Public Release: 

Energy density: a new way to look at food

Mayo Clinic

Rochester, MN -- Just in time for New Year's resolutions, a new book from Mayo Clinic is available to help potential dieters stay on track. The book, Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight, recommends paying close attention to the "energy density" of foods in order to maintain a healthy diet. The January issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource contains guidelines and information about this new way of thinking about food.

Energy density is the number of calories in a given volume of food. For example, one cup of lettuce has fewer calories than one cup of ice cream, so the lettuce has a lower energy density. Eating more foods with low energy density will allow you to eat a healthy diet while still feeling full after meals. Studies show that the total volume of food we eat remains relatively steady over the course of a week, so if you replace energy-dense foods with lower energy-density items, you will eat the same amount of food (and feel just as full), while decreasing your caloric intake. The result: weight loss and better health.

But you don't have to eat lettuce at every meal to enjoy the benefits of this diet plan. By increasing the amount of low-energy density foods, you leave more room for moderate portions of your favorite energy-dense foods.

One example of how to lower the energy density of your diet includes skewing the ratio of vegetables to pasta in your favorite Italian dishes. Instead of eating one cup of pasta with a small amount of tomato sauce, try serving a half-cup of pasta mixed with one cup of vegetables. You should feel just as satisfied after your meal, but you will have significantly reduced the amount of calories and upped the number of disease-fighting vitamins and minerals.

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More information about energy density is available in Mayo Clinic on Healthy Weight, which is now available in bookstores.

Shelly Plutowski
507-284-5005 (days)
507-284-2511 (evenings)
e-mail: newsbureau@mayo.edu

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