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Nutrient Dense vs. Calorie-Dense: Which is Better?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have to restrict yourself from a particular food because its own caloric count does not meet your diet?

This has been one of the most common struggles of people. In fact, most people ask: What is the difference between nutrient-dense food and calorie-dense food?

Let me explain the two clearly:

Let’s try to compare two food items with the same amount of calorie: Banana and cookie. One medium-sized banana (about 118g) contains as much as 100 calories, which is almost the same with a piece of ordinary oatmeal cookie (about 20g).
The banana is a nutrient-dense food while the cookie is calorie-dense. Why is that so?

This is due to the fact that, no matter what you choose between these two foods, your body will get 100 calories from it. This is already worth the energy you spend for your daily activities. The only thing different is that the banana contains nutrients like vitamins, mineral, potassium and fiber, which will keep you satisfied for longer periods of time as compared to a piece of cookie.

Let’s say you choose the cookie over the banana. What will likely happen is that your sweet cravings will be satisfied, but it will not sustain your feeling of fullness for a long time as compared to the banana. A piece of cookie does not contain as much as vitamins, minerals and fiber unlike the banana.

Let’s just let be clear though: I DO not recommend you avoid the cookie forever. Just want you to eat in moderation – no matter what you choose.

After all, life is all about balance. So, if you want to gobble up a piece of cookie, freely do so! Just know your limits. Learning the difference between calorie-dense and nutrient-dense is actually an opportunity to empower yourself especially in choosing your own food without guilt – and definitely with no stress!

So, the next time you are caught between two food choices, you know what to do. Right? 😉


USFDA Nutrient Composition:

Food Data Central of the US-FDA

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