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Understanding CaloriesCalories are the way we measure the amount of energy in foods and the amount of energy that the body uses. The nutrients in food that provides the calories come in the form of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. These 3 nutrients are found in all of the major food groups and foods may have one or more of each kind of nutrient. There is a fourth source calories but it is not a nutrient, alcohol also has calories in it.
Each source of calories provides the body with different amounts of calories per gram.
8 grams of the food times 9 calories (for each gram of fat) equals a total of 72 calories.
Another example: if the food has 3 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein, you calculate each nutrient separately and then add the two together for the total number of calories.
3 grams fat x 9 calories (for each gram) = 27 calories
5 grams protein x 4 calories (for each gram) = 20 calories
Adding 27 fat calories to 20 protein calories equals 47 total calories.
Of course food contains more nutrients than just calories. Food also has vitamins, minerals, and water, which are also necessary to maintain health. When a food has mostly calories and just a few nutrients, they are known as "calorie-dense." When the food has calories along with vitamins and minerals, they are known as "nutrient-dense." For a healthy diet, you need all 3 nutrients in your daily diet.
When you understand calories you can make better choices about the food you eat by choosing foods that provide a good balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But what is a good balance you ask? The US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services publishes dietary guidelines. These guidelines recommend a diet that gets most of its calories from fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grain products, lowfat milk products, lean meats, fish, poultry, and dried beans.
The American Heart Association recommends that:
Once you become an adult, your need for calories drops 2% for each decade. Eating more calories than your body needs results in weight gain. Your body converts the extra calories into fat for future use. Eating less calories than your body needs results in weight loss as your body converts the fat back into energy for your muscles.
Active men and teenaged boys need about 2,800 calories a day to fuel their daily activities. According to the Food Guide Pyramid for this group 2,800 calories would equal about:
How many calories a day do you normally burn? Use this Calorie Calculator to find out.
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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright © 2002-2012 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report on Calories and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.