The Energy Content of Food

It’s important that we understand the dynamics of energy exchange as it applies to nutrition. The energy content of food is measured in something called calories. The number of calories in food has been determined by placing a known quantity of food in a bomb calorimeter that has been immersed in a given volume of water.

It’s important that we understand the dynamics of energy exchange as it applies to nutrition. The energy content of food is measured in something called calories. The number of calories in food has been determined by placing a known quantity of food in a bomb calorimeter that has been immersed in a given volume of water.

When the food within the calorimeter has been completely combusted, the change in water temperature will provide a very accurate measurement of that food’s energy content.

By definition the calorie is actually a kilocalore, the amount of heat energy required to raise one liter of water 1 degree celsius. With the exception of water, all foods have calories, some more than others.

Take in more calories than we need via input and we will gain weight. Take in fewer calories than what we need for energy output and we will lose weight. When input and output are in balance, our weight will remain constant. At least this is how it works in theory.

There are a few physiological mechanisms which can augment this equation somewhat. What we need to understand is that our bodies need calories just to stay alive. Even when completely at rest, our various bodily systems are using energy to sustain themselves. This energy must be supplied in our food.

In order for the body to release the energy stored in our food there are a number of other important nutritional factors that warrant our attention. These include protein, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients in foods.

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