Category Archives: Nutrition

Nutrition Topics

What is Calorie Density?

Calorie density is the simplest approach to healthful eating and lifelong weight management. This common sense approach to sound nutrition allows for lifelong weight management without hunger; more food for fewer calories, and is easy to understand and follow. In addition, by following the principles of calorie density, you will also increase the overall nutrient density of your diet. Nutrient dense foods give you the most nutrients for the fewest amount of calories. In other words, nutrient dense foods give you the “biggest bang for the buck.” You get lots of nutrients, and it doesn’t cost you much in terms of calories. The basic principles of calorie density are really quite simple.

Definition: Calorie density is simply a measure of how much energy (calories) is provided per unit measure of food. Usually expressed as calories per pound.

Example:
1 lb. of vegetables = 100 calories (approx.)
1 lb. of ground beef = 1000 calories (approx.) – regular ground not lean

Calorie dense foods, (high in calorie density) such as beef, chicken, refined sugars, provide many calories in a small amount of food and provide less nutrients than whole plant foods.

Foods with low calorie density — fruits, vegetables — provide fewer total calories and greater nutrition in a larger volume of food. Therefore, by following a diet lower in calorie density, one also automatically consumes a diet higher in nutrient density.

All Calories Are Not Equal !

The image below gives an excellent picture of what calorie density looks like and why when consuming foods high in calories density (on right side) i.e., the Standard American Diet (SAD)–which is mostly based on animal-based products and processed foods including vegetable oils–many Americans consume too many calories and are vitamin and mineral deficient.
Calorie Density Image 2

As you can see foods low in calorie density fill the stomach (satiety) and the foods high in calorie density don’t fill the stomach. Just imagine how a person could consume many more calories in just one meal, easily adding hundreds more calories in just one meal because your stomach is not full. As you can see with the potatoes it is even overflowing because the stomach is full and when that happens your brain is sent a signal, via stomach stretch receptors, that you are full and you can’t eat anymore. With foods high in calorie density it is easier to overeat.

Summary
Calorie density really is a common-sense approach to sound nutrition and is the cornerstone of good health. It is the simplest way to lose and/or manage your weight for life; more food for fewer calories, and is easy to understand and follow. By following a few simple principles, you will increase the amount of food on your plate while decreasing your overall caloric intake, all without ever having to go hungry. At the same time, you will be optimizing your overall nutrient intake (vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, essential fats, etc.).

Studies have shown that diets based on low calorie density foods tend to be more healthy and effective for weight management. So, eat freely of unrefined, unprocessed fruits, veggies, starchy veggies, intact whole grains and legumes without the addition of salt, sugar and/or fat/oil and you will reap the benefits of a healthy nutrient-dense diet.

Fat Soluble Vitamins: Functions and Food Sources

FAT SOLUBLE VITAMINS

Vitamin Function Sources

A

Roles in vision, growth, promotes bones and tooth development; reproduction, immune system health Green plants, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, apricots, green peppers

D

Regulation of calcium and phosphate metabolism Sunlight exposure (on skin), fortified non-dairy milk (such as soy or almond), fish oils

E

Antioxidant; protects vitamins A and C and fatty acids; prevents damage to cell membranes Green and leafy vegetables, wheat germ, whole grain products, nuts, seeds

K

Blood coagulation (helps blood to clot) Dark green leafy vegetables; also made by bacteria in the intestine

Water Soluble Vitamins: Functions and Food Sources

WATER SOLUBLE VITAMINS

 Vitamin Function Sources

C

Healthy immune system and for healthy skin. Learn more  about vitamin C Found in most fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers and potatoes
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) Regulation of calcium and phosphate metabolism Whole grains, legumes, including beans and lentils, asparagus, seeds and nuts
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) General body growth and for energy Leafy green vegetables, nuts, legumes, fortified breads  and non-dairy milk (i.e., soy, almond)
Niacin (Vitamin B3) Proper digestion, healthy nervous system  & converts the food to energy Legumes, nuts, mushrooms, kale, spinach, rice and wheat
Vitamin B6 General body growth and for energy Leafy green vegetables,  legumes, fortified breads and non-dairy milk   (i.e., soy, almond)
Pantothenic Acid Proper digestion, healthy nervous system  & converting the food to energy Legumes, whole grains, cruciferous vegetables,   avocados, and mushrooms
Folate Proper digestion, healthy nervous system  & converting the food to energy Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, fruits like   oranges and strawberries, legumes and whole grains
Biotin Assists in metabolic reactions and plays a role in  maintaining levels of blood sugar Swiss chard, kale, nutritional yeast, onions, cucumbers and cauliflower , sweet and   white potatoes
Vitamin B12 Healthy nervous system and blood cell production Sea weed, B12 supplements, some fortified cereals

What are Vitamins and Why we Need Them?

What are Vitamins?

There are 13 essential vitamins and each one has a special role to play within the body, helping to regulate the processes such as cell growth and repair, reproduction and digestion. You can obtain most these vitamins from the foods you eat.

