The choice of foods according to their energy value represents the basis for building-up the energy-controlled dietary regimens that are required under different conditions, such as reduction of body weight (in overweight or obese patients), increased energy demand during recovery from illness or surgery, or high-level physical activity [11,12].
Fig. 2. Metabolic products of carbohydrate fermentation by colon microflora
Table 2. Distribution of foods according to the four energy categories3
Foods Kcal/100 g edible part
Oils and lard 900
Butter and margarines 750
Chocolate 550 High-energy foods
Biscuits, cakes, crackers 400-450
Milk creams 350 Moderate-energy foods
Bread, pizza 250-300
Pasta, rice 300-350
Legumes (dried) 300
Fish 100-150 Low-energy foods
Fresh fruits 20-60 Vegetables and fresh legumes 10-40
aValues are referred to raw, uncooked weights (Data from )
However, in addition to the importance of controlling the total amount of dietary energy, food choices should be directed towards a balanced distribution of energy among nutrient sources. Epidemiological and experimental studies have led to the establishment of correct energy distribution among carbohydrates, fats, and protein, in order to prevent the onset of chronic diseases and to assure the maintenance of a good nutritional and health status. In this view, in the USA, more than 20 years ago, a Senate Select Committee stated that the energy distribution compatible with good health and that should be reached by the American population (dietary goals) should consist of 58% of energy from carbohydrates, 30% from fats, and 12% from proteins. Among carbohydrates, 15% of calories should derive from sugars and 40-50% from complex carbohydrates, while, among fats, 10% of calories should come from saturated fats and 20% from unsaturated fats .
Since then, many other studies have indicated more detailed distribution among dietary energy sources, with particular regard to the quality of carbohydrates and fats. For carbohydrates, there is now the tendency to ignore the previous distinction between simple and complex compounds (based on molecular weight) because physiological processes in the organism are not strictly dependent on the molecular complexity of the carbohydrate itself. In fact, the glycaemic index of foods (the response of glycaemia after carbohydrate ingestion) is influenced by factors other than the chemical nature of monosaccharides (glucose has a value of 138, while fructose has a value of 32, referred to the white bread = 100) and of starch (amylose, amylopectin, and resistant starch). These include cooking, other types of food processing, and the presence of other food components, such as fats and proteins, antinutri-ents, organic acids, dietary fibre. For example, among cereal products, cakes have a value of 87, cornflakes 119, spaghetti 59, and linguini 71; among potatoes, baked 121, boiled 80, and French fries 107 .
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