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6 Essential Nutrients

There are 6 essential nutrients our bodies depend on for proper functioning:

Water, Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats, Vitamins and Minerals.

Water

Water is the largest single component of the body. Up to 60% of our bodies are made up of water. Muscle holds the highest concentration of water while fat tissue holds someHealthy food pyramide on the white background of the lowest amounts.

The amount of water a person has in their body varies based on their proportion of muscles to fat tissue. So, a person who exercises more will have a higher percentage of water.

Water has a variety of functions that are essential to life:

  • Regulates your body temperature
  • Transports nutrients in our bodies
  • Flushes out waste
  • Helps our immune system and brain
  • Helps your joints work

As little as a 5-10 % loss can cause dehydration. When you are thirsty, it’s a sign your body is already dehydrated.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide the energy we need for physical activity and organ function.

  • Our bodies break down carbohydrates in order to make glucose (the end result of carbohydrate digestion) for energy
  • Carbohydrates are necessary for the normal metabolism of fat

2 Types of Carbohydrates

  • Complex Carbohydrates / “Good Carbs” = starches like cereal, bread, beans, potatoes, and starchy vegetables.  Good carbs are fiber-rich carbohydrates, like those found in many complex carbohydrates. Good carbs are absorbed into our systems more slowly, which helps us avoid escalations in blood sugar and provide a lasting form of energy.
  • Simple Carbohydrates / “Bad Carbs” = milk, fruits and some vegetables are natural, simple carbs and are still healthy because they are rich in other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Bad carbs are foods that are refined or processed, such as white rice or white bread, and foods with added sugar such as desserts, candy, soda and sugary cereals. They should be avoided as they offer little to no nutritional value, while adding way too many calories to our diet; making them “empty” calories. Empty calories contribute to excessive weight gain and other associated health risks.

There is no “Recommended Daily Allowance” for sugar like there is for carbohydrates, because we get our glucose needs from good carbohydrates.

Protein

After water, proteins are the most abundant substances in most cells.  It is what our body’s tissues are made up of…our muscles, organs, immune system and, our hair, nails and skin. Protein builds strong muscles and repairs your body.

What foods have protein?

  • Protein is made up of amino acids…there are 20 amino acids, of which 9 are essential, which means the body can’t produce them on its own so you have to get them from food.
  • Protein is found in milk, eggs, peanut butter, chicken, fish, meat, yogurt, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains

Fats

Fats are necessary for our body to survive – they transport fat-soluble vitamins and form cell membranes. Fat is also the coating under our skin and in our organs to insulate and protect our bodies. Fats are the major stored form of energy in the body.  Some fats are really good for us and some are not so good:

  • Good Fats (Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated – the healthiest): olive oil, nuts, milk, olives, avocado
  • Bad Fats (Saturated): butter, beef, pork, fried foods, mayo
  • Trans fatty acids (the most unhealthy): manufactured during food processing (ie. hydrogenated fats) 

Here’s an interesting fact…For energy, our body uses carbohydrates first, then fats and then protein as a last resort.

Vitamins

Vitamins are non-caloric, organic compounds that help our bodies grow, maintain and repair. There are two types of vitamins:

  • Fat-soluble: Vitamins A, D, E and K – can be stored in the liver. Therefore, an overdose on these vitamins can lead to toxic levels in the body.
  • Water-soluble: not able to be stored – they are excreted by the kidneys.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic compounds that assist processes and are part of the structures of the body (iron in blood and calcium in teeth and bones).

The body best absorbs vitamins and minerals when provided through natural sources than pill form.  Eating food triggers satiety, which prevents consuming toxic levels of nutrients, something pills can’t do.

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Boost Your Mood With Food

imagesMost of us are aware, at least on some level, that what we eat can affect our mood.  However, we generally don’t understand why or how.  There are many different avenues in which our food consumption can affect our mental health, but the primary physiological explanation is neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in our brain that regulate mood and behavior, and they are affected by our food intake.  Some of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

  • When the brain makes serotonin, we tend to feel happier and more relaxed and are less likely to suffer from mood swings and depression.  Serotonin is also linked to feelings of satiety and satisfaction – which is very important when trying to avoid overeating or emotional eating.
  • High levels of dopamine are related to feelings of pleasure.  And, dopamine also helps with appetite control, focus and muscle coordination.
  • Endorphins, possibly the most well known neurotransmitter, are associated with euphoria and can act as natural painkillers.

Below are some of the foods that aid in the production of these and other neurotransmitters and have been shown to boost mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. 

Dark Chocolate:  There are scientific reasons why you feel happy after eating chocolate and one is called anandamide.  This is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.  It is also believed that other chemicals in chocolate slow down the breakdown of this chemical, so it stays in your system longer allowing the ‘happy’ feelings to last.

Additionally, serotonin and endorphins are released when chocolate is eaten.  And, if all of this is not enough, chocolate also contains magnesium, which helps the body manufacture serotonin, that all-important calming brain chemical.

