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Eating a balanced diet is essential to having good health.  In normal, healthy individuals there is a desire for food and for great tasting food, sometimes in larger quantities than should be consumed.  Food provides nutrition, and it takes very wise decisions daily for balanced meals. 

Our bodies need food materials to keep our body processes regular.  There are fatty acids in certain minerals, vitamins, water, and proteins that perform certain regulatory functions for our bodies.  These functions include making fluids move in our body, controlling the acid and base, the coagulation of blood, activation of enzymes, and maintaining body temperature.  Our cells and tissue need body-building nutrition: proteins, water, and minerals.  We need foods that supply our energy (energy nutrients), and these include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  Our main source of energy is the carbohydrate. 

Carbohydrates are our chief source of nutriment as they all contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.  Most carbohydrate foods are also inexpensive and readily available.  If you eat too few carbohydrates, then you may have fatigue, depression, and a breakdown of body protein for energy.  The proportion of carbohydrates in a food depends on the water content of the sample.  Milk, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruits have a high water content and therefore have less than l00 grams per sample.  When you eat dried fruits, the sugar is more concentrated and therefore greater on a weight-for-weight basis than in fresh fruits. 

The main dietary carbohydrates that we obtain from cereals and potatoes, for example, are starches, whereas the main dietary carbohydrates in dried fruits and sweeteners are sugars.  Baked goods and beer, with both grain and sugar components, are intermediate. 

As your body metabolizes carbohydrates, it forms glucose.  Glucose is measured in the body as blood sugar and is "burned" as fuel by the tissues in your body.  Some is converted to glycogen and stored for later use.  There are two primary types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.  Simple carbohydrate include cane and beet sugar, dextrose, and the sugars in fruits and milk.  The complex carbohydrates, so called because of their elaborate chemical structures, are potatoes, rice, grains, breakfast cereals, pasta, bread, and beans.  Complex carbohydrates are often found in foods that provide significant amounts of fiber.  These contain a lower concentration of sugars and fat; thus, they do not provide more calories than you need.  It is recommended that you get about 55 to 60 percent calories from complex carbohydrates.  This will mean that at least half of every meal and snack should be complex carbohydrate foods. 

To get the most out of your carbohydrates, choose whole grain breads instead of white and enriched grain products.  Either eliminate or reduce the use of high-fat condiments with your carbohydrates, including margarine, sour cream, butter, cream sauces, most salad dressings, and gravy.  Remember that carbohydrates themselves are low in calories; it is what you put on them that adds to your waistline.  Eat less and reduce your intake of alcohol, simple sugars, and processed foods with high sugar content because they will add no nutrients to your body, only calories. 

Take a careful look at fatty foods such as hamburgers, French fries, and ice cream.  Fat contributes more to weight than sugar.  An ounce of fat has 255 calories; an ounce of protein has only 113.  Fat has twice as many calories as lean meat.  Fat appears in different forms.  One is triglyceride--the chemical name for fat—, which appears in two forms, saturated, and unsaturated fats.  Most food fats are a combination of different triglycerides.  Saturated fat includes any fat that can become solid at room temperature, such as fat on meat, palm and coconut oils, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and all animal fats.  Unsaturated fats are those that contain one, two, or more double bonds between carbon actions.  They are monounsaturated fatty acids, which are found in olive, cottonseed, avocado, peanut oils, or polyunsaturated fatty acids found in soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn, or flaxseeds oils.  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil means that the product contains more saturated fat than if it were made with just plain vegetable oil.  Fat modified products are not necessarily low fat or low-calorie.  It is believed that an individual should have less than l0 percent of the fat allowance from saturated fats, less the 10 percent should come from polyunsaturated fats, and the remaining should come from monounsaturated fats. 

Cholesterol is essential to your body and is a fat-like substance and blood lipid that your liver synthesizes in amounts that will meet the body’s needs.  It is a component of hormones and cell membranes that helps control permeability.  It is recommended that an individual eat less fat, especially saturated fats.  If the intake of saturated fats is reduced, your cholesterol level will also decrease, only if you reduce the intake of animal products in your diet.  Keeping your cholesterol through a healthy nutritional diet daily to 300 mg; eating low fat dairy products; and cutting down on fried foods, pastries, egg yolk, certain shellfish, and organ meats will make you healthier.  You will reduce your chances of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer, and heart disease by 20% by just limiting your fats to 30 percent of your daily calorie intake and by keeping saturated fats to less than 10 percent daily. 

