LESSON 15

Calories in Food

Understanding calories, and more specifically the relationship between food volume and calories in food, is of utmost importance. Cooked foods generally have little water, and thus they have more calories per bite than fresh, high-water foods. This in practice means that the same number of calories is found in a smaller portion of cooked and fatty foods compared to a larger portion of fresh, low fat foods.

On a cooked diet, people are used to a standard portion size of a meal and thus have a perception of a meal size from their experience of eating only cooked meals. This perception of small portion sizes is especially true of fruits, which are usually viewed only as a snack or dessert.

Now let’s acknowledge that our bodies do not assimilate grams or ounces from food, but calories. With this understanding, let’s look at some specific examples.

700 calories are in the edible portion of:

  • 800g / 28oz bananas

or

  • 4,000g / 140oz zucchini

or

  • 260g / 9oz of bread

or

  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil

or

  • 400g / 14oz chicken

We see that a larger volume of fruits and vegetables is needed to bring in the same number of calories found in a smaller volume of fatty or starchy, cooked foods.

Let’s also acknowledge that volume of zucchini for example. The same calorie saturation applies to other vegetables, whether cooked or not. As it is difficult to eat 4kg / 8.8 lbs of zucchini at a time, it is logical to conclude that we cannot rely on vegetables for sufficient caloric intake and that fruit is a more reliable support.

But let’s now see the following example:

700 calories are in the edible portion of:

  • 100g / 3.5oz of fresh walnuts

or

  • 120g / 4.2oz of sunflower seeds

or

  • 430g / 15oz avocado

We see that although it is a fresh, unprocessed food, it does contain relatively a lot of calories in a relatively small amount. The reason for this is that it is a seed, nut or fatty fruit, all which contain a lot of fat.

  • 1g fat = 9 calories
  • 1g carbohydrates = 1g protein = 4 calories

The conclusion would be, fresh foods that contain a low percentage of fat and plenty of water, which are generally fruits and vegetables, (with a few exceptions for fruits – avocados, durians, asai and coconut), have relatively few calories per bite, so you just need more bites to meet your caloric needs.

Clearly, larger portions are needed on a diet of fruits and vegetables because the food is full of water, so the calories are diluted.

  • Understandable. But how do we know how many calories we need?

That is the next logical question, and the answer is just around the corner, so let hop onto the next lesson!

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