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The Purpose of Nutrition

When it comes to health, fitness, and overall wellbeing, we often hear people (experts or otherwise) talking about “nutrition.” They will casually toss out the term and expect everyone listening to know precisely what they mean.

 

Sure, we all understand the basic concept of nutrition. It essentially means food that is good for us. But what does that mean? What is good and what is bad? How is it defined? Why are some foods considered nutritious, while others are not? For that matter, why do many Americans, who are among the best-fed people in all of history, struggle with nutrition?

 

Those are complex questions, but what if you are simply trying to eat better and add superior nutrition for you and your family?

 

If you want information on how nutritious foods can be added to your diet, while unhealthy foods can be reduced, we’d like to help.

 

Let’s take a close look at nutrition to better understand what it is, why it’s important, and what nutrients are essential. With this information, you can use nutrition to improve your health, happiness, and overall wellbeing, all without significantly overhauling your diet or lifestyle!

 

What is the Purpose of Nutrition?

 

What is Nutrition, Anyhow?

The basic concept of nutrition is pretty simple: it’s the foods that are good for us. But if you dive into the sciences of biology, chemistry, genetics, and aging, nutrition becomes a fairly complex topic. But once again, it can be simplified: nutrition is the process through which substances are transformed in our body. Through these transformations, nutrition becomes both a study of maintaining health through food, as well as avoiding diseases, conditions, and health problems by eating the right things. (And reducing the wrong things!)

 

How Common is Poor Nutrition?

Think poor nutrition is only a problem in developing countries? If you look at some of the statistics from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, you’ll see that many Americans, largely due to personal food decisions, are suffering from poor nutrition. While the American average diet is high in calories from fats and added sugars, many eat less than the recommended amount of veggies, fruits, whole grains, and healthy oils, despite the fact that “food available for consumption increased in all major food categories from 1970 to 2008.”

 

Clearly we have an issue, and while you can’t personally do a lot to make other Americans healthier, you can make personal changes to create a healthier you. And it all starts with understanding the basics of nutrition, starting with the major nutrient types…

 

Understanding the Different Types of Nutrients

 

There are dozens of known nutrients in the foods we eat, but they are generally categorized into six different types, which are then grouped into two sets: macro and micronutrients.

 

Macronutrients

Macronutrients are needed in large quantities (at least compared to micronutrients) and all of them but one provide our bodies with energy, which we transfer into body movement the same way that a car transfers gasoline into forward motion.

 

Carbohydrates

Mislabeled as an evil substance that makes waistlines stretch, the carbohydrate has gotten a bad reputation over the past few decades. Carbs, however, are an important part of fueling the body, providing energy for physical movement and the nervous system. They are also crucial to brain function, and, according to the dietary guidelines from the USDA, should make up 45% to 65% of your daily intake of calories. In other words, you need to eat your carbs to be healthy! (Sure you can slim down by avoiding carbs but that doesn’t mean the practice is healthy.)

 

While low-carb diets can help you lose weight, they are not ideal for living an overall healthy life. One of the risks of the low-carb diet is that you replace many of the healthy carbs with too many meats, leading to increases in the chances of heart disease.

 

Sources of healthy carbohydrates include whole-wheat breads and pastas, sweet potatoes, beans, and many fruits.

 

Fats, aka Lipids

Like carbohydrates, fats can have a bad reputation, but healthy fats from specific foods are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fat performs many functions in the body, including assistance with vitamin absorption, building cells, and developing muscles. Healthy fats will also help balance blood sugars and decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Having a diet that consists of about 30% of calories from fat is the recommended intake.

 

You likely know the health risks of too much fat in the diet (heart-disease, obesity, etc.) but there can also be risks with too few healthy fats. These include dry, flaky skin, dry eyes, loss of hair or hair color, and increased chances of infections.

 

Fats that are unsaturated are generally considered the healthiest form of this nutrient type. Unsaturated fats including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can be found in nuts, seeds, certain fish, and olive oil. Trans-fats, which are found in butter, cheese, red meat, and ice cream, are the ones that generally do the most damage to the average American’s health.

