Seriously, what do I eat? Part 2
Yesterday I talked about the dreaded word, calories. We learned that “calorie” shouldn’t strike fear into the hearts of healthy eaters. Today, we learn what the body truly needs to survive.
There are six essential nutrients that the body NEEDS to function. When I say essential, I mean, you CANNOT survive without these!!! They are carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. The first three are considered macronutrients because you need them in high quantities, and the last three are micronutrients because they are needed in smaller amounts.
Carbohydrate: Let’s get this straight right now. YOU NEED CARBS FOR ENERGY, CARBS ARE FUEL!!!! Cutting all carbs out of your diet will cause your body to start using muscle tissue as a fuel source. A low carbohydrate diet is NOT recommended in most cases. (You hear that Atkins?) This type of diet will cause chronic fatigue, ketosis, dehydration, loss of lean mass and decreased exercise performance (that makes sense, you’ll have no energy). In fact, according to the Cooper Institute, American Heart Association, American Dietetic Association, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Association and a whole bunch of other legit people, carbohydrates should comprise 45-65% of daily calories. What? You mean I can go eat a whole bunch of breadsticks from Olive Garden and not be concerned? Slow your roll, hotshot. There are good carbs and there are bad carbs, and as good as those breadsticks are, they are refined grains and covered in butter and considered to be in the not-really-good-for-you category.
Simple carbohydrates such as honey, soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, candy, cookies, cakes, syrup and molasses are “empty calories,” meaning they have low to no nutritional value. These are the “bad” carbs.
Complex carbs include fruit, grains, breads and cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, pancakes, legumes and other vegetables. These have high nutrient density and provide fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruit does contain natural sugar, but since it has high nutrient density, it should be eaten frequently. Load up on the fruit people! Although rice, pasta, bread and other grains were listed, it is highly recommended that whole grains be used over refined grains. So if its a bread, pasta or rice and its white, it shouldn’t really be eaten. (Is that racist?) Complex carbs are a great source of fiber, which means good things for your digestive track.
To sum up the carbs section: CARBS ARE GOOD FOR YOU!! Simple carbs are a no-no, because they are empty calories. Eat more complex carbs like fruit, veggies, and whole grain.
Fats: Another hot button topic in the diet world. Guess what? You need fats. Yes, you do. Stay with me now, I’m not telling you to go eat McDonald’s as much as you want. That crap is high in saturated and hydrogenated fat, which is the bad fat. We’ll talk about those later. Your body needs fat because its the most abundant energy source available and can be a huge source of energy for exercise. Fat also insulates our bodies against loss of heat and protects vital organs. So, the right fats help our bodies function. The wrong fats can lead to colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The current RDA (recommended dietary allowances) says that fat should compromise 20-35% of total daily calories, but less than 7% should come from saturated/hydrogenated fat.
“Good” fats: Monounsaturated fats are the “heart healthy” fats that you hear about. These fats tend to decrease your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (the good cholesterol). Examples of monounsaturated fats are canola oil, avocados, and nuts. This fat is the kind you should be getting more of.
“OK” fats: Polyunsaturated fats tend to decrease LDL, but may decrease HDL, too. You want your HDL to be higher. So these are still fats you should be consuming, but watch your intake. Examples are oils like corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats inhibity blood clot formation, promote dilation of the blood vessels and prevent fatal cardiac arrhythmias. These are found in fatty fish.
“Bad” fats: Saturated fat comes from animal sources and tends to increase LDL, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes, has been linked to diets high in saturated fat.
Hydrogenated fats (or trans fats) are as bad for you as saturated fats. Hydrogenation is a process where hydrogen atoms are added to monosaturated and polyunsaturated oils to increase shelf life of the product and improve texture (peanut butter). These fats increase LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Fried fast food, baked goods, stick margarine and peanut butter contain many hydrogenated fats. Neither hydrogenated fats or saturated fats are needed at any level in a heart healthy diet.
To reduce the consumption of saturated/hydrogenated fats:
- select lean cuts of beef and pork and limit portion sizes
- reduce consumption of butter and stick margarine
- reduce consumption of fried fast food
- reduce consumption of pastry and other baked goods
- reduce consumption of whole milk dairy products
- remove skin from chicken and turkey before cooking, select white meat
Ok, I think that’s enough for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll talk protein, vitamins, minerals, and water. Things to take away from what you’ve read: Carbs and fats are good for you, you just have to make sure you’re consuming the right carbs and fats. Eating Mcdonald’s and KFC every day will kill you, if not from cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease, then from type 2 diabetes. More fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats and monounsaturated fats. 🙂
Now let’s get sweaty!
Shout out to Cooper’s Institute for the info!