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Nutrition Basics

Nutrition Basics (32)

Good-Fats-foodsEveryone needs fats for their bodies to function properly. Fats helps nutrient absorption, nerve transmission, maintaining cell membrane integrity etc. However, when consumed in excess amount, fats contribute to weight gain, heart disease and certain types of cancer . Fats are not created equal. Some fats promote our health positively while other increase our risks of heart disease. The key is to replace bad fats with good fats in our diet. To do this you8 must know which fats are the good fats and which fats are the bad fats.
Published in Nutrition Basics

Woman in a grocery store shopping for fruitNot all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The Glycemic index (also Glycemic index, GI) is a ranking system invented by Dr. David J. Jenkins and colleagues in 1981 at the University of Toronto that ranks the effects of carbohydrates on blood glucose levels.

The glycemic index calculates how high your blood sugar rises in two hours after you eat a food containing roughly 50 grams of carbohydrates, compared to how much it rises after you eat a 50 gram serving of white bread or 50 grams of pure glucose (sugar). The higher the GI for a certain food, the faster your body absorbs the carbs from that food. A lower GI means a food has a slower rate of carbohydrate absorption, and thus lower blood sugar and insulin peaks.

Published in Nutrition Basics

Without an interpretive footnote or further information on recommendetrans fat labeld daily value, many consumers do not know how to interpret the meaning of trans-fat content on the Nutrition Facts panel, according to a new study by marketing researchers at the University of Arkansas.

Without specific prior knowledge about trans fat and its negative health effects, consumers, including those at risk for heart disease, may misinterpret nutrient information provided on the Nutrition Facts panel, which is required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Published in Nutrition Basics

Many nutrition specialists refer to components of the diet, which are present in large amounts, as macronutrients.  The macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, and protein, all of which provide calories. Few Americans are deficient in calories or macronutrients; Micronutrient status is a different story however. The essentiality of micronutrients for human health was established many years ago.  The prevention of deficiency disorders was the main driver for micronutrient research.

So what are micronutrients? 

Micronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in minuscule amounts. Even though they are needed only in small amounts these substances are essential to life and enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones and other vital substances essential to the human body for proper growth and development. As tiny as the amounts are, however, the consequences of their absence are severe.  

 

Causes of micronutrient deficiencies

Insufficient dietary intake, malabsorption, diarrhea, and impaired storage and altered metabolism of micronutrients can contribute to the development of micronutrient deficiencies. 

 

Micronutrients are often lacking due to a poor diet, malabsorption (a poor ability to extract nutrients from the food, and/or a food supply), soil lacking in certain nutrients and altered metabolism of micronutrients can contribute to the development of micronutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients are important because they consist of a wide array of necessary substances that your body requires to keep all systems operating at peak efficiency.

 

Besides a poor diet there are other reasons why you could find your body deficient in certain micronutrients that can contribute to a disease or ailment, or at the least keep you from feeling your best. Many people suffer from a poor ability to extract nutrients out of the food they eat. This is often due to a lack of specific enzymes in the upper intestine, which allows the digestive system to break down the nutrients in the food into molecules that are small enough to pass through the membrane of the small intestine. Additionally due to modern farming practices, most staple foods today contain only a fraction of the nutrients the same foods used to have only fifty years ago. How people cook and process their foods can also contribute to micronutrient deficiencies.

 

The impact of micronutrient deficiencies worldwide

Recent changes in dietary patterns and lifestyle (increasing consumption of processed foods) in industrialized societies and the changing demographics of the population have provoked serious concern about the quality of the diet and its impact on health, including the supply of key micronutrients, for example iron and selenium.

 

The use of high-yielding cultivars that remove high amounts of micronutrients from the soil, lead to micronutrient deficiencies in many countries; especially poor developing countries. Because of poor diet, and nutrient deficient soils micronutrient deficiencies are becoming more and more widespread in developing countries. It is said to affect approximately 2 billion people worldwide (approximately one-third of the world's total  population). 

 

Among the micronutrients reported as becoming deficient worldwide, zinc  and iron are the most important elements. In fact, it is estimated that more than 3 billion people worldwide suffer iron and zinc deficiencies, and this condition is widespread in areas whose populations rely heavily on an unvaried diet of cereal-based foods.

