"To Macronutrients and beyond"
Nutrients are environmental substances used for energy, growth, and bodily functions by organisms. Depending on the nutrient, these substances are needed in small amounts or larger amounts. Those that are needed in large amounts are called macronutrients.
There are three macronutrients required by humans: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Each of these macronutrients provides energy in the form of calories. For example:
- In carbohydrates, there are 4 calories per gram
- In proteins, there are 4 calories per gram
- And in fats, there are 9 calories per gram
Carbohydrates are highly controversial these days. The dietary guidelines suggest that we get about half of our energy from carbohydrates. On the other hand, some claim that carbohydrates cause obesity and type 2 diabetes, and that most people should be avoiding them. There are good arguments on both sides, and it appears that carbohydrate requirements depend largely on the individual. Some people do better with a lower carbohydrates intake, while others do just fine eating plenty of carbohydrates.
Dietary carbohydrates can be split into three main categories:
- Sugars: Sweet, short-chain carbohydrates found in foods. Examples are glucose, fructose, galactose and sucrose.
- Starches: Long chains of glucose molecules, which eventually get broken down into glucose in the digestive system.
- Fibre: Humans cannot digest fibre, although the bacteria in the digestive system can make use of some of them.
High-protein diets now dominate the weight loss scene. Many of you may have tried one of the many popular diets.
Many of the foods we eat contain protein, particularly flesh foods (chicken, beef, lamb and fish), and legumes like beans and lentils. These proteins are broken down during digestion to release amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins. Once inside the body, these amino acids are used to make new proteins including enzymes and hormones such as adrenalin. Proteins are sometimes also used as an energy source.
Fat are an essential part of our diet and is important for good health. There are different types of fats, with some fats being healthier than others. To help make sure you stay healthy, it is important to eat unsaturated fats in small amounts as part of a balanced diet.
Saturated Fats. Because your body can make all the saturated fatty acids it needs, you do not need any in the diet. High intakes of most saturated fatty acids are linked to high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or bad, cholesterol and reduced insulin sensitivity.
Trans Fats. Food manufacturers create both
saturated and trans fats when they harden oil in a process called
hydrogenation, usually to increase the shelf life of processed
foods like crackers, chips and cookies. Partial hydrogenation
converts some, but not all, unsaturated fatty acids to saturated
ones. Others remain unsaturated but are changed in chemical
structure. These are the health-damaging trans fats.
Many experts consider trans fats even worse than saturated fats because, like saturated fats, they contribute to insulin resistance and raise LDL cholesterol, but there's more bad news. They also lower HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).
Unsaturated Fats. Unsaturated fatty acids
improve blood cholesterol levels and insulin sensitivity when they
replace saturated and trans fats. There are two classes of
unsaturated fatty acids: monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated
Monounsaturated fat sources include avocados, nuts, seeds and olives. Peanut, canola and olive oils are additional sources.
There are several types of Polyunsaturated fats, and they each have different roles in the body.
- Omega-3 fatty acids have been in the spotlight recently because of their role in heart disease prevention. ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid, and you can find it in walnuts, ground flaxseed, tofu and soybeans, as well as common cooking oils like canola, soybean and walnut oils. Remember that your body is unable to create ALA, so it's essential to get it in the diet. From ALA, your body makes two other critically important omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), but the conversion is very inefficient. It's better to get EPA and DHA from fish. Not only are EPA and DHA important to the heart, but they also promote visual acuity and brain development in the fetus, infant and child; they seem to slow the rate of cognitive decline in the elderly; and they may decrease the symptoms associated with arthritis, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases. You will find them in bluefish, herring, lake trout, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are a second type of polyunsaturated fats. LA is an omega-6 fatty acid and has to be acquired through the diet. Sources of omega-6 fatty acids are sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, pecans and pine nuts. Some cooking oils are good sources too, such as corn, sunflower, safflower and sesame oils.
It is easy to be daunted by the vast number of vitamins, nutrients and other micronutrients that the industry recommends to be incorporated in our daily diets. For this reason, we are often quick to take supplements, to satisfy our need for the goodness that micronutrients provide, and compensate for our lack of knowledge. This article seeks to educate about the benefits of common micronutrients and how to naturally include them in your daily diet.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Top Vitamin B1 foods: Watercress, Lamb, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Peas, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Top Vitamin B2 foods: Mushroom, Broccoli, Asparagus, Milk, Wheat Germ
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Top Vitamin B3 foods: Mushroom, Tuna, Chicken, Salmon, Mackerel, Lamb, Turkey
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)
Top Vitamin B5 foods: Mushroom, Alfalfa Sprouts, Lentils, Eggs, Avocado, Whole Wheat, Tomatoes
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Top Vitamin B6 foods: Wheat Germ, Tuna, Red Kidney Beans, Banana, Broccoli, Salmon, Tuna, Turkey
Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)
Top Vitamin B12 foods: Sardines, Oysters, Cottage Cheese, Tuna, Turkey, Chicken
Top Folic Acid foods: Wheat Germ, Spinach, Boiled Lentils, Boiled Chickpeas, Peanuts, Broccoli
Top Vitamin C foods: Peppers, Broccoli, Strawberries, Kiwi Fruit, Oranges, Grapefruit
Top Calcium foods: Swiss cheese, Almonds, Parsley, Prunes, Pumpkin Seeds, Cooked Dried beans.
