The Importance of Food
Food nourishes the body, rebuilds cells and gives you energy to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Proper nutritional intake is a key element in healthy human development, from the prenatal stage through to old age. Having the recommended amount and right type of food will help you meet your nutrient needs, reduce your risk of chronic diseases, and contribute to your overall health and well being.
Four Food Groups
Healthy eating means choosing a variety of foods from each of the four main food groups, as well as including a specific amount of fats and oils.
- Vegetables and Fruits
- Grain Products
- Milk and Alternatives
- Meat and Alternative
The different age groups also require differing amounts of each food group as our needs change throughout our life time. Each specific stage of life has special needs and meeting these needs nutritionally is paramount to good health.
Food Classification based on Nutritional Value
Foods are further classified according to the nutritional value they provide for the human body.
Calories are the energy our bodies extract from the food. Food energy is the amount of energy obtained from food that is available through cellular respiration and is expressed as kcal.
- 1 gram of Protein = 4 kcal
- 1 gram of Carbohydrate = 4 kcal
- 1 gram of fat = 9 kcal
The fact that gram for gram fat contributes more than twice the amount of nutritional value to our bodies makes reading nutritional food labels rather confusing for some of us. The nutrition fact data sheet provided on all foods expresses the amount of each food by % of total weight by volume, not by the nutritional value in kcals.
Understanding Food Labels
Lean Ground Beef 15 % Fat
Let us try to understand food labels and food ratios.
I just bought some lean ground beef from Costco, let’s calculate how much fat it actually contains with regards to how many calories come from fat and how many come from protein.
The label states 100 grams of beef contains 15 grams of fat and 85 grams of protein by weight which calculates out to 28.4% kcal from fat and 71.6% kcal from protein. See calculation below:
Fat 15 x 9 = 135 kcal
Protien 85 x 4 = 340 kcal
Total kcal = 475
kcal from fat = 135x 100 / 475 = 28.4%
kcal from protein = 340 x 100 / 475 = 71.6%
This demonstrates how nutritional fact labels can be misleading. I pointed it out here just to give you a heads up on nutrition facts.
Lack of Proper Nutrition Causes Chronic Disease
More and more evidence is accumulating that links disease with lack of proper nutrition.
Chronic diseases including: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some chronic lung conditions and preventable cancers are on the rise globally causing some to call it a “silent” pandemic. Although poverty has traditionally been associated with underweight because of poor diet, research has revealed a paradox in the US, which is unfortunately now also being observed in developing countries: low income and obesity can coexist in the same population.
The Cost of Chronic Diseases
This information is taken from World Economic Forum. To read more please click on Chronic Diseases.
Global Risks 2010
In collaboration with Citi, Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC)
Swiss Re, Wharton School Risk Center, Zurich Financial Services
Total health spending in the US accounts for 15% of GDP. A third of this spending on health is for obesity-related chronic diseases.
Evidence suggests that a modest reduction in the prevalence of certain chronic disease risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, and healthier diets, could result in substantial health gains and cost savings. For instance, a Norwegian study estimated that savings of US $188 million could be made by lowering the population blood pressure level by a 2 mm Hg reduction in salt intake. A Canadian study estimated that a 10% reduction in the prevalence of physical inactivity could reduce direct healthcare expenditures by Can $150 million (approximately US$ 124 million) in a year.
This is only addressing the problem in terms of $$$. The COST in terms of pain, heart ache, shortened life span, misery is immeasurable.
There is a ton of information available on the web to guide you in your healthy eating plan. Rather then repeat that information here I would just like to keep it simple and stress the importance of following a diet high in protein and moderate in low glycemic index carbohydrates, plus including only the healthy fats.
Why a Diet High in Protein is Healthy.
Foods high in protein break down in our bodies to provide the basic building blocks for our muscle cells. We need high levels of these basic components when we stress our muscle because all the little tears caused by the workout will be repaired to build our muscles stronger from this protein supply.
The Nutritional Value of Protein
- Protein is the building block for muscle cells
- Protein expends more energy in the digestive process
- Protein does not cause an insulin response
- Protein does not increase your blood sugar level
- You cannot overeat on Protein – try it you’ll get nauseous.
Why Carbohydrates with a Low Glycemic Index are Healthy
Carbohydrates provide the fuel for our bodies. Not all carbohydrates are created equal as far as health is concerned, some are better for our bodies than others. This is where carbohydrate foods high in their glycemic index get the big healthy food vote. The glycemic index, aims to classify carbohydrates based on how quickly and how high they boost blood sugar compared to pure glucose.
Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index, like whole oats, are digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar.
The Nutritional Value of Carbohydrates
- Carbs provide instant energy for our bodies.
- Carbs are very easy for our bodies to digest and requires little energy for this process.
- Complex carbs have a low glycemic index and take longer to digest and therefore will not spike our blood sugar levels.
- Too many carbs creates a fuel overload – with the help of the hormone insulin our body stores this as fat.
Why our Bodies Require Fats in our Diets
Essential fatty acids, are fatty acids essential to the production and function of all hormones in our bodies. Fat also works with our cells it helps the cells transport nutrients through cell membranes. It also works as an insulator and protector and is a source of fuel for our bodies.
The Nutritional Value of Fats
- Fat helps to keep our hormones balanced.
- Fat is also very easily digested.
- Fat is our primary energy source
- Fat is a very good source of fuel for our bodies because it is slow burning.
Food and Nutrition
Healthy eating plays an important role in promoting health and in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. It is really much simpler to get all the nutrients needed for a healthy body than appears at first glance. Eating larger amounts of protein curbs the cravings for sugar plus keeps you full longer providing your muscles with all the building blocks necessary for good health. Eating foods with a low glycemic index is another important change that will decrease hunger and cravings and prevent that damaging huge insulin release needed when your body eats refined sugars. Getting your fat nutrients when you consume the essential fatty acids and staying away from oils that are solid at room temperature will take you a long way on your road to nutritional health. The place where you are happy fit and healthy.