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The Basics Of Nutrition

What is nutrition?

Nutrition starts with eating food and drinking drink. The body then breaks down the food and drink into its respective nutrients. These nutrients then travel around the body to be used wherever necessary. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose or fuel for the body, protein is broken down into amino acids and fats are broken down into fatty acids. For a person to be healthy, a person must eat enough food to get a good supply of all the key nutrients.

There is a set of guidelines that the government publishes for 20 or so different vitamins, minerals and nutrients and those values are based on population studies, where they go out and look at the health of the general population and consider what people consume on a regular basis.

Is good nutrition based on certain food stuffs?

Nutrition is based on getting all the right balance of nutrients necessary for good health. A food stuff is a raw material that can be made into a food. Only eating particular foods or foods stuffs will not help you be healthier.

What is the difference between nutrients and food stuffs?

In the big picture, there is no difference between the two. You can look at anything that provides nutrients to the body like carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Food in general is just a carrier for nutrients. For example, take a loaf of bread – it has starch in it and protein and non-fat dry milk, the non-fat dry milk also contains lactose. It will also contain a high amount of minerals. The non-fat dry milk will contain casein, which is a non-fat milk protein. When you eat food, you break down the food to get nutrients for the body.

How does one go about breaking years and years of bad eating habits? What is the starting point for someone who wants to start eating healthier?

If there were an easy answer to the question we wouldn’t have the problems we have today like obesity. Right now in the US 60% of the population has a weight problem. “Morbidly Obese” is clinically defined as being 100 pounds or more overweight. In our population, the number of people being morbidly obese is increasing year after year.

Changing a person’s perception of food starts at an early age. You can show a person in black and white what foods are good for them and what isn’t and it pretty much comes down to a conscious decision to consume healthy foods or not.

It certainly helps to have a mentor or life coach or fitness trainer or just a friend where there is some kind of relationship when it comes to dealing with eating healthily.

The fact is that you need support and one of the reasons there are so many weight loss programs is that they do something a little different, they have meetings and people get together and support each other.

When you gauge how much weight people lose on weight loss programs like Optifast or Atkins and whether they keep it off, all of those people probably within a 5 year period have gained all that weight back because they have lost their support group.

It speaks volumes to me that if people are going to lose weight and keep it off they need a support group. You should not be on a diet to lose weight, you need to be making a lifestyle change.

It means finding new ways of eating and develop new habits even for your everyday activities so that the new way you are eating becomes your new lifestyle.

The Best Way To Change Bad Eating Habits

The best way to change your bad eating habits is to do it very slowly. If you try to change everything all at once, it will seem too hard to maintain. Try changing one thing at a time. For example, perhaps you like a morning cappuccino. Decide to stop drinking your morning cappuccino and drink bottled water instead. Don’t change anything else about your eating habits until you feel totally comfortable about that dietary change. Then move on to something else, like healthy snacks. Instead of that chocolate energy bar, pack a piece of fruit and a small tub of yogurt. Essentially fruit is natures snack food, it’s also cheaper.

Once you’re comfortable with this change, then move onto something else. You get the picture. When you’ve got your diet sorted out, then you can move on to getting some exercise into your lifestyle.

So it doesn’t have to be an abrupt change you just need to understand more about what you are eating and what the energy value is and the nutrient value of the foods you are consuming, and make slow but sure changes to your lifestyle.

Why do you think overweight children come from families with parents who are also overweight?

In a way it is endorsement to the children that their eating habits and lifestyle habits are acceptable. Just like any of us what better role models than your parents. If they snack and eat unhealthily then the children will as well.

However having said this, there are other considerations to take into account. For example there is some tentative evidence that people who are obese are genetically pre-disposed to it. So if this were the case, these families may have an underlying reason for their weight problems. This does not necessarily mean that there is nothing that they can do to lose weight. Families who may have these genes who eat eat wisely and exercise will be showing their children how to eat, how much fun it is to exercise, and can maintain normal weights. So while genes don’t excuse bad lifestyle choices, it may be a reason why they are more likely to become overweight.

