Friday, February 17, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 5: Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins are organic substances found in foods that are essential for growth and development of the human body. They are classified as water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and can easily be transported through the bloodstream. The B vitamins, vitamin C, and choline fall into this category. Since the body stores very little of these vitamins in the body, they must be consumed regularly. Fat-soluble vitamins, however, do not dissolve easily in water and require fat for absorption in the intestines as well as for transport through the bloodstream. The fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in bodyfat, the liver, and in other organs of the body in smaller amounts. Consuming excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins, especially through vitamin supplements, can lead to a toxic build-up in the body.

Minerals are inorganic elements which contain no calories, are required by the body in small amounts, and are essential to a variety of system functions. They are classified as major minerals and trace minerals. If the body requires more than 100 milligrams per day, it is considered a major mineral. Conversely, a trace mineral is required in amounts less than 100 milligrams per day. Examples of major minerals include: calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, and sulfur. Trace minerals include: iron, zinc, chromium, fluoride, copper, manganese, iodine, molybdenum, and selenium. Minerals are stored in the body. Excess mineral supplementation may lead to toxic levels in the body.

The human body cannot survive without vitamins and minerals. Depending on one's age, gender, health condition, and level of physical activity, the required amounts of each will vary. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies will lead to rapidly declining health. Therefore, a healthy, well-rounded diet is a must for optimal health.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 4: Fats~ The Protectors

Fats are molecules otherwise known as lipids. Lipids are defined as, ", carbon-containing compounds that are hydrophobic (water-insoluble), lipophilic (fat-soluble), and have a physical characteristic of feeling greasy to the touch." (Fink, Burgoon, Mikesky 2009) Fats fall into one of three major categories: triglycerides, phospholipids, and sterols. Triglycerides are the most commonly found fats in the body, foods, and drinks. Phospholipids are found in animals and plants with a molecular structure which makes them both fat and water-soluble. The third class of lipids, sterols, are the smallest percentage of fats. The best-known sterol is cholesterol which is produced by the human body in the liver. While consuming fats has been attributed to a myriad of health problems, they are still a necessary part of the daily diet. The key is to choose the right kinds from the best sources in the right portions.

Fats perform many critical functions in the body:

  • They provide 60-80% of the body's energy needs at rest.
  • Fats are an abundant energy reserve.
  • They protect and insulate vital organs.
  • Fats provide proper cell structure, especially in nerve and brain tissue.
  • Fats help produce vitamin D in the body.
  • Fats form steroid hormones.
  • They carry vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream. 
  • Fats enhance the flavor and add satiety to meals.

Foods that contain fats include oils, grains, meat, dairy, beans, certain vegetables (like avocados and olives), nuts, and seeds. Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables contain minimal to no fat. Some of the foods with the highest cholesterol (fat) content are whole milk, cheddar cheese, beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and butter and whole eggs (which contains the highest amount of cholesterol).

The guidelines for fat consumption vary, but recommendations range from 20-35% of the daily caloric intake. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, fats should be 400-700 of those calories. It is thought best to aim at the lower end of this spectrum and to choose non-animal based sources for optimal heart health.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 3: Protein: The Building Block

Protein is a macronutrient that is made of of amino acids. An amino acid is a molecule that serves as the building block of proteins. Each amino acid is comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms. There are 20 amino acids that the human body uses. Nine of them are considered essential amino acids because the body cannot produce them, and must therefore be included in the diet. The remaining eleven amino acids are considered nonessential because they are produced by the human body.

There is critical role played by protein in virtually every major bodily system. It provides structure to muscle and tissues, it regulates cell functions, it helps to maintain fluid and acid-base balance, it assists with circulation, and it is a backup source of energy in the absence of carbohydrates. Protein enables proper functioning of the nervous system and the immune system.

Protein is found in a variety of foods. These foods are classified as complete and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins supply the body with all of the essential amino acids in very high amounts. Incomplete proteins must be combined with other protein-containing foods to meet daily dietary needs. Generally speaking, complete proteins are animal-based foods like meat and dairy while incomplete proteins are plant-based like fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans/legumes.

Of the total calories consumed daily, 12-20% should be protein. For example, if 2,000 calories are consumed, 240-400 calories should contain protein. Because complete proteins contain animal fat which could elevate cholesterol levels in the body, it is wise to look to plant-based proteins. Here are some examples of foods which are high in protein: navy beans, lentils, black beans, brown rice, quinoa, spinach, sunflower seeds, and broccoli.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 2: Carbohydrates-The Master Fuel

Carbohydrates are a class of organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They are most commonly grouped as simple and complex carbohydrates. Depending on your age, gender, and level of physical activity, carbohydrates should range from 45-65% of the total calories that you consume daily. For example, a 2,000 calorie diet should be comprised of 900-1300 calories. They are the body's master fuel for all metabolic processes. Carbohydrates are the single most important source of energy in the body. They also provide dietary fiber for regularity and heart health.

Carbohydrates are often viewed as the enemy to maintaining a healthy weight. The trick is to consume more whole grains and dairy, beans, fruits, and vegetables and to avoid highly refined foods like white bread, white rice, sugary cereals, white pasta, crackers, and donuts.

In later posts, we will explore how to successfully integrate carbohydrates into your diet to maximize energy, maintain weight, and to promote overall health.

Terms to Know:

1)  simple carbohydrates- simple sugars that exist as either single sugar molecules or two single sugar molecules linked together; examples include sucrose, molasses, honey, maple syrup, and turbinado sugar.

2)  complex carbohydrates-  carbohydrates that are composed of two or more simple sugar molecules linked together; examples include whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, whole milk, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables.

Be good to yourself! More next time...

Monday, February 13, 2012

What's Eating You? Day 1: Does Nutrition Even Matter?

When you do the math, consuming more than calories than your body uses leads to weight gain. Conversely, when you consume fewer calories than your body uses, then you lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to disease prevention. The heavier you are, the greater your risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes for starters. Obesity throws mobility issues, increased risk of cancer, and upper respiratory ailments like asthma and sleep apnea on the pile. It would seem that the simple solution is to just eat less and move more. So, does it even matter where the calories come from? The simple answer to this question is a resounding "YES"!

Being thin and looking fit doesn't necessarily equate to being healthy. To function efficiently and repair itself, the human body requires the right mix of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and water. Consuming foods that lack nutrients will eventually lead to declining health and sickness. Some physical signs of nutritional deficiencies include tooth decay, aging skin, thinning hair, brittle nails, weak bones, low energy, poor vision, weak muscles, poor posture, and weight gain.

This week we will learn how the foods that we eat affect our overall health conditions:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 Carbohydrates

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 Proteins

Thursday, February 16, 2012 Fats

Friday, February 17, 2012 Vitamins and Minerals

Terms to Know:

1)  Macronutrients- These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and are classified as such because they have caloric value and the body has a large daily need for them.

2)  Micronutrients-  Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients because the body's daily requirements for these nutrients are small.

(Source: Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition 2nd edition, Fink, Burgoon, and Mikesky, 2009.)

Be good to yourself! More next time...