Before we answer what food group is the best source of energy, let’s first learn what energy is. Energy is labeled in physics as “the capacity to perform work.” It is not a component of foods, but rather the result of the combustion of the so-called energy-producing nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Units of measure: The calorie, or more specifically, the kilocalorie (kcal), equivalent to 4.184 kilojoules (KJ).
- Sources: All of the energy supplied by food comes from the sun. Plants transform solar energy into chemical energy by synthesizing carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Humans can obtain the energy they need from two sources
- Plant-based foods: They directly utilize the nutrients produced by the sun’s energy, which is more healthful.
- Animal-based products: Animals assimilate and process nutrients from other animals. By eating meat, eggs, or milk and its derivatives, one is eating second-hand nutrients, which have been transformed by animals, and, therefore, are less healthful.
- Proportional distribution among energy-producing nutrients: ideally, from a health standpoint, there should be a balance among those nutrients producing energy: sixty percent of calories should come from carbohydrates, thirty percent from fats, and ten percent from proteins. The more plant-based foods are eaten, the easier it is to meet these requirements.
- Function: The body produces work for all bodily functions in the broadest sense, whether physical, mental, or psychological, from the energy in foods.
- Symptoms of deficiency: Growth retardation in children, weight loss, physical weakness.
- Consequences of excess: Obesity.
- Increased need: Intense physical exercise, trauma, and severe burns.
- Loss during the processing of foods: None or very little, since energy-producing nutrients are affected very little by cooking or other processes.
The average for an adult: 2000 calories. This is the amount used for graphs of the composition of foods. The needs of the individual vary based on physical makeup and physical activity.
Plant-based foods provide as much or more energy as animal-based products, with the advantage that vegetables are more healthful and are endowed with healing power.
- George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 1. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 385. Print.