Bananas:  Bananas are rich in tyrosine, which is needed by your body to make dopamine, a natural chemical that boosts your mood.  They are also rich is B vitamins, especially B6, which helps sooth your nervous system.  And they are a good source of magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive moods.

Complex carbohydrates:  Foods such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal and brown rice are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain. Other nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices include starchy root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and corn) and legumes.

Foods Rich in Omega-3:  Coldwater fish, (such as wild salmon and mackerel) walnuts and sunflower seeds, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and have been shown to elevate mood and reduce anxiety and depression.  Some studies have shown that omega-3 fats can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating depression.

Dark Green Vegetables:  Vegetables like spinach, asparagus and broccoli are all high in folate, a B vitamin, that is needed in the brain for the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. One Harvard Medical study found that raising the level of folates in the diets of depressed patients helped improve their mood. 

Avocados:  Healthy fat like that those found in avocados helps raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins.

Purple Berries:  Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine.

Probiotics:  These have been shown to improve mood.  Our bodies have serotonin receptors in our gut, and an imbalance in good and bad bacteria can disrupt the production/reception of serotonin. Probiotics keep levels of bad bacteria down. You can find probiotics in yogurt, cottage cheese and some cereals.

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Did You Know?

Below are facts on some common things we eat every day that you might not have known. Let’s classify them into the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Skim Latte– Packed with protein, and half your calcium need for the day; it’s a “liquid meal in a cup”. Caffeine or what I usually like to choose…half caf…helps give you sbaboost of energy and fires up your metabolism. If you do want to add a little flavor – ask for one pump (vs. the typical 4 pumps). You will save 60 calories and 15 grams of sugar. Be wary of the “skinny” latte– which is made with artificial sweeteners.

Organic Whole Grain Cereals – A cereal such as Uncle Sam’s has only 4 organic ingredients: Whole Wheat Kernels, Whole Flaxseed, Salt and Barley Malt. Weighing in at 190 calories, 5 grams of good fat, 38 carbohydrates (of which, 10 grams are fiber!), less than 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of protein. What a perfect meal!

Non-Fat Greek Yogurt – One cup of Fage Total 0% Fat Greek yogurt is only 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar (vs. most flavored yogurts with over 22 grams of sugar), 18 grams of protein!, and 20% of your daily calcium requirements.

Pure Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is chock-full of protein, with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Benefits of one serving of peanut butter:

  • 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E
  • 49 mg of bone-building magnesium
  • 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium
  •  0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6
  • Can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions

Choose one with no additives…peanuts only and maybe a little sea salt. Best to eliminate anything that ends in “y”…Skippy, Jiffy, Teddie, Freddy…and be cautious of the term “natural” on a label – it’s a marketing term and doesn’t mean anything. Organic is ideal. If you are allergic, try soy nut butter. Same great protein benefits.

Eggs – Eggs are loaded with high-quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, good fats and various trace nutrients.  A large egg contains:

  • only 77 calories
  • only 5 grams of fat
  • 6 grams of protein
  • all 9 essential amino acids
  • rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5 (among others)
  • 113 mg of Choline – a very important nutrient for the brain, among other things. A study revealed that 90% of Americans may not get enough choline in their diet.

The yolks contain most of the nutrients! Omega-3 enriched or pastured (raised on a pasture and grass fed) eggs are much more nutritious than factory-raised chickens. 

Whey Protein – Whey protein is considered a complete protein, contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content. Additional benefits include:

  • weight loss
  • increased muscle mass (vs. fat)
  • increase in glutathione levels (your body’s main water-based anti-oxidant)
  • decrease in triglycerides and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol)
  • increase in immune system function and power in sports and decreased recovery time and symptoms of over-training

Quinoa – also known as the “SuperGrain”. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids and it contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. It contains:

  • iron
  • lysine (mainly essential for tissue growth and repair)
  • is rich in magnesium
  • high in Riboflavin (B2) (improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells)
  • has a high content of manganese (an antioxidant)

The Bad

Smoothies – depending on the ingredients, can have up to 1,500 calories, 60 grams of fat and 60 grams of sugar. Best to lean toward the natural ingredients – fresh fruit, milk, water, whey protein. 

Granola – has long been viewed since back-in-the-day as a “health food”. There are wonderful properties to granola and trail mix, however, they are often made with butter and oil and have up to 400 calories per cup. Shop for the lighter variations, or make it yourself.

Salad Dressing – Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing has 150 calories per 2 tbsps. , of which, 144 calories are from fat, and 420 mg of sodium (Ranch is 140 calories, 135 from fat). Even if you choose the “light version”, you start to sacrifice nutrition for artificial ingredients. Try a balsamic glaze with natural spices (garlic, salt, pepper, mint).

Fat-Free Foods – you are better off just eating the real thing, or reduced fat…most fat free foods have a ton of added sugar and high fructose corn syrup – added empty calories which cause you to eat more. Healthy fats are essential to our diet – it’s just important to eat them in moderation.

100 Calorie Packs – convenient packs do not change the nutritional content. Your snack may still be too high in sugar, fat, carbohydrates or sodium, even if you’re eating only 100 calories. And they generally leave you unsatistifed and craving more.

