The calcount Team

Best 3 Fruits you can Eat

Wait a minute… what does that even mean? Best 3 fruits? Picking the best 3 fruits is literally trying to compare apples with oranges!

What makes a Good Fruit?

That said, it is possible to decide the best 3 fruits you can eat if we set some clear criteria:

It must have the best combination of nutrients,

By “best” we mean most balanced. In other words, a mix of a large number of different nutrients, in quantities that are big enough to have a meaningful effect on your health.

It should have the best price and availability.

If the best fruit in the world is a rare berry growing on a tree in the Himalayan foothills, it is hard to get and therefore not the best.

The best fruit must be reasonably priced and readily available from regular Australian shops. It can’t be one of those expensive “super-food” fruits that most people cannot  afford to eat regularly.

The best fruit is one that you can enjoy any time you are in the mood to eat it.

The best fruit will be relatively unique.

There is no meaningful nutritional advantage between two different fruits which deliver the same sort of nutrients to your system. If one has a bit more of some micro-nutrient or other, it won’t make a practical difference to your health.

The best fruit will be far ahead of most other fruits in some special way. Eating the best fruit will give you a specific benefit.

Taste! It must taste good!

Not only must it taste good, but it must have some unique flavour, smell or texture that makes you go hunting through the isles. This gets tricky because people have different preferences, but, we can rule out most sour, bitter, tough, rough, fiddly, or smelly types of fruit.

Relatively low calorie count.

This is Calorie Counter Australia, so of course calorie count is a key consideration. In this case, the less calorie-dense the better.

Best 3 Fruits you can eat in Australia

There are other requirements which we will gloss over for this post about the best 3 fruits you can eat, let’s just get into the list, ranked in order:


Okay, so they are not cheap but they are widely available and they score really high across the board. Their stand-out feature is a very high antioxidant content.

Antioxidants are a hot research topic right now. Study after study shows one thing: they are really good for you, in many different ways. Current thinking is that they are anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and a whole lot of other “anti-bad stuff”. You may have read about stilbenoids like reservatrol and pterostilbene, well blueberries are stacked with them. Eating about half a cup of blueberries will boost the average person’s daily intake of anti-oxidants by 100%!

Blueberries also have good quantities of many other micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and they have a low calorie density. The blue stuff in blueberries that give them their colour also kills bacteria!


Kiwifruit is so good for you that it might be considered a medicine by some people. Why? Because there is real peer-reviewed research which found that kiwifruit reduced some respiratory problems in children. Kiwifruit thins the blood with a similar effect to the “baby aspirin” commonly prescribed to people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Of course, we are not advocating that you stop taking your meds! Keep taking your medication and follow your doctor’s advice!

Kiwifruit is special because:

  • weight-for-weight, it has more vitamin C than oranges
  • is packed with soluble fibre
  • has one of the highest concentrations of lutein (lutein helps to prevent age-related eye degeneration)
  • contains a very high amount of anti-oxidants (yes, anti-oxidants are a big deal!)

Kiwifruit also has admirable amounts of minerals and vitamins that you really need to get into your system every day if you are going to do the best you can for yourself.


That’s right – more berries! Strawberries make the cut because they have high folic acid, Vitamin C levels. They are also a great choice for all-round micro-nutrient content and low-calorie goodness. Also, they taste good!

With high levels of folic acid, strawberries have high levels of other Vitamin B group compounds like niacin. B-complex vitamins have many  health benefits such as allowing cells to get the most “bang for buck” from energy sources like carbohydrates.

And yes, they are high in anti-oxidants!

Whilst this list is accurate given our stated requirements, consider that it may not be for you. Everyone will probably have a different list of the best 3 fruits for them, because we all have different lifestyles and preferences. The bottom-line is, eat lots of fruit and make the right choices!

The calcount Team

4 Ways Garlic Benefits Men (with Infographic)

People have known about the general health benefits of garlic for thousands of years, but did you know that garlic helps men particularly, in specific ways? Read on to find out what we learned when we researched this fascinating topic.

Garlic is in the onion family and has been eaten as a condiment and medicine by humans for thousands of years. The Ancient Egyptians believed in garlic’s medicinal properties, as evidenced by the cloves they bricked up in the pyramids. Modern scientific research has supported this ancient and ongoing belief by analysing the chemistry of garlic and its effect on the human body. After decades of study, it seems that we now have a clue as to why so many people swear by it. The main reason for garlic’s health benefits are the same reason that it tastes and smells so very pungent: sulphur compounds.

Garlic’s Special Sulfurous Smell

Garlic is not the only member of the onion family to produce a strong smell, but it is by far the most potent. The distinctive smell is caused by a concentration of about 100 different sulfurous chemicals within its cells, including allicin. Sulphur compounds in rotten eggs and natural hot springs give both their unforgettable smell, just as the sulphur in garlic gives it that special smell. Besides their smell, certain sulphur compounds are well-known for having antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.

It is interesting to think about why any plant would evolve to contain high concentrations of sulphur compounds. When garlic is damaged, a natural defense mechanism acts to quickly produce a group of strong-smelling and “hot” tasting chemicals. These unpleasant (to animals and vampires) chemicals repel the invaders and allow the garlic to continue living and growing. Once released, these unstable chemicals continue to react with the environment and each other until much of their original potency is diminished. That is why freshly crushed or chewed garlic smells much stronger than unbroken bulbs or preserved, processed garlic.

In addition to scaring would-be “predators” with their strong smell, the sulphur compounds kill harmful microorganisms that might otherwise take advantage of the damage to enter exposed cells. These potent defensive chemicals are the secret behind garlic’s beneficial effects, for both men and women, but men especially.

Garlic benefits men infographic
Garlic Benefits Men Infographic

Man’s Libido is Increased with Garlic

The sulphur compounds in garlic have the effect of increasing blood flow and circulation to all body organs. A man’s body typically has a certain organ which depends on rapid and sustained blood flow to perform optimally. The optimal performance of this particular organ has a critical effect on men’s libido and well-being. The sulphur compound chemicals found in garlic, such as allicin, are found to widen blood vessels and enlarge flow volume in response to hormonal activity.

Garlic Benefits Men’s Heart Health

Multiple statistics show than men have a much higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than women. Therefore, it is especially important for men to do everything they can to prevent heart disease. Eating garlic is something men can do to treat almost every aspect of heart health, just read this extract from an excellent review of many different studies related to garlic’s effect on heart health:

“The wealth of scientific literature supports the proposal that garlic consumption have significant effects on lowering blood pressure, prevention of atherosclerosis, reduction of serum cholesterol and triglyceride, inhibition of platelet aggregation, and increasing fibrinolytic activity…”

Leyla Bayan et al.

Basically, the review finds that garlic has a significant positive effect on heart health by lowering blood pressure, softening arteries, reducing harmful cholesterol, and even preventing and breaking up potential blood clots!

Prostate Health is Supported with Garlic

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a common health problem for men that usually occurs with ageing. The prostate is a golf-ball sized gland which encircles the tube through which men urinate. BPH is a condition where the prostate grows bigger and bigger until it squeezes the tube, restricting the flow of urine and pressing against the bladder. According to several studies like this one, garlic has the effect of preventing and reducing BPH. Why and how? It must be something to do with those amazing sulphur compounds!

