Healthy Eating Guide

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Your Guide to Healthy Eating : Understanding Nutrition

Understanding Nutrition

There are numerous nutrients that make up our diet. 

Each nutrient plays an important role in our diet and our diet is not well rounded without all of them. 

The basic building blocks to a healthy diet include:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Protein
  3. Fats
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals

 

Fats

Fats and carbohydrates make up a healthy diet. 

The key is to not to overeat either one of these to the point that they are not healthy for you. 

Many people do not understand the role that fats and carbs play in our diet. 

While these should be limited, they are still important for a healthy lifestyle. 

The key is to make smart decisions when it comes to choosing which fats and oils you are going to eat. 

This means that you will want to substitute saturated fats with unsaturated fats. 

You want to cook with lighter oils when cooking.

Fats are essential for supplying the body with energy. 

Fats are essential so that fatty acids and aid in the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins around the body. 

These fat-soluble vitamins include:

  1. Vitamin A
  2. Vitamin D
  3. Vitamin E
  4. Vitamin K
  5. Carotenoids

 

Fats are also the building blocks for many tissues and membranes. 

They play many roles in regulating the various bodily functions.

Dietary fat is available in both plant and animal sources of food. 

Many nutrition experts recommend that the intake of fat should be kept to less than 20% of calories. 

Extreme low fat diets, however, are not safe and cause damage to the body. 

The type of fat that you take in also makes a huge difference. 

A diet that is high in saturated fats, cholesterol and trans fats have been associated with numerous conditions including:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Heart attacks
  3. Stroke
  4. Chronic health problems
  5. Diabetes
  6. Obesity

 

Excessive fat intake of saturated fats and trans fats are associated with the greatest complications. 

Trans fats are those fats that are solid at room temperature. 

One of the best ways to limit the intake of saturated fat is to limit the intake of animal fat in the diet. 

Cholesterol can be regulated by watching the intake of eggs and organ meats, as well as other foods that are known to be high in cholesterol. 

Food labels can make it difficult to determine which fats are good fats. 

For example, trans fats are listed on the ingredient lists and not in the chart of dietary information. 

Processed foods contain more trans fats.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are better choices. 

These can be found in canola and olive oil. 

These are lighter oils and it is a big step towards healthier eating if you incorporate these into your diet instead of using fats such as lard to cook with. 

These fats are liquid at room temperature. 

They also have heart-protecting qualities, unlike trans fats.

Fish also contain good fats. 

They are a source of omega-3 fatty acids. 

These have been found to help lower cholesterol and to promote good health. 

Carbohydrates

These are important of a healthy diet, although the marketing of some diets may have you think otherwise. 

They are necessary for providing your with energy as well as essential nutrients. 

Carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products. 

They are not all equally healthy, so it is important that you choose wisely. 

When you are choosing your breads and cereals, look to have them made with whole grains, while avoiding the more highly refined varieties. 

It is also important to limit the intake of sugars, such as baked goods and candy. 

Consuming large amounts of these low nutrient and high calorie foods can make it difficult to stay healthy without gaining weight.

Many people consume way too much sugar and salt. 

Salt is important in nutrition, but many people consume too much of it.

  Excess salt causes water retention, high blood pressure and other conditions. 

Choose low sodium foods and limit the use of the saltshaker.

By implementing these two strategies, you will be able to go a long way

Carbohydrates are found in a lot of foods. 

For instance, cookies and whole wheat bread are both sources of carbohydrates. 

Whole wheat bread is much more healthy than cookies. 

This is where the importance of good decisions comes into play.

In addition to cereals and breads, carbohydrates are also present in fruits and vegetables. 

They are also available in dairy products.

  Carbohydrates and fats also help to provide variety in the diet. 

When it comes to choosing carbohydrates it is best to choose those that are not refined. 

When carbs enter the small intestine they are broken down into sugars. 

Those carbs that are from refined products are broken down into sugar much more quickly. 

Antioxidants

There has been a lot of talk lately about how antioxidants are important in the diet. 

They have a possible role in fighting a variety of illnesses and this includes some types of cancer. 

They are also supposed to aid in age related degeneration and heart disease.

Many companies are marketing various pills, powders and capsules. 

The marketing of these supplements stresses that you need you supplement your diet in this pill form, however it is best to receive these nutrients through everyday foods and not from supplements.

It is important to understand how antioxidants work to protect the body. 

Antioxidants work to neutralize harmful elements that are known as free radicals. 

These are produced in the body naturally and as a consequence of natural bodily processes. 

Most of the time the body will be able to neutralize and eliminate free radicals on its own. 

Stresses such as environmental pollution, a weak immune system, UV radiation and alcohol cause the body to not be able to effectively fight these free radicals.

 Excessive free radicals in the human body can cause damage to the structure and function of the various organs and other systems in the body. 

Recent studies have also shown free radicals cause a number of diseases. 

They may also play a role in aging. 

It is estimated that foods have about 4,000 different compounds that have antioxidant qualities. 

Since only a small number of these compounds have been identified it is difficult to see why adding a supplement would help achieve a healthy diet. 

You are better off eating a variety of foods and receiving antioxidants the natural way.

There are many sources of antioxidant vitamins including:

Vitamin C: This is probably the most studied of all the antioxidant vitamins. 

It is also known as ascorbic acid. 

Vitamin C is believed to be the body’s first line of defense against infection and disease.

 Vitamin C is water-soluble and must be consumed daily. 

It is available in:

  1. Grapefruit
  2. Green peppers
  3. Broccoli
  4. Leafy greens
  5. Strawberries
  6. Cabbage
  7. Potatoes

Vitamin E: This is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and other tissues. 

It has been studied for its effect on aging and healing sunburns. 

It is important that your diet contains adequate amounts of vitamin E. 

Vitamin E can be found in:

  1. Whole wheat germ
  2. Nuts
  3. Seeds
  4. Whole grains
  5. Vegetable oil
  6. Fish liver oil
  7. Leafy greens

Beta-carotene: This is the nutrient that causes flamingos to be pink, as the receive it from the shrimp that they eat. 

There are over 600 carotenoids that have been discovered so far. 

The role of beta-carotene in nature is to protect the skins of fruits that are dark green, yellow and orange. 

Beta-carotene can be found in:

  1. Carrots
  2. Squash
  3. Sweet potatoes
  4. Broccoli
  5. Tomatoes
  6. Collard greens
  7. Kale
  8. Cantaloupe
  9. Peaches
  10. Apricots

Selenium: This is one of the most important minerals in a healthy diet. 

It has properties that prevent cell damage, which is seen as an important part of preventing cancer. 

It is important to get selenium naturally from your diet, as supplements can be toxic. 

It is easily found in foods such as:

  1. Fish
  2. Shellfish
  3. Red meat
  4. Whole grains
  5. Poultry
  6. Eggs
  7. Garlic
  8. Vegetables that have been grown in selenium rich soils