 

It is estimated that iron deficiency occurs in about 30% of cultivated soils worldwide, which is indicative of its low availability in calcareous high-pH soils, and that about 50% of the soils cultivated for cereal production have low levels of available Zinc.

 

The importance of micronutrients

How are these "wonder nutrients" important? Your organs require a broad range of nutrients in order to function properly and to keep the cells in your body supplied with all the chemicals and hormones they need. If any critical nutrients are missing or deficient, then breakdowns in cellular metabolism are sure to happen resulting in disease and accelerated aging. Most diseases are linked to nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.  Micronutrients are also important for mental health. Certain micronutrients (the anti-oxidants)  can help maintain the oxygen balance in your brain, as well as combat the highly-reactive forms of oxygen called free radicals. Antioxidant levels diminish with age, therefore the aging brain appears to be an easy target for oxidative damage.

 

Although the body is incredibly resilient and adaptive; and can "get by" in a weakened state for quite some time, the lack of micronutrients takes its toll on the body. This underscores the importance of getting enough micronutrient antioxidants through diet and supplements.

 

According to surveys done by the National Institutes of Health, most Americans obtain the required amounts of the most micronutrients, although that is not the case for many developing nation populations worldwide.  However, even in developed countries there are certain micronutrients which tend to be more difficult to obtain in adequate amounts through a normal diet and are more likely to be found at deficient levels in many people.  For example magnesium and vitamin B12 are micronutrients, which are found at low or deficient levels in many people, especially those over the age of 50.  Adequate levels of vitamin D are also difficult for many people to obtain due to deficiencies and also due to the recent concern over exposure to the sun, which contributes to the development of Vitamin D from Vitamin A. 

 

Some examples of micronutrients and their role in human health

 

B-12.  Most people get enough quantities of it in our normal meals to satisfy our daily requirements. Although it's rare to see vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms it can still be useful to be able to recognize them just in case. The main symptom that arises from vitamin b12 deficiency is a type of anaemia that causes you to feel tired, weak and lethargic. You might also feel nauseous, constipated and become very flatulent (gas). You may also lose your appetite and suffer weight loss, or experience sleeplessness, and/or depression.  B-12 defencies can also cause neurological issues, such as sensory disturbances due to damage to peripheral nerves caused by demyelination and irreversible nerve cell death. Symptoms include numbness, tingling of the extremities, disturbed coordination and, if not treated in time, an ataxic gait, a syndrome known as subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord. Recent research (Tuft’s University, 2000) indicates that B12 deficiency is far more widespread than formerly believed. Researchers at Tuft University found that in the US 39 percent of the study population  had low values. greater proportion of the population than 39% as reported by the Tufts University. This issue is even more widespread in developing countries due to low intakes of animal products, B-12 deficiency is also very common in the elderly because B12 absorption decreases greatly in the presence of atrophic gastritis, which is common in elderly. There are also several studies that indicate that B12 deficiency is common among vegetarians, because of the lack of consumption of animal products.  A 1982 study found blood levels below normal in 92 % of vegans, 64 % of lactovegetarians, 47 % of lacto-ovovegetarians, however more recent studies show the numbers may be lower, but still a significant issue which warrants the need to consider supplementation for these at risk populations. An adequate folic acid intake can actually mask a B12 deficiency. Since strict vegetarian diets often consist of  green vegetables rich in folic acid it may be necessary to supplement their diets with cobalt and B-12 to prevent irreparable nerve damage that can be masked by a  B12 deficiency.

 

Cobalt. Cobalt is required for biosynthesis of vitamin B12 family of coenzymes, helps with the repair of the myelin sheath, pernicious anemia, and the building of red blood cells. Cobalt also increases the body's ability to absorb and utilize vitamin B12. Deficiency of cobalt resulting in decreased cobalamin can also result in hormonal imbalance. Some enzymes are also stimulated by the interaction of cobalt.  Cobalt and vitamin B12 work together in the human body in the form of cobalamin.  Because an adequate folic acid intake can actually mask b-12/cobalt deficiency it is important to monitor your diet.

