Defining Empty Calories and How You Can Avoid Them
Posted Oct 19 2009 4:41am
Dieticians and doctors interviewed on the news or in magazines about losing weight often talk about empty calories. However, do you really know what they are? To understand an empty calorie, you must understand what a calorie is first. It is a unit of heat in the form of food energy. The more calories food has the more likely you are to gain weight.
Making smart food choices is important because consuming empty calories is the same as consuming a high number of calories with no type of nutritional value to back them up. Most empty calories are derived from carbohydrates and fats, two different types of macro-nutrients. The calories in fiber, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, also called micro-nutrients, are essential and provide the necessary components your body needs to build muscle, provide energy and heal.
Consuming empty calories are deemed unessential by the body and end up being stored and eventually converted into fat deposits. Basically anything that is refined or processed in a factory has some amount of empty calories. Candy, butter, alcohol, sodas, lard, a variety of junk food and other consumables with saturated fats are the biggest contributors of empty calories. If your diet contains a large amount of them, you will gain weight quickly.
Calories are a main focus of any diet. The basic principle is that the fewer calories you take in, the less your body will translate into fat. If you limit your diet to a certain number of calories and most of them are empty ones, you will not get the micro-nutrients you need to have a healthy body. You would not only gain weight but also be malnourished because you are not absorbing the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
Examples of Empty Calories
You can count on most fast foods to be on the empty calorie list. Deep fried foods are high in cholesterol and saturated fats and the oils pretty much cancel out any minerals and vitamins in the food. Anything you have to dredge in flour and then fry in hot oil are empty calories. Fried chicken and French fries are two favorites that are major culprits as are potato chips.
There are many drinks and foods with artificial sugars, sweeteners and colors that contain empty calories. Soda pop, kool-aid, lollipops and pre-packaged snack cakes are just a few examples. Many alcoholic drinks make the empty calorie list as well such as wine, beer and hard liquors, mainly because they contain sugar and present no significant vitamin and mineral content. Basically, anything processed in a factory is a problem as is anything with white flour like cakes, bread and pasta.
Passing Up the Empty Calories
Will power and making some allowances for you is important when weaning yourself off the many tempting choices of empty calories in food and drink. Look for substitutions which can stave off cravings and fill your stomach. For example, if you must have fried chicken, peel the tasty skin off first before consuming the meat. Eat a baked potato instead of indulging in French fries. Drinking water is the best beverage you can consume but if you need variety, choose all-fruit juices with no sugar added or brew some tea.
You can still eat bread and pasta, just bypass the white flour versions and indulge in whole grains. Whole wheat, oatmeal, buckwheat and bulgur are just a few healthy examples. Fresh vegetables and fruit are also important to eat and should be substituted every time you have a craving for candy bars or chips. It can be tough to stick to wholesome choices but eventually you will crave only healthy foods. And any time you consume something with empty calories, your body will likely react in a negative way.