Garlic Enhances Men’s Body Odor

No, seriously, garlic really does improve the body odour of men, it has been studied! Men who eat garlic regularly are perceived to be more pleasant-smelling by women. Note: this is not the “garlic breath” effect, which is caused when sulphur compounds are processed by the liver and excreted through exhalation and sweat. Instead, it seems that the beneficial health effects of garlic cause “positive signal” chemical cues to appear in the man’s immune system, which are picked up by the olfactory sensors of potential mates. Put simply, men who eat garlic smell healthier than men who do not eat garlic, probably because they are.

Garlic is Food and Medicine

There are 124 calories in 100 grams of garlic, and since each clove usually weighs about 5 grams, the caloric value of garlic as typically eaten is insignificant. Aside from the sulphur compounds, garlic is packed with B vitamins, minerals including selenium, and antioxidants.

Garlic used in combination with ginger produces an unmistakably rich flavour which forms the backbone of many Indian and South-East Asian dishes. Garlic mayo is practically indispensable in many Middle Eastern cuisines.

Chopped parsley can be added to garlic to reduce the strength of “garlic breath”.

To get the most benefit from garlic, chew on a couple of raw cloves every day before breakfast, followed by a glass of warm water.

This probably goes without saying, but whilst garlic benefits men, it also benefits women too!

The calcount Team

3 Ways to Cut Rice Starch Calories

Rice starch is densely packed with calories, and it is not possible to remove the starch without destroying rice completely. Luckily though, there are ways to reduce the food energy you get from eating rice. Read on to discover 3 methods you can use to cut starch calories from rice.

Starch in Rice

The calories in rice primarily come from starch, which is one of the three major types of carbohydrates (the other two being sugar and fibre). By weight, starch makes up about 60% of uncooked rice and approximately 30% of cooked rice. When rice is cooked, each grain absorbs water so that the amount of starch is “diluted” by volume.

From a dietary perspective, starch comes in two forms: the first type is easily digested, and the second is the resistant type which cannot be digested by humans. The easily digested type of starch quickly finds its way into the bloodstream whilst the resistant type moves deep into the gut where it nourishes the “good” bacteria found there. Rice contains both digestible and resistant starch.

It is good to remove the digestible starch from rice, if you would like to eat less-fattening rice.

Cut Starch out

Carbohydrates, in the form of starch, are usually the main source of excess calories in unhealthy diets. Simply put, starch is carbs and carbs must be reduced if your aim is to sustain a calorie deficit to lose weight. Without further ado, here are the 3 methods to cut the calories you absorb from rice starch:

Method 1: Dilute your Rice

The best way to reduce the calories from rice is to eat fewer of them in the first place! You can do this by either reducing your rice portion size, or by mixing low-calorie “fillers” into your rice.

The problem with simply eating less is that you will feel less sated, both physically and mentally. The stretch receptors in your stomach will not signal to your brain that enough food has been eaten, so you will remain hungry even if you have had enough.

Trick your Stomach

The best way to trick your stomach whilst adding healthy foods to your diet is to increase your vegetable intake to compensate for the reduced rice portion. Chop up a bunch of carrots, or leafy vegetables like red cabbage or kale, cook as preferred, then mix and shake the lot into cooked rice. The vegetables and air from the mixing process will add lots of volume to the rice, so that you can eat the same “amount” whilst reducing the volume of rice.

Remember to use low-calorie vegetables or meat to dilute your rice. Crumbled cauliflower will work much better than grated potato!

Dilute rice with vegetables
Dilute your Rice with Vegetables

Method 2: Make the Rice Starch Indigestible

Food scientists have long known that the process of cooking changes the chemistry of food in many varied ways. The way you cook and prepare rice has a big impact on the amount of digestible starch it will contain when you eat it. Prepared a specific way, it is possible to cut the amount of easily digested starch by up to 50% for some rice types. Here’s how:

Add Coconut Oil

Add two teaspoons of coconut oil to every cup of raw rice you cook. The oil must be added to the rice from the start of the actual cooking process, so that they cook together. Some of the oil will bind with some of the starch in the rice, changing its chemical content. After the rice is cooked, it must be cooled down completely to room temperature or below. During the cooling process, the starch/oil combination undergoes chemical changes to form an amylose lipid complex, otherwise known as resistant starch (the indigestible type).

There is still lots of digestible starch in the rice, and of course there are added calories from the coconut oil, but weight-for-weight, rice cooked in this way has significantly fewer digestible calories than regular boiled/steamed rice.

Re-heating the cooled rice will not reverse the process, so you don’t have to eat it cold to access the calorie savings.

As an aside, this process works for other types of starch-containing foods as well, but care should be taken with the amount of oil added, as oil calories can easily swamp the starch-change benefits.

Method 3: Get rid of Loose Starch

A third way to reduce the calories you get from eating rice starch is also related to reducing the amount of digestible starch. When you add water to uncooked rice, the water becomes cloudy with tiny white particles which are washed off the outer surface of each grain. These tiny bits of rice flour have an extremely high starch content and they are easily digestible.

How do we know that this rice powder is more fattening than rice grains? Because over many years, in human cultures which have cultivated and eaten rice for generations, it is common knowledge that sickly people with poor digestion can be sustained with it. A common home remedy for upset stomachs and feverish children is to give them cooled rice water which sustains their energy levels through the illness.

If we know that rice has both resistant and digestible starch, and that the loose powder that comes off rice is easier to digest than rice grains, then perhaps the powder has a higher proportion of digestible starch than the grains. Alternatively, it is simply easier to digest because it is in a “pre-chewed” powder form. In any case, it cannot hurt to get rid of it before you eat the rice!

Rinse Rice thoroughly

To get rid of loose rice starch, simply rinse it well before cooking, so that the water poured off it runs clear instead of cloudy. If you have enough time, try par-boiling your rice, then rinse and cool, then cook to completion.

Combine all for Low Calorie Rice Starch

To make low-calorie rice and get the maximum effect of reducing digestible rice starch use all three methods in combination. First, rinse the rice until the runoff water is clear. Then, boil the rice in water for three minutes. Take the rice off the heat and rinse well in cold water, until the runoff is clear again. Mix in two teaspoons of coconut oil for every cup of uncooked rice, then return the rice to low heat until steamed through. When cooked, allow the rice to cool completely. Before serving, reheat and mix in a portion of chopped, cooked low-calorie vegetables.

The calcount Team

Calories in Coffee

When thinking about calories in coffee, the best approach is to accept that coffee is nothing more than a glorified flavouring for your drink. Sure, it is a super flavour, jam-packed with stimulants, vitamins, minerals and a thousand different chemical compounds, but from a food calorie perspective, it is just a flavouring. In other words, coffee itself does not contain any meaningful calories!

Calories in Coffee typically come from Milk and Sugar

Thought of in this way, the real question becomes, how many calories are in the drink to which you are you adding your coffee flavour? Add it to plain water, and you get a zero-calorie Long Black. Add it to a caramel milkshake and you get a 500-calorie Frappuccino. Yes, both of theses drinks are called “coffees” at your local café, but minus the coffee flavour they are completely different.