Are much of our lifestyle habits linked to emotions?

Sure. Emotions and stress - all those things get factored into it. Everybody has times of emotional need.

I know from watching myself. When I get depressed and overworked, I lose sleep because I’m trying to get work done, or something has happened that I feel bad about. When I get into these situations, I definitely end up simply eating more than I would have normally, partly to try and make myself feel better and partly because I’m so tired, that my body is craving more energy (food).

The way to avoid allowing yourself to be controlled by emotional eating is knowing what to eat, how much to eat, what is healthy and maintaining enough down time and sleep. These all factor into just having a healthy lifestyle.

Diet and Nutrition 

So what is a calorie (cal)? What is a kilocalorie(Kcal) ?

I will keep it pretty simple. A calorie is the amount of heat that is required to raise one cubic centimeter of water one degree. A kilocalorie is the amount of heat that is required to raise one kilogram of water one degree. You can see more information on calories and kilocalories here.

How about a carbohydrate, what is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrates are made up of carbon and water. Atoms of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen form carbohydrate compounds such as sugar and starch. There are five types of carbohydrate sugars, glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose and lactose. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and in fact your brain needs a constant supply of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by the body and as you may know, is absorbed into the blood stream. It can also be stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen.

You need about 40 – 50 per cent of your diet to be made up of carbohydrates for good health.

What are fats and protein?

A fat is a waxy, oily substance and is essential for good health. Fat has double the amount of calories and so poses a problem to individuals who find it difficult to exercise.

If you break down a fat you break it down into something called a fatty acid and glycerol.

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids and are necessary for your body to build enzymes, antibodies and haemoglobin. When you eat protein, your body breaks the protein down into amino acids and then tries to re-assemble them into other configurations to make other needed proteins for use around the body.

Carbohydrates, fats and protein can all be broken down into smaller units.

Each one of those macronutrients can be sub-divided. In the case of proteins, proteins are made up of amino acids. Not all proteins have the eight essential amino acids that the body needs. If you are consuming protein and you miss out the essential ones for long periods of time, you are putting yourself at risk of becoming malnourished. In some cultures around the world where food isn’t so plentiful, children can become malnourished and develop diseases such as Kwashiorkor. The children have the distended tummies, however the rest of their bodies are fine, this unfortunately is caused by a protein deficiency.

Scientists can actually measure the quality of nutrients that people are getting. People will volunteer to be involved in a clinical feeding trial and they will hook these people up to all kinds of measuring devices to measure everything from body temperature to how much moisture they exhale.

They weigh and eliminate brine in their feces and record everything they can about these patients. They will feed these people a controlled diet – controlling the amount of protein consumed. They can measure how much is excreted, how much weight a person gains and basically they can determine how much of that protein is utilized by the body.

When they do that they can determine the quality of the protein and the amino acids that makes up the protein. They can determine how well the body absorbs protein and assign a number value to the protein as to how well it is absorbed.

Some proteins are absorbed extremely well, an example would be egg albumin, which is a protein found in the white of an egg rather than the yolk. The egg white protein has an extremely high biological availability and all of the essential amino acids in the right balance.

Gelatin though has many of the essential amino acids however does not have an amino acid called tryptophan and because it is lacking - it isn’t considered a complete form of protein. If it is combined with other sources of protein it is okay.

The bottom line is if you are looking at carbohydrates, fat or protein, it is important to look at the composition of them. You can read the declarations of the food labels. Often snack foods will contain inefficient protein, or protein that does not contain all the essential amino acids.

It is important to know that all carbohydrates, fat and proteins are made up of these building blocks and it is important to know to have a balance of all of these building blocks for good health.

Is it true that you can eat more and lose weight by combining different foods?

