Quality vs. Quantity

Quality vs. Quantity

Calories are the unit of measurement for the energy in food. We all need energy to fuel our bodies daily and the amount is determined by our gender, height, weight, age, and physical activity level. Are all calories equal? Nope. By comparison, two foods with the same amount of calories can have vastly different nutritional value (whole foods vs processed foods for example). A neat article by Eat This, Not That!, shares a variety of ways 100 calories can present, ex. half a cheeseburger vs 25 strawberries, plus many more. 

When we go beyond the amount of calories a food provides, we can identify macronutrients, micronutrients, and antioxidants. This food profile reveals a key player in healthy eating known as nutrient density. In contrast, empty calories come from foods that primarily provide calories, but offer little nutrition – think processed foods loaded with fat and sugar and sugary beverages.

The American Heart Association says, “The basic concept of nutrient density is the amount of nutrients you get for the calories consumed.” The organization provides more information and tips to eat more nutrient dense foods in an article here.

For this reason, following a specific calorie diet or even macros can be tricky and not all that healthy if you’re more concerned with calories or the macro grouping than the nutrition the food provides. If you’ve ever tried macros, you know that it’s possible to hit your percentages, but not eat a fruit or vegetable all day. There are a lot of pros to a focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods, such as high quality nutrition and targeting your health/fitness goals. 

So what do you think about the nutrition packed in the foods you choose to eat regularly? Are they primarily nutrient-dense or empty? Looks like this is another aspect of life where quality over quantity truly matters.

By Victoria Emmitt RD

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