When making coffee at home, it is common to add about 60ml of full-cream milk and one teaspoon of sugar to a cup of coffee-flavoured water. This converts a zero-calorie coffee and water drink into a 55-calorie coffee, water, milk, and sugar drink. Each teaspoon of sugar adds 16 calories and each 60ml of milk adds about 39 calories.

Wondering what the difference between adding skimmed, lite, soy, and full-cream milk to coffee is? Apart from reduced calories, skimmed milk has the benefit of being low in saturated fat and high in protein. Soy lattes contain about 10% fewer calories than regular lattes.  Check out our milk comparison post for a detailed insight.

comparison of calories in coffee

Calories at the Cafe

Let’s talk about calories in café coffee. Lattes and cappuccinos, flat whites and espressos, life in Australia would not be the same without them. Here, we are talking about the kind of coffee you get by forcing hot water through tightly packed ground coffee beans, rather than the instant powder or drip filter type.

The good news is that coffee made in the espresso style (when water is pressured through a tight crush of ground coffee beans) is much more nutritious than coffee made in other ways. This is because many small bits of the coffee beans make it through the press basket and into the drink.

Those bean bits hold significant amounts of B vitamins and magnesium in addition to the caffeine and other interesting chemical compounds. If you have the choice between espresso style coffee and others, choose espresso for this reason (and the flavour of course!).

What about calories? What is the most, and least, calorific type of espresso coffee? Here’s your list, taken straight from our website, in order of least to most:

Long Black

The Long Black is made by pouring a double shot of espresso over hot water. This is the coffee you choose when you want coffee and nothing else, but you want to sip rather than downing it in a gulp or two. Single shot or double shot, your afternoon pick-me-up will add no calories to your daily intake.


The purist’s choice is straight-up coffee with just a few ml of water to qualify it as a drink rather than a food. It is a Long Black without the water. You will add just 2 calories per 100ml to your diet each time you knock back one of these head-ringers. By the way, if you are drinking more than 100ml of espresso at a sitting, perhaps consider Zen meditation practices.

Why does an espresso shot contain calories, whereas a long black with the same amount of espresso does not? Well, in fact the long black does indeed contain calories, but they are diluted by water to the point of negligibility, volume-for-volume.


“Macchiato” means “stained” in Italian, in this case the stain is a spot of foamed milk in your espresso. The idea of the milk stain is to take the edge off the bitterness by adding a touch of sweetness without the use of flavour-killing sugar. Opting for the milk stain will add 11 calories to the espresso to yield a total of 13 calories per 100ml.

The caveat with macchiatos (and every other classic coffee), is that the café that you patronise might have a quite different concept of what a macchiato should be. In some cases, the drop of milk which makes the stain could be more like a scoop from a soup ladle, so beware!


Did you know that the name “cappuccino” is derived from the name of a brotherhood of catholic monks (the Capuchin friars) in Italy? No, these monks did not reverently brew and perfect coffee in remote mountaintop monasteries, but they did wear brown habits. Their clothing was a type of brown colour, the same as a cappuccino top. Mix espresso, hot milk and steamed frothy milk to make the brown drink known as cappuccino. Cappuccinos contain 52 calories per 100ml.


Lattes are apparently different from cappuccinos because of the amount of milk foam they contain. Lattes have about 2cm of milk foam on top, compared to about 1.2 cm of milk foam on cappuccinos. That difference translates into a whopping two calorie difference between the two. Lattes contain 54 calories per 100ml.

Flat White

The difference between a latte and a flat white is in the texture of the milk and foam, apparently. That said, we do not have any generally accepted agreement as to what that exact difference is, except to say that it is somehow qualitatively different. Nevertheless, from a calorie perspective there is no difference. Flat whites, like lattes, contain 54 calories per 100ml.


The mochaccino is a hot chocolate with a shot of espresso. This is the most calorific of the classic espresso-style coffees. It is made by adding cocoa powder to the Cappuccino formula. Mochas contain 71 calories per 100ml. Add sugar to a mocha for an even bigger calorie blast!

Blended Ice Coffee

Blended ice coffees are basically just coffee-flavoured milkshakes made with a wide range of flavourings and toppings. It is common to find variations on a blend of flavoured ice-cream to which syrups and a shot of espresso are added, topped with whipped cream. These calorie monsters typically contain 96 calories per 100ml. If you are in the habit of thinking of them as coffees, please stop. Drink them as you would a milkshake, very rarely, as an extraordinary treat.

Calories in other Coffee

The above list is made up of just the “classic” espresso-style coffees in their “pure” forms. That means they have no added sugar and are made with regular fat cow’s milk. In practice, just about every café has its own distinctive variation to the formula for the classics, and you can order from a wide range of substitute milks and sweeteners and toppings. This means that your regular Double Skinny Soy Macchiato with organic Hazelnut Syrup has a calorie count far different from the coffees listed here. Always read the calorie or kilojoule label and bear in mind that your individual barista may have a heavy hand with the syrup and cream!


Coffee on its own has negligible calories, but most common coffee drinks are relatively high in calories. The calories in coffee mostly come from added milk, sugar, cream, and other flavourings. When ordering coffee from cafes, be aware that ice-blended coffee beverages contain about twice the calories of regular coffees. Espresso shots, long blacks and macchiatos are low-calorie drinks whereas cappuccinos, lattes and mochaccinos are high calorie.

The calcount Team

Lose Weight with a 1500 Calorie Diet

When asked to recommend a “guaranteed” weight loss plan, our reply is that everyone will probably lose weight with a 1500 calorie diet. You will likely lose at least 2 kilograms for the first month you stick to a 1500 calorie diet. The thermodynamic logic of a 1500 calorie diet is straightforward. What’s more, we know from repeated studies that it is generally a healthy target for most people to aim for.

Basic Weight Loss Equation

As we discuss in other articles, weight loss is unfathomably complicated, but also blindingly simple. If you eat more calories than you use through normal body function and extra physical activity, you will gain weight. If you use more calories than you eat, you will lose weight

Fat has about 7600 calories per kilogram, so you will lose approximately 500 grams of fat for every 3800 calories you burn. 3800 calories burned over the course of a week is about 540 calories per day (3800 divided by 7 days). Following this simple logic, you would need to reduce daily calories by 500 to lose about 500 grams per week.

Lose Weight with a 1500 Calorie Diet

Of course, all other things are not equal because cellular metabolism does not happen in a vacuum. There are a thousand influencing factors related to body composition, metabolism, and hormonal balance. The human body is not a spreadsheet so we cannot use a simple formula to plot an easy graph to accurately predict actual weight loss. However, we know with certainty, there will be weight loss when there is more energy taken out than put in.

In fact we know, from hundreds of studies, that people usually lose about 500 grams in body weight for each week that they reduce their average daily food intake by 500 calories.

We eat more than 1500 Calories per day

It is hard to know exactly how many calories are being absorbed and used by our bodies daily. Luckily, there are convenient methods anyone can use to make good estimates. If your weight is stable, then the energy you are putting in is balancing the energy being taken out. Thus, you can estimate how many calories you eat by measuring the energy going in and out of your body.

