Difference Between Kcal and Cal (With Table)

Often people go to supermarkets for buying food items and come across two different brands of the same product. When they try to compare the nutritional values of both the products, they fail. The main reason being the values given on one packet was in calories and another in kilocalories.

This only happens when you do intra-country migrations. The nutritional labels in the foreign country look different from the country you belong to. This situation might have been faced by many people, and you should not ashamed to know that you are not alone. As the majority of people can not differentiate between calories and kilocalories. In this article, we will discuss how calories differ from kilocalories.

Kcal vs Cal

The difference between kcal and cal is that kcal refers to the kilocalorie, and cal refers to calorie. Kcal is the bigger version of the measurement of energy retained by the food items and their nutritional value. Calorie refers to the much smaller version of the same. However, in the labels that are present at the back of any packaged foods, Calorie value is written, which is equal to a kilocalorie and not calorie.

One kilocalorie is larger than a calorie by 1000 times. Thus, one thousand calories are equal to one kilocalorie. This system of measurement is used to raise the temperature of 1 kg water by 1°C. However, the pressure applied should be one atmosphere. A kilocalorie is considered as the dietary or food calorie. However, almost in all cases, it is represented as Calorie. In many countries, the use of kcal is done as the calculation of nutritional value and is called a Calorie. KA kilocalories a metric equivalent to 4.184 kilojoules.

One calorie is 1000 times lesser than a kilocalorie. Thus, one thousand calories are equal to one kilocalorie. One calorie is generally used to raise one gram of water temperature by 1°C. However, the pressure needed is 1 ATM. The traditional calorie, which is equal to 0.001 kilocalories, does not imply the dietary or food calorie pasted on the food labels. The calorie with smaller case c is not equal to the typical Calorie with an upper case C. One calorie is the metric equivalent to 4.184 joules.

Comparison Table Between Kcal and Cal

Parameters of ComparisonKcalCal
Size: kcal vs calKcal or kilocalorie = 1000 calories1 calorie = 0.001 kilocalorie
The energy at 1 Atm PressureUsed to raise 1°C of 1kg water.Used to raise 1°C of 1g water.
Food calorieRepresentative of food and dietary calorie.Does not represent food or dietary calorie.
Food labelsKcal is equal to Calorie.A calorie is not equal yot a calorie.
Metric equivalent1 kilocalorie = 4.184 kilojoule.1 calorie = 4.184 joule.

What is Kcal?

At one atmospheric pressure, the amount of energy that is needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of H2O or water by 1 degree Celsius is referred to as a kilocalorie. Its use is abundant in the field of chemistry. For instance, its use is to indicate the total amount of energy that is released when one mole of any substance or reagent is reacted. Kilocalories are equivalent to kilojoule according to the metric system. In 1 kilocalorie, there are 4.184 kilojoules or KJ.

The nutritional values of the food items are generally recorded and then mentioned in the labels on the packet. They symbolise the energy content of that food item. One kilocalorie is equal to one thousand calories.

 This means, to convert a kilocalorie into a calorie, you just need to multiply the numerical value of the kilocalorie by 1000. For example, 7 kilocalories would be equal to 7000 calories. Generally, on the food labels, the calories mentioned is equal to kilocalories.

What is Cal?

At one atmospheric pressure, the amount of energy that is needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of H20 or water by one degree Celsius is called 1 calorie. However, the energy that is needed to increase the temperature of the water is also called the specific heat of H2O or water. Thus, the calorie was used as a way of measurement of energy by heat means. To make one kilocalorie, it needs 1000 calories.

However, to determine how many kilocalories it is, one needs to divide by one thousand. For example, 6000 calories would be equivalent to 6 kilocalories. After the year 1924, joule was used more instead of calorie, as joule is the unit of energy as per the international standard unit. As per the metric system, a calorie is equivalent to a joule in terms of energy. 

Thus, 4.184 joules is approximately equal to 1 calorie. More often, J. Calorie is used to measure energy. However, the value of the calories that are mentioned in the food labels refers to kilocalories.

Main Differences Between Kcal and Cal

  1. One kilocalorie is one thousand times larger than a calorie. However, one calorie is a thousand times lesser than a kilocalorie. Thus, 1000 calorie is equal to 1 kilocalorie.
  2. The kilocalorie is used to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1°C. On the other hand, one calorie is used to raise one gram of water temperature by 1°C, both at one atmospheric pressure.
  3. The kilocalorie is generally considered as the dietary or food calorie and is represented as Calorie. However, the traditional calorie does not imply dietary or food calorie.
  4. In some countries, they use kcal as the measurement of nutritional value and is called a Calorie. On the other hand, the calorie is not equal to the typical Calorie(with an upper case C).
  5. The metric equivalent of kilocalorie is 4.184 kilojoule. On the other hand, the metric equivalent of calorie is 4.184 joule.


If you have been banging your head hard against the wall to figure out the main differences between a kilocalorie and a calorie or kcal and cal, then this article can calm you down. People stood there baffled without realising the difference between the two terms used, calories and kilocalories. The fitness applications and the food journals mainly use these terms almost everywhere.

However, there is no need to convert one unit into another. The need for conversion does not arise until the food labels have nutritional values printed in joules or kilojoules. Calories are generally used in the calculation of chemistry and physics. A kilocalorie is a basic convention used for the recording of the nutritional values on the food labels in kilocalories.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379719301953
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=rgJRAAAAMAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=kcal+and+cal&ots=z223ZcOic_&sig=hadPLZUbRgfPo-4yzn2S_WRwYyI
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