Most foods provide us with energy (calories), but some foods contain more energy per ounce than others. Energy-dense foods tend to be processed foods with sugar and fat added to them. The result is more calories per ounce.
For example, 3.5 oz. of chocolate contains 10 times more calories than the same amount of apple:
3.5 oz. of milk chocolate = 520 calories
3.5 oz. of apple = 52 calories
It can be difficult to control how much energy you are consuming if you eat a lot of energy-dense foods because you only need to eat a small amount to take in a lot of calories. It’s okay to eat energy-dense foods occasionally, or in small quantities, but try not to make them the basis of your diet. By choosing a diet based on low-energy-dense foods, you can actually eat more food but consume fewer calories.
Plant foods can also help us to maintain a healthy weight because many of them are lower in energy density (calories).
Foods that are low in energy density, like the apple, are high in fiber and water. Most vegetables, fruits and beans fall into the low-energy-dense category. This can be another reason to base your diet on plant-based foods.
Research shows that vegetables and fruits probably protect against a range of cancers, including mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, lung, pancreas and prostate. There are many reasons why vegetables and fruits may protect against cancer. While containing vitamins and minerals, which help keep the body healthy and strengthen our immune system, they are also good sources of substances like phytochemicals. These are biologically active compounds, which can help to protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer.
Foods containing fiber are also linked to a reduced risk of cancer. These foods include whole-grain bread and pasta, oats and vegetables and fruits. Fiber is thought to have many benefits, including helping to speed up ‘gut transit time’ – how long it takes for the food to move through the digestive system.