 

Copper. Copper  is required component of many redox enzymes, including cytochrome c oxidase. Copper is a critical functional component of a number of essential enzymes known as cuproenzymes. The copper-dependent enzyme, cytochrome c oxidase, plays a critical role in cellular energy production. By catalyzing the reduction of molecular oxygen (O2) to water (H2O), cytochrome c oxidase generates an electrical gradient used by the mitochondria to create the vital energy-storing molecule, ATP. Another cuproenzyme, lysyl oxidase, is required for the cross-linking of collagen and elastin, which are essential for the formation of strong and flexible connective tissue. A number of reactions essential to normal function of the brain and nervous system are catalyzed by cuproenzymes. Copper is also important in neurotransmitter synthesis. The enzyme Dopamine-b-monooxygenase catalyzes the conversion of dopamine to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.  Monoamine oxidase (MAO) plays a role in the metabolism of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine. MAO also functions in the degradation of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is the basis for the use of MAO inhibitors as antidepressants. Copper is also vital for the formation and maintenance of myelin sheath; made of phospholipids whose synthesis depends on cytochrome c oxidase activity. Copper-dependent transcription factors also regulate transcription of specific genes.  Genes regulated by copper-dependent transcription factors include genes for copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD), catalase (another antioxidant enzyme), and proteins related to the cellular storage of copper.

 

Fluorine.  Fluorine deficiency is a medical condition in which a human, or other organism lacks the necessary compounds containing fluorine (or fluoride) to keep bones and teeth healthy. Fluorine is required for tooth enamel, which contains fluoroapatite. The extent to which the condition truly exists, and its relationship to fluoride poisoning has given rise to some controversy, expecially since excessive levels can be toxic to the body.

 

Iodine. Iodine is an essential constituent of hormones produced by the thyroid gland required for the biosynthesis of thyroxin. In the fetus, iodine is necessary for the development of the nervous system. Iodine is required in larger quantities than the other trace minerals in this list and is sometimes classified with the bulk minerals.

 

Iron. Iron has the longest and best described history among all the micronutrients. It is a key element in the metabolism of almost all living organisms. In humans, iron is an essential component of hundreds of proteins and enzymes, most notably hemoglobin. Ribonucleotide reductase is an iron-dependent enzyme that is required for  DNA synthesis. Thus, iron is required for a number of vital functions, including growth, reproduction, healing, and immune function.  Anemia, caused by iron deficiency, is characterized by low haemoglobin and is the most widely recognized symptom of iron deficiency, but it also causes other serious problems such as impaired learning ability in children, increased susceptibility to infection and reduced work capacity. Women of childbearing age are especially prone to iron deficiency and suffer from tragic consequences such as premature childbirth, babies with low birth weight and even greater risk of death

 

Manganese. Manganese  plays an important role in a number of physiologic processes as a constituent of some enzymes and an activator of other enzymes. Manganese is required for the processing of oxygen (Manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) is the principal  antioxidant enzyme in the mitochondria). A number of manganese-activated enzymes play important roles in the metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol). For instance, pyruvate carboxylase, a manganese-containing enzyme, and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK),  a manganese-activated enzyme, are critical in gluconeogenesis— the production of glucose from non-carbohydrate precursors. Arginase, another manganese-containing enzyme, is required by the liver for the urea cycle, a process that detoxifies ammonia generated during amino acid metabolism.   Manganese is the preferred cofactor of enzymes called glycosyltransferases; these enzymes are required for the synthesis of proteoglycans that are needed for the formation of healthy cartilage and bone. Manganese is also required for the activation of prolidase, an enzyme that functions to provide the amino acid, proline, for collagen formation in human skin cells  and may also play an important role in wound healing.

 

Molybdenum. Molybdenum is an essential trace element for virtually all life forms. It functions as a cofactor for a number of enzymes that catalyze important chemical transformations. Molybdenum is known to function as a cofactor for three enzymes: Sulfite oxidase,  Xanthine oxidase and Aldehyde oxidase.  Sulfite oxidase catalyzes the transformation of sulfite to sulfate, a reaction that is necessary for the metabolism of sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine and cysteine).  Xanthine oxidase catalyzes the breakdown of nucleotides (precursors to DNA and RNA) to form uric acid, which contributes to the plasma antioxidant capacity of the blood. Aldehyde oxidase and xanthine oxidase catalyze hydroxylation reactions that involve a number of different molecules with similar chemical structures. Xanthine oxidase and aldehyde oxidase also play a role in the metabolism of drugs and toxins. Of these three enzymes,  sulfite oxidase is known to be crucial for human health.

