REAL, FRUGAL, HEALTHY, and FUN!!!
It’s Saturday Recap time again. I’m excited about this section. It’s on nutrition. I’ve mentioned before that I got my bachelor’s in nutrition. It’s a topic I love. Hopefully, I’m able to share this basic bit of information about nutrition with you, and capture you’re interests to learn more about it.
If you’re not familiar, 1 gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories, 1 gram of protein is also 4 calories, 1 gram of fat is 9 calories, and just to cap it off, we’ll add that a gram of alcohol is 7. For this posts purposes, we’re just going to focus on carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are your macronutrients, meaning they are nutrients your body needs a lot of, as opposed to vitamins and minerals, which are referred to as micronutrients because your body only needs small amounts of them.
Carbohydrates are your body’s easiest energy source. If more carbs are taken in than are needed for energy, they are stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles. If the more carbs are taken in than can even be stored as glycogen, they are converted to fat for long-term storage. Have you ever seen those shows about extreme couponers? They’re able to buy a heck of a lot of food for almost no money at all. Anyway, when they get home from the grocery store with all of the food they’ve bought, they fill their pantry with food. Once their pantry is full, they fill their food storage room. Once the food storage room is full they start tucking away the excess food they bought wherever they can find a place. I’ve seen a show where there were cereal boxes and canned foods stored under the kids’ beds. It’s the exact same thing with carbohydrates. The body will first fill it’s kitchen pantry, then it’s food storage room, and then it’s forced to find places it can use for long-term storage. Of course in the body’s case it’s immediate energy, then glycogen, and then fat stores.
Proteins can be used for energy, but they are needed for so many other things, using them for energy is really just a backup plan. Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. They help form the brain, nervous system, blood, muscle, skin and hair. Proteins help make antibodies to fight infection.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Some amino acids can be produced by the body. Some amino acids cannot. Amino acids which cannot be produced by the body are referred to as essential amino acids. A protein is considered complete if it contains all of the essential amino acids. Most animal proteins are considered complete, but plant proteins are typically incomplete. Plant proteins can be consumed with other plant proteins that have the essential amino acids to complete them in order to be complete. This could mean eating grains with legumes or grains with dairy. Another option would be legumes and seeds.
Fats are full of energy. Gram for gram, your body can get more energy out of fat than it can from carbohydrates. Hence the higher calories in a gram of fat. Dietary fat does not mean body fat. It means fat you eat, not necessarily fat you wear. It does so many wonderful things for your body. It’s too bad it has such a bad rap. It helps insulate the body, contributes to cell structure, nerve transmission, vitamin absorption, and hormone production.
Like proteins, there are some fats that are needed by the body that it cannot produce. They are referred to as essential fatty acids. Your omega-3’s (egg yolk, cold-water fish, and shellfish) and omega-6’s (flaxseed, canola, soybean oils, and green leaves) are considered essential fatty acids because your body cannot produce them.
Trans fats are across the board bad. They don’t benefit you. They just clog your arteries and increase bad cholesterol. A lot of food labels refer to them as “partially hydrogenated oil.” If you see that on a food label, just walk away. Trans fats are the result of manufacturers tampering with natural fats, trying to make unsaturated fat solid at room temperature.
We can’t really talk about fats without at least touching on cholesterol. Cholesterol is typically referred to in a negative way. Did you know cholesterol actually contributes to cell membrane function, though? It also helps make bile acids, which helps with fat absorption. Cholesterol also helps metabolize fat-soluble vitamins and contributes to the production of estrogen and testosterone. The problem with cholesterol occurs when there is too much of it in the bloodstream. When traveling through the bloodstream, it needs a water soluble protein to attach to it. While it’s attached to this protein, it’s referred to as LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is often thought of as the bad cholesterol. It’s thought to be bad because as it’s moving through the bloodstream, it has a tendency to get stuck and cause plaque buildup in the arteries. HDL is considered the good cholesterol because it goes through and cleans out the buildup of LDL, brings it back to the liver , and from there it gets excreted.