Vitamin Functions

The vitamin B family helps you get energy from the foods you eat. Vitamins A, C and E are antioxidants which protect your cells from oxygen damage and scavenge “free-radicals” that can damage your cells. Vitamin A also supports your eyesight. Vitamin D supports optimal bone health. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting. In general, vitamins support health and your normal physical and cognitive function.

Vitamins are classified as either fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E and K) or water-soluble (vitamins B and C). This difference between the two groups is based on how your body absorbs them.

Water-soluble vitamins

Water-soluble vitamins dissolve in water and enter your bloodstream directly after consumption. The water-soluble vitamins are absorbed in your small intestine, and excess amounts are excreted in the urine, rather than stored in the body. There are nine water-soluble vitamins: thiamin; riboflavin; folate; niacin; vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12, pantothenic acid and biotin, which are collectively known as the B vitamins; and vitamin C. See what are the Water Soluble Vitamins.

Fat-soluble vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s cells and are not excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins. They do not need to be consumed as often as water-soluble vitamins, although adequate amounts are needed. If you take too much of a fat-soluble vitamin, it could become toxic. Your body is especially sensitive to too much vitamin A from animal sources (retinol) and too much vitamin D. A balanced diet usually provides enough fat-soluble vitamins.  See what are the Fat Soluble Vitamins.

Is Eating Raw Vegetables Nutritionally Healthier than Cooked Vegetables?

by Jerry Casados,NTP

You might have heard or read about this comparison. Most raw vegetable „purist‟ and some nutrition experts will tell you it is healthier to eat raw vegetables because they believe that cooking vegetables destroys the vitamins and nutrients in raw foods. Is that really true? Some recent nutrition studies say no. One study published in The British Journal of Nutrition1 (2008) found that cooked vegetables can be just a nutritious as raw veggies and some are even more nutritious than uncooked ones depending on how they are cooked.

In the study the researchers cooked a variety of vegetables. They first steamed, stir fried, micro waved the vegetables for 2-4 minutes and found there was no significant nutrient loss. Then the vegetables were boiled for 30 minutes and showed there was significant nutrient loss, most of nutrients were found in the water. So, boiling vegetables may not be the best option in cooking some vegetables.

And in another study, researchers found that people eating an all-raw diet had low levels of lycopene2. The study found that a group of 198 subjects who followed a strict (95%) raw food diet had normal levels of vitamin A and relatively high levels of beta-carotene (an antioxidant found in dark green and yellow fruits and vegetables), but low levels of other nutrients, such as lycopene (a potent antioxidant found in tomatoes).

Lycopene is a red pigment found predominantly in tomatoes and other rosy fruits such as watermelon, pink guava, red bell pepper and papaya. Several studies conducted in recent years (at Harvard Medical School, among others) have linked high intake of lycopene with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks. Rui Hai Liu, an associate professor of food science at Cornell University who has researched lycopene, says that “it may be an even more potent antioxidant than vitamin C”.

Studies have also suggested that cooking actually boosts the antioxidant content of vegetables. It’s well established that cooking can increase beta-carotene levels, a nutrient which we use to make Vitamin A3. Studies have also found that we only absorb 1-2% of the beta-carotene in vegetables like carrots, but cooking can raise the level we can absorb to over 75%4. And while cooking Broccoli damages the enzyme myrosinase, which breaks down glucosinates (compounds derived from glucose and an amino acid) into a compound known as sulforophane, a nutrient linked to anti-cancerous activity, it increases the folate availability5. In this case broccoli is healthier raw rather than cooked.

Why is cooking vegetables good? 

Cooking breaks down compounds in plants our body has trouble digesting like cellulose, a complex carbohydrate (polysaccharide). Cooking makes food easier to digest and makes nutrients more available to our digestive system. Despite the fact that humans can’t digest cellulose, because we (humans) lack the digestive enzymes to digest them, it’s still an important part of a healthy diet. The cellulose fibers from vegetables and grains pass through our digestive system basically unchanged, called dietary fiber or roughage, which helps cleanse or scrub our intestines, keeps the intestines healthy and results in healthy bowel movements.

Conclusion 

It’s better to have a good mix of raw and cooked veggies in your diet. That way you get the best of both worlds. The key thing is not to presume that cooked vegetables are nutritionally poor, because they’re not. They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals, and some of them you can’t get as easily by eating the uncooked versions. That’s why it is important you eat lots of fruits and vegetables to have a healthy balance. So if you don’t like to eat certain vegetables raw, cook them – it is better you eat them cooked than not eat them at all, no matter how many of the nutrients cooking might destroy. And it doesn’t really matter whether you cook them or not, as long as you’re eating your full servings of greens, reds, and yellows every day. You’ll get the nutrients you need either way!

