Empty Calories

So why do you eat anyways? Park that thought in your head about how the food looks delicious or even the other one about how your spouse made it and so you need to eat it. We are discussing your biological needs, not your marital obligations or satisfying your feasting eyes. Our diet includes calories which act as a fuel for our energy needs. We eat because the calories in our diet need to be accompanied by nutrients; Vitamins, Minerals or Macro Nutrients such as Protein, Fat or Carbohydrates. In an ideal world, your food would contain calories and nutrients. Food that combines both is known as nutrient dense. It may surprise you, but not all food carry both benefits. Food that comes without any nutritional value is known as empty calories.

Empty calories are typically food from solid fats or added sugar. Both add calories to your food but do not contain nutrients. Not even a smidgen or trace of a mineral or vitamin. Solid fats like butter, beef fat or shortening and sugar including sugar syrups are examples of food with empty calories. Often combined to make a cake, cookies, doughnuts, soda, sports drinks, fruits drinks, processed cheese, many kinds of ketchup, several alcoholic drinks like gin or even hot dogs and bacon. Food is often made this way to entice higher consumption. A simpler version would do just as well, thank you very much. An excellent example of taking an otherwise healthy food and adding empty calories is using lean chicken and turning it into fried chicken. The extra fat adds no value but a ton of calories.

If you are practising healthy eating or worrying about your diet or wondering how many calories you should eat, pay heed. Often, more damage is done to your diet by filling it with empty calories than even your occasional indulgence in….(shhh, we won’t tell now, will we?)


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.