No. People say that there are certain foods that take more calories to burn than they provide or that certain food items are going to cause more calories to be burned. It is a misconception and I can fully understand why people think the way they do.

People don’t want to put the time and the energy or the money into losing weight. It is a lot of work. People want to lose weight and they know that some of the food they eat is unhealthy and they don’t want to put the time and energy into changing things.

It takes planning and time. Instead of visiting the fast food restaurant on the corner on the way home you go to the produce aisle in the grocery store. It might take you a little more time and cost you a little more money but it’s worth it.

You know the fast food restaurants super size everything. The artists and executives that design the ads know that our mentality is that the more food we can get for our buck, the better we are going to like it. It wasn’t so long ago that you would go in and order a pop and you would get 8 oz or 12 oz and now it’s not uncommon to get 24 or 36oz because they super size everything.

Tell me are there any specific foods that burn fat?

No. Basically, if you want to burn fat or lose or maintain your weight everything comes down to energy balance.

Researchers are constantly looking for foods that could burn fat. Some of them concentrate on milk and dairy products that have been theorized to burn fat through increasing inadequate calcium intake. Some concentrate on finding a specific diet that will burn fat like a high protein diet. While there is evidence for and against – it has never been proven beyond a doubt that there is any one type of food or type of eating that can burn fat. When it comes down to it, it is a marketing myth that just got so large that everyone started to talk about it, and pretty soon, people started to believe that food could burn fat.

In reality food provides energy and nutrients, but cannot burn fat. You can read more at the website about this subject at Savvy Fat Burning Food.

Then what should we be counting? Should we be counting calories, carbohydrates or fat?

If you look at carbohydrates and fat, it is the same scenario. Each gram of carbohydrates contains 16 kcal of energy, while fat contains 37 kcal of energy. This is why watching how much fat you’re eating is so important. It is almost twice that of protein and carbohydrates.

Much of the research on low carb diets such as the Atkins diet found that people lost more weight initially and that the diet was more effective than the other diets. Research has also found that people who are on high protein diets also experience higher satiety levels, that is, they are not as hungry. One of the main reasons that low carb diets induce weight loss is because of the simple fact that they are just consuming less calories, but more protein and fat than carbohydrates.

What it seems to boil down to is that some low carb diets restrict your intake to mainly fat and protein, by eliminating carbohydrates from the diet. This has the effect of taking away so many of the food choices that are available, as well as vital nutrients that your body needs.

You know, even lovers of protein and fat, find that the variety and choices are taken away and what you are actually doing is actually limiting your caloric intake. So it works initially and that is one of the reasons why people are so attracted to it.

The fact is however that 95% of diets fail and what it really comes down to is if you want to lose weight, lifestyle change is the only way. A diet is only temporary, you go on it and you lose weight.

But what are you going to do eventually? You are going to go off it.

In my definition, that is not a lifestyle change that is a temporary fix. That is human nature. You go on the diet and eventually you are going to go off it and revert back to your old eating habits and gain the weight back.

It all comes down to understanding a little bit more about the foods that you are eating and a choice to make a lifestyle change. Also almost all of these diet plans introduce a new way of eating, a way that is abnormal to the way that you are used to eating and we are creatures of habit and we like the foods that we are used to.

Because we are creatures of habit we don’t adapt very well to changes like that. We can go on it for a while and because it is so abnormal it just doesn’t fit. It all comes down to the fact that you have to make a decision that you are going to change the way you eat.

One of the things that I have noticed is that if you do something as simple as go out and walk 15 minutes a day, it will be easier for you not to be tempted by unhealthy food. The healthier your lifestyle choices, the easier it will be to stick to your healthy food choices.

It’s almost like the unhealthy choices don’t fit anymore. They are incompatible with the healthy choices. You know, I have quoted that adage that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Well it’s almost the same applied to health and nutrition.

