What is the difference between calories as opposed to kilojoules?

Nutrition Blog

Whenever reading about dietary plans and benefits, we often come across two terms: calories and kilojoules. What is the difference? Well, it’s all in the name.

Where did calories come from?

Calories is a way of measuring potential energy contained in food. A single calorie is the amount of energy, or heat required to heat a gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

In the 1900s, Edward Atwater was fascinated by the chemical composition of foods and the effects processing and cooking had on its nutritional quality.

He would place foods in a sealed container filled with water and ran electricity through the food until it was fully burned. He then measured the difference in the water temperature.

Where does kilojoules come in?

In the term kilojoules, like the kilogram and kilometre, ‘kilo’ refers to the measurement of one thousand of a certain metric. In this case the measurement is of joules, which is used to measure energy.

To convert calories to kilojoules, multiply the calorie count by 4.2.

Kilojoules was adopted by Australia and other countries that measure using thousands of a metric. The united states of America still uses calories as their measurement unit.

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What calories and kilojoules are used for?

When we digest food, our body metabolises it into energy. This energy allows our lungs to breathe, our heart to beat, our brains to function and our bodies to generate heat. The energy we get from foods is measured in calories and kilojoules.

Different foods and drinks contain different amounts of calories/kilojoules. This usually depends on the ingredients, how the food is prepared and the size of the serving.

The average number of kilojoules a person needs daily is 8700 KJ. This can, however, vary according to a person’s age, gender, body size, activity level and life stage.

When you consume too many calories or kilojoules, your body stores the excess. This can cause weight gain and this is often the reason why people are so obsessed with their calorie/kilojoule intake.

How rich in calories is our food?

  • Fats and alcohol are high in kilojoules
  • Protein and carbohydrates have moderate amounts of kilojoules
  • Dietary fibre is low in kilojoules
  • Water has no kilojoules
  • Fruits, vegetables as well as legumes are lower in kilojoules

Calories and kilojoules are different terms used to explain the measurement of energy that our bodies produce when consuming foods with different nutritional values. Apart from the scale each is measured at, these two terms are exactly the same.

Understanding nutrition – as well as good nutritional practices – is essential to maintaining good health and wellness.

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