 

Proteins

While carbs and fats have a bad reputation among the diet-fad community, protein has remained popular for years, and not without reason. Many people associate proteins with building muscle, but they don’t just create beach bodies, they also help build every cell in the body. From skin to fingernails to hair to the cells in the stomach, everything has protein.

 

If you have a poor intake of protein, you can have poor muscle development, or even the loss of muscle mass and strength. Your bones could become weaker, and you could experience poor sleep, digestion issues and a loss in cognition.

 

There are many foods that have excellent levels of healthy proteins, but the key is to choose wisely, as many high-protein foods, such as beef or skin-on chicken hindquarters, can also be high in cholesterols and saturated fat. Skinless poultry, fish, salmon, and low-fat milk are all considered healthy sources of proteins.

 

Water

Water is so basic and universal that many people don’t consider it a nutrient. But not only is it a nutrient, it’s likely the most important of all…or at least the most abundant. Considering that roughly 60% of the human body is water, you can see that H2O really matters to our health. Water is important to every cell in our body, helping to regulate internal temperatures, transporting other nutrients, and helping to remove waste from our system. It acts as a shock absorber and lubricator, and helps move oxygen from the lungs to the cells.

 

If you’re not drinking enough water, you could experience many different issues, including premature skin aging, increased chances of obesity, poor blood pressure (both high or low), and skin irritation.

 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average man should drink 15.5 cups of water a day, while women should drink 11.5 cups. This recommendation, however, covers fluid water, which makes up about 80% of our water intake; roughly 20% of our water comes from the food we eat.

 

Micronutrients

These are nutrients that we need in tiny amounts, but they remain an important part of overall nutrition. Micronutrients allow our body to produce enzymes and develop hormones; they enhance growth, influence cognitive function, and impact our muscle movements and bone strength. They perform many functions, and while the amounts needed are extremely small, the impact of not having micronutrients can be profound. You will generally find micronutrients separated into two categories: vitamins and minerals.

 

Vitamins

You probably know the alphabet of vitamins, but do you know what defines a vitamin? These are organic compounds that are needed in small quantities and which are not created by our bodies. That is essentially the defining factor of vitamins: organic substances that our bodies don’t make, but other lifeforms do. We have to eat something that has the vitamins. According to Medical News Today, there are 13 known vitamins, which are either fat-soluble (stored in fat) or water-soluble. (Should we list them?)

 

The consequences of a deficiency in vitamins will vary depending on the specific missing nutrient. For example, low vitamin D can lead to higher rates of obesity and heart disease, while having low vitamin C could mean easy bruising and slow healing.

 

Because there are so many vitamins, and different quantities are found in different substances, it can be hard to define a “high vitamin” diet. However, if you eat a diet full of a diverse selection of fruits and vegetables, you will likely get all the vitamins you need. One of the best suggestions is to eat fruits and veggies of as many colors as you can, ensuring nutritional variety. If you have a plate full of veggies that holds all the colors of the rainbow, you’re likely getting the vitamins you need.

 

Minerals

While vitamins are organic substances, minerals are inorganic, but our body needs them just the same. This type of nutrient includes calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. Like vitamins, they support many different functions in the human body, creating strong bones, healthy blood, and powerful muscles, among many other functions.

 

Again, a deficiency will have many results depending on the mineral. Low iron, for example, could cause fatigue, while low potassium could be responsible for digestive problems.

 

The same principle that applies to vitamins applies to minerals: if you have a diverse diet, you should be getting the right minerals at healthy levels. However, if you want to increase your consumption of a specific mineral, you need to target a specific food. For example, bananas are high in potassium, milk is high in calcium, and beef is high in iron.

 

What are the Benefits of Good Nutrition?