As I kick around health and nutrition with people that are into it like I am, I find that if you do exercise and have more muscle mass you burn more calories when you are at rest. Lean muscle mass has a higher metabolic requirement. When you are just sitting around doing nothing and your body has more lean muscle mass you are going to burn more calories than if your body contains fatty tissue.

It’s kind of a cruel injustice but the fitter you get even at rest, you are burning more calories.

What about alcohol? First they say that one drink is okay or two drinks are okay and now they say it’s just red wine.

Red wine may be preferred because of the antioxidants that you get and the other chemicals that come along with the wine. Obviously there is something in the red wine as opposed to the white that makes it more beneficial.

Alcohol is the second highest source of calories, behind fat. The higher the level of alcohol in the beverage the higher the caloric intake is. One gram of alcohol supplies 29 kcal’s. It isn’t as high as fat but not as low as protein and carbohydrates.

There are other aspects of that to think about, if you are trying to lose weight you need to question whether you need the extra calories. There are many other beverages that would provide many more nutrients. If you are trying to lose weight you need to question whether or not you need those extra calories from something that basically has no nutritional value. I would tend to be more negative about consuming alcohol because, besides the dangers of alcoholism, there is the obvious danger of drinking too much and consuming way too many calories.

So I am not an advocate of drinking alcohol because it has no nutritional value or health value, particularly because any nutritional benefit that you can get from alcohol, can also be found elsewhere in our food.

What is a well balanced diet and How Do I Get One ?

Following the food pyramid is a good place to start and maybe it’s a good place to end for some people. If you take all the food somebody eats at the end of the week and then add them all up and how much variety there was, you will find that there really wasn’t that much variety.

People generally have a dozen foods they like to eat and they will end up eating the same foods day after day for most of their life and that is where you run into problems. You get stuck in a rut and fail to incorporate a vast variety into your diet and fail to get the nutritional balance that you should be getting.

If you know nothing about food but incorporate a lot of variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, cereals, dairy, protein sources, small amount of “good” fats, and legumes and nuts into your diet the chances of your missing out on the right nutrients essential for good health are lowered.

When it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, some people like to use a diet out there called the Rainbow diet. It’s based on all the different colors of fruits and vegetables. So I will take purple grapes and onions and garlic and sprinkle some lettuce and if we have fresh strawberries I will add those to cantaloupe and really your imagination is your only limitation. Just basically add all your favorite fruits and vegetables and season it to taste. Mix it all up and you have an incorporation of all of that variety. You get all of the vitamins and the nutrients and the minerals that you need in just one meal instead of just ingesting one kind of food.

My point is the more variety you can get in your diet the greater the possibility that if you are lacking in something that you are going to get it. I am an advocate of getting variety in your diet. It all comes down to looking at your budget and having some knowledge of getting what you need and looking at the food labels.

With just a little bit of knowledge of how to read food labels and what you need you can make the right choices with the money that you have to work with.

Even the restaurants and the fast food chains are starting to offer more nutritious choices, likes salads. Subway is one that has really jumped on the bandwagon. You know the one with Jared standing there saying this deep fat fried sandwich contains 45 plus grams of fat and compare it to the subway sandwich.

I saw an interview where they were talking with the producer of Sesame Street and they were talking about the Cookie Monster and how it was presented inadvertently to get kids to eat more junk food and more cookies. Now they have repositioned that whole program to where they are starting to teach kids more about nutrition. I am hoping that one of the things that is happening is that there is increased awareness about nutrition and the obesity epidemic. Some people are just succumbing to obesity and the things that come with it like cancer and heart disease and diabetes. It’s good to see some positive changes taking place.

Why is it that we sometimes crave certain foods? Can it be that your body is sending you a message?

The theory is that people will have a craving for certain things that will provide a nutrient that is lacking.

In our culture I don’t think there is a metabolic reason for food cravings. You know if you are used to consuming sugary sweets and that is all you eat, your metabolism adapts and your body guides you to the foods you are used to consuming.

