Numbers in Food
Understanding Human Power
There are over 7 billion insanely complex machines in this world, which are consuming power at every moment. Oh yes, I'm talking about us, human beings- power consuming highly efficient machines. Wait..but what is power? Well, in simple terms, power is the rate at which energy is used. But..what is energy?? Energy is what a fuel supplies and enables us to do work. Now, how much power do we consume? This has an interesting answer..
We get our energy from food, our fuel, we measure how much energy we consume through the number of "calories" we take in everyday (technically speaking, it is "kilocalories or kcal", not "calories or cal" that we measure. And each kcal equals about 4200 joules of energy, the standard unit in which energy is measured). So when we have with us a healthy adult on a 2000 kcal/day diet, we actually have with us an 8.4 million joules consuming machinery. Sounds like a beast? Actually NO. To put the numbers in scale, let's just compare it to another source of fuel which we all understand, petrol. When you burn the petrol in your car, you are using up a lot of energy..around 45.8 million joules/kilogram of petrol which converts to close to 33 million joules per litre of petrol (density of petrol is 0.72 kg/litre). Now, go back and have a look at what you consume in an entire day..somewhere close to what a quarter litre of petrol supplies to your car! But you'll argue that petrol is a very dense source of fuel and what not..well, you're right. Let's have a look at how much power compared to a 100 watt incandescent bulb you are consuming. We've found that an average adult consumes around 8.4 mega-joules (million joules) of energy in a day consisting of 86,400 seconds. That's an average power of 97.2 joules per second or 97.2 watts. WHAT?! That little light bulb is more powerful than us human beings?! Rubbish? Not at all. That is the reality. We are just highly efficient super intelligent organisms consuming relatively little energy and doing some super-animal (can't really say super-human, well, except in some cases :P) stuff on and beyond this planet!
Macros in Food - Our Fuel
Now that we know how much we consume (pretty less, huh?), let's dive into where we consume from..yes, it's food, you guessed it right. But, what is it in this food the generates energy when digested in our stomachs? It's the calories in food (I'll refer to kilo-calories as calories henceforth, it's just easier and sounds better to the ear :P). Let's dive into food and see where these calories come from..it's in the macro-nutrients present in our food-there are mainly there of them- Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins.
Each one of these macro-nutrients have a unique yet diverse role to play in our bodies, but one thing that's common in them is that they all provide us with our calories. You must have seen on the back of your packaged food products the nutrition facts per 100 grams of the product, mentioning the amount of carbs, fats and protein content in it, yeah those are the macro-nutrients which give rise to the top label in that table "Calories". Here's a fun exercise for you to do, the next time you pick up your packet of anything (food) from the supermarket, multiply the number of grams (per 100 gms of your food) of carbs (c) with 4 (say, x=c*4), fats (f) with 9(say, y=f*9) and proteins (p) with 4 (say, z=p*4). Now, add x,y and z.. That's the number of calories in your food per 100 grams. Yeah, that's the math in your nutrition facts table. Fun, ain't it? You can do this on any food product, the results will always match up, because each gram of carbohydrate and protein supply 4 calories each and each gram of fat supplies 9 calories.
Then what's up with those tens of other nutrients that's there? The whole lot of remaining nutrients in your list at the back of your packet are what are known as the micro-nutrients. These micro-nutrients consist of all your vitamins like vitamin A,B,C,D,E,K and minerals like sodium, zinc, potassium, etc.. Just because they don't contribute to your energy needs doesn't mean that they are useless and are not required. That's because in order to digest your macro-nutrients, you need a favourable environment in your body, with the right levels of temperature, pH, enzymes etc.. which are maintained with the help of these micro-nutrients. Hence, a balanced diet is needed in order to maintain a healthy body.
Human bodies are a true miracle. In spite of such limited energy intake, one is able to do so much, which we all ought to appreciate. The complex digestion processes in our bodies are capable of digesting literally anything that's organic. So, while that food's still running your body, why don't you take a quiz below to see if you've actually learned something about yourself today! :)
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