Top Chromium foods: Oysters, Potatoes, Green Peppers, Eggs, Chicken, Apples
Top Iron foods: Pumpkin Seeds, Lamb, Cashew Nuts, Raisins, Raw Yellow Beans, Spirulina, Pork Liver
Top Magnesium foods: Wheat Germ, Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Pecan Nuts, Garlic, Green Peas
Top Molybdenum food: Tomatoes, Pork, Lamb, Lentils, Beans, Wheat Germ
Top Potassium foods: Watercress, Celery, Parsley, Molasses, Pumpkin, Mushroom, Banana, Coconut
Top Selenium foods: Oysters, Brazil Nuts, Herrings, Mushrooms, Cottage Cheese
Top Zinc foods: Oysters, Ginger Root, Pecan Nuts, Lamb, Brazil Nuts, Egg Yolk, Oats.
Top Bioflavonoids foods: Berries, Cherries, Citrus Fruits.
Top Co-enzyme Q10 foods: Soya Oil, Sardines, Pork, Mackerel, Spinach, Walnuts, Sesame seeds
Fibre is an indigestible form of carbohydrate. Since humans cannot break down fibre carbohydrates, they pass through the digestive system whole and take other waste products with them. Diets low in fibre have problems with waste elimination, constipation, and haemorrhoids. Diets high in fibre have shown decreased risk for obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products all contain high amounts of fibre.
All naturally fibre-rich foods are also rich in carbohydrates. The recommended intake for fibre is 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. The usual fibre intake among the average low, however, is woefully lacking at only 15 grams daily. Perhaps best known for its role in keeping the bowels regular, dietary fibre has more to brag about. Individuals with high fibre intakes appear to have lower risks of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and obesity.
The body does not require alcohol. Instead, it is treated like a toxin that needs to be removed before it can cause damage to cells. When an individual drinks alcohol, the body gives priority to metabolizing alcohol. This means that other digestive processes are stopped while the alcohol is dealt with. Most of the detoxification of alcohol occurs in the liver. This organ works hard to make alcohol safe.
Alcohol also impairs normal digestion of nutrients. It does this by causing damage to cells in the digestive tract and by interfering with the secretion of enzymes needed for digestion. Alcohol can also impede the ability of the liver to store important vitamins. It has also been shown that drinking too much can prevent the body from absorbing enough protein.
Alcohol and nutrients
Alcohol consumption can alter nutrient status. Alcohol consumption leads to impaired amino acid uptake and protein synthesis in the liver. Other compounds, including leptin, are often increased in alcoholics, which can be pro-inflammatory and decrease appetite.
The liver is a major storage depot for vitamins and converts vitamins into metabolically useful forms. Heavy alcohol consumption diminishes the uptake and utilization of folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B1, and vitamin A. Folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency among alcoholics, most likely due to the increased demand for nucleic acids needed for regeneration of injured liver cells. Nevertheless, poor dietary intake of folate also contributes. Alcohol acts as an antagonist to vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, and vitamin K. Vitamin E has also been depleted in those who consume alcohol.
Alkaline & Acidic
For decades, natural health practitioners have recommended a diet that "alkalises" the bloodstream. The premise is that diseases including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and gout are influenced by dietary acid-alkaline balance.
Our body likes to be in a state of steady balance, also known as homeostasis, where blood pressure, hormone levels, temperature and pH levels remain in a certain safe range. pH is a measure of acid versus base (alkali) and different parts of the body need different pH levels. For instance, blood needs to hover around a pH of 7.4 (slightly alkaline), whereas stomach acid should be a corrosive two to three, in order to kill bacteria.
The dietary goal is quite simple: ensure you have a higher
intake of alkaline-producing foods than acid-producing ones. An
alkaline diet is rich in vegetables and fruit, while avoiding an
over consumption of grains, meat and dairy.
There is a difference between acidic foods and acid forming foods. While some foods may taste acidic, they can actually have an alkalising effect on the body. What determines the pH nature of the food in the body is the metabolic end products when it is digested and the minerals absorbed into the bloodstream. For example, the citric acid in citrus fruit is metabolised to its alkaline form.
It's important to remember that, like everything in life, it's about balance. We need to eat some acid forming foods too. Foods that are alkaline forming include vegetables, fruit, herbs, soybeans and tofu. Acid forming foods are grains, dairy, nuts, and lean meats.
We can potentially tilt the pH scale in the alkaline direction with a diet filled with mineral rich plant foods. By eating a more alkaline diet (leafy greens, wheatgrass, veggies, sprouts, avocados, green juices and smoothies) as opposed to an acidic diet (high in animal products, processed carbohydrates, refined sugar, energy drinks, etc), we flood our bodies with alkalinity, vitamins and other nutrients. Healthy food creates healthy cells. Conversely, junk goes in and junk comes out.
Sometimes people look to the glycaemic index (GI) to evaluate
the healthfulness of carbohydrate rich foods, but this too
oversimplifies good nutrition. The GI ranks carbohydrate containing
foods from 0 to 100. This score indicates the increase in blood
glucose from a single food containing 50 grams of carbohydrate
compared to 50 grams of pure glucose, which has a GI score of 100.
Foods that are slowly digested and absorbed (like apples and some
bran cereals) trickle glucose into your bloodstream and have low GI
scores. High GI foods like white bread and cornflakes are quickly
digested and absorbed, flooding the blood with glucose. Research
regarding the GI is mixed; some studies suggest that diets based on
low GI foods are linked to lower risks of diabetes, obesity
and heart disease, but other studies fail to show such a
Many factors influence a food's GI score, including:
- The degree of ripeness of a piece of fruit (the riper the fruit, the higher the score)
- The amount and type of processing a food has undergone
- Whether the food is eaten raw or cooked
- The presence of fat, vinegar or other acids
Scott Burrell & Matt Aston
Vision Personal Training Bangor
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.