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Posted by on Aug 19, 2015 in Tell Me Why |

What Are Food Calories?

What Are Food Calories?

Food calories are the units we use in measuring the energy values of different foods. The foods that we eat furnish the heat and energy we need to keep us alive. Some foods provide more energy than others. When you hear something contains 150 calories, it’s a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking it.

A large apple, for example, may contain only 100 calories, but give us enough energy to climb a hill 1,640 feet high, while the food value of a piece of chocolate pie is about 450 calories. If we take in more calories than necessary for energy and tissue building, our bodies convert the excess calories into fat. That’s why we try to “count our calories.” Calories aren’t bad for you. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

In many countries, such as the European Union, Australia and New Zealand, it has become standard practice to include energy data in food labels in joules (kilojoules) instead of kilocalories (calories). In the United States, most food labeling is done in calories.

1 joule = 0.239005736 of a calorie, or 1 calorie = 4.18 joules.

This can be confusing and irritating if you live in a country where the food labeling is done in joules but all exercise programs, diet regimes and health topics regarding energy consumption talk in calories. Fortunately, most food labels in the European Union also add calorie-equivalent information.

Content for this question contributed by Joan Micco, resident of, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, USA