When trying to lose weight or even when trying to get healthy, it all comes down to proper nutrition. There is so much information out there that it can get confusing. Especially since not all of it is true or backed by science. I’m hoping to clear up the confusion for you today.
There are 6 nutrients that we all need for growth, energy, and maintenance and repair of our cells and tissues. These include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water. Eating a well-balanced diet with a wide variety of foods will provide you with the right amount of all the nutrients you need.
We have already discussed water, but I wanted to stress again how important water is. Water makes up 60% of our body weight. It carries other nutrients to all parts of the body, it carries wastes out of the body and it helps to regulate body temperature. So make sure you are getting plenty of water every day! You can read more about water here.
Let’s talk carbs. Carbs are made through the process of photosynthesis in plants. They contain 4 calories per gram. Carbs are sugars, starches, and fiber found in foods. They most commonly come from plants. Milk has carbs that are called lactose.
The brain is fueled by glucose which is why low carb diets may leave you feeling sluggish or mentally foggy. Your brain needs carbs! However, choosing the right kind is the key! Complex carbs like veggies and fruits contain sugar but are also high in fiber. So these would be the carbs you need to focus on! You want to focus on whole foods rather than processed because the whole food tends to be more nutrient-dense.
Fiber is a carb that comes from plants. It provides their structure. Consider it the skeleton of the plant. There are two types of fiber and foods usually have a mix of the two. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and creates a sticky bolus that is important for capturing oil-soluble substances like cholesterol to clear from the body. This fiber is found in nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Insoluble fiber acts as a sponge and helps create bulk to enhance motility and promotes regularity. This fiber is found in veggies and whole grains.
Since carbs provide energy, it’s best if you have carbs for breakfast and lunch. These times are when you need the energy to get through the day. Dinner time is usually later in the day when you are about to wind down and get ready for bed. You don’t need energy for that, so you don’t need carbs at dinner.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram and is composed of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. If we don’t get enough amino acids, our bodies will break down muscle to obtain it. There are a total of 20 amino acids where 9 of these are essential, which means we get these from food. Eleven are non-essential which means our bodies can make these.
Protein also plays a role in making enzymes, cholesterol and hormones, growth and maintenance, building antibodies, maintaining electrolytes, and fluid balance. As you can see, protein is very much needed.
Consuming a varied diet is key. Animal proteins are complete. Most veggies are weak in certain amino acids so eating a variety of foods to provide a wide range of amino acids is necessary.
Protein should be at every meal including snacks. Protein helps keep you full longer!
Fat provides 9 calories per gram. Just so you have an idea 1 tablespoon of fat equals 120 calories. There are different types of fats, but they all provide the same amount of calories. However the healthy fats, unsaturated fats provide added health benefits.
Healthy fats are those that are unprocessed. Omega-3s, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and include olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado. These are healthy fats that are considered cardio-protective. Which means they are good for your heart! Just make sure you aren’t over serving on these items. Portions still matter!
Saturated fats are the ones you want to avoid or limit. They are solid at room temperature. Primarily found in animal products and dairy. These fats may raise your LDL cholesterol (the bad).
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been modified through the process of hydrogenation to transform the fat from a liquid to a solid-state. These should be totally avoided. They are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. They raise the LDL (bad cholesterol) and lower the HDL (good cholesterol). Words to look for on labels include hydrogenated, fried, or shortening. These are normally found in fast food, dry cake/pastry mixes, commercial frosting, shelf-stable baked goods, and commercially processed goods.
Vitamins & Minerals
A vitamin may be broadly defined as a substance that is essential for the maintenance of normal, metabolic function, but which is not produced in the body and therefore must be consumed from a source outside of the body.
Vital vitamins are necessary elements in the process of converting food to energy. They help with the growth and repair of body tissue. The reduction of vitamin levels over extended periods can result in vitamin deficiency. These shortages may lead to symptoms that can include loss of appetite or loss of body weight. Deficiencies of this nature can be easily avoided by adequate vitamin intake.
Fat-soluble vitamins tend to be stored in tissues and remain there. Important to supplement carefully and get from food as much as possible. Natural forms are converted as the body requires. For example, Beta Carotene or vitamin A. Synthetic vitamin A can be stored and can lead to liver toxicity. To see more information on vitamins and which food items contain them, check it out here.
Minerals activate thousands of enzyme reactions. They act as electrical transmitters, sending signals. They assist in the function of vitamins and help metabolize proteins, carbs, and fats. They also help regulate water and electrolyte balance.
As important as vitamins are, they are useless without minerals. Minerals provide a vital role in nutrition. Although there is rarely much discussion about the benefits they provide, minerals are considered the “unsung” heroes of nutrition. Some key minerals include calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Here’s more information about minerals.
I hope you find this nutrition information helpful when choosing foods to eat. If you need more guidance, you can schedule a time with me to get a more detailed eating plan together. If you would like to get a meal plan that will help with your goals, you can check them out.