Empty calorie

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In human nutrition, the term empty calories applies to food that supplies food energy but little or no other nutrition.

The phrase is derived from nutrient density (proportion of nutrients in a food relative to its energy content), and calorie density (amount of energy relative to weight of the food). Thus empty calories are accompanied by no or few nutrients.[1] Foods containing empty calories typically contain processed carbohydrates and ethanol (alcohol), and to some extent fats. Also known as a discretionary calorie, an empty calorie has the same energy content as any other calorie but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. Although carbohydrates and fats are nutrients, they are typically ignored for this analysis, with the exception of essential fatty acids.

All people require certain essential nutrients, but food energy intake must be balanced with activity to maintain a proper body weight. People who engage in heavy physical activity need food energy as fuel, which can be supplied by empty calories in addition to foods with essential nutrients. Sedentary individuals and those eating less to lose weight may suffer malnutrition if they eat food supplying empty calories but not enough nutrients.[2][3] Dietitians and nutritionists prevent or treat illnesses by designing eating programs and recommending dietary modifications according to patients' needs.[4] Eating a variety of nutritious foods every day protects against chronic illness and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.[5]

The following foods are often considered[6][7][8][9] to contain mostly empty calories and may lead to weight gain:

Gender Age (years) Total daily calorie needs Daily limit for empty calories by group who engage in moderate exercise 30 minutes or less daily[10]
Male 2-3 1000 135
4-8 1200-1400 120
9-13 1800 160
14-18 2200 265
19-30 2400 330
31-50 2200 265
51+ 2000 260
Female 2-3 1000 135
4-8 1200-1400 120
9-13 1600 120
14-18 1800 160
19-30 2000 260
31-50 1800 160
51+ 1600 120

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim (2013) Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics, page 3, ISBN 0520952170
  2. ^ "Healthy Weight: Caloric Balance | DNPAO | CDC". Cdc.gov. 2011-10-31. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  3. ^ "A Healthier You - Chapter 6. Calories + Nutrients = Food". Health.gov. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  4. ^ "Dietitians and Nutritionists : Occupational Outlook Handbook : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics". Bls.gov. 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  5. ^ "Vitamin and Nutrient Information from the Academy". Eatright.org. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  6. ^ "What are Empty Calories?". Choosemyplate.gov. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  7. ^ "Beware-Empty-Calories". Webmd.com. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  8. ^ "Definition Of Empty Calories". Livestrong.Com. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  9. ^ "Which foods have empty calories?". Caloriecount.about.com. 2008-04-10. Retrieved 2013-05-21. 
  10. ^ "Empty Calories: How Many Empty Calories Can I Have?". USDA MyPlate 2011. Retrieved 2014-01-22. 

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