In the lab, scientists use sophisticated measurement devices and controlled environmental conditions on closely monitored test subjects to measure calorie intake and expenditure. This level of analysis is far beyond what the everyday person needs.

Instead, you can measure incoming calories by using a tool like our calcount Calorie Tracker to keep a food diary which adds up the total calories in the food you eat. Those food calorie counts are based on average calories in similar foods as measured in the lab by food scientists.

You can measure outgoing calories by applying a credible total daily expenditure formula to your personal body metrics like weight, gender, age, and height. Our calcount Calorie Calculator does exactly that.  

Alternatively, you can get an estimate of your calorie consumption by reviewing the findings of large-scale scientific studies. According the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the average daily food consumption in developed countries is between 3200 and 3800 calories (this includes food waste). Our own FSANZ reports that the average Australian eats 2079 calories (8700kJ) per day, based on surveys.

Looking at our own data, the calcount team concludes that we collectively eat a median of 2650 calories per day.

Want to Lose Weight? Use a 1500 Calorie Diet

So why do we often recommend the 1500 calorie daily target? Because we need to consider a few key factors when picking a good general calorie target for a weight-loss diet:

Effective for weight-loss

Perhaps most importantly, we want the calorie target to be at a level where noticeable weight is lost in a reasonably short time. Since we know that most of us are eating more than 2000 calories per day, and that a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day causes effective weight loss, then a target of 1500 calories becomes a compelling proposition (2000 minus 500). In theory, you will probably lose at least 2 kilograms for the first month you stick to a 1500 calorie diet. In practice, you will lose more or less than this, depending on your personal circumstances.

If by chance you are already eating 1500 calories or less per day and still want to lose weight, please see a doctor for medical advice.

Safe for most people

Given the enormous number of personal attributes and health conditions you may have, no general advice or information could replace the professional guidance of your own doctor. However, based on available published research, 1500 calories per day is an accepted healthy target for most people. Consider that a typical so-called “starvation-diet” or VLCD (Very Low-Calorie Diet) has a daily target of about 800 calories. According to many sources, the average healthy person normally eats 2000 calories. In some extreme cases, doctors actually recommend VLCDs. The mid-point between the VLCD and a 2000 calorie diet is 1400 calories, so 1500 calories cannot too low of a target. At 1500 calories, provided your diet includes all the recommended micro-nutrients, you will be fine.

Achievable with effort

Make no mistake, for people accustomed to eating north of 2800 calories per day, a 1500 calorie diet is hard, very hard. However, there are some tried and tested methods to make it easier to cope with. Some people can achieve a necessary reduction in calories by simply downsizing their portions by swapping regular plates and bowls for smaller ones. Others find that changing their food mix from carb-heavy to protein-heavy does the job. Yet others take up the challenge by trying whichever diet trend happens to be popular now. Suffice to say that the 1500 calorie diet comes in many different forms, some of which are suited to just about everybody.

Single Target

Ideally, with specific meal plans, regular check-ins, calculated exercise, and tailored mental coaching anyone can home in on a desired body weight goal. Unfortunately, the type of intense professional attention that highly specific nutrition and exercise programs require usually put them out of reach for normal people. Instead, the average person needs an easy-to-grasp concept to motivate practical action.

A 1500 calorie diet is a single fixed point target which a person can focus on for the duration of their mission to lose weight. Stay on it for weight loss, then come off it when the desired weight goal is reached. Switch macro-nutrients and portion sizes and meal timing around randomly to prevent boredom and to stimulate beneficial hormonal cycles. Rinse and repeat until lifestyle habits change to the point where weight stabilises at a healthy level.

How about 1600 calories?

Yes, you will lose weight on a 1600 calorie diet. You will also lose weight on a 1400 calorie diet. Hence, 1500 calories is a good daily calorie target, because it is between the “hard” and “less effective” calorie counts. In practice, if you aim for 1500 daily calories, you will eat between 1650 and 1450 calories per day. Done consistently, this will be enough of a deficit to let you see real progress over a few weeks. At a 1600 calorie target, the average daily deficit will be smaller, but still effective enough to see real progress.

Of course, this assumes that you are currently in the habit of eating more than 2000 calories per day. You can get a more exact understanding of what an individual target looks like by using the calcount Calorie Tracker.


You will lose weight on a 1500 calorie diet if you stick to it for at least 3 weeks. This is because you will be creating a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day. If you burn 500 calories per day, you will lose about 500 grams of body weight per week. Provided that you are generally healthy and eat a balanced diet, the 1500 daily calorie target is safe and effective.

The calcount Team

Eat this many Calories a Day by Age

Use this handy calcount Calories by Age tool to calculate how many calories a day you should eat, depending on your current age. Age matters when it comes to the rate of calorie burn, because our metabolism slows as we grow older (and wiser).

When we say, “eat this many calories”, we do so on the assumption that you want to maintain your current weight. To lose weight, eat fewer calories. To gain weight, eat more calories.

Many factors determine how many calories a person needs to eat each day, such as the person’s current weight, exercise level, gender and of course, age. Of these main factors, age is the one that will change, no matter what else happens to the person.

Ageing bodies Slow Down

Age is an important factor when it comes to calorie burn, for the simple reason that it affects the speed at which your body uses the calories you eat. This rate of energy use can be thought of as the “metabolism”. More specifically, the key change with age is a reduction in the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Even though the body is constantly repairing itself, things just do not get fixed “good-as-new”. There is a gradual build-up of cellular detritus and harmful substances at the smallest scales which negatively affect essential functions. Things like telomeres get shorter. Processes just fall apart in the end. This gradual and general degradation leads to a measurable decline in the speed at which the body extracts energy from food.

For a more detailed explanation of the metabolism and the other factors which affect it, read our Calorie Counter page.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the slowing BMR, advancing age is often associated with a general slowdown in activity levels as lifestyles change. It is not unreasonable to assume that a 21-year-old is likely to have a more energetic day-plan than a 56-year-old! Reduced activity means that less energy is needed throughout the day, leading to a feedback loop which facilitates a reduction in muscle-mass and metabolism.

If you are “getting-on” in years, you can break the loop, defy the trend, and prolong your faster metabolism rate by exercising regularly. If possible, do activities that make your muscles work hard.

Increased muscle mass is the surest way to keep your BMR humming as you age. Exercising will not stop you from ageing, but it will keep you healthier for longer!

Calories a Day by Age Table

To get a credible answer for the question “How many calories a day should I eat by age?”, we can apply average heights and healthy weights to generally accepted Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) equations. Thus, this tool will work very well for people who are of average height, healthy weight, and do not do any exercise other than normal day-to-day activities. If you do more exercise than a sedentary person, you can use this table to estimate your required calories by age:

AgeMen, Moderate
Men, High Level ExerciseWomen, Moderate
Women, High Level Exercise
76 and up2,2002,4001,8002,000

This is a simple tool, primarily designed to shed some light on what effect aging has on daily calorie intake requirements. If you want a more detailed calculator which factors in your exact height and weight as well as your age and gender, head on over to the calcount Calorie Calculator. To dig even deeper and find out what your recommended macronutrient intake is (and much more), explore our Calorie Tracker.

