Tag Archives: vitamins

All About Antioxidants

You have probably heard about antioxidants, the ‘super foods’ that contain them and a little bit about what they are meant to do.  The information out there can be confusing, and it’s important to know what antioxidants can do, might do, and won’t do, and what foods can provide you with the levels and types of antioxidants you need.  Below you’ll find all the basic information you need to make an educated decision about how, and how much, of each antioxidant you need every day.

An antioxidant is a molecule that slows the process of oxidation in other molecules.  Oxidation turns molecules into free radicals during the process of breaking down food, but also in response to exposure to tobacco or radiation.  Once molecules have been oxidized into free radicals, they start chain reactions which result in damage or death to cells.  Oxidation damage to cells often plays a major role in causing diseases and also in their progress.  Antioxidants, coming from the Latin meaning no oxidation, work to neutralize free radicals in our bodies.

By neutralizing some of the effects of free radicals in our bodies, antioxidants can boost our immune systems by helping prevent colds and flu.  Scientific evidence has also shown that antioxidants may play a part in preventing or controlling cancer symptoms, but to this point the conclusions have been inconsistent.  This doesn’t mean, however, you can skip out of the vitamins and minerals that make up the class of antioxidants.

Antioxidants come from lots of foods that are part of a healthy diet, including some of those antioxidant ‘super foods’ you may have heard of.  Types of antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and Vitamins A, C and E.  On the long list of foods rich in these antioxidants are blue berries, carrots, squash, spinach, tomatoes, apricots, sweet potatoes, almonds and broccoli.  Other antioxidants that might help boost your immune system include vitamins zinc and selenium.  These vitamins can be found in oysters, dairy products, whole grains and seafood.

As you can imagine from the short list above, it’s easy to get all the antioxidants you need from a regular, healthy, diet.  If you choose to take an antioxidant or mineral supplement such as a multivitamin containing them, be aware that too much of either Vitamin A or E (or  both) can be toxic. Want to know if you’re getting what you need from your diet?  Ask us!  Email at Info@FitNicePT.com

A Balanced Diet Part V: Meat, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs and Nuts

Is the name of this group enough to get you interested?  With so many choices out there for protein sources, it can be challenging to know what the best ones are.  Foods in this group include beef, pork, venison, chicken, duck, flounder, tuna, lima beans, pinto beans, shellfish, peanut butter, and almonds.  Wow.  Not only does this group contain a wide variety of choices, it provides a long list of healthy body benefits.

Nutrients pulled from the protein group range from, as expected, protein, which is also found in fats and carbohydrates and provides calories for energy, to iron, which carries oxygen to the blood.  The antioxidant Vitamin E, zinc that helps the immune system function and magnesium for building bones are all found in meat, poultry and fish.  Elements in each of the foods in this group are also the building blocks for muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, integral enzymes and hormones.  Omega-3 fatty acids are present in seafood, and 8 ounces of fish per week may help prevent heart disease.  The risk of potential heavy metal poisoning from consuming certain fish species frequently is greatly outweighed by the benefits of omega-3s.  Nuts and seeds are a high calorie food great for snacks.  They also aid in reducing the risk of heart disease, though it is important to limit sodium intake by eating unsalted nuts.

Making the right meat, poultry and fish choices is hard, so here are some tips for getting the best you can:  Cholesterol is only found in animal source foods, and fatty meats contains lots of low density lipids (LDL), or bad cholesterol.  LDL is a root cause of coronary heart disease risk, so choose lean meats and cut excess fat off before cooking.  Eliminate excess cooked fat by draining during cooking, limiting breading, and using low fat sauces and gravies.  Vary your lean meat choices, while mixing in fish at least twice per week.  Skip the egg yolks, take them out of hard boiled eggs, separate them from cooked eggs or purchase premade egg whites since yolks contain plenty of LDL as well.  Eating lots of fat usually leads to an excess consumption of calories, and that means extra time at the gym to maintain or lose weight.  Be sure to read labels, and know processed meats often contain excess sodium and more fat than raw foods.

After you’ve picked the right foods, you should consume between 5 and 6 ounce equivalents per day in the protein group, and the amount should be increased in proportion with activity.  One ounce of meat, poultry or fish, one egg, one tablespoon of peanut butter, ½ ounce of nuts, ¼ cup cooked beans or ¼ cup cooked peas all count as one ounce equivalents.  When preparing raw protein group foods, be sure to separate raw food from what is already cooked.  Thawing meats, poultry and seafood should occur quickly, in a microwave or by submerging in cool water.  After thawing raw meat or poultry, it should not be washed, but any and all cooking utensils, cutting boards and pans should be cleaned with hot, soapy water between each food item it touches.  A great way to avoid consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry and eggs, which can carry salmonella, E. coli and other nasty food borne illnesses, is to use a meat thermometer.  After cooking, protein group foods should be chilled or frozen promptly.

Vegetarians can get enough protein from non-meat, poultry or seafood choices in this group, but vegetarian diet will be addressed entirely in its own segment.  For more information on the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts and Seeds Group, visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/protein-foods.html.  Be sure to stay tuned for next week’s segment, A Balanced Diet Part VI: Milk, Yogurt and Cheese!

A Balanced Diet Part I

The human body needs six kinds of nutrients to function properly, so knowing what they are and how they work is important to having a balanced diet.  In this segment, we’ll go over each of the six nutrient types, explaining what they are and how they work.  In the upcoming weeks, we’ll learn about each food group, what to eat, how much, and how often, so by the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to hit the grocery store armed with plenty of knowledge to ensure healthy choices.

Carbohydrates.  These are the body’s energy.  Carbs supply simple glucose, and without it, your brain can’t function properly.  You need lots of carbs for day to day life but be careful not to over indulge.  Each gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories, so if the expenditure of carbohydrates is less than the intake, weight gain is inevitable.  Carbohydrates are found in bread, beans, potatoes and corn, with the most common types being sugars, fibers and starches.

Protein.  Proteins, like carbohydrates, contain 4 calories per gram.  While protein can be used as a source of energy, the human body uses them primarily for moving nutrients through the body, keeping the immune system up and running properly.  Proteins help grow and rebuild muscle, maintain fluid balance, and catalyze the reactions essential to life.

Fats.  Fats contain 9 calories per gram, and as a result, are a great source of energy.  Fats also help the body absorb vitamins while providing insulation and cushion to internal organs.  There are two major types of naturally occurring fatty acids, saturated, with each molecule covered in hydrogen atoms, and monounsaturated, when each molecule has only one hydrogen atom.  Saturated fats, found in meat and dairy products, can lead to high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke if over-consumed.  Monounsaturated fats, found in nuts, whole grain wheat, avocados and popcorn, have been said to reduce a person’s risk for heart disease.  Both saturated and monounsaturated fats are essential to life.  Trans fats are not naturally occurring, never saturated, and are not essential for life.  Trans fats have been proven to increase bad cholesterol (LDL), lower good (HDL) and raise the risk of heart disease.  Trans fats are found mostly in junk and fast food.

Vitamins.  Vitamins are made from plants and animals, and each of the 13 (A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, C, D, E and K) is something your body needs.  They are necessary for normal metabolism and since the human body does not produce them, vitamins must be acquired through diet or supplements.

Minerals.  Minerals, including selenium, zinc, and calcium, allow your body to get the energy out of carbohydrates and also promote good immune functioning.

Water.  Sure, water sounds simple.  You can go for weeks without eating, without eater, you’ll last only a few days.  Water is the universal solvent and provides the basis for chemical reactions to take place.  It also helps maintain body temperature and lubricate joints.

Stay tuned next week when we start learning about Food Groups with Grains.