Counting Calories? Here’s the Relationship Between Vitamins and Calories

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    The calorie count of every vitamin, mineral, and supplement sold today is listed on the label. All you need to know is right there.

    Why don’t vitamins and minerals have zero calories

    Vitamins are essential organic substances that come from plants and animals. With the exception of vitamin D, they are not made in the body, hence they must be obtained from the food that you eat. Minerals are solid inorganic substances that come from rocks, soil, and water. They are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals, and must also be obtained from the food you eat. When eating foods that are rich with minerals and vitamins, the food itself has a caloric value, these calories are used by the body as fuel. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients, and they usually don’t count towards calories when in capsule or tablet form unless the supplement contains other ingredients. Gelatin, oils, and other assorted compounds are often used in making supplement tablets and capsules. Many supplements also contain sugar or other sweeteners to make it more palatable. Some of these substances have caloric value, so while the actual vitamin or mineral has zero calories, the complete product may contain calories from other components. The product label can tell you the exact calorie count of each supplement.

    But can vitamins cause weight changes?

    Vitamins alone do not cause changes in body weight. However, if you were deficient in a certain vitamin or nutrient, this could impact your weight and overall health. The deficiency could be a result of an unhealthy diet which, once addressed, could shift your body weight and health in a different direction.

    For example, a B12 deficiency can physically present as weight loss. Once the deficiency is addressed there could be some normal healthy weight gain as a result, but not because of any caloric value in the water-soluble B12 vitamin.

    Another possible scenario is a vitamin D deficiency. Often when D levels are low, weight gain can be a physical symptom. Once the D deficiency is addressed, the body may return to a healthy weight (which in this case may present as weight loss). Again the weight change is not attributable to the caloric value of the vitamin.

    Overall vitamins contribute to bridging the nutrient gaps, but have little or no impact on the overall caloric intake of the person taking the supplements.

    Supplements that may have calories

    Most vitamin and mineral supplements contain few calories and they are almost all attributable to the gelatin capsules and various compounds that make up a supplement tablet or capsule. But if you expand the definition of supplement to include powders, beverages, meal replacements, and pre and post-workout drinks, you may need a calculator to get an accurate assessment of your caloric intake. Just because it says supplement, doesn’t mean it’s free of calories, additives, sugars, or artificial sweeteners.

    If your meal replacement tastes like a chocolate milkshake, there’s a good chance it’s got a few of the ingredients that make a chocolate milkshake taste so good. Read the label and check out the calorie count before you even open the bottle. The same can be said for electrolyte drinks, energy drinks, and pretty much anything labeled supplement that promises the kind of flavor you’d enjoy relaxing on a beach, or celebrating a special occasion.

    If there’s a picture of a birthday cake or a cinnamon pastry treat on the wrapper containing your favorite protein bar, you might want to read the label. There are plenty of foods to supplement your protein intake, balance your electrolytes, and even substitute for a meal when you’re on the go that do not contain the ingredients you can find on any candy counter. Always read the labels. If it seems to be too good to be true, it might just be.

    What to look out for if you’re counting calories:

    Supplement Fact Label

    The supplement fact label will tell you everything you need to know about the supplements you might want to use. Care/of’s B complex label lists the serving size, all the B vitamins it contains, % of Daily Value (requirement for the day), and at the bottom of the label, Other Ingredients. This is where you look to make sure you’re not getting extra sugar, additives, etc. Notice there is no calorie information, this means the calories are negligible. If you look at Care/Of’s Fish Oil label, you will also see the calorie content per serving. Comparing Care/Of’s Collagen Unflavored vs. Collagen Lemon Passion Fruit, you will see the difference in ingredients and calorie count that flavor adds to a product. Learning to read labels will help you make the best choices for your health and lifestyle.

    Unnecessary additives and fillers in vitamins

    Try to aim for supplements without any unnecessary additives, fillers, third party testing, and artificial colors and flavors. This information is always on the label.

    Sugar Content

    Always watch the sugar content in supplements. Remember that the recommended sugar intake is 24-36 grams or 6 to 9 teaspoons or 100 to 150 calories of sugar according to the American Heart Association. Many products are using either no or low-calorie alternatives. Again, know your ingredients. When in doubt, talk to your pharmacist or physician.

    Key takeaways

    Vitamins and minerals are critical for adequate nutrition and health. Nothing beats a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, grains, lean protein, and proper hydration. If you’re not getting your nutritional needs met, supplementation may be necessary. Consult with your physician, read labels, and get the best products available. If you need the calorie information, you will find it on the label.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.