Empty calories, in casual dietary terminology, are a measure of the digestible energy present in high-energy foods with little nutritional value, typically processed carbohydrates and ethanol (alcohol), and to some extent fats. Also known as a discretionary calorie, an "empty calorie" has the same energy content as any other calorie but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. Although carbohydrates and fats are nutrients, they are typically ignored for this analysis, with the exception of essential fatty acids.
All people require certain essential nutrients, but caloric intake must be balanced with activity to maintain a proper body weight. People who engage in heavy physical activity need calories as fuel, which can be supplied by empty calories in addition to foods with essential nutrients. Sedentary individuals and those eating less to lose weight may suffer malnutrition if they eat food supplying empty calories but not enough nutrients. Dietitians and nutritionists prevent or treat illnesses by designing eating programs and recommending dietary modifications according to patients' needs. Eating a variety of nutritious foods every day protects against chronic illness and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
Foods with Empty CaloriesEdit
The following foods are often considered to contain mostly empty calories and may lead to weight gain:
Cake, cookies, sweets, candy, ice cream, soft drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and jello and other foods containing added sugars (including High-fructose corn syrup,HFCS)
Margarine or shortening, and other fats and oils (although some consumption of fats is essential to health)
Beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages