Empty Calories

Empty Calories

Empty calories are those found in high-calorie-foods that are poor in nutritional value.

Although these foods provide energy to the body, they contain little or no nutrients such as proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals that are necessary to keep the body strong and healthy.

Empty calories are generally divided into 3 categories;

  • Sugar
  • Solid Oil
  • Alcohol

Empty calories pretty well sums up the state of modern fruit and vegetables. It is the number one reason why dietary supplementation is necessary to maintain optimal health.

This page explains why the modern, commercially raised fruit and vegetables are deficient in the basic, essential nutrients.

Too many people still believe that if we just eat our four servings of fruit and vegetables a day, we will be as healthy as we can be. Oops, it used to be four servings, now it has ratcheted up to nine servings a day. It is now 4 of fruits and 5 of vegetables for growing teens and adults.

What is a Calorie?

Then we hear that “a calorie is a calorie” whether it’s empty or not and all we need is so many calories a day to sustain life. Maybe so, but sustaining life is hardly the same as sustaining a healthy, high quality life.

What do we mean by an empty calorie? A calorie is just a unit of energy; specifically a food calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.

In plain English, that is raising the temperature of 2.2 pounds of water by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. In even more basic terms, the calories in 5 pounds of spaghetti provide enough energy to brew a pot of coffee.

Empty calories are therefore calories that have the energy but not the nutrition. Does a calorie from table sugar have the same nutrition as a calorie from broccoli?

A pound of broccoli has about 154 calories, 70% carbs, 9% fat and 21% protein. A pound of sugar has 1,733 calories so; doing the math, 154 calories of sugar is about .08886 pounds or about 1.42 ounces.

So, a pound of broccoli has the same energy as 1.42 ounces of sugar. Now, does 1.42 ounces of sugar have the same nutritional value as a pound of broccoli? Common sense screams, NO!

Nutrition is more than mere calories.

We could say that sugar contains empty calories and broccoli contains healthy calories. Why? Because broccoli is chock full of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that we won’t find in table sugar no matter how hard we look.

Nutrition Equals the Sum of the Parts

OK, then where does the nutritional content of fruit and vegetables come from and why are modern commercially grown fruit and vegetables deficient in nutrients? If all of the nutrients presented below are present in the soil, it is unlikely that empty calories would be an issue; at least not from soil depletion.

In the interest of keeping it simple, there are 16 chemical elements that a plant needs to grow, sustain life and produce fruit.

Hydrogen, oxygen and carbon are non-mineral and come from air and water. Through a process called photosynthesis, the plant uses the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and starches which it uses for food. Growers have little control over the weather and thus the amount of nutrients made through photosynthesis.

The rest come from the soil and, in time, soil becomes depleted of its mineral nutrients thus the need for fertilization.

The other thirteen minerals are dissolved in water and taken up by the plant’s root system. They can be divided into primary and secondary macronutrients and micronutrients.


Primary macronutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or NPK, and these are the main fertilizers used by commercial mega-farms. The secondary macronutrients are calcium, magnesium and sulfur. There is usually enough of these three in the soil and fertilization for them is not considered necessary.


The micronutrients are boron, iron, copper, chloride, manganese, molybdenum and zinc; collectively referred to as trace elements. These are the mineral elements typically missing in depleted soil and it is rare that commercial fertilizers are used to replace them.

There are other trace minerals that human beings need for optimal health that plants can do very well without. For example, we need selenium, vanadium, chromium, sodium and iodine to name a few.

If we don’t get enough of these from food sources and large commercial farm produce is really empty calories, where would we turn to get them? One answer is from a dietary supplement produced by hydroponic methods to allow for tight control and monitoring of the desired mineral content.

Mustard sprouts are a good choice for hydroponic production of these other trace minerals.