References:

1. Miglio, C., et al. (2008). “Effects of Different Cooking Methods on Nutritional and Physicochemical Characteristics of Selected Vegetables” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 56(1), 139-147. 2. Garcia, A.L., et al. (2008). “Long-term strict raw food diet is associated with favourable plasma β-carotene and low plasma lycopene concentrations in Germans.” British Journal of Nutrition 99, 1293-1300. 3. Talcott, S. T., L. R. Howard, and C. H. Brenes (2000). “Antioxidant Changes and Sensory Properties of Carrot Puree Processed with and without Periderm Tissue.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 48(4), 1315-1321. 4. Erdman, et al. (1993). “Absorption and transport of carotenoids.” Annual NY Academy of Sciences 691, 76-85. 5. Clifford A.J., et al. (1990). “Bioavailability of folates in selected foods incorporated into amino acid-based diets fed to rats.” Journal of Nutrition 120(12), 1640-1647.

Articles: Finding the Best Way to Cook All Those Vegetables, Tara Parker-Pope, May 20, 2008. How to Cook Vegetables without Losing Their Vitamins and Nutrients, Kristie Leong, M.D., May 22, 2007

Major Minerals the Body Needs

by Jerry Casados, NTP

What are Minerals?
What comes to mind when you hear the word minerals?  Do you think of rocks, stones, and metal? How can these be of benefit to your body? Minerals are another group of nutrients (along with vitamins) needed by the body.  They have two general body functions: to regulate body processes, and to give the body structure.

Their regulating functions include a wide variety of systems, such as:

  • Heartbeat
  • Blood Clotting
  • Maintenance of the internal pressure of body fluids
  • Nerve responses
  • The transport of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues

Even though they make up only a small percentage of your body—about 4 percent of your body weight – minerals are essential to life. Minerals are very stable. They cannot be destroyed by light, water, heat or food handling processes. In fact, the little bit of ash that remains when a food is completely burned is the mineral content.

Inside the body, vitamins and minerals play many important roles. But whereas the body can continue to function without getting the recommended daily allotments of some vitamins, a mineral deficiency can lead to death.  As important as they are, most people today don’t really know that much about minerals and how they impact the body.

What Minerals Do
In order to make the hemoglobin found in red blood cells, the body needs iron. In order to build strong teeth and bones, the body needs calcium. Calcium is also crucial for the proper functioning of the kidneys, muscles and nerves.

Without adequate levels of Iodine, the thyroid gland cannot perform its most important task which is to produce energy.

Manganese, selenium and zinc are antioxidants and some of their responsibilities include helping to heal wounds, helping the skeletal system develop properly, and protecting cell membranes. Chromium helps keep arteries clear.

The minerals the body needs are divided into two categories.  These two categories are: Major minerals and Trace Minerals. The difference between the categories mainly has to do with the amounts the body requires. The body must have a minimum of 100 milligrams per day to carry out the bodily functions associated with the Major minerals. In the case of Trace minerals, on a per day basis, less than 100 milligrams are required.

Primary Sources of Minerals
All Minerals come from the ground but as few of us eat dirt and rocks, how does our body get the minerals it needs from the food that we eat? Minerals primarily make their way into our bodies by way of the foods that grow from the ground and the animals that survive off the land. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry, grains, legumes. These and others are the primary sources of the minerals our bodies need to survive.

What’s also interesting is that individuals who eat a lot of processed foods or who fail to consume a nutritionally-balanced diet often suffer from diseases that have been directly attributed to vitamin and mineral related deficiencies.

Much controversy surrounds the subject of mineral supplementation. Ideally, people should strive to meet their daily mineral requirements from food because, as is the case with some vitamins, excessive amounts of some minerals inside the body can have a toxic effect.

Minerals are used for creating automobiles, building, pots, pans and many other durable products. But most importantly for humans, minerals are essential for body and health in order to build and maintain strong bodies capable of functioning as designed!

What are the Seven Major Minerals and Sources?

Calcium
Probably best known for preventing osteoporosis, calcium is necessary for much more than strong bones and teeth. Calcium is found in dark green vegetables.
Chloride
Chloride is a major mineral that your body needs to make digestive juices and to keep body fluids balanced. Chloride is found in salt and many vegetables, including celery and tomatoes.

 

Magnesium
Magnesium is important for many biochemical functions such as proper function of nerves, muscles, build and strengthen bones. It’s found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and dark green vegetables.
Potassium
Potassium is important for nervous system function, muscle contraction and fluid balance in the body. Potassium is found in fruits and vegetables such as potatoes.

 

Phosphorus
Phosphous is important for bone growth, energy production and normal cell membranes. Foods that are high in protein such as legumes, nuts, and seeds are high in phosphorus.
Sulphur
Your body needs sulphur for a healthy hair, skin and nails, it also helps maintain oxygen balance for proper brain function. Sulphur is found in Garlic, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, legumes, asparagus, dried beans, nuts, chives.

 

Sodium
Your body needs sodium to maintain fluid balance and blood pressure. Sodium is found in many foods, but the best known source is salt.