What exactly is energy density?
It is defined as the amount of energy (Calories) per unit weight of a food or beverage.
Fiber, and especially water, due to their weight and lack of calories, are the components that account for the great amount of variance in energy density of different types of foods.
Some foods that are energy-dense yet not nutrient-dense are
- ice cream
- French fries
- ground beef
Some foods that are nutrient-dense but not energy-dense are
- leafy greens (kale, bok choy, spinach)
- fruit (cantaloupe, pomegranate, strawberry)
Basically, nutrient-dense foods are those that provide substantial amounts of vitamin and minerals and relatively few calories.
This is one of my favorite info graphics of all time, created by registered dietitian Julieanna Hever. It does a perfect job of showing the huge difference in the quantity of food one can eat while getting the same amount of calories. I even think that the picture on the right shows much less than 400 calories of vegetables!
Another thing to mention is to listen to your hunger and satiety cues. The stretch receptors in your stomach will signal to you when you've had enough to eat. The problem is when you eat things that are low in fiber but high in calories, like fats and meats, it doesn't take up a lot of space in your stomach at all, and you may fail to realize when you've had too many calories. Fortunately, by filling your plate up with low-calorie, high-nutrient, high-fiber foods, you really can eat a bigger amount of food and be satisfied without worrying about weigh gain.
Is this not cool or what? Who wouldn't want to eat more food??
After this video, I'm reminded of how people are so scared of fruit nowadays because "fruit has too much sugar and sugar is bad!" The ironic thing is that by avoiding fruit out of fear, you are actually taking one step back from reaching your optimum body weight and health potential.
The key here is that they accomplished this impressive weight loss as well as other improved health markers all the while they were eating MORE food. I know, it seems completely counter-intuitive to achieve any weight loss from eating more and not less food.
We all have the mantra "eat less, exercise more" drilled into our minds. However, it's not really about the quantity of food we eat (as we previously covered from the infographic), the focus should be on the quality of food we eat. And by quality, I mean nutrient-density of course. You want to get the most bang for your buck. So focus on stocking up on the good stuff, the foods that will do amazing things for your body.
So the take home message today is, "fill your stomach" with plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and whole plant foods, which will in turn lower your desire to eat the calorie-dense and nutrient-lacking foods. Which then allows you to automatically consume less calories to better maintain your body weight without even thinking about it.
Do you think this is the answer? Let me know below!
Hever, J. (2014, November 3). 30 Reasons to Go Vegan. Retrieved March 22, 2016, from http://plantbaseddietitian.com/30-reasons-to-go-vegan/
Novick, J. (2012, June 19). Calorie Density Approach to Nutrition & Weight Management. Retrieved March 22, 2016, from http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-calorie-density-approach-to-nutrition-and-lifelong-weight-management/
T T Shintani, C K Hughes, S Beckham, H K O'Connor. Obesity and cardiovascular risk intervention through the ad libitum feeding of traditional Hawaiian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991 Jun;53(6 Suppl):1647S-1651S.
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