 

Nickel. Nickel can activate or inhibit a number of enzymes. It is also known that the production or action of specific hormones (such as adrenaline, aldosterone, noradrenaline, and prolactin) responds to changes in nickel concentration within the body. Studies have shown that also nickel alters cell membrane properties and influences oxidation/reduction systems. Although it is difficult to induce a deficiency because the requirement is low and nickel comes from a variety of sources nickel deficiency has been linked to low blood glucose levels, abnormal bone growth, poor absorption of ferric iron, and altered metabolism of calcium, vitamin B-12 and energy nutrients.

 

Selenium. Humans and animals require selenium for the function of a number of selenium-dependent enzymes, also known as selenoproteins. Selenium is also required for peroxidase (antioxidant proteins) among a variety of other important bodily functions. These antioxidant enzymes reduce potentially damaging  reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydrogen peroxide and lipid hydroperoxides, to harmless products like water and alcohols by coupling their  reduction with the  oxidation of glutathione (diagram).  Recent studies show clear evidence that selenium can prevent certain cancers and stimulate immune function, but the quantity of selenium required to exert these protective effects is currently not known.

 

Zinc. Zinc is an essential trace element for all forms of life. The significance of zinc in human nutrition and public health was recognized relatively recently. Zinc plays a critical role in the body. Zinc deficiency is also widespread in many countries throughout the world, and has been found to be the most widespread micronutrient deficiency. Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism are zinc-dependent. Zinc also plays important roles in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function, and reproduction. Zinc is required for several enzymes such as carboxypeptidase, liver alcohol dehydrogenase, carbonic anhydrase.

 

What can be done individually about micronutrient deficiencies?

What can be done about the above listed deficiencies? There are several things.  (1) try to eat organically and improve your diet, and your cooking methods. Another common and effective way is dietary supplementation.  Micronutrient supplement can be purchased individually, or they can be purchased in various combinations. Today there are many good micronutrient supplements being sold today that include essential vitamins and minerals, a broad spectrum of potent antioxidants, an array of important amino acids, bioflavanoids, herbal extracts and enzymes that are often deficient in many people's diets today.  Starting out with a good broad based combination supplement is often a good place to start since it is often very difficult for the average person to determine which individual supplement compound they may need, as well as how to determine what dosage levels to take and whether there will be any interaction among the compound taken.

Published in Nutrition Basics

nutrition-terms So you can make sound, educated choices regarding the food you put into your body. Failure to do so causes many people to put on extra pounds, and in some cases, put their own and their loved ones health at risk.

Published in Nutrition Basics

angus_steaksLean Meat can Make you Lean

Government food-labeling laws determine which cuts of beef can be called "lean" or "extra-lean" based on fat and cholesterol content. Knowing which cuts of beef are the leanest can help keep you healthy and keep you lean too! 

Published in Nutrition Basics

A vitamin is an organic compound required as a nutrient in tiny vitaminsamounts by a living organism for survival. A compound is called a vitamin when it cannot be synthesized in sufficient quantities by an organism, and must be obtained from the diet.

Published in Nutrition Basics
Understanding Calories

Calories and Kilojoules

Depending on what country you live in, you will find nutrition data listed in calories, kilojoules, or both.

A calorie is a unit of measure of the energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C. A joule is a unit of electrical energy, commonly used in the physical sciences, equal to the work done when a current of one ampere is passed through a resistance of one ohm for one second. Of course we don't use energy to raise the temperature of water or pass current through a resistance, but similar processes maintain our body temperature and perform other bodily functions.

Simply stated, calories (or kilojoules) are a measure of the energy contained in both the foods we eat and our body fat. Our bodies use the energy found in the food we eat to keep us running, and store any excess as body fat for future use.

When we expend energy it is said that we are burning calories, and when we burn more calories than we eat our bodies turn to our fat stores to find the additional energy they require. Thus when we eat more calories than we burn we gain weight, and when we burn more calories than we eat we lose weight.

Terminology in Practice

Because calories and joules are so small, when referring to food and energy expenditure it has become common practice to refer to them in multiples of 1,000. The term for 1,000 calories is kilocalories or kcal, and the term for 1,000 joules is kilojoules or kJ.

