What Is a Calorie?
A calorie is a unit of energy. Think of it as the fuel your body needs to run, just as your car needs gas. Last week we talked about the three different macronutrients your body needs– protein, fat and carbohydrates – each provide a different number of calories per gram weight. Protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, ans fat has 9 calories per gram- fat more calorie-dense.
Nutrient-dense foods are low in calories and high in nutrient content. In general, these are “real” foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, seeds, beans and legumes.
Nutrient density refers to the proportion of nutrients in a food relative to its caloric content. –> For example, broccoli is a nutrient-dense food, containing just 15 calories per 1/2-cup serving. – it is rich in fiber; vitamins A, K and C; and the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium, among others.
Empty-calorie foods have either very little or no nutrient content. They are also calorie-dense, meaning a small serving contains a very large number of calories. In addition, your body has to use your valuable saved nutrients to burn these calories.
Empty calories not only contribute nothing to your nutrition, but they can also deplete the nutrients your body has stored.
Foods such as sugar, alcohol and junk foods – including chips, soft drinks, commercial baked goods and candy – are full of empty calories.
A 2-ounce candy bar with caramel and nougat, for example, contains almost 264 calories, 35 grams of sugar and only trace vitamins and minerals. – it is a “fast carb” that your body will burn up quickly, leaving you hungry again soon, leaving you to consume even MORE calories!