The calcount Team

Convert Salt to Sodium

When you are being careful about what you eat, it is important to know how to convert sodium to salt and vice-versa. That way, you will be able to keep a tally of roughly how much sodium you are eating daily. In this post we have made a handy salt to sodium converter for you (see below) and outline some interesting information regarding sodium and salt.

Too much Sodium is Bad for you

Sodium is an essential mineral, needed for at least ten crucial processes in the human body. Perhaps the most important of these functions are related to the maintenance of correct blood pressure, controlling the nervous system, and enabling muscles to work. Simply put, you could not survive without sodium.

That said, read a standard nutrition label, and you will see a value for sodium in milligrams. Why do labels make a point of detailing sodium rather than all the other essential metals found in food like phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium? Well, as you may have heard, excess sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and fluid retention.

Australian Food Label
Australia requires Sodium to be labelled

In fact, the National Health and Medical Research Council recommends an upper limit of 2,300 milligrams per day for the average adult. Therefore, it is important to have an idea of how much sodium you are eating every day, so that you do not consistently exceed this limit.

Why do we eat too much Sodium?

The reason we eat to much sodium is because we eat too much salt. Salt is the main source of sodium in our diets. We eat too much salt because salt makes things taste good. Salty biscuits taste better than unsalted biscuits and bacon tastes better than unsalted pork.

Salt tastes good because our bodies know that we need it, just as sugar tastes good because our bodies know that we need it.

Food manufacturers know this and since they want to sell more food, they add more salt to their products. We know this so we add salt to our boiled egg in the morning, slather some salty mayo on our salad at lunchtime, then munch on salty pretzels in the evening.

The problem is that our bodies evolved to eat food without added salt.

Salt is not Sodium

Common salt is sodium chloride, which is about 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight. Sodium is a metal and chloride is an anion of chlorine. From an everyday health perspective, it is not important to know the ins and outs of the chemistry, but it is important to realise that not all salt is sodium and not all sodium is in salt. There is sodium in many other food chemicals, such as sodium bicarbonate (baking powder/baking soda), and monosodium glutamate (MSG). To complicate matters further, there is sodium in just about everything else! For example, eggs contain 150mg of sodium per 100 grams whilst dried apricots have 37mg per 100g.

The label on packaged foods shows the value of sodium from all sources including salt: the manufacturer has had to convert it as required by law.

If you eat a modern balanced diet, you are probably never going to suffer from a deficiency of sodium even if you never add salt to anything you cook and eat. However, we all add salt to food and since it is the most easily controlled source of sodium in our diet, it is useful to know how much we are adding daily.

How to Convert Salt to Sodium

The best way to convert salt to sodium is to use our calcount Sodium Converter at the top of this post, but if you would prefer a brain workout you can do it yourself this way: salt weight divided by 2.542 equals sodium weight.

This formula works out because chlorine (the element which makes the anion chloride) has an atomic mass of 35.45, compared to sodium’s atomic mass of 22.99. Since sodium chloride (common table salt) is one sodium combined with one chloride, it has an atomic mass of 58.45 (22.99 plus 35.45). All you need to do is divide 58.45 by the mass of sodium to arrive at the proportion factor of 2.542.

Thus, 2.542 grams of salt contains 1 gram of sodium. Sodium is usually expressed in milligrams rather than grams, so it is more useful to say that 2.542 grams of salt contains 1000 milligrams of sodium. One gram of salt has 393.39 milligrams of sodium.

Bear in mind that this formula works for pure, laboratory grade sodium chloride. The salt you buy from the supermarket is quite different because it likely contains impurities and different types of other salts mixed in with sodium chloride. Sea salt in particular is likely to include a wide mix of other natural salts and minerals.

Confused? Just use our converter!

Common High Sodium Foods

Sodium is to be found in most foods, simply because it is a common metal found in the ground and the sea and both plants and animals use it for life processes. Leaving aside actual salt and baking powder, the highest sodium levels are to be found in dry stock food ingredients like cube beef stock, dried seasoning mixes like taco flavour powders, and dried soup pouches. Dried and preserved products tend to have concentrated levels of sodium, as do yeast spreads like Vegemite and Marmite. This is a list of 25 high-sodium foods, courtesy of FSANZ (values per 100g):

Food NameSodium (mg)
Stock, dry powder or cube18400
Intense sweetener, containing saccharin, tablet11000
Seasoning mix, chilli-based, for tacos9350
Plum, salted8400
Sauce, fish, commercial8255
Lemon, preserved7638
Soup, French onion, instant dry mix7130
Cod, Atlantic, dried, salted7027
Beef, extract, bonox6660
Sauce, soy, commercial, regular6555
Anchovy, canned5480
Pork, crackling, roasted, salted3700
Spread, yeast, marmite3400
Paste, vindaloo, commercial3274
Spread, yeast, vegemite, regular3000
Capers, pickled, canned, drained2964
Cheese, haloumi2900
Pappadam, microwaved without oil or salt2879
Vine leaf, grape, canned2853
Bacon, middle rasher or shortcut, baked, roasted, grilled or BBQ’d2300
Fish roe (caviar), black2120
Mutton-bird, cooked2070
Olive, green, pimento stuffed, drained2070
Jerky, beef, all flavours1736
Salami, Hungarian1730
25 of the highest sodium content foods in Australia

How much Salt should you Eat per Day?

Going by the recommended daily sodium intake of 2300mg, about 6 grams of salt would be equivalent. If we take one teaspoon of salt to be 5 grams, does this mean that you can add one teaspoon of salt to your meals over the course of a day? Certainly not!

Studies have shown that the average person today eats over 4000mg of sodium, just from everyday processed food bought from the supermarket (no extra salt added). Any sodium added to that load from a saltshaker is going to take that person’s daily intake to double or triple the recommended level.

The key takeaway from an understanding of how much sodium there is in food is this: do not add salt to your food at the table.

The calcount Team

Full Cream vs. Lite vs. Skimmed Milk

When you are controlling your calories, which is the better choice: full-cream milk, “lite” milk, or skimmed milk? Is it true that reduced-fat milk is just watered-down whole milk? Before you rush in with a quick “Its obvious!” answer, let us take a closer look at these three options…

How do they make reduced fat milk?

In pre-industrial times, skimmed milk was simply whole milk whose cream was removed by skimming off the top after it was left to settle in a pail. We do things a bit differently these days!

To make reduced fat milk, pre-processed whole milk from a blend of different cows is spun around in a specialised centrifuge. The centrifugal force breaks the milk into its separate components of water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, minerals, and vitamins. The manufacturer then reprocesses the separate ingredients in different batches and proportions to make different types of dairy products.

If you have read our post on panela, you will have found out that centrifuges are incredibly useful food-processing machines.

Reduced-fat milk is theoretically just recombined whole milk, without all the fat added back.

Whole milk has a generally accepted fat content of 3.5%, but of course in nature this varies immensely depending on the cow breed, the cow’s diet, the relative water content, and a hundred other input variables. Non-standard inputs are anathema to industry, so manufacturers therefore carefully standardise the fat content of designated full-cream milk at 3.5%.

