Nutrition 101

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Nutrition 101

This is your first lesson on nutrition, if you are new to this.  Anyone who wants to lose or maintain their weight should know these food categories and how they affect your body when you eat them.

If you’re not sure which food falls into which category: Carbohydrates, Proteins, or Fats, use this table and learn about proper nutrition.

Your body needs a combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats daily to operate well.

 

Carbohydrates Proteins Fats
Breads Meat (chicken/pork/beef) Oil
Pasta Fish, shellfish Butter
Rice Eggs Avocado
Beans, peas Tofu Mayonnaise, dressings
Potatoes, yams Cheese Cheese
Cereal Nuts Nuts
Fruit and vegetables Soy milk Animal fat (from meat)
Milk and yoghurt
Candy
Sodas and alcohol

Carbohydrates

When consumed, carbohydrates are easily broken down by your body into sugar and used as energy. When the body doesn’t need to use the carbohydrates for energy, it stores them in your liver and muscles, which is called glycogen. When your liver and muscles cells cannot store any more glycogen, it is turned into fat. That’s why low-carb diets have been so popular.

You need moderate amounts of carbohydrates to give you energy for exercising and performing daily activities. But if you eat too much, the excess is stored as fat.  Carbs should count for about 40 per cent of your total daily calories.

There are two types of carbs – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are “the bad guys” (also called simple sugars) and include fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), alcohol sugar, candy, and syrups. Simple carbohydrates are great sources of quick energy (think “sugar buzz” after eating a chocolate bar) but once consumed go directly into your body as sugar, causing a temporary boost of energy followed by an even bigger energy crash … leaving you feeling weak and hungry sooner.

Complex carbs – “the good guys” – on the other hand take longer to be broken down by your body into sugar, so it takes more time and energy to release it into your blood stream. They are found in fiber-rich, starchy foods such as vegetables, potatoes, pasta, rice, oatmeal, whole grain bread, peas, corn, and beans.

But look out! Complex carbs can be processed, such as white bread and pasta that are made of refined white flour, and white rice. Processing carbohydrates removes the fiber-rich outer bran and the vitamin and mineral-rich inner germ, leaving mostly the starchy part, in turn making it more of a simple carbohydrate that is easily transformed into sugar.  Try to eat unprocessed, whole grain bread and pasta as well as brown rice instead of their refined, less-healthy versions.

  • Fiber

There are complex carbohydrates that can’t be broken down by your body into sugars. These are known as “fiber”. Foods that are high in fiber include fresh fruit and vegetables, oat bran, whole grain rice/pasta/bread, potatoes, oatmeal, peas and beans. Because fiber cannot be digested and turned into energy, it doesn’t have much nutritional value. However, it is essential for good health. Fiber helps with digestion and is essential for healthy bowel function, because it reduces the risk of some bowel problems such as constipation and hemorrhoids, and doctors believe it can offset the risk of colon or large bowel cancer in the long run. Also, fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and creates the feeling of fullness – which means, naturally, you won’t feel like eating anything more. You should eat 25+ grams of fiber daily.

Protein

Commonly referred to as the building blocks of the body, proteins are important for muscle development, tissue repair and replacement. Your muscles and organs are made up of mostly protein. Consuming enough protein increases your body’s strength and improves athletic performance.

Foods containing the most protein are meats and fish. But you can also get protein from dairy products, nuts, some cereals and vegetables, and tofu.  Approximately 15-20 per cent of your total daily calories should come from protein.

High-protein diets have enjoyed quite a bit of popularity in the last decade, due to rapid weight loss. However, this weight loss is caused by a big loss of fluids from the body, not fat. In reality, a high-protein diet can be dangerous if not done properly. Eating too much protein can cause liver and kidney damage, and since meats and dairy products contain quite a bit of saturated fat, cholesterol levels in your blood may also increase. Eating too little protein can result in unhealthy looking skin, hair and nails, and underdeveloped flabby muscles.

Your diet should consist of lean protein that contains little fat, and you can get it from white meat and fish, tofu, egg whites, and cottage cheese.

Fat

Is this word the most reviled in the English language? Are there any other words that create such a feeling of revulsion in the minds of modern women and men? “War” perhaps … “hatred” … “murder” … “fat.” They all belong to the same group, don’t they?

Well actually, they don’t. Fat isn’t all bad. Fat is generally very high in calories, but our bodies need some fat to function properly. Adding a moderate amount of good fat to your diet will keep you full longer and help control appetite.

But what is “good fat” and what is “bad”?

Let’s talk about the three most common types of fat. Most foods contain all three types of fat in different proportions and constitute total fat. They are:

  • 1. Saturated
  • 2. Polyunsaturated
  • 3. Monounsaturated

When it comes to your health, saturated fat is the bad guy. If this were a soap opera, saturated fat would be the nasty character hell-bent on destroying the lives of the leading actors. So what does saturated fat do that’s so evil? It increases blood cholesterol levels, and you know that high cholesterol is bad news. It can lead to heart disease. The greatest amount of saturated fat is found in meats (especially in sausages and red meat like beef and pork), dairy products (cheese, whole milk), coconut oil and most cakes and pastries. Saturated fat is easily distinguished by the fact that it gets hard at room temperature. The white hard substance you see in a pan after cooking red meat is solidified saturated fat. Keeping a diet low in saturated fat is healthy and helps keep weight under control.

If saturated fat is the nasty one in the soap opera, polyunsaturated fat is the beautiful lead actress. Polyunsaturated fat is good. It helps lower bad blood cholesterol levels, and reduces symptoms of arthritis, joint problems, and some skin diseases. You can tell that it’s polyunsaturated fat if it’s liquid at room temperature (unlike that nasty saturated fat). Polyunsaturated fat is found in fatty fish (trout, mackerel, salmon, herring) and oils such as sunflower, corn, safflower, and grape seed. The popular fish oil known as Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fat.

That leaves us with the third type, monounsaturated fat. In the soap opera of life, this fat is the “girl next door” character. She isn’t overly good, nor is she particularly evil. She’s just there. There don’t appear to be too many benefits to your health with monounsaturated fat, but it does help make your skin, hair, and nails appear healthier. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive oil and olives, nuts and seeds, and avocados.

Overall, fat should count for no more than 30 per cent of your total daily calories, with no more than 10 per cent being saturated fat, and the rest being polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

Read the nutrition label carefully to see how much of each fat is in the content of the food. Avoid fried foods and look for words “grilled”, “baked” or “steamed” on the menu when eating out. Choose low-fat spreads instead of butter, margarine or mayo. And choose low-fat versions of cheese, yoghurt and milk.

Oh, and keep smiling.

 

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