Our body needs energy for all of its various functions. This is obtained through the food and drinks that we consume. The energy food or drink provides is measured in calories. The calorific value of a food item is dependent upon its components such as carbohydrates, proteins, starch, fats, or a combination of these. Some foods are high in calories, while some are low in calories.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines are published jointly by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The caloric requirement per day of an individual is based on their age, sex, and active/inactive state, and is given below:
Girls and women:
- Children (2-13 year old): 1,000-2,200 calories per day
- Teenage (14-18 year old): 1,800-2,400 calories per day
- Adult (19 years and over): 1,600-2,400 calories per day
Boys and men:
- Children (2-13 year old): 1,000-2,600 calories per day
- Teenage (14-18 year old): 2,000-3,200 calories per day
- Adult (19 years and over): 2,000-3,000 calories per day
Regularly consuming high-calorie foods combined with a sedentary lifestyle would lead to an overweight condition and obesity, bringing with it a host of associated health problems. Some of the foods that can lead to weight gain and have very high calorific value include:
- Oil and fats: These include a variety of oils, such as beef and mutton tallow, fish oil, vegetable oil, lard, and fats from fowl like turkey, chicken and goose. These contain over 900 calories per 100-gram serving.
- Seeds and nuts: These include nuts, such as macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and seeds, that include sunflower, pumpkin, watermelon, and flax seeds. These contain over 715 calories per 100-gram serving.
- Spreads such as margarine and mayonnaise, which contain between 690-715 calories per 100-gram serving.
- Dark chocolate: It contains nearly 600 calories per 100-gram serving.
- Butter of nuts and seeds: These include butters made of peanuts, almonds, cashews, and sunflower seeds. These contain nearly 590 calories per 100-gram serving.
There are also foods high in calories that many people like and enjoy, which contain solid fats and added sugars such as cakes, pastries, donuts, cheese, pizza, ice cream, fried foods, hot dogs, and bacon, which only add calories to the body and have no significant nutrients. These high calories meals or foods are described as containing only ‘empty calories’.
It is not only enough to get all the calories that we require from the food we eat; the right amount of nutrients, like minerals and vitamins, are also vital for body function and maintenance of one’s health. A feeling of fullness after a meal is due to the quantity of food taken and not based on the quantity of calories consumed during a meal.
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/downloads/calreqtips.pdf (accessed on 01/11/2015)
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories.html (accessed on 01/11/2015)
http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories/empty-calories.html (accessed on 01/11/2015)
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/healthy-weight-basics/balance.htm (accessed on 01/11/2015)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Story, M., Kaphingst, K. M., Robinson-O'Brien, R., & Glanz, K. (2008). Creating healthy food and eating environments: policy and environmental approaches. Annu. Rev. Public Health, 29, 253-272.
Drewnowski, A. (2005). Concept of a nutritious food: toward a nutrient density score. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(4), 721-732.
Putnam, J., Allshouse, J., & Kantor, L. S. (2002). US per capita food supply trends: more calories, refined carbohydrates, and fats. Food Review, 25(3), 2-15.