Seriously, what do I eat? Part 3
This is the third and final installment in the What do I Eat? series. So far we have covered calories, carbohydrate, and fats. Remember, just because you need carbs and fats in your diet, doesn’t mean you have free range to eat whatever you want. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are the right carbs, and lean meats and monounsaturated fats are the good fats. Today I will discuss the last four essential nutrients that every body needs.
Proteins: Proteins are made up of things called “amino acids.” Amino acids are in charge of growth and repair of cells, synthesis of enzymes, synthesis of plasma proteins, and synthesis of hormones, and they can sometimes be minor sources of energy. There are complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins are foods that contain all of the essential amino acids in proper balance. Animal sources such as milk, cheese, eggs, meat and fish, and soy products such as tofu, soy milk, and soy flour are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins come from non-animal sources such as grains and cereals, legumes, nuts/seeds, and green veggies. These are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. You can combine incomplete proteins to make complete proteins. Ex: legumes + nuts/seeds; nuts/seeds + green veggies; green veggies + grains; grains + legumes. Each of these combinations form complete proteins.
The current RDA (remember, that’s Recommended Dietary Allowances) states that protein should comprise 10-35% of daily calories. Your protein requirements are based on age, body weight and physical activity. Infants, for example, require 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (1 gram per pound) of body weight a day, while most adults require only 0.8 g/kg (.36 g/lb) of body weight a day. If you are an adult athlete who trains vigorously on a daily basis, your body may require 1.0-1.7 g/kg/day (.45-.80 g/lb/day). Here is an example of how to figure out how much you need. If you weigh 145 lbs and you exercise regularly, but aren’t training vigorously, your calculation looks like this: 145 lbs x .36g/lb=52.2 grams of protein/day. Proteins have 4 calories/gram, so your daily average intake of protein calories should be around 208.
- 8 oz milk=8-9 grams of protein
- 1 cup legumes=12 grams
- 1 slice bread=2 grams
- 1 oz cheese=6-7 grams
- 4 oz tuna=30 grams
- 4 oz chicken=30 grams
- 4 oz ground beef=30 grams
- 1 large egg=7 grams
- 1 cup pasta=5 grams
Vitamins: I could list all the vitamins and which foods you find them in, but that would take forever and you don’t really want to read that…be honest. What I will say about vitamins is that if you’re eating a balanced diet and trying all sorts of fruits and veggies, you’re probably getting the vitamins you need. The only one I want to comment on is Vitamin D. There is basically a pandemic (meaning world wide) of Vitamin D deficiency. You can get Vitamin D from milk, liver, egg yolk (yes, its has good stuff in it), fortified margarine, fatty fish, and sunlight. You can see why there’s a deficiency: people don’t drink enough milk, liver can be nasty, egg yolks are the devil according to some diet gurus, margarine is fatty, and you’re told to slather on the SPF everyday. It really only takes 10 minutes of sunlight in the summer to get your vitamin D for the day. I’m all for the SPF, being a fair skinned Irish lass, but 10 minutes without it will do you a world of good.
Minerals: The major minerals a body needs are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur. Many of the food and drinks we consume are fortified with vitamins and minerals, so deficiencies aren’t really things to worry about. (Except Vitamin D, which I’ve already discussed.) There are many companies out there selling vitamin and mineral supplements. There are only a couple segments of the population who will benefit from these supplements, and they are:
- pregnant or lactating women
- those taking medication which inhibits the absorption of nutrients
- strict vegetarians and those who are lactose intolerant
- the elderly
- females with severe menstrual loss
- those consuming very low calorie diets (which is not recommended except by a doctor)
Water: DRINK IT…LOTS OF IT…ALL THE TIME. That’s all you need to know.
Bottom line, guys, you need to change your habits to get healthy. If you’re craving something sweet, eat some grapes or peaches. If you’re craving something tangy, cut up a red pepper and put it over some spinach. If you change the foods that satisfy what you’re craving, you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. (You’ll also be surprised that the unhealthy stuff just doesn’t taste as good anymore. I had some Dr Pepper for the first time in forever today and I almost threw up.) A good, balanced diet is a lifestyle, not something that happens quickly and goes away just as fast. And don’t worry, a cookie or bowl of ice cream for dessert every now and then won’t kill you, so enjoy it, don’t stress.
Now let’s get sweaty!!!
Thanks for the info Cooper’s Institute and health.usnews.com!