Am I the only one who is tired of hearing about how we are getting fat eating things with no nutritional value? If it had no nutritional value, it couldn't make us fat. Water is important. We need it. It has NO nutritional value. It has no carbs, no calories, no sugars, no fats. As far as I can figure out water is the only thing we consume that has no nutritional value. OK, depending on where you are, maybe some trace minerals.
A breaded gob of macaroni and cheese, or a deep fried twinkie may not be what the doctor ordered, but it is chock full of nutritional value. It is loaded with carbs, calories, sugars, and fats. If I were one of those starving children my parents were always talking about, one of those could even be construed as good for me, assuming I had some fruits and or vegetables to go with it.
Empty calories indeed. Unneeded calories probably, unhealthy calories very likely. But nothing empty about them.
Its semantics really. But the point the "professionals" are trying to get across when they speak of empty calories is that your body will not function very efficiently on these empty calories, and for many people, weight loss is a goal, and losing weight eating these types of calories is not likely.
While your mac and cheese or twinkie may sustain you (barely), the nutrients such as flavonoids, fibre, phytochemicals, and other even unknown compounds in plant foods and whole grains/fish can help you to thrive. While not the same, its like putting shitty gas in your car, it will run, but probably wont have the same life span as it would when you give it premium.
Eating highly processed, low fibre foods which spike your insulin levels also puts you at risk for energy crashes, and over eating later on throughout the day.
Academic types who study nutrition and diet distinguish between "nutrient-dense" and "energy-dense" foods. The former have a lot of protein, vitamins, and other such stuff per calorie; the latter are caloric without offering much in the way of other benefits.
In standard English, empty calories are "nutrients," too. But the academic shorthand has drifted into the vernacular, so now you have to figure out from context what somebody's talking about when they use the word.
We can argue all day about whether that's a good thing or not. But at least there's some respectable basis for the usage.
E, KaimukiMan, Aloha:
I get tired of hearing that stuff, too. In one sense a calorie is a calorie, so there're none that are empty.
But...there are some other factors, a big one of which is the glycemic index. You can get a lot fatter eating 500 extra calories of pasta a day than broccoli. This has to do with the pace and the quantity of the insulin that the pancreas secretes after our grinds. Stopping this insulin response entirely is the "secret" behind the Atkins diets. They only discovered this after some of the (North) polar explorers were voluntarily hospitalized, eating 5-6,000kcal/day and didn't gain weight even with no activity at all.
Next myth: cholesterol eaten = cholesterol in your blood. But don't get me started on that until afta your tutu's coffeecake, hiki no?
E, Kaimuki, Aloha:
'Ole, it doesn't mean that calories from high-glycemic index foods have extra nutritional value. It CAN mean that those foods can cause insulin spikes which CAN be more beneficial in narrow circumstances (like a mai'a before battle, or as a way to drive protein synthesis after a heavy gym session). But not longterm, at least and or with other foods to moderate the spikes and crashes.
But 'ae, when food's short, the above thinking's a luxury--anything with calories is welcome. And if you're making/growing your own and might not have enough after Makahiki, denser calories mobettahs. Ka Poe Kahiko still would have packed their voyaging canoes with kalo and pig rather than Tostitos.