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Nutrition Guide for Beginners

Beginning Nutrition

It can sometimes be difficult to get a handle on beginning nutrition.  Studies show that many diseases and body ailments are mostly caused by poor diet and nutrition. So where do you start? It’s common sense to know that a steady regimen of cake and ice cream would be wrong. A common misconception is that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition will just leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. This is simply not true.

The three basic components of nutrition are as follows.

Calories

Think of calories as a fuel for your body. When you eat food, your body will use it for fuel to get you through the day. Your body will break down the food and use the Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, vitamins, and minerals from your food. It will be used to rebuild tissues from cuts or scrapes, fight off disease or illness, help the body grow, and cause hair and nails to grow.

The amount of fuel (calories) your body needs is relative to your weight and amount of activity. A 200 pound man sitting behind a desk on the computer all day will not need as much fuel as the same sized man that is in a physical construction job or training for sports.

If you eat to many calories the body will create a fat cells to store the overflow to be used later. If you continue to overflow the calories needed the body will continue to create fat cells to store the excess until, you guessed it, you become fat.

Protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Which is why eating a diet low in fat can be beneficial in losing weight (Excess Fat Cells)

Protein

Protein is an important nutrient needed by everyone on a daily basis. It is made up of essential and non-essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for healthy bodies.  Protein has a number of different jobs in the body including the following:

  1. Building and repairing muscles and bones
  2. Repairing body cells
  3. Providing a source of energy
  4. Control of many of the important processes in the body related to metabolism

Further, athletes and individuals who follow a regular exercise or gym regime require more protein in their diet, often as much as twice the recommended daily allowance.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates or Carbs are present in varying amounts in most of the foods you eat including fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, milk and milk products, and foods containing added sugar such as candy, soda and other sweets. Carbs are present in foods in the form of starch, sugar and fiber.

Carbohydrates provide you with most of your energy. They make up around half of your daily calorie intake and are converted into blood glucose or blood sugar by your body to be used for energy. According to the American Diabetes Association, both the amount and type of carbohydrates you consume affects your blood sugar levels. It is important to choose healthy carbohydrate choices and control your portion sizes. Eating foods that contain nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats tend to be better choices. Eating empty calorie foods such as sugary sweets and drinks because they only provide calories with little or no other nutrients.

Fats

Fat is made up of building blocks called fatty acids and these are classified as saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated depending on their chemical structure. Some of these are essential components of the diet but others can be unhealthy.

Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in our blood. This can increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.  The two types of cholesterol in the body: HDL (good) cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol. ‘Bad’ cholesterol can build up in our blood vessels and cause them to narrow. This increases the risk of blood clots which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  Fats are found in vegetable oils such as olive, rapeseed and sunflower oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats provide us with essential fatty acids like omega-3 which are important for health.

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