Bagels – most bagels are a dense, bleached, processed flour carbohydrate that usually contain about 500 calories, equivalent to 5 slices of bread. All of those carbs will give you a quick boost than a hard crash. They are typically made with white flour, are very difficult for your body to ingest and have several inflammatory properties. If you choose to eat a bagel, opt for whole wheat or oat bran.

Gatorade –

  • A single serving of Gatorade contains 14 grams of sugar – a mix of heavily refined sucrose syrups and glucose-fructose (most 20oz bottles are 2.5 servings or 34 grams of sugar)
  • Contains a ton of sodium – an unlikely candidate for any beneficial electrolyte restoration (when the body experiences short periods of exhaustion and fatigue, it does not need mass amounts of sodium)
  • It uses brominated vegetable oil (BVO) to increase fluidity and uniformity (like other sugary drinks). BVO is also used to create lead dissolving additives for gasoline, photographic paper films, fire-extinguishing materials, and agricultural fumigants. More than 100 countries have outlawed the substance altogether.
  • Because of the amount of carbohydrates in Gatorade, over consumption can cause obesity.
  • Ingredients include:  water, sugar, table salt, carbohydrates, electrolytes (110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium, 93 mg chloride), high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, glucose and fructose.

Sugar Cereal- It is common for nutrition-minded shoppers to pick “healthy choices” such as Honey Nut Cheerios, Raisin Bran and Cascade Granola. Honey Nut Cheerios actually has the equivalent amount of sugar to Fruity Pebbles. And most other cereals have significantly more. In fact, many of these cereals surpass the half-way mark for how much sugar many experts believe we should consume in a day.

The Ugly

Donuts – Sorry to say, a donut is not food. Nutritional info for a Dunkin Donuts Chocolate Glazed Cake Donut: 370 calories, 24 g of fat (11 grams of saturated fat), 390 grams of sodium, 35 carbs, 17 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein. And this is a common breakfast. Ingredients include:

Mono and Diglycerides, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Cellulose Gum, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Xanthan Gum, Artificial Flavor, Sodium Caseinate (a milk derivative), Enzyme, Colored with (Turmeric and Annatto Extracts, Beta Carotene)

Frappuccino – A Grande Java Chip Frappuccino have 460 calories, 18g of fat (12 grams of saturated fat), 50 mg of cholesterol (17% of daily value!), 72 grams of carbohydrates, 66 grams of sugar! (no, that is not a typo) and 6 grams of protein. Ingredients in a frappaccino (not including the chips) include:

  • Coffee Frappuccino Syrup: Sugar, Water, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum (E415), Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Caramel Color (E150)

With the light Frappuccino, it may be fewer calories however; you are ingesting even more chemicals:

  • Light Coffee Frappuccino: Water, sugar, Erythritol (E968), Natural Flavors, Salt, Carageenan (E407), Xanthan Gum (E415), Maltodextrin, Preservative: Potassium Sorbate (E202), Citric Acid (E330), Reb A, Color: Caramel (E150d, E150b)

Processed Deli Meats  – most are prepared from chunks or pieces of meat and bonded together with non-meat additives and meat emulsions cooked to coagulate and bind the chunks of meat into a “shaped form” of meat. Often include nitrates, up to 460 mg sodium per serving, carrageenan, meat by-products (read – bones), corn syrup, gelatin and emulsifiers. Your best bet is the real thing – roasted turkey. Make it and slice it for the week. Or visit Batavia. Best turkey sandwich in town.

Soda / Sugar Drinks – 1 can of Classic Coke contains 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar and includes high fructose corn sugar, caramel color, phosphoric acid, “natural flavors” and caffeine. Snapple is not any better, against popular belief: 1 bottle = 150 calories, 36 grams of sugar.

Chicken Nuggets – There are truly no “healthy” chicken nuggets unless made from scratch – if any, possibly Bell & Evans with simple ingredients of white breast chicken & whole wheat breading. Typical ingredient list for chicken nuggets includes:

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast with Rib Meat, Water, Potassium Lactate, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Flavorings, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Diacetate, Carrageenan. Dextrose, Calcium Propionate (to Protect Freshness), Guar Gum, Potassium Sorbate (to Protect Freshness)

English Muffins – Perfect example of a processed food. Ingredients in Thomas’ include:

mono and diglycerides, datem, sodium stearolyl lactylate, ethoxylated mono-and diglycerides, dextrose, wheat sour, guar gum, lactic acid, molasses, fumaric acid, azodicarbonamide, , caramel color, acetic acid, sucralose, nonfat milk

Try a brand that is organic or whole wheat with 5 or less ingredients.

Fruit Snacks/Gummies: a recent fruit snack was given to my son in a party bag…it is produced by “Healthy Food Brands” and the ingredient list is as follows:

grape juice concentrate, corn syrup, sugar, modified food starch, apple puree, gelatin, citric acid, sodium citrate, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial flavors, FD&C Red, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 3, carnauba wax.

One guess if I let him eat it?

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