Fat in Full-Cream, Low-Fat (Lite) and Skimmed Milk

Different countries have various regulations which determine what can and cannot be called “skimmed milk” and “reduced fat milk”. In Australia, milk must have a fat content of less than 0.15% before it can be marketed as Skimmed Milk or “Fat-Free”.

Reduced Fat Milk must have at least 25% less fat than whole milk.

Low-Fat Milk (also marketed as “Lite” or “Light” milk) must have less than 1.5% fat by composition.

milk nutrition comparison
Full-cream milk has way more calories than lite and skimmed milk

There is more Sugar in Skimmed Milk

Back up a little and think about how they make reduced fat milk: the fat is physically taken out. What happens when you take one specific thing out of a mixture? Everything else, including the sugar, becomes relatively more concentrated! It is like simmering sugar water on your stovetop to make syrup.

A typical full-cream milk is 4.7% sugar, whilst a typical skimmed milk is 4.9% sugar, compared to 4.8% for low-fat milk.

This sugar difference (about 4%) has a noticeable effect on the taste of skimmed milk compared to full-cream milk.

In addition to there being more sugar in reduced fat milk, there is also more of everything else (except for fat!) like protein (mainly in casein form), minerals and vitamins.

Full-Cream Milk has way more calories

Full-cream milk has 45% more calories than skimmed milk, as a direct result of there being about 95% more fat in it. Low-fat milk by comparison has about 65% less fat and 30% less calories than full-cream milk.

A single small glass (250ml) of full-cream milk makes up about 8% of a 2,000 calorie daily diet, whereas that same glass of skimmed milk would comprise just 4% of the same diet.

Lots of Saturated Fat in Whole Milk

Everyone has probably heard that saturated fats, as opposed to unsaturated fats, are bad for you if eat too many. Saturated fats have been linked with a broad range of “first-world” health problems like heart disease. The World Health Organisation recommends that less than 10% of total energy intake should come from saturated fats.

Milk fat is typically 60% saturated fat! In a typical full-cream milk product, 2.1 grams of the 3.5grams of fat per 100ml is saturated fat. This means that drinking more than two small glasses of full-cream milk will quickly bring you up to the daily recommended limit. You would need to drink about 45 of the same glasses of skimmed milk to hit that same limit.

There is saturated fat in full-cream, lite, and skimmed milk, but in widely differing quantities.

saturated fat comparison of full-cream and skimmed milk
Drink skimmed milk to avoid saturated fat

Of course, there are always dissenting voices supported by studies like this one which say that the saturated fat in milk has no adverse effect on health. As with many contentions related to health and food, it may be many years before we reach the unassailable truth.

Read the label!

If you are serious about nutrition, it is a good idea to base your milk choice on what you see on the food label. The nature of milk means that there is an enormous amount of variation between types and brands of milk. Manufacturers have a lot of leeway when it comes to what they put in and take out of the product known as milk.

Other than the broad percentage-based government guidelines, reduced-fat milk could be anything from 75% full-cream to 0% full-cream. Lite milk could have as much as 1.5% or as little as 0.15% fat – the difference is a factor of 10!


Finally, a simple conclusion: Skimmed Milk beats Lite Milk beats Full-Cream Milk because less calories, less saturated fats, more nutrients.

Reduced-fat milks do not taste as good as full-cream milk because they have less fat in them, not because they are “watered-down”. You will get excellent nutrition from skimmed milk, don’t worry.

Yes, it was kind of obvious.

Check out this video from Dairy Australia about how milk is manufactured:
The calcount Team

Diet Coke vs. Coke No Sugar

Since both Diet Coke and Coke No Sugar are sugar-free and contain less than one calorie, are they really different? Let’s take a closer look at both drinks to find out if so and which one is healthier.

Different Histories

Malcolm Fraser was the Prime Minister in 1982 when Diet Coke was launched. In 2017, Malcolm Turnbull was the Prime Minister when Coke No Sugar was released. Maybe Malcolms are good for low-calorie colas?

Diet Coke replaced the Coca-Cola company’s first-generation diet cola, named Tab. Coke No Sugar replaced Coke Zero in Australia and became Coke Zero Sugar in some other countries (not to be confused with Coke Zero).

coke zero became coke zero sugar
Coke Zero became Coke No Sugar

Diet Coca-Cola was launched hesitantly due to fears that customers would reject anything other than “the real thing” being called Coke. Up until 1982, there had not been another “Coca-Cola” besides the original since 1886. Diet Coke does not taste like regular Coke, but it became massively popular because people began taking calorie control seriously.

Diet Coke’s success led them to launch many other Cokes, like Cherry Coke, Coke Ginger and Coca-Cola With Energy. In 2005, they began to sell Coca-Cola Zero to appeal to people who wanted the regular Coke taste with the Diet Coke calories. They ran into a problem though: many people did not realise that Coke Zero was sugar-free, just like Diet Coke. In response, the company tweaked the recipe again and renamed the product to either Coke No Sugar or Coke Zero Sugar, depending on which market it is sold in.

Ingredients compared

The ingredients in both drinks are remarkably similar. This may come as a surprise to people who have tried both, because the two colas taste quite different. The key flavour differences are a company secret, but we can take a side-by-side look at the published ingredients:

Diet Coke compared to Coke Zero Sugar Coke No Sugar ingredients

The three major ingredient differences are that Diet Coke, compared to Coke No Sugar (or Coke Zero Sugar), has 1) more “Coke Secret Flavour” by volume, 2) a preservative (sodium benzoate), and 3) has citric acid instead of sodium citrate.

Why does Diet Coke need a separate preservative, whereas Coke No Sugar does not? Perhaps this is because the sodium citrate (Food Acid 331) and phosphoric acid (Food Acid 338) are sufficient to do the job, whereas the citric acid (Food Acid 330) and phosphoric acid combination in Diet Coke is not. Phosphoric acid, citric acid, and sodium citrate are all food acids which have a dual function of adding flavour and preserving the drink. Maybe the sodium citrate/phosphoric acid mix just works better?

Diet Coke has about 13mg of caffeine per 100ml, compared to about 10mg in Coke No Sugar.

Calories in Coke No Sugar

When it comes to calories, Coke No Sugar has a slight edge over Diet Coke: 0.33 calories per 100ml compared to 0.35 calories per 100ml. Most of the calories in both drinks probably come from the food acids. Bear in mind that at the level of less than one calorie per 100ml, both drinks may realistically be called zero calorie because the human body is going to draw no usable calories at that dilution.

If Diet Coke has more secret Coca-Cola flavour in it than Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, why does it taste less like classic Coca-Cola? Probably because there are different Coke flavour recipes, and Coke No Sugar’s version hits the mark closer than Diet Coke’s.

In Australia, both Coke No Sugar and Diet Coke are sweetened with Aspartame and Acesulfame Potassium. This sweetener blend is different in other countries.

Diet Coke Marketing

The flavour of Coke No Sugar is clearly different from Diet Coke by design. Coke No Sugar was introduced to appeal to the people who wanted a sugar-free Coke but did not want to drink Diet Coke.