So what happens when it all comes together? With high-quality nutrition from a well-balanced diet, you’ll experience many benefits, including the significantly-reduced chances of heart disease and stroke, as well as some cancers. You’ll have better blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and the ability to fight illnesses with greater success and efficiency. You’ll also have increased physical energy and, with the right foods, could even increase your mood…

 

Nutritional Foods that Will Positively Influence Your Mood

Before we wrap up, we’d like to take a moment to discuss the various foods that will increase your mood. After all, nutrition should be about physical health as well as mental wellbeing, so make sure to eat these foods on a routine basis and you will experience better happiness and mood.

 

Chocolate

You may not think of it as a health food, but a little dark chocolate every day could increase your mood and reduce stress. The mood-enhancing benefits of chocolate could be from antioxidants, but be sure to limit and control your chocolate consumption to a small amount daily.

 

Oily Fish

High in omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish such as tuna and salmon could give you a mental boost. Omega-3s are known to alter brain chemicals, especially dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of either one of these chemicals could lead to depression, but apparently fatty fish can increase their levels.

 

Tea

If your brain is feeling clouded and slow in the afternoon, consider replacing soda or coffee with a cup of tea. It’s believed that tea has a chemical called theanine, which is likely to hold mood-enhancing properties.

 

Nuts

Packed with fiber and protein, nuts are great source of fatty acids, which, as we’ve discussed, can increase moods and ward off depression. Walnuts and almonds are often considered the best for improving your mood.

 

Sauerkraut

Okay, technically this applies to all fermented foods, but since sauerkraut is among the better-known fermented foods in the U.S., it’s the one we’ve chosen to highlight. Fermented foods like kraut contain microbiota, which have been studied thoroughly for digestion benefits. New research, however, is showing that it may benefit mood as well!

 

Start Living Your Healthy Life with Better Nutrition

Now you have the knowledge required to live a healthy life full of excellent nutrition. Keep this information in mind the next time you’re grocery shopping or dining out and you can make the right choice for your plate. Make the right choice enough times, and you’ll have better nutrition, which will eventually lead to a healthier you!

The Physiology of Weightloss

When we discuss goals to lose weight, it often comes from a desire to look better. We want to fit into smaller jeans, hold less bulge at our bellies, and slim down our hips and rump. The desire to look attractive and sexy is the common end goal, but it can be shallow purpose.

 

Weight loss is important, but not primarily because it makes us look better. It’s important because it makes us healthier and happier.

 

First, let’s establish the fact that Americans are overweight. That seems obvious, but when you look at the stats, you’ll see it’s not just talk; and the numbers are quite scary.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 37% of all American adults are obese. That’s more than one in three. And as we’ll see, obesity is strongly connected to a vast list of health conditions. Issues related to obesity include heart disease, strokes, type-2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, and breathing problems.

 

Obesity is obviously associated with the health of our bodies, but what about the health of our minds? There is, in fact, some research that has connected obesity to mental issues, including mood shifts, anxiety, and depression. A survey conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and Harvard Medical School was administered to over 9,000 respondents who provided information on both their physical body (height and weight specifically) and their history of mental disorders. The results showed that people with obesity were 25% more likely to have mood and anxiety disorders.

 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look better, but the purpose of losing weight goes beyond swimsuits, tank tops, and slim jeans…

 

The Physiology of Weight Loss

 

The Bad Guys: Foods That Contribute to Obesity

We all want to live healthy, which means managing weight, and one of the most important components of a healthy weight is a healthy diet. There are many things we should eat, but let’s start by looking at the things we should avoid. By first eliminating the contributors to obesity, we can then fill in the gaps with healthy nutrition.

 

To be honest, any food that you eat too much of can cause weight gain. This goes for celery just as much as ice cream, but certain foods, when eaten frequently, are more likely to cause obesity.

 

In your home, there are many foods that are more likely to cause obesity, including potato chips, which are high in saturated fats, packaged cookies, which have saturated fats and sugar, and soft drinks, which are loaded with empty calories. Sugary cereals are full of calories as well, making them poor choices for your breakfast.