Protein is necessary for good health because it provides growth and repairs body tissues, including muscles, blood, skin, hormones, enzymes, and internal organs.  When your diet is not sufficient in fats or carbohydrates, protein consumed will become a source of energy.  A healthy body needs 22 amino acids.  Foods that contain the needed amino acids are meat and dairy products and are known as complete proteins.  Vegetables and grains are considered incomplete proteins.  To ensure your daily need for zinc, iron, and other minerals packaged in protein foods, it is recommended that you have two or more servings, 2 to 3 ounces each, of protein foods every day.  The recommended daily allowance is 0. 8 grams per kg of ideal body weight for adults.  Too much protein can cause stress on your kidneys and liver.  It is wise to eat meatless (and cheese less) meals a few times each week.  Many vegetables, rice, beans, pasta, and bread have plenty of proteins.  Try eating portions of animal protein about the size of the palm of your hand or the size of a playing card as only two servings a day and eat it less often than usual.  Don't think you can cut down on protein to lose weight or even to save money because you could become protein deficient and this could affect all of your body processes.  It can also lead to problems of coping with stress, the inability to fight infection, and impair your ability to function. 

Your body needs vitamins, which are very important to convert your food into energy so you will grow, maintain your body, and keep it functional.  If you eat a well-balanced diet including whole-grain breads, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables, you're probably getting most of the necessary vitamins and minerals. 

Minerals are inorganic substances that are essential for the metabolic processes in the body.  They act as catalysts for the major body processes, and their actions are interrelated.  The major minerals include, molybdenum, zinc, cobalt, calcium, and manganese.  If you don't get enough minerals in your body, you can create a deficiency and become ill.  To get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals necessary daily in your diet, eat at least one citrus fruit or one serving of potato, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, or strawberries and also one fresh yellow vegetable or fruit and one green one; the darker in color the better. 

Water is the primary component of your body because your body contains between 40 and 50 quarts of water; even your brain is 74 percent water.  It is just essential for nutrient digestion, distribution, body cooling, joint and membrane lubrication, waste disposal, and fighting disease.  If you want your body to perform effectively, you need to be well hydrated.  It is wise to drink six to eight glasses of water daily. 

Fiber is essential for proper diet and nutrition.  If you eat plenty of whole grains, seeds, fresh raw vegetables, or beans, you not only will lose weight or maintain your weight, but your heart and gastrointestinal tract will be healthy.  Studies have shown that having enough fiber in your diet reduces the risk of degenerative diseases and certain cancer.  It is wise to eat foods like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts.  Most high-fiber foods will have a low calorie density so you can eat lots of them, yet you won’t be consuming many calories.  Fiber slows down the rate of food digestion so your blood sugar doesn't rise.  Eat all of the mentioned foods with your meals or even as snacks, and you will keep your fiber intake at a healthy level. 

Read those nutritional labels on the side panels of packaged foods, no matter what foods you are buying.  The nutritional content shows the amount of protein, carbohydrates, calories, fat, and even sodium for a serving size.  To evaluate the nutritional content, look at the serving size and follow that size. 

Limit your salt intake because too much sodium can increase the risk of high blood pressure, strokes, brain damage, heart attacks, fluid retention, kidney problems, and also premenstrual syndrome.  It can also damage your stomach lining and cause severe gastritis.  A low sodium diet can improve any of these conditions.  To limit your salt intake, always taste your food before adding salt; when cooking, add little or no salt, and try not to use as much. 

Sugar lacks the vitamins and minerals you need to metabolize it.  Too much sugar leaves you with a vitamin deficiency that reduces your ability to maintain a healthy nervous system or even to fight stress.  You should keep your sugar at only 10 percent to consider your diet healthy.  Be aware of the sugar content of foods such as sodas, condiments, ice cream, most yogurts, packaged foods, etc.  Reduce the amount of sugar you add to foods. 

Above all, when it is possible, choose simple, unprocessed food such as making your own popcorn and eating fresh meats instead of packaged cold cuts or meats.  Read those labels before you purchase foods. 

Caffeine needs to be limited daily.  Excessive caffeine will actually rob your body of nutrients, add stress, and will disturb your sleep cycle.  You will also secrete more water-soluble nutrients that your body needs and could even have irritating excess enzymes and gastric acid. 

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