The three main reasons for not wanting to drink Diet Coke are that:

1) it does not taste like the original Coke,

2) it has the word “diet” in it, therefore carries a certain social stigma, and

3) it is packaged in light colours and advertised as being “Coke-lite”, lending a certain airiness to the brand.

To overcome these reasons, Coke No Sugar

1) is remarkably close to the original Coke flavour,

2) does not feature the “D” word, and

3) is packaged in dark colours and advertised as being “proper Coke”, lending a certain heaviness/solidity to the brand.

Which is Healthier, Diet Coke or Coke No Sugar?

Diet Coke and Coke No Sugar
Tough choice?

Before answering the question, which is healthier, Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar, let us first and foremost acknowledge that neither are healthy! A quick rundown of the reasons why:

Aspartame may be Bad for You

Aspartame is one of the most intensely studied food chemicals in the world. It is a man-made chemical, first coming out of the lab in 1965. It then took over 15 years to gain regulatory approval by the FDA, mainly because many scientists just could not believe that it couldn’t have some sort of harmful effect! One of the biggest concerns was that the molecule in some ways looks like other molecules which cause brain tumours.

If you read the nutrition label of foods which contain aspartame, they will often include the warning “Contains Phenylalanine”. Phenylalanine is a by-product of aspartame and should be avoided by people with Phenylketonuria (PKU), especially pregnant women.

The other sweetener in both drinks, acesulfame potassium, is also 200 times sweeter than sugar and is also the subject of academic debate as to whether it causes cancer.

That said, many studies have shown that aspartame is harmless, even though many scientists today are still studying it closely. The jury is still out!

Carbonated Water might cause hunger

A study in 2017 showed that the carbon dioxide in carbonated water stimulates the release of ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone”. If true, this means that fizzy drinks make you want to eat more than you should.

Food Acid might weaken bones and teeth

Phosphoric acid, citric acid and sodium citrate have all been implicated in harmful effects on human teeth and bones. Older women who are at risk of osteoporosis should really avoid eating/drinking too many food acids.

Diet Coke compared to Coke No Sugar, choose which?

A side-by-side comparison of both products leads us to the conclusion that Coke No Sugar is the better choice. Coke No Sugar contains less sodium than Diet Coke (4.2mg/100ml compared to 15mg/100ml). It also contains less caffeine and it does not have any sodium benzoate in it. As a psychological bonus, Coke No Sugar contains fewer calories than Diet Coke.

Finally, it tastes better too!

The calcount Team

Cashew Nuts Nutrition: calories, benefits, disadvantages

They are growing in popularity, so let’s take a closer look at cashew nuts nutrition, calories, health benefits and disadvantages. Are there any general reasons to choose cashews over, say, almonds? Why don’t nutritionists go “nuts” over cashews?

Cashew apples look different

cashew apple and nut on tree
cashew seeds below the apple

Cashew nuts are the seeds of the tropical cashew apple tree, native to South America. The apples, unlike the apples most of us are familiar with, do not have cores with seeds in them. Instead, the seed (cashew, or cashew nut) grows in a tough shell attached to the bottom of the apple! Although flavoursome, The apples don’t usually make it out of their local markets because they bruise and spoil quickly.

cashew apple cut in half
cashew apples have no core

Cashew nuts, on the other hand are exported far and wide. Australia has its own small cashew industry, but most of the cashews in our supermarkets are imported from South America, South East Asia, and Africa.

A hard nut to crack

The cashew seed has a double-layered shell which is extremely hard to open. A nasty mix of several different plant acids lies squeezed between the shell layers, ready to squirt on anyone who unwittingly gives it a crack. This acidic liquid is the same chemical found in poison ivy, so getting the cashew shell juice on your skin is painful and damaging.

The processors first boil and dry the seeds before carefully cracking them open with a hand-operated nutcracker.

Workers use their hands to gently pluck just the kernel of the seed from the meticulously cracked shell to reveal the cashew nut we are familiar with. Thereafter, the nut is usually skinned, roasted, and salted before making its way into a package ready for the supermarket. It is possible to buy unskinned and unsalted cashews, but these are much less tasty and therefore unpopular.

When the product is boiled or steamed most of the caustic juice runs off. Even so, acid burns and chronic skin irritations are a common occupational hazard for the workers who process cashews. There has been growing activism by consumers and the Fair-Trade movement to protect vulnerable workers from exploitative cashew producers.

The next time you see a recipe calling for “raw cashews”, allow yourself a chuckle.

Cashew Nut Nutrition benefits

Cashews are highly nutritious and packed very densely with calories. The popular roasted, salted kind weighs in at an eye-watering  616 calories per 100g! For comparison, something like a bacon burger with cheese has 177 calories per 100g.

The reason for the high calorie count is fat (oil): cashews are half fat, half everything else (carbohydrates, protein, fibre, minerals, vitamins, etc.). This is not surprising because most nuts have a similarly high fat to weight ratio, for example macadamia nuts have 724 calories per 100g and are 75% fat.

Like many of the popular nuts, cashews are high in minerals like zinc, magnesium, and selenium. Magnesium is especially important for body weight control because it is used when the body regulates metabolism and fat deposits. They are also a good source of plant protein, coming in at 17g per 100g. Cashews contain vitamins in abundance, especially vitamin E. Plant fibre holds everything together in a honeycomb nut structure, which helps with good digestion.

Almost as good as carrots

No outline of cashew nuts nutrition would be complete without noting that cashews have excellent stores of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are a class of organic pigment which give carrots and other orange/yellow vegetables their colour. These wonder chemicals are believed to prevent some cancers and promote eye health as we age.

Cashew Nuts Nutrition Disadvantages

Unfortunately, it cannot be said that cashew nuts stand out from other nuts in terms of micronutrients. They are not particularly healthy when compared to almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pistachios, so there is no reason to choose cashews other than the flavour. Studies like this one show that most other nuts outperform cashews from a nutrition perspective.

cashew nuts nutrition

Super high fat content

The main disadvantage of cashews is the high calorie count, which can punish unsuspecting dieters. Chicken and cashew stir-fry is a popular dish with a deceptively high calorie count, thanks to the cashews. If you are sharing a plate of cashew chicken with someone, we suggest that you focus on the chicken, and let the other person eat the cashews! Remember that cashews like many nuts are very “moreish”, so it is easy to keep eating well after you hit the calorie target.

You will hear people say that the oil/fat in nuts is the good kind, they are right, but it is still oil.

If you eat too many cashew nuts, you will gain weight quickly.

Gassy Nut

Some people are prone to experiencing bloating and gassiness after eating cashews. This is because of the triple-whammy of high fat, high fibre and high tannin content. They just take a long time to be digested, all whilst releasing their tannins. Tannins are antinutrients, you can read about what we think of antinutrients here.

Kidney shaped, kidney beware

Try to avoid cashews if you have kidney stones or a propensity to produce them. This is because cashews have a high mineral (especially phosphorous), and oxalates content. An alternative renal-friendly nut would be macadamias because they have a much lower phosphorous content.

