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Definition of Calories in Food

author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Definition of Calories in Food
Regularly consuming high-calorie foods can cause weight gain Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

The calories in the foods you eat and the beverages you drink each day play a role in your weight and health status. The calories you consume each day help your body produce energy. While it's difficult to choose perfectly healthy foods 100 percent of the time, it's crucial that you eat nutritiously most of the time. Knowing the role calories play in your health is necessary so that you can choose healthier foods.

Food as Energy

Definition of Calories in Food
Ice Cream Photo Credit Vladimir Sretenovic/iStock/Getty Images

A calorie is a way to measure energy, so calories represent units of energy. Food is vital to providing the body energy for functions such as breathing and physical activity. You get calories from essential macronutrients like protein, carbohydrates and fat. While some foods such as vegetables provide few calories, others like ice cream provide many calories. Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.

A Balancing Act

Definition of Calories in Food
Fresh vegetables in wooden crate Photo Credit gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to weight, excess calories cause weight gain, and not enough calories can cause you to be underweight. Consuming enough, but not too many, calories helps your body maintain a delicate energy balance. Oversize portions and high-calorie junk foods play a large role in excess calorie consumption. Choosing lean meats and fruits and vegetables is a way to manage your calories. Work with your physician if you are worried about your calorie intake.

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