 

When trying to eat healthy, we often turn to salads, but it’s important to remember that salad dressings can be extremely fattening. Many ranch dressings and caesar dressings, for example, have over 150 calories in just two tablespoons. Generally speaking, vinaigrette dressings are healthier, providing fewer calories and saturated fats to go with your meal.

 

Fast food is heavily linked to poor health and obesity, but when you talk about science (and we are talking physiology here!), you have to back it up with facts, not speculation. Look no further than a study from researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Children’s Hospital Boston, which found a connection between fast food and weight gain. The study found that people who ate fast food at least twice a week gained roughly 10 pounds compared to participants who ate fast food less than once a week.

 

Fad Weight-Loss Diets: Do They Work, Are they Healthy?

Weight loss can be tricky, and people are usually looking for the fast cure to their weight problems. Unfortunately, this means many turn to fad diets. But do these diets work? And even if they do help people lose weight, are they actually healthy? Let’s explore a couple of the most popular fad diets, as well as some scientific research, to find out…

 

Atkins Diet

Possibly the most famous fad diet of all time, the Atkins diet stresses eating fewer carbohydrates and replacing them with proteins, especially meat. On the surface, this sounds like a good plan, and many people claim to have lost weight with the diet, but numerous studies have found flaws in this fad, particularly from a long-term health and nutrition perspective.

 

A report in LiveScience does a good job of summing up low-carb fads. Essentially, the diet helps people lose weight quickly, but it appears that low-fat diets (as opposed to strictly low-carb) are better for losing weight and keeping it off.

 

South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet, created by Dr. Arthur Agatston, emphasizes a balance of good carbs, lean meats, and healthy fats to create a nutritional diet with lots of fiber. It is lower in carbs than typical eating, although not as extreme as the Atkins diet.

 

While the South Beach Diet has some good lessons, a study of scientific claims made by the creators found that only 33% of the facts were completely supported by research. (Another 43% were “both supported and not supported.”)

 

There are many other diet fad diets that will come and go, but the truly effective ones will likely stay. In general, if a diet promises fast results with little work, it’s not a healthy option for losing weight and keeping it off. The best are the ones that emphasize lifestyle changes over fast results.

 

Is there a “Right Way” to Loose Weight?

We’ve talked about fad diets that may deliver fast results but don’t last. But are there any diets that are actually effective in the long run?

 

Mediterranean Diet

Considered one of the best diets for heart health, the Mediterranean diet essentially involves all the basics of healthy eating along with olive oil, red wine, and other foods the typically characterize diets found among cultures living near the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Spain, and Italy. It includes lots of plants, whole grains, and nuts, and generally limits red meat while emphasizing more fish and poultry.

 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people with high risk of heart issues could reduce major events by incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet. For weight loss, there is evidence that the Mediterranean diet is just as effective as a low-carb diet, making it a preferred option for some cardiologists and doctors.

 

Mayo Clinic Diet

Focused on making simple, gradual, and easy-to-understand changes, the Mayo Clinic diet is designed for healthy weight loss. It’s not a two-week or six-month program, but rather emphasizes making life-long changes to your daily routine in order to make lasting differences to your health. It will add some habits and attempt to break others, and doesn’t just look at food, but also how you eat and how you move. It usually emphasizes limiting food portions, and often stresses the importance of at least a half hour of activity every day to maximize weight-loss results.

 

The Mayo Clinic recommends this diet for many reasons. They claim that people who want to follow a diet developed by medical professionals and want to learn about and use healthy eating habits will benefit from this form of planning. It’s also beneficial, they say, for people who want to eat right, but may not be interested in counting carbs, calories, or fat, and don’t want to completely eliminate certain groups of foods.

 

The Importance of Exercise in Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight and slimming our waists, we often turn to two aspects: diet and exercise. However, there is a debate about which is more effective, and which is more important for weight loss.

