Nutrient density versus Calorie density

We’ve been trained over the past couple of years to think calories. One important fact to considerthough, is that not every calorie is created equally. A person who has been on a diet forever and worked on a weight loss plan possibly hascounted calories at some point in their journey. However, focusing only on calories will not be help. If you’re busy running life time is always a challenge. You can often feel too busy to eat healthy, and it's at that moment it can feel easier to pick up fast food than to prepare a healthy meal at home, especially for yourself. However, foods that are calorie-dense and low in nutrients can seriously affect your health. The nutritional quality of the calories we eat each day can significantly impact our efforts towards healthier living, disease prevention, and weight loss. Instead of concentrating only on calories, weneed to understand the nutrient density, which refers to the level of nutrition per specific volume of food.

We will understand this with a simple example. Let’s say you are hungry and decide to eat something as a snack. Now you can eat fruit such as an orange or an apple or have a doughnut. The latter option is more attractive; however, the doughnut is rich in calories and low in nutrients. On the other hand, fruit is a source of fibre, nutrients and low in calories. Avoid foods high in calories and low in nutrients—a pro tip on finding foods rich in nutrient density. Compare nutrient density to energy density by evaluating the number of calories in each food by weight or volume or that portion size. In the above example, compare one fruit with one doughnut.

To help you with more low-calorie dense food options, we have made a list of foods with low-calorie density.Most natural foods have a very low-calorie density:

  • Vegetables: Dark green leafy vegetables and leafy vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, especially vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals.
  • Fruits: Most of the fruits available locally are high in nutrients and high in water. Fruits are an excellent snack option. Fruits like berries are rich in anti-oxidants. Try to eat the fruit whole instead of consuming it in the form of juice.
  • Lean proteins: Chicken, eggs, and fish are good proteins to include in the daily diet—a good source of protein and other nutrients.
  • Low-fat milk and milk products: Ideally, low-fat milk and milk products like paneer and curd made at home with toned milk can significantly reduce the product's fat content and empty calories from fat.
  • Whole foods: Limit the intake of processed foods. Yes, even how much it claims to be healthy. Aim to eat whole and fresh locally grown foods.

An essential piece of advice to all health-conscious individuals is to observe their food. Simply save yourself time by planning aheadif you are short of time. When eating for optimal health, always opt for a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods from all the food groups. Choosing the right food will help ensure that you get all the vital nutrients your body needs in the right amount. With a stronger foundation and a healthier metabolism you can reach your goal healthier and happier.



Ms. Misbah Wasi

Functional Nutrition Specialist ,Scientific & Regulatory Advisor for Health Supplements

Misbah Wasi is a seasoned professional in the field of Nutrition Science and Food Regulation for over 13 years.

Currently she is lending her expertise in the area of Health Supplements and Nutraceuticals, and is an active member of Standards Review Group (SRG) - Nutraceuticals FSSAI.

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