There’s No Such Thing as an Empty Calorie
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The idea of an empty or useless calorie is an oversimplified way to look at food. While it may sometimes be necessary to turn complex and imperfect nutrition science into something simple, the simplicity can be misleading and ineffective.
All calories are nutritious because all calories are nutrients. All foods are made up of some combination of the three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fat.
In 2011, a user-focused online nutrition guide described empty calories as calories from solid fats (saturated fats) and added sugars, such as cakes, cookies, pastries, doughnuts, sodas, fruit drinks, etc. They advised people to keep these to a minimum.
The so-called empty calories contain little or no micronutrients - vitamins and minerals our bodies need to function properly - but they still contain a combination of macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) that provide the body with energy.
If your goal is to eat a more nutritious diet, a good recommendation would be to eat more nutrient-dense foods, not to avoid empty calories.
It is important to understand that different foods affect our bodies in different ways. High-sugar foods are great for quick energy while saturated fat can be harmful in large quantities. However, you don't need to avoid it altogether.
Empty calories are great fuel and excellent for use during sports. The lack of other nutrients in these sugary foods means they're absorbed faster into the bloodstream and give quick energy.
Protein and fat from less nutritious foods, such as sausages and ribs, are not worthless. They provide significant amounts of protein - essential for building and repairing muscle.
Consuming only soda, doughnuts, and hot dogs could lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and lead to poor health. Evidence shows that nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and leans proteins, can improve your health.
Empty calories are presented in a way that causes a belief that natural foods are inherently good, and processed ones are inherently bad. It is false. For example, honey lacks macronutrients and breaks down in your body, just like soda.
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