With all the diet trends out there, you might be scratching your head wondering
what the heck to eat.
Do I eat carbs, or no carbs? So… no oranges, because that is sugar,
right? And I should eat avocados, but wait… Eggs are bad, I think?
And you’re telling me there is good fat AND bad fat? My friend said
I need high protein because I work out, so supplements are the best…
And what time is the best to eat? But I read that I shouldn’t eat
at all for an entire day…. And don’t forget your gallon of water!
The whole thing is confusing to say the least.
I’d like to break through some of the popular fads and get down to
some facts so that you can do a great job deciding how to fuel your body
without all the hype. What does that mean to you? Well—food
IS fuel. What we eat and drink provides the nutrients our bodies need to
function at either their best or worst capacity. You’ll have to
decide what is best for you and you’ll be better able to do that
with the following facts.
Our general fuel sources (foods) are made up of vitamins, minerals, water
and macronutrients. Most are familiar with the function of vitamins minerals
in our diet. Those “macros” are where the diet mud gets murky.
Macronutrients are essential elements, needed in large quantities in our
diets. They are generally made up of proteins, lipids (fats) and carbohydrates.
Proteins are the building block of our entire body—bones, muscles,
hair, and every cell we have is made up of protein. Hormones, antibodies,
and other important substances are also composed of protein. Protein is
not used to fuel the body unless necessary. Proteins come from both animal
and plant sources and are made of up different amino acids. While the
body can create some amino acids on its own, there are many essential
amino acids that can only come from food. You need a variety of amino
acids for your body to function properly.
Meat, fish, dairy and eggs are good sources of proteins. You can also get
protein from plant sources like beans, soy, nuts, and some grains. Proteins
pack four calories per gram. The amount of protein you need daily depends
on a variety of factors including gender, how active you are, and your
age. The general recommendation for protein intake is about .8 grams per
kilogram of body weight.
Lipids are also known as fats. We hear the word fat and immediately assume
that it’s “bad” art of that ideal is due to the fact
that fats (good or bad) tally up at
nine calories per gram, meaning a little bit goes a long way. However, healthy
fats or omega’s, serve essential functions like vitamin and mineral
absorption, building cells, muscle movement, balancing blood sugars, preventing
heart disease and brain function. Researchers are starting to believe
consuming healthy fats can aid in the prevention of Alzheimer’s
disease, arthritis and even cancer.
Healthy fats are foods that are unsaturated, and typically come from plant
sources, like avocados, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and also fish. It’s
best to avoid trans fats and limit saturated animal-based fats like butter,
cheese, red meat, and ice cream. How much fat do you need daily? The
World Health Organization recommends keeping it to less than 30% of your daily calorie intake.
Next up are carbohydrates. “Carbs” are the body’s primary
source of immediate fuel, especially for the brain and central nervous
system. Similar to lipids, carbohydrates are often labeled “bad
or good”. That said, carbohydrate sources are not all created the
same; or more specifically, what we do with those sources alters their
nutritional value. More valuable sources of carbohydrates are whole vegetables
and fruits, whole grains, beans, seeds and the like. Those “whole”
sources offer big doses of much needed fiber, which offsets the impact
of natural sugars, are digested more slowly and are used better by our
bodies in the long run as energy. The very best carbohydrates are grown,
A good rule of thumb: it’s best to limit refined or processed sources
of carbohydrates as much as possible. I like to describe those carbs as
the foods you theoretically could live the rest of your life without,
sans any ill affects to your health. You find these unneeded carbohydrates
in the middle of the grocery store, they have a shelf life, are often
enhanced with “added sugars” or sodium and are packaged. They
also often come from a drive through window. Whether pure sugar or from
an apple, carbohydrates are valued at four calories per gram. It’s
recommended that a large portion of our daily fuel comes from carbohydrates—anywhere
from 45-65 percent of our daily calorie intake.
Last, but not least, we have water. Approximately 60 percent of our body
is made up of water and our survival is dependent on getting enough. It’s
no surprise, dehydration can affect brain function! Water is a lubricant
for our body, and flushes our systems of the toxins we take in—including waste.
Eating fruits and vegetables, soups and other fluid filed foods can help
to meet our daily hydration needs. How much water
do we need? That is a tricky question to answer because fluids can be taken
in many ways. An easy way to determine if we are hydrated enough is to
look at your urine, which should be light in color or almost clear.
Campbell County Health's
Wellness works to reduce health risks and promote overall wellness among employee
groups and individuals across the northeastern Wyoming region. To learn
more about Wellness, please visit
www.cchwyo.org/Wellness or call 307.688.8051.
Rachel Conrad, PBT, CPT, MA, works at CCH Wellness as a Technician, Phlebotomist and
Health Coach in Gillette, Wyoming.