When discussing the nutrition of a food item, it's common to refer to the number of Calories first. You may see Calories with the label "kcal" and wonder exactly how many Calories are equivalent to 1 kcal. The answer is simpler than you might imagine.
One kilocalorie, or kcal, is equivalent to 1 Calorie.
Calories Equivalent to 1 Kcal
According to HyperPhysics of Georgia State University, the dietary Calorie (with a capital C) is equivalent to a kilocalorie, which is equivalent to 1,000 calories. You can think of it in simpler terms: The Calories labeled on food nutrition facts are, in fact, kilocalories, explains the USDA National Agricultural Library. One kilocalorie is equivalent to 1 Calorie.
While a calorie is the energy required to increase 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius, a kilocalorie is the amount of energy required to raise 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of water by 1 degree Celsius or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, says the USDA.
As your body chemically breaks down food into sugars, it releases energy from those sugars to keep you active throughout the day, says the Society for Science & the Public. Therefore, calories or kilocalories are typically used to measure the amount of energy contained in a defined amount of food.
Kilojoules, explains the National Health Service (NHS), are the metric measurement of kilocalories. If you want to convert calories to kilojoules, simply multiply the number of calories by 4.2. The calorie content of a food can either be given in kilocalories or kilojoules, depending on which measurement system your country uses.
Read more: How Many Calories Does Frying Add?
How Calories Work
Calories are what we use to measure the amount of energy in food, says the NHS. We store excess calories as body fat, which is what happens when we gain weight from excess calories. It's important to maintain a balance between what we consume and how much energy we expend through physical activity as well as normal bodily functions.
You can find the calorie amount on the food's nutrition label. This information will help you gauge whether you're consuming too many calories per day. NHS points out that the more vigorously you do physical activity, the more calories you'll lose.
What's more, if you're trying to lose weight, you'll need to use more energy than what you consume. The best approach is to combine physical activity with healthy eating. Though too many calories can result in weight gain, do keep in mind that, generally speaking, calories aren't bad for you, says KidsHealth From Nemours. In fact, your body requires them to function.
How Many Calories You Need
Just how many calories do we need per day? According to another article from NHS, women need an average of 2,000 kilocalories a day while men need an average of 2,500 kilocalories per day. Kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old require 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day, depending on their level of activity, says KidsHealth.
NHS's "What Does 100 Calories Look Like?" breaks down your daily energy requirement. Breakfast should be about one-fifth or 20 percent of your daily energy intake, lunch and dinner should each be about 30 percent or one-third, and snacks and drinks combined, about one-fifth or 20 percent.
And as the article title suggests, NHS also provides an idea of what 100 calories look like, using examples of how much of a certain kind of food would be equivalent to 100 calories. For example, about 4 teaspoons of sugar equal 100 calories. Other foods that add up to 100 calories: three slices of turkey or a large apple or banana. These comparisons are meant to give you a better sense of your calorie intake per day.
- Georgia State University: "The Dietary Calorie"
- Society for Science & the Public: "Explainer: All About the Calorie"
- KidsHealth From Nemours: "Learning About Calories"
- National Health Service: "What Does 100 Calories Look Like?"
- National Health Service: "Understanding Calories"
- USDA National Agricultural Library: "What Is the Difference Between Calories and Kilocalories?"