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Visualizing Calories: Energy in a Cheeto vs. a Marshmallow

This lab serves to introduce students to the function of macromolecules, more specifically carbohydrates and lipids. It examines the accuracy of nutrition labels, by physically burning calories in a Cheeto and a marshmallow.

Nutrition labels are located on all food packages. These labels inform customers of important information about the food item being consumed. For example, a nutrition label states how many servings are in one package.

Another fact on a nutrition label is the amount of calories per recommended serving. A calorie is a unit of energy. The more calories a food item has, the longer it takes to burn and the more energy it provides. However, when a person eats more calories than needed, the energy gets stored as fat for later use.

Finally, nutrition labels also denote the major macromolecules - carbohydrates, lipids (fats), and proteins - present in the food item being consumed. Macromolecules are essential for most, if not all, cellular processes in organisms. For this lab specifically, carbohydrates are responsible for short-term energy in cells, while lipids (fats) are responsible for long-term energy in cells. As a result, carbohydrates should have less calories to burn than lipids (fats).

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