1 calorie = 4.184 joules

1 kilocalorie (kcal) = 4.184 kilojoules (kJ)

In the scientific and educational communities, it is also common practice to refer to kilocalories as Calories (with an uppercase "c"). However, outside these communities, it has become common practice to simply refer to kilocalories as calories. Therefore when you read 500 calories on a food label it actually means 500 kilocalories, and the same holds true when you calculate an activity that burns 500 calories.

Counting Calories Alone

The caloric value of any diet is the single most important factor for weight loss. The problem with counting calories alone, however, is that while it doesn't eliminate any particular foods, it also doesn't ensure that you are eating a healthy diet.

This is why our food calculator provides data on the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. It also provides data on fiber to help ensure that you get enough; and on sodium to help ensure that you don't get too much.

The three macronutrients provide most of the calories found in foods. Later in the tutorial you will learn how many calories each macronutrient provides, as well as how to balance them to ensure that you are eating a healthy diet.

Heavily processed foods containing a lot of sugar and other ingredients of little nutritional value are said to contain "empty calories." Because they have little nutritional value, and little if any fiber, they don't keep your metabolism on an even keel like healthy foods do. Thus 500 calories of junk food does not have the same effect on weight loss as 500 calories of healthy food.

In truth, it isn't very likely that you could be successful dieting on cheesecake. Your mom was right when she told you to eat your vegetables; eating healthy foods is the best way to lose weight.


Balancing Calories

Calories are also used to measure the energy required to perform different activities, including the energy required just to keep our bodies running. It is therefore possible to calculate how many calories you burn in a day, which equates to the number you would eat to maintain your current weight.

If you want to lose weight, you can use the Weight Loss Calculator to calculate how many more calories you need to burn each day than you eat. This figure is called a calorie deficit.

calories eaten - calories burned = calorie deficit

Once you determine the calorie deficit you'd like to achieve, you can calculate how much less you need to eat, or how much more you need to exercise. Or you can achieve the deficit you desire with a combination of eating less and exercising more.




Published in Nutrition Basics

trans fat labelWhat are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of lipid (fat). They are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. They're also present in blood plasma and, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids.

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Trans fat is the common name for a type of unsaturated fat with trans- isomer fatty acid(s). Trans fats may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

Chemically, trans fats are made of the same building blocks as non-trans fats, but have a different arrangement. In trans fatty acid molecules, the hydrogen atoms bonded to pairs of doubly bonded carbon atoms (characteristic of all unsaturated fats) are in the trans rather than the cis arrangement. This results in a straight, rather than kinked, shape for the carbon chain, more like the straight chain of a fully saturated fat.

How They Are Created

Most trans fats consumed today are industrially created by partially hydrogenating plant oils — a process developed in the early 1900s and first commercialized as Crisco in 1911. The goal of partial hydrogenation is to add hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, making them more saturated. These more saturated fats have a higher melting point, which makes them attractive for baking and extends their shelf-life. Another particular class of trans fats, vaccenic acid, occurs naturally in trace amounts in meat and dairy products from ruminants.

Where They Are Found 

Trans fat can be found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and other foods made with or fried in partially hydrogenated oils. Unlike other fats, the majority of trans fat is formed when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. A small amount of trans fat is found naturally, primarily in some animal-based foods.

Health Implications 

Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are neither essential nor salubrious and, in fact, scientific evidence shows that consumption of saturated fat, trans fat, and dietary cholesterol raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad cholesterol,," levels, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD).

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, more than 12.5 million Americans have CHD, and more than 500,000 die each year. That makes CHD one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Health authorities worldwide recommend that consumption of trans fat be reduced to trace amounts. Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are more deleterious than naturally occurring oils.

A comprehensive review of studies of trans fats was published in 2006 in the New England Journal of Medicine reports a strong and reliable connection between trans fat consumption and CHD, concluding that "On a per-calorie basis, trans fats appear to increase the risk of CHD more than any other macronutrient, conferring a substantially increased risk at low levels of consumption (1 to 3 percent of total energy intake)". This study estimates that between 30,000 and 100,000 cardiac deaths per year in the United States are attributable to the consumption of trans fats.

 

Published in Nutrition Basics

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