 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fats, and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates.

No matter what your health goals may be, you want to pay attention to your calorie intake. Turning to high-quality macronutrients and getting your calories in the right proportion will optimize your health.

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