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Food Energy Density: EP’s Functional Chiropractic Team

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The brain and body need macronutrients that include carbohydrates, fats, and protein in the right amounts to energize the body. About half of the calories should come from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, and 20% from protein. Food energy density is the amount of energy, represented by the number of calories, in a specific weight measurement.

Food Energy Density

Energy density is determined by the proportion of macronutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and water.

  • Energy-dense foods are high in calories per serving.
  • Foods with large amounts of fiber and water have a lower density.
  • Foods high in fat have an increased energy density.
  • An example of a high-energy-density food is a donut because of the high-calorie count from the sugar, fat, and small serving size.
  • An example of a low-energy-density food is spinach because it only has a few calories in a whole plate of raw spinach leaves.

Energy Dense Foods

Energy-dense foods contain a high number of calories/energy per gram. They are typically higher in fat and lower in water. Examples of energy-dense foods include:

  • Full-fat dairy
  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Nut butter
  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Thick sauces
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Less nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Sweets
  • Deep-fried foods
  • French fries
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Chips

Foods like soups and beverages can be either high or low energy density depending on the ingredients. Broth-based soups with vegetables usually have low density while creamed soups are energy-dense. Non-fat milk is less dense than regular milk, and diet soda is less dense than regular soda.

Low Energy Dense Foods

  • Foods with low energy density include high-fiber green and colorful vegetables.
  • Foods with low energy density are often nutrient-dense, which means they have plenty of nutrients per serving size.
  • Many fruits, berries, and vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber, and packed with vitamins and minerals.
  • Foods high in water content like citrus fruits and melons are usually less energy-dense.
  • Low-calorie foods often have a low energy density, but not always.
  • It’s important to read nutrition labels to know how many calories are being provided daily.

Weight Management

  • Weight management is about watching how many calories are taken in and how many calories are burned.
  • Filling up on foods with low energy density will cause the body to feel satisfied while eating fewer high-density calories.
  • Plan all meals so they include foods with a low energy density and high in nutrients.
  • However, the opposite can happen if individuals eat mostly low-energy-dense foods, will need a larger volume of food to fill up, and as a result, will take in more calories.
  • This is not ideal for losing weight, but it could be helpful if trying to gain weight.
  • High-energy-dense foods that are nutritious include avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Adjustment Recommendations

Add More Fruits and Vegetables To The Plate

  • At least half of a plate should be covered with low-calorie fruits and vegetables.
  • Berries are sweet and delicious and provide antioxidants
  • Leave a quarter of the plate for the protein, and the remaining quarter can hold a serving of starchy foods like pasta, potatoes, or rice.
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables will partially fill the body leading to eating less high-energy-dense foods.
  • Picky eaters should try various recipes, sooner or later, they will discover something they enjoy.

Start With Salad or a Bowl of Clear Broth Soup

  • Soups and salads will fill the body before the main energy-dense course like pasta, pizza, or another high-calorie food.
  • Avoid heavy cream-based salad dressings and creamed soups.
  • Water has zero calories and drinking a few glasses can help suppress the hunger until the next meal, or a low-density snack.

From Consultation to Transformation


References

www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/nutrition/pdf/r2p_energy_density.pdf

Fernandez, Melissa Anne, and André Marette. “Potential Health Benefits of Combining Yogurt and Fruits Based on Their Probiotic and Prebiotic Properties.” Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.) vol. 8,1 155S-164S. 17 Jan. 2017, doi:10.3945/an.115.011114

Horgan, Graham W et al. “Effect of different food groups on energy intake within and between individuals.” European Journal of Nutrition vol. 61,7 (2022): 3559-3570. doi:10.1007/s00394-022-02903-1

Hubbard, Gary P et al. “A systematic review of compliance to oral nutritional supplements.” Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland) vol. 31,3 (2012): 293-312. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2011.11.020

Prentice, A M. “Manipulation of dietary fat and energy density and subsequent effects on substrate flux and food intake.” The American Journal of clinical nutrition vol. 67,3 Suppl (1998): 535S-541S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/67.3.535S

Slesser, M. “Energy and food.” Basic life sciences vol. 7 (1976): 171-8. doi:10.1007/978-1-4684-2883-4_15

Specter, S E et al. “Reducing ice cream energy density does not condition decreased acceptance or engender compensation following repeated exposure.” European Journal of clinical nutrition vol. 52,10 (1998): 703-10. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1600627

Westerterp-Plantenga, M S. “Effects of the energy density of daily food intake on long-term energy intake.” Physiology & behavior vol. 81,5 (2004): 765-71. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2004.04.030

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The information herein on "Food Energy Density: EP's Functional Chiropractic Team" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, acupuncture, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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