What is Energy?

In a world of Paleo this, Keto that it’s no surprise that people feel completely bewildered when it comes to food choices.  Whether you think “eating clean” is the right thing for you, or even (dare I type…) Slimming World people are bombarded with information about what foods to eat, which ones to avoid, meal interval timings & so on.

Studies showed that those who change their diet completely are less likely to continue with said diet change than those that make several, small changes over the course of a few weeks to a perhaps even a few months – every body is different & responds in different ways so it’s probable that each approach needs to be varied in order to suit the individual.

That being said – without actually knowing what your body needs, nutrient-wise how do you really know that whatever choice you’ve made is A) the right one for you & B) going to work for you.

Here in the UK, 6/10 women are obese & 7/10 men are. So, it’s obvious that something, SOMEWHERE isn’t going according to plan? Isn’t it? Is it? In its simplest terms, people are eating more than they need – they have an excess of calories consumed….the energy that the body needs isn’t as high as what they’re giving it, so the body stores it, to be used later, but then an excess is eaten again, more is stored & thus, the cycle repeats.

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You burn through energy by being alive – yes, even sleeping burns calories.  You need energy to survive. Thinking uses calories, walking, breathing, everything!  However, how much energy you use on a daily basis is down to your activity levels.  Someone with a desk job won’t need as much as someone that is a manual labourer.

Energy for consumption is measured in Kilocalories (kcal) & Kilojoules (kJ)

1 kcal is equivalent to 4.18kJ

  • Fat has 9 calories per 1 gram
  • Carbohydrate has 3.75 cal per gram – this is rounded up to 4 cal
  • Protein has 4 calories per gram
  • Alcohol has 7 calories per gram

The amount of energy a food contains is classed as density, so high fat foods are considered more energy dense than protein or carbohydrate.

The total energy content of a food can be found by burning it and measuring how much heat is released. Foods with fewer calories per gram such as fruits, vegetables, low fat soups, lean protein and fibre-rich foods have a relatively low energy density.  Foods with a high fat and/or low water content such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, deep fried foods and snacks, butter and oils, have a relatively high energy density.

Basing your diet on foods which are lower in calories (or have a lower energy density), and eating foods which are high in calories (or have a higher energy density) less often and in small amounts, can help to control you overall calorie intake. Some foods with a higher energy density such as oily fish, cheese, nuts, seeds and avocados contain healthier types of fat and other important nutrients meaning they can be consumed in moderate amounts as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

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