 

A study from researchers with East Carolina University and other institutions found that while exercising is unlikely to cause weight loss without significant changes to the diet, activity will limit the amount gained when diet choices are poor. In other words, exercise may not cause you to lose weight, but it will reduce your chances of weight gain.

 

Exercise, regardless of counting pounds, remains an important part for an overall healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a consistent regimen of physical activity should be a priority for everyone. Yes, it is possible to lose weight without significantly improving your exercise habits, but physical movement will not only make you feel better, it will improve your chances of long-term, healthy weight loss.

 

The Importance of Metabolism When Trying to Lose Weight

If you have researched weight loss, you’ve likely come across the term “metabolism.” People use this term a lot, but do you know what it really means, or why it’s important to weight loss?

 

Metabolism refers to the way our bodies break down and use energy. In a more basic phrase, it’s the way we burn calories. Our bodies will burn calories in many different ways, including everyday movement, such as walking and working, or physical exercise, such as our cardio routine at the gym. But our body also burns calories without our active movements. For example, we need energy to keep our heart beating and our brain functioning. This inactive use of energy is called the basal metabolic rate, and it’s partly (not entirely) determined by your inherited genes.

 

While body weight is largely due to personal choices, including exercise and diet, a person’s natural metabolism will play a role. Some people have naturally slow metabolisms, meaning their bodies take longer to process energy and the excess energy then becomes stored, mostly in fat. Others have fast metabolisms, and seem to be able to eat anything they want and never gain weight.

 

Regardless of your metabolism, if you take in more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. Take in less than you burn, and you’ll eventually lose weight.

 

Metabolism, however, can throw a tricky little wrench in this plan. When intake is reduced, the body senses tough times ahead, so it naturally slows our metabolism. This was a survival function for our early ancestors, but now it has become a health hazard, as rich foods are readily available and sedentary life is the norm.

 

Therefore, one of the tricks for weight loss is to reduce calorie intake without slowing the metabolic rate. So how can you increase and sustain your metabolic rate? There are many theories, including adding muscle through strength training (muscle has a higher rate than fat), stay hydrated (which helps with calorie burn), and eating more small meals (five, for example) instead of three large meals. Coffee and tea have also been linked to enhancing metabolism.

 

Understanding metabolism and how your body burns calories is important. If losing weight is your goal, you need to make efforts to keep your metabolic rate going in a healthy and sustained manner.

 

Weight Loss Goals: Finding Your Happy Medium

Some of the fad diets we discussed above advertise loosing as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time. But is this the healthy approach? According to the CDC, the healthiest weight loss happens at about 1 to 2 pounds per week. This is because people who lose weight at this rate have a higher tendency to actually keep the weight off.

 

So what should be the final goal with weight loss? After everything we’ve discussed, from proper diet to exercise to maintaining metabolism, where should your final weight land?

 

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers some insight on final goals for health. However, they don’t focus on a specific weight, but rather waist size. They claim that the healthiest goal for men is a waist size of 40 inches or less, while women should aim for a waist size of 35 inches or less.

 

However, if you want a target weight, you can look at the Body Mass Index chart provided by the American Cancer Society. This chart gives you weights that are considered healthy, overweight, and obese for different heights. This chart holds for both men and women, making it a convenient reference.

 

Final Thought: Improve Your Weight, But Focus on Health

If we could leave you with one final thought, it’s this: remember that proper weight is just one aspect of health. Like blood pressure and cholesterol, controlling your weight is a part of healthy living, not the entire package. The final target should be a healthy mind and body, and weight loss should be used to reach this goal.

Boost Fat Loss by Eating More Protein

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How to Eat Out Successfully

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You can find this article by looking in your WordPress admin area, under “Posts”.

We’ve created a few article posts like this so that you can immediately see what your website will look like with a bit of content.

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Why Adding Dairy to Your Diet Can Increase Fat Loss

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We’ve created a few article posts like this so that you can immediately see what your website will look like with a bit of content.

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You don’t need to use the categories or article subjects that we’ve created here for you. In fact we strongly recommend that you change these!

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