Thursday, December 27, 2012

4. A Few Definitions for Nutrition

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“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6

We have all heard many nutrition terms floating around. I thought it might be a good place to start by defining some of them.

Energy for cars is measured in miles-per-gallon.
Energy for your lights is measured in kilowatt hours.
Energy for your body is measured in CALORIES. A calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise one centiliter of water one degree Celsius. There are four sources for calories; carbohydrates, protein, fats and alcohol.

A GRAM is the weight of water in one square centimeter (A square centimeter is about half the size of the last joint of your pinky).

CARBOHYDRATES and PROTEINS have four calories per gram. FAT has nine calories per gram, and ALCOHOL has seven calories per gram.

Each kind of energy source is used differently by the body.

CARBOHYDRATES are fuel for the muscles. Your body turns carbs into energy quickly and efficiently to use to make you go. There are two different kinds of carbs, simple and complex.

Simple carbs have a simpler molecular structure, while the complex carbs are, uhh, more complex (more atoms per molecule arranged in a more complex pattern.)

The simple carbs digest almost instantly giving you a fast energy boost, but run out just as quickly, leaving you feeling kind of like you are riding a roller coaster; up and down, up and down.

Complex carbs take longer to digest, but longer to run out also and give a more even energy level.

Simple carbs are sugar, honey (though it digests slower than sugar), all syrups, and fruit juices.

Complex carbs are whole fruits, vegetables, breads, grains, and legumes (beans). Beans belong in both the carb and protein groups.

If you eat more carbs than your body uses within a couple of hours, your body will convert them into fat to save for later (fat saved in bubbles on the hips and thighs is often called cellulite. It is no different chemically than any other fat, just uglier and more noticeable).

High carb diets (Heart Smart, Susan Powter, etc) work because you severely limit fats and fats have more calories per gram than carbs do. Also, the high fiber content of unrefined carb foods make you feel fuller without adding calories. You can eat a little more by weight and still come out ahead. They don't work because carbs tend to not be very filling when they are the least bit processed. They digest faster than protein or fat making you hungry sooner, and the processed ones can be quite addictive causing you to eat way more than you really want much less need.

FAT is used directly by the body to run the brain and can be converted into muscle energy. Fat digests slowly, coating your stomach making you feel fuller faster. This is why Atkins, which doesn't limit fat, can work for some people. They feel fuller faster, stay full longer, and eat less in the long run. The higher calories per gram and lovely textures are why it is easy to over-eat on fats.

PROTEIN can be transferred into either muscle or brain fuel easily, so if you feel down and eat some protein you will get the boost where you are needing it most, whether in your muscles or your brain. Proteins are also used to build muscles, so if you exercise you need to eat protein to get the full effect.

FIBER comes in two forms; soluble and insoluble. Neither actually has calories, though they accompany unrefined carb calories (but not protein or fat).

The soluble ones dissolve in your tummy and are absorbed by your blood and carried throughout your system. They act like a broom or scrub brush cleaning out your arteries.

Insoluble fibers don't dissolve in your tummy. They go straight through, which is a very good thing because they act like brooms in your intestines pulling waste products out with them.

Those who eat diets high in both kinds of fiber have less digestive diseases (constipation, Irritable Bowl Syndrome, Colon Cancer, Diverticulitis) and less heart disease and Diabetes.

Refined carbs (white flour, white rice, all simple carbs) have had the fiber removed or never had any in the first place. If you want to see what they do to your intestines, just take a slice of white bread and get it wet. See how gooey and pasty it is? That stays in your intestines unless some fiber comes along and sweeps it out.

METABOLISM is the rate your body burns fuels (the equivalent of miles-per-gallon in your car). Some of us unlucky people have very efficient metabolisms. Our bodies need very little fuel to run on, yet our appetites and nutritional needs are as big as anyone else's.

Dieting (starving) slows our metabolism down even more (a God-designed mechanism to keep people from starving to death in a famine). Exercising speeds it up.

STRESS is the condition of the body produced by the “Fight or Flight” reflex. Americans live a high stress lifestyle. We are in a constant state of high alert, ready to “conquer the enemy.” Unfortunately, this constant stress wears our systems out making us sick and vulnerable to disease.

VITAMINS are organic compounds required in tiny amounts by our bodies. The word vitamin is derived from the Latin “vita” which means “to live.” They were available solely from food until just very recently. They were given an alphabet letter as well as a scientific name (Thiamin is vitamin B1 for example) when discovered. We manufacture some vitamins in our own system and some we must ingest.

MINERALS are inorganic compounds required by our bodies. They occur naturally in our dirt and are transferred to us through the foods we eat. We can also take supplements now.

(See the appendix for details on each vitamin and mineral.)

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