Allergies alert

Whilst the obvious disadvantage of tree nuts like cashews to people with nut allergies need not be mentioned in this article, it is worth pointing out that cashews contain a rather special allergen called anacardic acid (this is a key reason they are cooked during processing). Anacardic acid, also known as urushiol, in even tiny amounts can cause anaphylactic shock in sensitive people.

Storing Cashews

cashew nuts nutrition lipid oxidation rancid
look out for bad cashews

The next time you see cashews in the supermarket, look closer. You might notice that the plastic package feels a bit different to regular bags, and you will often find a little “oxygen absorber” sachet nestled inside. This is because oily nuts like cashews have a chemistry with common plastics: they tend to, kind of, dissolve into each other. Without going too deep into the chemistry, lipid oxidation is a common problem with stored nuts, which combined with free monomers in plastic packaging, can result in unwanted combination reactions.

Storage harms cashew nuts

Unlike many other nuts, cashews are sold skinless and they contain relatively high amounts of plant acids. Without their protective skin, they are exposed directly to packaging plastic and oxygen, so it is no wonder that reactivity is an issue. Storage conditions affect cashew nuts nutrition more than nuts with shells and/or skins.

If you store cashews in a low-grade plastic container for a few weeks or months, you may find that the cashews taste like plastic! (Don’t eat them if they do).

Cashew Nuts Nutrition Conclusion

Nuts in general are nutritious and should be a moderate part of every balanced diet, however, our inescapable conclusion is that you can do better than cashew nuts!

When we compare cashew nuts nutrition to other nuts, we see that they are mediocre to sub-par. They are just as fattening yet less nutritious than alternatives like almonds. Their physical form makes them prone to over-processing and spoilage. Many of the cashew nuts for sale in our stores are harvested and processed in India and Vietnam in ethically questionable conditions.

The calcount Team

Is panela healthier than sugar?

It is a flavoursome choice for sweetening anything but is panela healthier than sugar? The answer is yes, but not by much.

To understand why, first we must think about what sugar is. Sugar is the name we give to a family of sweet-tasting chemicals which are extracted from plants like sugar cane, sugar beet, corn, and sugar maple. Examples are sucrose, fructose, and glucose. In pure form, these chemicals form colourless or white crystals when not dissolved in water.

Centrifugal Sugar

In the “olden” days (before the mid-19th century), almost all sugar sold was brown or black because it was not pure. Back then, when people said “sugar”, they meant brown sugar.

The brown/black colour comes from all the non-sugar parts of the plant, combined with sugar to form a sticky, thick syrup called molasses. Molasses has a distinct earthy/burnt/bitter taste which flavours anything it is added to.

Nowadays, we have the technology to separate the sugar from the molasses effectively and efficiently, using a centrifuge. Most of the sugar sold today is refined centrifugal sugar, produced at vast industrial scale.

australian sugar refinery
Australian sugar processing facility

A centrifuge is a machine which spins a pre-processed sugar-molasses solution fast enough so that pure sugar crystals are separated from the molasses. The sugar crystals are collected and further refined to produce common white sugar, a singular product which is sold as 99.5% pure sugar.

This high purity is a big reason for sugar’s bad reputation for being a massive source of “empty calories” because, besides calories, there is practically no other nutritional value. Less-pure brown sugar has more nutritional value because it includes molasses along with the sugar.

Panela is sugar

The word “panela” is simply the name given to the type of sugar made in some parts of South America. In other parts of South America, this same sugar is called rapadura, chancaca, atado dulce, or piloncillo. Panela has been made in the region for about 500 years, and it continues to be made the same way to this day.

Panela processing
Panela processing cane juice

Panela imported from South America is cane sugar (sucrose), just as the normal white and brown sugar grown and sold in Australia is. The key difference between panela and regular sugar (besides the price) comes from the way it is made. Unlike centrifugal sugar, panela is made the pre-19th century way, by simply evaporating the water.

Other so-called non-centrifugal sugars from other parts of the world include jaggery and gur (Asia), papelon (Caribbean), tang (China), and many others. They are basically all the same thing.

Difference between white sugar and brown sugar

If the only difference between white sugar and brown sugar is that brown sugar has more molasses in it, does that mean that panela is simply normal brown sugar? If it is, why would anyone fork out extra money to buy it instead of Aussie brown sugar?

The answer to that question lies in a not-so-secret secret of the sugar industry: brown sugar is normal white sugar, with some molasses splashed onto it. It is far more efficient for the sugar company to make white sugar then add varying amounts of molasses to it in order to arrive at the desired colour and taste combination, rather than make separate batches of less-refined sugar.

Crack a typical brown sugar crystal in half and look closely, you will see that it is white inside!

Unlike typical brown sugar, panela is brown all the way through, so it contains a higher proportion of molasses and tastes much more “molassesy”. Panela is a less-pure sugar than normal brown sugar because it is made the old-fashioned way, without a centrifuge.

So, is Panela healthier than sugar or not?

Panela and other non-centrifugal sugars naturally contain molasses as well as sugar, so by default they are theoretically healthier because molasses contain trace minerals and vitamins whereas sugar is just that: sugar.

Pure molasses itself is high in vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, and other minerals.

However, from a practical standpoint, there is almost zero nutritional benefit to opting for panela instead of normal white sugar. This is because the actual quantity of molasses you will consume by substituting panela for regular sugar is so small as to be insignificantly beneficial for your health. It differs by brand and even by batch, but the actual molasses content of panela is usually about 5% by volume. Nutritionally, this is an insignificant percentage considering that sugar is not a product that is consumed by the bowlful.

You would need to eat 20 spoons of panela to get the nutrition of one spoon of molasses. One spoon of molasses would provide about one fifteenth of your recommended daily amount of vitamin B6.

The amount of extra minerals and vitamins you get from a teaspoon of panela stirred into your coffee compared to a teaspoon of regular white sugar is so tiny as to be virtually undetectable. If you are eating panela to get the nutritional benefit of molasses, you’re doing it wrong. Just buy a jar of molasses instead.

As you can see from our calorie counter database, there is no meaningful difference in the calorie count of panela and regular sugar. Most types of sugar pack about 385-395 calories per 100 grams, (about 18 calories for a teaspoon) including both centrifugal and non-centrifugal types.

Panela, like white sugar, is “empty calories”.

The difference is taste

When it comes right down to it, the only sensical reason to use panela instead of other sugar is taste. Panela tastes much more interesting than regular sugar because it is thoroughly imbued with molasses.

Not all molasses tastes the same, because not all sugar cane tastes the same just as not all apples taste the same. In the same vein, molasses taste different depending on how they have been made, how long they were boiled for, what temperature they cooled, what water if any was used in the process of evaporating the sugar syrup to make the solid block of panela.

On the other hand, all white cane sugar tastes the same because it is 99+% pure.

panela drinks
Add panela to homemade drinks

Something about the South American cane and their age-old process makes panela tasty. It is so tasty that in South America, people call home-made lemonade “panela water” (aguapanela), probably because the panela flavour dominates the lemon juice.

Beware misleading marketing

Perhaps the key takeaway is that panela tastes better than regular white or brown sugar (assuming you like the taste of molasses), but it is just as lacking in nutrients. Do not fall for the marketing ploy which leads one to believe that panela is healthier than sugar, because it simply isn’t!