Calories intake: be careful of empty calories

Calories intake: be careful of empty calories

When we hear about “empty calories”, do we know exactly what it is? Often we are faced with an unexplained weight gain, we seem to scrupulously follow the diet with restrictions and sacrifices but the weight and the BMI continues to rise. With the expression “empty calories” we refer to the calories present in some types of food that, despite the high energy supply, do not have an adequate nutritional level or even lack proteins, mineral salts, vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants.

The calories (Kcal) are equivalent to the energy produced by our body metabolizing the ingested food. One gram of sugar or one of proteins develop about 4 calories while one gram of lipid develops 9. Starting from these data, the energy values ​​of the foods are then calculated.

Generally, an empty calorie is equal to a traditional calorie, but due to the low nutritional percentage it cannot be considered as healthy. Our body needs energy, but when we introduce more than what we consume, our energy balance is altered and fattened. This is why a diet consisting mainly of the consumption of foods rich in empty calories leads not only to an unexpected and uncontrolled increase in weight but also facilitates the development of metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia and the risk of developing vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

But what are the products with “empty calories”?

Being formed exclusively of glucose and fructose, sugar is often referred to as a source of “empty calories”. Pay attention therefore to the addition of sugar to sweeten the drinks and to all the sugary drinks such as cola, mousse, fruit juices … because they are all sources of “empty calories”.    The sugary juices, even when they have a high percentage of pulp, still contain fruit sugar (fructose) in addition to the added sugar (sucrose or cane) that “prevails” on the intake of the few vitamins and mineral salts.    We almost never think that even liquids can contain calories which, among other things, precisely because they are taken in liquid form do not help to reach satiety and therefore are not perceived, but the consumption of sugary drinks is one of the major causes of obesity among children and adolescents.    Certainly, those foods produced with refined flour, sugar and margarine, snacks, sweets, chips, jelly, sweets, etc. are certainly among the “empty calories” or rather “useless calories”. These products are not completely free of micronutrients but are often full of fats, sugars, preservatives and other additives and therefore have a low nutritional value.

How to behave

We must try to favor foods with “healthy” properties and avoid those that are called “junk food”. This type of food has a low cost and its consumption is very frequent among teenagers and not only. This data must make us reflect on the importance of information and food education at a young age, because currently the boys do not know the rules for a correct diet. Much of the diet should consist of foods that provide an adequate nutritional level and above all respect the weekly frequency of food and portions. Furthermore, it is important to consume water, about 2 liters a day to hydrate properly and reduce, or rather eliminate, other types of drinks.

Clare Louise