An example of that would be someone who has gone on a vegetarian diet and eliminated meat from their diet temporarily. Then they start to reintroduce meat and their stomach is upset. Their stomach is not used to digesting that kind of food. They have adapted to digesting just non-meat items. There are food digestive adaptations to the kinds of food that you eat. One would have to believe that those are the kinds of foods that you get used to.

Do we become hungry because our stomach is empty or is it because of something else?

That is a tricky question. There are people who have studied this and can boil it right down to all kinds of enzymes and mechanisms that kick into play, stimulating appetite or depressing appetite.

When I go out to exercise and I get back and sit down, I need to replenish my water intake. The next thing that I find is I find a combination of fruits to eat, primarily because they are made up of water, and sugar carbohydrates. But the digestive process is pretty rapid when it comes to breaking down sugars into glucose. I can consume a lot of fresh fruits and it doesn’t satisfy my hunger.

I will still have hunger pains because the digestion is completed so rapidly as opposed to protein, which takes longer. It almost seems like exercise can suppress appetite but I think you have to balance that whole idea with how much exercise you are doing and how many calories your body needs to replace and what kinds of food you are going to consume.

It is complex and is another whole area to think about as to why people are gaining weight, whether it is emotional or whether it is the amount of exercise they have done.

Everyone studying this issue, trying to help people lose weight, may have their own theories and their own recommendations. They all study it in a different way - some try to understand the psychology and some try to understand the nutritional aspects of it. If it was well understood, we probably wouldn’t be having the problems we are having today.

We have discussed foods in general, but what are “functional foods”?

It is a term that gets bantered about by people who are food scientists or food companies that are talking about different kinds of foods. Usually when they are talking about a functional food it is a food analog, which is a food that has been put together by a food manufacturer. It might also be called a nutraceutical. Functional foods can also be natural foods which have been found to be beneficial for a specific purpose.

Some companies manufacture internal tube feeding formulas for hospital use. The composition of the product contains all the nutrition in the right proportions for protein and amino acids plus fat with the right fatty acids and the right vitamins and minerals and you put all that together and it has a particular food functionality.

There are foods that are designed to resolve particular health problems. Let’s take something common like lactose intolerance, people have trouble digesting the lactose because they are missing an enzyme called lactaid. So an example of a functional food would be a food that was put together without any milk protein or lactose sugar. It functions with that person who is lactose intolerant. You can take that example and apply it to anyone else who has special feeding needs.

Does functional food convert differently into energy than normal food?

No, functional food behaves the same way as normal food as far as converting into energy. Functional foods are still broken down into their respective nutrients and provide energy, it’s just that their specific nutrients have been seen to be beneficial in certain areas for certain members of the population.

Nutrients decrease the risk of some diseases, is that correct? In other words you can’t eat a magic vegetable to cure cancer but you can eat certain nutrients that lend themselves to good health, can’t you?

There was one company who developed a “magic pill” that you could take to get all of your nutrients in the proper proportions that you needed for the day. They actually gave it to the astronauts but they had to take six of those a day. Each magic pill was the size of a softball.

The bottom line is there is no magic pill. It wasn’t until the 1940’s that we as a country started to put together nutritional requirements in relation to disease and when we started to establish the different recommendations.

Something that has always intrigued me is that if you do take that historical perspective and go back you find that in the early years there were just a few nutrients for which the recommended daily allowances were established and through the years, through the studies and the whole process of understanding we have continued to add to the list of things that are required. It hasn’t been until quite recently that we have learned about trace nutrients like selenium and things like that, that have recently been added to the list. Those levels continue to change as we learn more. One of the things that interest me is the addition to the list; it is almost a never-ending process. I always come back to the concept of nutrition and variety and not getting locked into a few fixed food items.

Just to clarify, in the most basic form what are the basic nutrients?

There are seven nutrients that your body just can’t live without. These are carbohydrates, fiber, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.

So then what is a non-nutrient?

