GetYourDishTogether | Nutrition 101
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Nutrition 101

Nutrition 101

Proper nutrition is vital to your continual success in your health and fitness journey.

Nutrition Defined

When it comes to weight loss and healthy living, nutrition is the arguably the most important and most often over looked component. Nutrition is defined as “the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health and growth.” In our microwave and drive-thru dominated world, however, it can be very difficult to obtain the necessary nutrients to maintain healthy bodies and minds. The first step to obtaining those nutrients is knowing what they are.

Six Central

There are 6 essential nutrients the body needs to function at its highest level. When any of these nutrients are lacking, it can have very adverse effects on the human body.

First up…

Protein

Some say protein is the building block of the body. This nutrient is what largely composes muscles, organs, antibodies and all enzymes. Protein is the most important nutrient needed for tissue repair, immune function, preserving lean muscle mass, as well as hormone and enzyme production. Per the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA, 10% – 35% of calories should come from protein. One gram of protein contains 4 calories. Most Americans get plenty of protein, and easily meet this need by consuming a balanced diet. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, cheese, beans, yogurt, nuts and legumes.

Carbohydrates

According to the Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA, 45% – 65% of calories should come from carbohydrates.  One gram contains 4 calories. Carbohydrates are the body’s principal source of energy. The body processes carbohydrates into glucose, which is the first source of energy the body utilizes during workouts and everyday activities. Carbohydrates are also needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, and muscles (including the heart) to function properly. There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. Simple carbohydrates also include sugars added during food processing and refining.  What’s the difference? In general, foods with added sugars have fewer nutrients than foods with naturally-occurring sugars. Simple carbohydrates are also quickly converted to sugar, which causes a spike in insulin levels. If this energy is not used quickly, it will be stored as fat.

Complex Carbohydrates are primarily starches. Some examples include whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, beans, fruits, vegetables and potatoes. Whole grains refer to grains that have all of the parts of the grain seed (sometimes called the kernel).

When whole grains are processed (a.k.a refined), some of the dietary fiber and other important nutrients are removed. Some refined grain products have key nutrients, such as folic acid and iron, which were removed during the initial processing and added back. These are called enriched grains. White rice and white bread are enriched grain products. The artificial enrichment of food makes it less nutritionally sound than foods in their natural state. It also strips food of its fiber, making complex carbohydrates into insulin-spiking simple carbohydrates.

Fat

The Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA state that 20% – 35% of calories should come from fat. One gram contains 9 calories. Fat is responsible for many vital functions from retaining body heat to maintaining healthy skin. Fat also acts as structural components for all cell membranes and supplies necessary chemical substrates for hormone production. Dietary fat also carries fat-soluble vitamins from your food into your body.

Fat is found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat, saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat. Saturated fat (found in foods like meat, butter, lard, and cream) and trans fat (found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines) have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat (found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

Sidebar: Calories

Let’s talk about calories for a second. The above 3 nutritional components are the only 3 which contain calories. By definition, a calorie is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. The important word to take away from this definition is ENERGY. Calories are units of ENERGY which fuel our bodies. If you take in more energy than you burn, you will gain weight. If you take in less energy than you burn, you will lose weight. If you take in the same amount of energy that you burn, you will maintain your weight.

Our objective in this competition is to burn excess energy that has been stored in the body as fat in a nutritionally balanced way. It is also our goal to learn how to maintain the weight loss be by forming healthy habits which make energy intake equal to energy output.

But we digress…

Water

Our bodies are made up of at least 65% water; therefore, it is essential that we stay hydrated, especially in hot weather and when exercising. Water is essential for transporting nutrients and oxygen to cells, regulating body temperature, maintaining a speedy metabolism, detoxification, and so much more. It is recommended that we consume at least 64 ounces of water per day (8 glasses). This amount should increase, however, to replace fluid lost during exercise.

Vitamins

Vitamins help regulate many bodily functions, including the digestive and nervous system. They are most efficacious and found in highest concentrations in whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.  Make sure to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet for optimal health.

Minerals

Minerals are chemical elements (as opposed to organic compounds such as vitamins) which aid in such essential functions as bone formation, proper heart functioning, and energy conversion. Fruits, vegetables, and animal proteins are excellent sources of minerals.

When these nutritional components are incorporated into the daily diet through whole, unprocessed foods, your body will begin to function at its best.

In conclusion…

Nutrition is the cornerstone to healthy living. Yes, exercise is important, but we cannot effectively exercise if we do not equip our bodies with the nutrients it needs to function properly.  ~ SS

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