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What's Your Nutrition IQ?

Getting the facts about food can help you lose weight.

3. True or false? Excess calories from fat are more easily stored as body fat than other types of calories.

True. Extra dietary fat is easily stored as body fat. Excess proteins and carbs require more work to be converted for storage. Only 3% of the calories from fat are used up in the process of storage, while 23% of the calories in carbs and protein are used in this process. And people tend to overeat fat because high-fat foods tend to pack lots of calories into a relatively small package (such as cookies).

But it's important to remember that an eating plan that stays within your calorie needs -- regardless of the combination of fats, carbs, and protein -- will not result in weight gain. The most important factor is to balance calories consumed with calories burned, so that you burn fat instead of storing it.

4. True or false? "Empty calories" refers to foods that are "free," or have virtually no calories.

False. Empty-calorie foods are those that offer little nutritional value, but lots of calories. Most empty-calorie foods have few vitamins, minerals, or fiber, but are high in calories, fat, and/or sugar. To avoid them, check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels and choose foods that offer at least 20% of the recommended Daily Value of a few vitamins and minerals (except sodium -- we all get plenty of that mineral).

5. True or false? Calories eaten at night turn to fat more easily than those eaten during the day.

False. Whether you lose or gain weight comes down to this formula: Calories in - Calories Out = Weight Loss (or Gain). "Calories in" come from the food and beverages you consume. "Calories out" include those burned by physical activity; those your body burns even when at rest, by functions such as breathing; and the "thermic activity" of food (the number of calories it takes to digest and absorb food).

Many experts recommend consuming all your calories before 8 p.m. because most of us are sedentary after that hour and less likely to burn extra calories. And it is a good habit to eat most of your meals during the more active phases of the day. But the bottom line is that it's the total number of calories you consume -- regardless of the time of day -- that determines whether you gain or lose weight.

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