Losing Weight By Eating More Food – The Novel Concept Of Calorie Density

What is Calorie Density?

Calorie density is the number of calories that are present in a given volume of food. In simpler terms, calorie density is a measure of the calorie content of any food, relative to its total volume. Calorie density is also known as energy density, and it is measured in calories per 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of the food. (1)

What is Calorie Density?

By understanding how calorie density works, you can lose weight, and at the same time, improve your diet. (2)

By eating low-calorie density foods, you are also able to consume a larger volume of food, while also reducing your intake of calories. (3)

Calorie density provides many health benefits, including helping you with weight loss and increasing your overall nutrient intake (4).

When you choose foods that have a low-calorie density, you are able to lose weight and also makes you consume fewer calories, but allows you to eat a larger and more filling portion of the food. (5) A simpler way of understanding this concept is to imagine a plate full of food. Now, the fewer calories that the plate contains, the lesser will be the calorie density of the meal. (6)

For example, consider a vegetable that has 30 calories per 100 grams. This particular vegetable will have a low-calorie density. On the other hand, chocolate that contains 550 calories per 100 grams, is going to obviously have a very high-calorie density.

So even though calorie density is a less popular method of weight loss as compared to calorie counting, by following this concept and selecting foods that are low in calorie density, you will be able to limit yourself to having majorly healthy and nutrient-rich foods.

The concept of calorie density dieting also helps you eliminate the most calorie-dense processed foods from your diet. These foods are not only unhealthy, but you also tend to overeat these processed foods.

How Can Calorie Density Help You Lose Weight?

It is common knowledge that consuming too many calories is one of the main contributing factors towards weight gain. (7)

There have been numerous studies that have found that people who consume low-calorie density foods are also consuming lesser total calories in a day. This consumption of low-calorie diets is directly linked to lower body weight, lower body mass index (BMI), as well as lower waist circumference. (8) (9)

Accordingly, there have been studies that found that people whose diets were primarily made up of high-calorie density foods, they had an increased risk of obesity and weight gain. (10) (11)

That’s not all! Calorie density is also known to affect your hunger.

Having low-calorie density foods provides your body with less fat and more fiber and water. This not only makes you feel full, but it also decreases your daily intake of calories. (12)

On the other hand, many of the calorie-dense foods are highly palatable but highly processed, which makes it easy to binge or overeat.

Research has shown that eating whole foods sends a message to your brain to stop eating, while when you eat highly processed high-calorie density foods, this message is delayed, thus making you overeat. (13)

For example, in a study carried out by the Pennsylvania State University (2), participants consumed 56 percent more calories when they were given a high energy density meal, as compared to a low energy density meal. Another study also carried out by The Pennsylvania State University compared calorie intake for low and high-calorie density meals. The study found that participants ate 425 more calories when they were offered the calorie-dense meal as compared to being given the low-calorie density meal. (3)

So eating a low-calorie density diet will help you weight or aid in weight loss. This is because a low-calorie density diet focuses on consuming whole foods. At the same time, it restricts your consumption of highly processed foods, thereby increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits, and proteins.

All these foods are known to help in weight loss as they reduce your total calorie intake per day and also per meal. (14)

A diet that is low in calorie density can also reduce your hunger as your stomach feels the volume of food and assumes that you have consumed a heavy meal. At the same time, a low-calorie density meal fills up your plate and helps your meal last longer, forcing you to chew more. Chewing your meal more also increases the feeling of satiety and fullness.

Results from an observational study carried out by the Imperial College in London (8), found that people who were eating lower calorie-dense diets had a dramatically low measurement of BMI and waist circumference after a period of five years.

So not only is a low-calorie density diet a great way of losing weight, but it can also help you improve your general eating habits as well.

How Can A Low-Calorie Density Diet Improve Your Health?

A low-calorie density diet will ultimately force you to overhaul your entire eating pattern, leading to many positive changes. If you think about it, all these changes will significantly benefit your long-term health in the following ways:

  • Intake of less processed food: A low-calorie density diet restricts your intake of unhealthy and processed foods.
  • Increases the intake of healthier food: You will consume more low-calorie and highly nutritious foods.
  • Intake of more lean proteins: Intake of high-quality protein helps promote weight loss and also has many other benefits.
  • Increased intake of nutrients: A low-calorie density diet increases your intake of micronutrients and fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants.
  • A decrease in overall calorie intake: You will decrease your total calorie intake, thus losing weight. This is one of the best methods of improving your health, especially if you are overweight or obese.
  • Having a well-balanced, highly nutritious, and sustainable diet: This method of eating teaches you to focus on eating healthier, low-calorie foods. It also does not force you to completely eliminate a particular food item or treats, which means that you will automatically be able to sustain this form of dieting.

So as you can see, apart from helping you lose weight, a low-calorie density diet also has many other health benefits and helps you live a healthier lifestyle.