Basically it is a naturally occurring component of food that doesn’t contain any calories, protein, carbohydrates or vitamins and minerals. Phytochemicals (food chemicals having antioxidant effects) may be an example of a non-nutrient.


Can you explain what happens to food after we eat it?

I would just look at it very simply.

When you eat food, the process of digestion breaks food down into it’s respective nutrients as we discussed before. Carbohydrates into monosaccharides (single units of sugars), protein into amino acids and fats into fatty acids. This process starts when you actually chew the food, the food then travels down into the stomach through the esophagus where it is liquified. When it reaches your small intestines, this is where the fun begins. Most of the digestion and absorption of the food occurs here in your small intestine. Digestive enzymes called lipase, amylase and protease act on fats, carbohydrates and protein to break them down into their nutrients for absorption.

Once the food has been broken down into their simple units, they are then absorbed into the blood stream for further chemical changes to make other compounds that the body needs, or for use around the body. Water and small lipids (fats) cross the intestinal wall easily. Some nutrients such as water and fat soluble vitamins need a carrier to take them across the wall. Other nutrients such as proteins and glucose move across the wall and into the blood stream by themselves but use energy to do so.

Once we’ve eaten the right types of food, does that mean that we always absorb it’s nutrients?

Once the processes I’ve just talked about have been completed, your body has digested and absorbed the food. However, before the nutrients have actually entered the blood stream, the nutrients are not actually considered to have entered your body. So you can actually eat a whole lot of good food without absorbing it’s nutrients.

You can ensure that you absorb the maximum amount of nutrients through a number of ways, but the major concerns would be to limit caffeine and alcohol intake, as alcohol can reduce the secretion of digestive enzymes that help to break down food and caffeine can reduce your body’s absorption of iron. Stress can also play a role in not allowing your body to absorb all the nutrients available to it. So if you want your body to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients, keep caffeine and alcohol intake to moderate levels. You can probably still have your morning coffee, but make sure that it is spaced at least an hour away from breakfast.


Going back to protein, what is it about red meat that doctors say is bad for you?

Fatty meats or red meats are typically higher in fat and the fat is generally a higher saturated fat than say, poultry. It would be the saturated fat in the meat that doctors are advising against.

To make a blanket statement that red meat is bad for you would be overkill. Even though they may contain higher levels of saturated fat, red meat still has high levels of the essential amino acids, that your body needs to survive.

That means that the protein in the meat provides all eight essential amino acids while the protein in wheat flour or cake flour may only provide one or two amino acids.

It comes down to an understanding of not throwing out the baby with the bath water, if you eat beef, just make sure that you cut all the fat off it – or purchase lean cuts of meat.

What are some of the other sources of protein?

Eggs are a tremendous source of protein. The egg white has an abundance of all the right amino acids and is easily digested and absorbed into the body.

How about an all vegan diet, is it healthy?

Actually it is. There was a pretty significant study done that was widely published. Researchers from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center looked at data from 10,104 adults who were eating different kinds of diets including vegetarian diets, low carbohydrate diets and high carbohydrate diets and their effects on BMI, energy intake and diet quality. The study concluded that those who were eating a vegetarian diet had low BMI’s and ended up eating less energy. (Kennedy et. al Popular Diets: Correlation to Health, Nutrition and Obesity. J. Am. Diet. Assoc. 2001 Apr. 101(4) 411-20). There is something to be said for it but it comes down to knowledge and balancing. You have to be cautious when starting a vegetarian diet and you need to make sure you are knowledgeable about it.

It’s harder to get the adequate amount of B vitamins on a vegetarian diet and you have to know which foods to eat to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals. So you know which vegetables to eat and how much to eat in order to get the amount of protein that you need.


Is it true that there are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates?

In a word, yes. There is a such a thing as good carbohydrates and bad. In the past they used to call bad carbohydrates simple sugars and good carbohydrates complex sugars.

