Nutracheck’s Emma Brown answers five of your burning nutrition questions to help you eat better
1 Are all calories equal?
In terms of energy, yes, a calorie is a calorie regardless of food source. However your food choice is important as it influences how the calories are processed and used within your body. For instance, 100 calories would give you 3 whole cucumbers, but just a small chunk of cheese. Although the calories are the same, the nutritional breakdown of the foods is not, so the cheese, with its high fat and protein content, would be metabolised differently to the cucumber. This is why it’s important to ensure your daily calorie allowance is made up of a wide range of foods to get a good balance of nutrients.
2 What does low energy dense and high energy dense food actually mean?
Energy density is the amount of energy per gram of food. Lower energy dense foods provide less calories per gram of food – so you can eat a much larger volume compared to a higher energy dense food. Low energy dense foods tend to have a high water content such as fruit and veg, soups and stews. High energy density foods tend to have low water and higher fat content, such as biscuits, cheese and nuts. Eating low energy dense foods gives you a lot more for your calories
3 What is the difference between kcal, calorie and kilojoule as often all 3 are shown on food labels?
The official term is kilocalorie – abbreviated as kcal. Calorie is used as a shorthand version of kilocalorie. Kilojoules – abbreviated to kJ – are the metric measurement of calories, and you will see both kcal and kJ on food labels. 4.2kJ is approximately equal to 1 kcal.
4 Why is tracking what you eat worth doing?
A study by the Office for National Statistics this year showed 1/3 of people underestimate how much they eat – with men eating around 3000 calories a day but believing they eat 2000 and women eating 2500 calories a day, but thinking they eat 1500. Overeating can lead to weight gain and health issues so tracking calorie intake with an app can help us to see what we’re eating and make changes.
5 How should you split your calorie intake over the day?
Having more opportunity to burn off calories will result in less energy being stored by the body (so less risk of weight gain). If you tend to be more active during the day, it’s wise to eat the bulk of your calories across the day. The popularity of intermittent fasting also suggests there may be a role for more controlled eating patterns to aid weight loss.
Emma Brown is a nutritionist for Nutracheck, a calorie tracking app and website.