Foods to Include In Calorie Density Diet

There are many natural foods that have a very low-calorie density. These include:

  • Fruits: Fruits naturally have a low-calorie density since they are high in fiber and water content. Watery fruits such as watermelons and berries are known to have the lowest calorie density.
  • Vegetables: Most of the green vegetables are known to have the lowest calorie density of all foods because they are majorly composed of fiber, water, and a small amount of carbohydrates.
  • Fish and meat: Lean proteins such as white fish, chicken, and turkey all have a low-calorie density. However, fattier meats and fish are known to have a moderate to high-calorie density.
  • Yogurt and Milk: Low-fat milk and yogurts that do not have any added sugar, are known for having a low-calorie density. They are also a good source of protein.
  • Eggs: Eggs, especially whole eggs, are rich in protein and are known as today’s superfood. They have a moderate calorie density, especially when you combine them with vegetables.
  • Starchy carbohydrates: There are some natural starchy foods such as legumes, potatoes, and some other root vegetables that contain low to moderate calorie density. This is particularly true when you cook these foods as they are full of water.
  • Sugar-free Beverages: Drinks such as coffee, tea, and water, all have a low-calorie density and help you feel full.

While filling up on these low-calorie density foods, there is no reason to eliminate high-fat foods completely. Just limit their intake. Remember that many high-fat foods are very healthy, but they contribute to weight gain if you eat too many of them. These include avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

Conclusion

Many weight-loss diets focus on limiting certain foods altogether. However, this eating plan of focusing on foods with low-calorie density is one of the most effective and sensible diets that help you lose weight. This diet is not only easy to implement but easy to understand, as well. So unlike the diets that exclude certain food groups altogether, a low-calorie density diet allows you to have all types of foods by merely shifting the focus towards healthier and whole grains. At the same time, you will notice that you will feel less hungry and also be able to eat more. So by having 90 percent of your food intake from low-calorie density foods, you can quickly reduce your calorie consumption, thus losing weight easily.

References:

  1. Karl, J.P. and Roberts, S.B., 2014. Energy density, energy intake, and body weight regulation in adults. Advances in nutrition, 5(6), pp.835-850.
  2. Bell, E.A., Castellanos, V.H., Pelkman, C.L., Thorwart, M.L. and Rolls, B.J., 1998. Energy density of foods affects energy intake in normal-weight women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 67(3), pp.412-420.
  3. Kral, T.V., Roe, L.S. and Rolls, B.J., 2004. Combined effects of energy density and portion size on energy intake in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 79(6), pp.962-968.
  4. Ello-Martin, J.A., Roe, L.S., Ledikwe, J.H., Beach, A.M. and Rolls, B.J., 2007. Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(6), pp.1465-1477.
  5. Prentice, A.M. and Jebb, S.A., 2003. Fast foods, energy density and obesity: a possible mechanistic link. Obesity reviews, 4(4), pp.187-194.
  6. Bechthold, A., 2013. Food energy density and body weight. A scien-tific statement from the DGE. Er-nahrungs Umschau 61 (1): 2–11 This article is available online: DOI 10.4455/eu. 2014.002 Author’s copy! Any use beyond the limits of copyright law without the consent of the publisher is prohibited and punishable. This applies in particular to duplications, translations, microfilming as well as storage and processing in electronic systems. Ernaehrungs Umschau international, 1(2014), p.3.
  7. Stelmach-Mardas, M., Rodacki, T., Dobrowolska-Iwanek, J., Brzozowska, A., Walkowiak, J., Wojtanowska-Krosniak, A., Zagrodzki, P., Bechthold, A., Mardas, M. and Boeing, H., 2016. Link between food energy density and body weight changes in obese adults. Nutrients, 8(4), p.229.
  8. Romaguera, D., Ängquist, L., Du, H., Jakobsen, M.U., Forouhi, N.G., Halkjær, J., Feskens, E.J., Masala, G., Steffen, A., Palli, D. and Wareham, N.J., 2010. Dietary determinants of changes in waist circumference adjusted for body mass index–a proxy measure of visceral adiposity. PloS one, 5(7), p.e11588.
  9. Ledikwe, J.H., Blanck, H.M., Kettel Khan, L., Serdula, M.K., Seymour, J.D., Tohill, B.C. and Rolls, B.J., 2006. Dietary energy density is associated with energy intake and weight status in US adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(6), pp.1362-1368.
  10. Ledikwe, J.H., Blanck, H.M., Kettel Khan, L., Serdula, M.K., Seymour, J.D., Tohill, B.C. and Rolls, B.J., 2006. Dietary energy density is associated with energy intake and weight status in US adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 83(6), pp.1362-1368.
  11. Mendoza, J.A., Drewnowski, A. and Christakis, D.A., 2007. Dietary energy density is associated with obesity and the metabolic syndrome in US adults. Diabetes care, 30(4), pp.974-979.
  12. Duncan, K.H., Bacon, J.A. and Weinsier, R.L., 1983. The effects of high and low energy density diets on satiety, energy intake, and eating time of obese and nonobese subjects. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 37(5), pp.763-767.
  13. Drewnowski, A., 1998. Energy density, palatability, and satiety: implications for weight control. Nutrition reviews, 56(12), pp.347-353.
  14. Weigle, D.S., Breen, P.A., Matthys, C.C., Callahan, H.S., Meeuws, K.E., Burden, V.R. and Purnell, J.Q., 2005. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations–. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 82(1), pp.41-48.

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