You Are What You Eat!

An investigation in calories and food

Problem /Purpose

How Many Calories do Different Types of Foods Hold?

Its important to know what kind of foods are highest in calories, and which are not. In this experiment, I segregate the different food groups and test a food from each one to see which food group may hold the most calories on a regular basis.


If we burn a type of food from the grain, fruit, vegetables, and bean sections of the food pyramid, then the beans will hold the most energy in calories, because they are more dense and can hold more energy in them.


  • Calorimeter

    • Some sort of rod

    • Large can

    • Small can

    • cork

    • needle

    • hammer and nail

  • Graduated cylinder

  • Banana (or other fruit)

  • Black bean (or other type of bean)

  • Whole grain bread (or other type of grain or bread)

  • Broccoli (or other type of veggie)

  • Room temp. Distilled water

  • Celsius thermometer

  • Science goggles

  • Lighter

  • Scale in Grams


  1. Create your calorimeter**

  2. Weigh each sample of food so they all equal to 2 grams

  3. Fill smaller can about halfway with water. Use thermometer to measure temp of water before testing.

  4. Put food sample on needle + cork

  5. Light food on fire, and immediately place large can over it. Then, attack smaller can using rod over the burning food.

  6. Let food burnout

  7. Remove small can with water and stir the water, then check its current temp.

  8. Remove what's left of food and measure that.

  9. Repeat steps 2-8 3 times with each type of food

  10. Analyze data to see which gave off the most energy (calories )

**How to build calorimeter**

  1. Remove top and bottom of large can (so that its a cylinder without anything covering it up)

  2. Use hammer and nail to hammer holes all around the base of the large can, and hammer two holes to stick the rod though in small can

  3. Poke the needle into the cork , this will be where you burn your food on.

When finished your calorimeter should look like this:

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IV: Type of food

DV: Calories given off

Control Group: Temp of water before experimentation

Constants: Size of food sample, amount of water being heated, how long we let the food burn


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After burning the food samples, it was found that it was difficult to burn the samples, all except the broccoli. A problem that arose from that was that the broccoli ended up burning the most calories, partially just because it simply burned longer. But with the other three foods, the data was more consistent and showed highs and lows in places that was expected. Broccoli ended up having a 533 calorie average, which is much higher than the other 3 averages. Taking out the broccoli, bread (and already known high calorie food) was the highest in calories, with a 287 cal. average. The second largest was beans (the food we hypothesised to be first) with a 246 cal average, and Bananas with the lowest average of 164 calories. Once the Broccoli was taken out of the equation, the results were much clearer. Based on the research/hypothesis, beans ended up holding their own, gaining second place in the data (without broccoli).

Statistical Analysis & Calculations

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Manipulated Data: To get the Variance, you must calculate the difference between the raw data and the Mean (average). Then square all of those numbers, and divide it by how many pieces of data you used. (like averaging) From there, to get standard deviation, just square root the Variance.

σ = √3362 =57.982... = 58

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This ANOVA test shows the variance in data for each of our foods, we can see how much each type of food stacks up, and their averages. The data side by side clearly shows Broccoli being the biggest data sample, and it also shows that Beans were consistent in their data with no variance.


The hypothesis was supported, somewhat. The hypothesis stated that “the beans will hold the most energy in calories, because they are more dense and can hold more energy in them.” Even though in the data they were not. But, a factor that may have thrown this off is that the Broccoli had an easier time burning, and burned longer than it probably should have. So when observing the final data there was some consideration if the broccoli’s data was valid. If you look at the data without the broccoli, you can see that the beans end up the second most largest in calories, not far behind bread. This should have been predicted from the start, since it is well known that bread and bready foods tend to have a higher calorie count. Still, without some of the questionable data, the experiment proved to be fairly valid in showing us which foods have more calories. Although broccoli was the highest, the true highest was bread, proving that foods that are bready have more calories. Even if the broccoli’s data is tested even more, and is proven to be valid, it would still show that it contains more calories and the experiment would still be successful.

Sources of Inaccuracies and Error:

As mentioned many times in the Conclusion, Analysis, etc., the broccoli burned far longer than any of the foods. Admittedly, there should have been a time limit for each of the foods to burn, but it was so difficult to burn the foods that we took what we had. All of the other foods burned about the same time, but surprisingly, the broccoli did not. This probably threw the data off, and made it unreliable.


The whole purpose of the experiment was to see what foods contain higher calorie counts, and with today’s calorie watching diets, that can be really important. You are what you eat, you take energy from what you eat, and so you want to know what exactly it is you’re eating. Say, if you want to build energy before a run, you would want to eat bready foods like pasta to build up a lot of energy to burn. Or maybe you are watching your calories and would like to choose a fruit for a snack, like a banana, to take in less calories.


There could be improvement with the burning of foods, and more precise timing and the use of foods easier to burn. The whole problem sprouted from the fact that the food was hard to burn. Even the bread, something expected to burn easy, did not burn very well. Next time, it would be wise to do more research on what foods burn easier. If I wanted to continue the experiment, I would definitely change these things to produce more clear data.

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All photos taken by learner