More about nutrition.
So, in the last post I covered the basics of the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, fat. They are called macronutrients because we need larger amounts of these to survive. Today I’ll talk about how to select foods for appropriate amounts of these and get into some explanation of the micronutrients. These are the nutrients we take in in smaller amounts, like vitamins and minerals. Whereas we talk about the macronutrients in terms of grams per day, the micronutrients are measured in milligrams or even micrograms per day.
I found another website with lots of reliable nutrition information at choosemyplate.gov. A year or so ago they replaced the “food pyramid” with “my plate.” Basically half the plate should be fruits and veggies and the other side 2/3 grains and 1/3 protein. The handy measure of how much protein should be on your plate is the size of a deck of cards. That’s about 3 ounces. Wait a minute, what about those 12 ounce sirloins at the House of Steak? Well, it comes down to making decisions for your health. Pigging out once in a while isn’t that big a deal, but making a habit of overeating is what leads to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. I found a nice chart at the American Heart Association website that tells how many servings of different types of foods to aim for daily for either a 1600 calorie diet or a 2000 calorie diet.
How do you determine how many calories a day you need? First you’d look at your basal metabolic rate (BMR). That is the amount of energy it takes to keep your body going just laying there not doing anything. Follow the link above to a calculator. Once you have the BMR, you add on activity. There are some good calculators online to figure calorie requirements for various levels of activity. There’s a good one on nutritiondata.com that also gives you your BMI (body mass index) and customized nutrient requirements.
Now moving on to micronutrients, these include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are compounds required by the body in small amounts to perform essential body functions. They may be either fat soluble, such as A, D, E, and K, or water soluble like the B vitamins and Vitamin C. The fat soluble vitamins may be stored in the body, so excess intake of these can lead to toxicity. The water soluble vitamins, however, are excreted from the body in urine when more than what is needed is ingested. There are conflicting opinions regarding the advisability of supplementation of vitamins. In general it is preferable to obtain needed vitamins through a balanced diet, however supplementation may be needed for some people. Those who have had gastrointestinal surgery removing portions of the small intestine or stomach would require supplementation. Usually pregnant women are advised to take a prenatal vitamin supplement. Those on restricted calorie diets or who are unable to eat enough to obtain adequate nutrition require supplementation. Minerals required by the body include iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and several others. These are generally obtained through diet, but are also contained in daily multivitamins and individual mineral supplements.
It seems like conflicting statements come out constantly regarding what we should eat and what we shouldn’t. I think we just need to use common sense and eat in moderation. This can be difficult surrounded as we are by such incredible food surplus in this country. Using tools such as a food diary can help us see what we are actually taking in and make adjustments. Fitday.com has a free food diary and also can be purchased as home computer software and an iPhone app. There are others, including myfooddiary.com and others. The middle way is the way to go, but is often easier said than done.