Energy Density of Food

Energy Density

Energy density is about how many calories are found per gram of food. Lower energy density foods   contain fewer calories per gram. This allows consuming satisfying portions of food while consuming low amount of calorie content. According to relevant evidence, low energy density foods are good for maintaining healthy body weight.

Foods with high water content are usually low energy density food, such as stews and soups. Foods can be naturally high in water, such as fruits and vegetables. Foods that absorb water during cooking can also be low energy density food, such as rice and pasta. Potatoes with skin and wholegrain contains fiber, which can help reduce energy density.

Foods that are low in water content and high in fat are usually high energy density food. Cheese, peanuts butter, crisps, confectionary and biscuits are examples of high energy density food.

Same amount of different foods can provide different amount of calories and affect weight differently. Small size or amount of high energy density food can still be high in calories. On the other hand, relatively large amount of low energy density food can still be low in calories. Preferring low energy density food rather than high energy density food gets lot more foods to consume for small number of calories.


Calculating Energy Density

Weight of serving of food in grams and number of calories contained the serving can help calculate energy density. Dividing the weight of serving of food by number of calories of the serving, equals to energy density.  

To exemplify, we can calculate energy density of desserts of different ingredients, amount and calories or kilocalories. We can calculate energy density for 300 grams of desserts made of low fat yogurt, mixed berries and sprinkling of granola, which contain 215 kilocalorie or kcal. In this case, energy density is 215 kcal/300grams or 0.7   

We can also calculate energy density for 140 grams of desserts made of cream and strawberries, which contains same number of kcal. In the second case, energy density is 215 kcal/140 grams or 1.5

Clearly same amount of   different food can have different energy density. Depending on energy density, portion size can be adjusted or go lower or higher.

Less than 0.6 kcal/g is considered very low energy density food.

0.6 to 1.5 kcal/g is considered low energy density food.

1.5 to 4 kcal/g is considered medium energy density food.

More than 4 kcal/g is considered to be high energy density food.

It is a good idea to choose very low or low energy foods to constitute larger part of meal. It is OK to consume moderate amount of medium density food. Consumption of small amount of high energy density food occasionally may be OK.


Examples of Foods

Low energy foods include fruits, vegetables, soups, breakfast cereals, yogurt, noodles etc.

Boiled brown rice, baked potatoes, reduced sugars baked beans, porridge made with water etc. also belong to low energy food category. 

Lower fat foods, lean red meat, cheese and grilled salmon belong to medium energy density food. Foods such as cakes, chips, fried chips and pizza may belong to less healthier part of medium energy category. These foods should be consumed as little and as less frequently as possible. It is good idea to follow more specific guideline while choosing food from this category.

High energy density foods are low in water content and high in fat. Mayonnaise, fried crisps, peanuts, cheese, butter, oil, biscuits and confectionary belong to high energy density food. The less amount of high energy density food we consume, the better it is for health. It is OK to consume small amount of high energy density food with much larger amount of low energy density food. It is always good to check nutrition information of food.


Creating a Lower Energy Density Diet

There are simple ways to reduce energy density of food. We do not always have to fully avoid high energy density food. Small amount of high energy density food alongside larger amount of low energy density food can still keep overall energy density of a dish low enough. Below are some ways to lower energy density of diet.

  1. Choosing foods that are high in water content.
  2. Adding vegetable to main dish to increase amount of food without adding lot of extra calories.
  3. Adding lentils, peas and beans to main dishes. These foods are low in calorie and high in fiber and protein. Rice or pasta can also be added.
  4. Choosing potatoes with skin, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, high fiber cereals, wholegrain bread, which are high fiber starchy carbohydrates.
  5. Taking skin off poultry, choosing lean meat or vegetarian’s alternative etc.
  6. Keeping use of fat, oil, butter or fat spread as low as possible. Reduced fat spread or mayonnaise can be used.
  7. Choosing salad with low fat salad dressing based on vinegar or lemon.
  8. Adding low fat yogurt instead of cream and fruits to dessert.

Choosing food based on energy density is a great way to develop healthy eating and control weight.

Last update: June 14, 2017 03:09:31 pm

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