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How Nutrition Effects Your Health
Part 2: Not All Calories Are Created Equal
by Lynn Bode, CFT

The path to a healthy weight does not have to be complicated. The two most important pieces to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight are physical activity and nutrition. And there are two components to nutrition: the quantity of calories and also the source. In Part I, the quantity of calories consumed was discussed. Now it is time to discuss the source of calories.

(Article continued below.)

The source of calories is not only relevant to how much body fat you carry but also to your health.

When it comes to dietary intake, there are six essential nutrients for the body. Essential indicates that the body cannot make them on its own and therefore these nutrients must be ingested. The six are: Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals and Water.

Carbohydrates are often blamed as the cause of making people fat, but the truth is that the type of carbohydrates that are consumed are to blame. Carbohydrates actually provide glucose, which runs the body. They provide the body with its energy source. Carbs provide four calories per gram and standard guidelines indicate that between 55 to 65 percent of daily calories should come from calories. The majority of a person's carbohydrates should come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Yet Americans tend to get half of their carbohydrates from things like cakes, donuts, cookies and other empty calories. These do not promote good health. They have very little fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Protein: It provides amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body's structure and are required to keep the structure sound. It provides four calories per gram. Protein makes up the immune system, enzymes, hormones and carriers and it builds and repairs. Approximately 10 percent of daily calories should come from protein. Those calories are found in both animal and vegetable sources. When choosing the animal sources, choose the leanest options that are available.

Fats: All fats are not created equal. Some fats are needed by our bodies but some are very harmful. Saturated fats are one of the most detrimental to one's health. They can cause an increase in LDL cholesterol. Trans fats are also not beneficial and actually can be harmful. These fats are often found in crackers and baked goods. Monounsaturated fats, canola and olive oils are better fat choices. Canola oil is rich in omega fatty acids. Flaxseed and fatty fish are also high in omega 3 and therefore are healthy choices. Americans tend to eat too many omega 6 fatty acids and should instead be replacing some of those with omega 3 fatty acids. Fats are the densest source of calories generating 9 calories per grams (that's more than twice the amount found in protein and in carbohydrates).

Vitamins: They have no caloric value, but are very important in the production of energy. Vitamins are only needed in very small amounts. With vitamins, "more" is not better. A teaspoon holds all of the vitamins needed in a day. Individuals should not consume more vitamin supplements then the RDA recommendations because that could result in serious side effects. It is very difficult to get too many vitamins and minerals solely from food sources. But when taken as supplements, overdose can occur.

Minerals: Minerals are elements so they cannot be broken down or destroyed. Taking supplements of one type of mineral can make an individual deficient in another mineral. So mineral supplements are not recommended without the direct instructions of a licensed medical professional.

Water: By far the most important element. The body can only survive about 3 days without water. How can you tell if you are getting enough water? You should urinate about every 2–3 hours and the urine should be a pale yellow color.

Knowing the details about the six essential nutrients can help you make better food choices. Also keep the following recommendations in mind:

  • Eat a variety of foods
  • Try to fill your plate at each meal with a variety of different colors of food
  • Keep your fat intake to 30% of calories or less
  • Avoid saturated fats
  • Restrict your sugar intake
  • A diet should be moderate in sodium
  • Include fiber in your daily diet — good sources include: whole grain cereals, barley and bulgur

About The Author:
Lynn Bode is a certified personal trainer specializing in Internet-based fitness programs. She founded Workouts For You, which provides affordable online exercise programs that are custom designed for each individual. Visit: http://www.workoutsforyou.com for free fitness tips and a sample workout program. Fitness professionals take your business online, visit: http://www.trainerforce.com.

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