Today they have changed this to referring to good carbohydrates as those which release glucose slowly into the blood stream. They call these low glycemic carbohydrates. High glycemic carbohydrates cause blood glucose levels to spike almost immediately after you’ve consumed them. A high glycemic carbohydrate may be white bread or a sugary breakfast cereal.

Having said this, though, just because a carbohydrate has a high glycemic value does not mean it is bad. Some varieties of carrot can have a high glycemic value, but for it to provide a great burst of glucose into your blood stream, you’d need to eat an awful lot of carrots. High glycemic carbohydrates can also become useful when you want a sudden burst of energy. I was actually just reading that consuming high glycemic food in the three hour period after training can facilitate muscle building.

Low glycemic carbohydrates become useful when you want sustained energy throughout the day. The rate at which glucose is released into your blood stream can also be slowed if you combine a low glycemic carb with a high glycemic carb. Alternatively, if you combine a source of protein with a high glycemic carb, this can also slow the absorption of glucose into the blood stream.

As a general rule, a bad carbohydrate would be a heavily processed carbohydrate such as a frosted donut mentioned earlier. A good carbohydrate would be an apple or a slice of wholemeal or wholegrain bread.

Vitamins and Minerals

What about vitamin and minerals. Do we get enough from our food or do we actually need to supplement?

It depends on where you are coming from and what culture. Again if you get variety in your diet there is probably no need for vitamin and mineral supplements.

There is a section of the community that don’t really get enough variety in their diet, and really just stick to certain foods, so they do need a supplement. However health conscious people who eat a variety of food probably don’t need a supplement. If you are pregnant or lactating or if there is some other need for vitamins and minerals then it is probably a good idea.

Vitamins and minerals really only work if you’re not getting them in your diet. Some chronic dieters who diet consistently won’t be getting enough vitamins and minerals, so sometimes it is a good idea for them to take a supplement.

As you age, does that mean you need a vitamin supplement?

Yes, there are quite a few areas where you may need a supplement. Your absorption of nutrients declines in your later years and your body’s need for B6, B12, calcium and vitamin D increase.

What should we know when purchasing a vitamin and mineral supplement ?

You know supplements can be expensive. It depends on the kind of vitamins and minerals you are talking about.

Vitamins break down into water soluble and fat-soluble. Typically there is more concern with the fat soluble vitamins (A,D, E & K) because they are not excreted from your body, unlike the water soluble vitamins like B and C, the excess will get flushed but with the fat soluble vitamins the excess is retained in your body.

That can get to be a problem if you are for some strange reason taking excessive amounts of let’s say vitamin D for example. There is no official figure for how much vitamin D you need, but it should be somewhere in the vicinity of 5 mcg – 10 mcg at the most. For those who don’t get exposure to sunlight, you can get vitamin D in cod-liver oil but be careful not to consume more than 20mcg’s.

Vitamin D is toxic at very low levels, so having too much in your system can be dangerous.

It comes down to someone not having information to fall back on and they just do it because they are naïve. It may start out as a doubling of the recommended daily allowance and they think, “well I’m not seeing any results, so I will triple it.” Some of the vitamin companies that manufacture these are no help because they will introduce products into the marketplace with one capsule delivering a mega dose.

It just gets to be like a power struggle even with the manufacturers of those products. People will think that if a little bit in a tablet is good then more will be better. People often think in dollar terms, how much can we get for this amount, if I can get more vitamin for the same or similar amount of money, then that’s better – right. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.

There are very well documented cases of vitamin overdoses and the consequences of taking too much of one vitamin or mineral. You just have to be careful. Most supplements if you will look on the labels will tell you how much to take.

When you look at the labels, look at what percentage of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of each vitamin or mineral is included in the supplement. If you see 100% beside one of those vitamins or minerals then you know that taking that supplement will provide 100% for that particular vitamin or mineral. If you intend to eat that day as well as take the supplement, you could be overdosing yourself on that particular vitamin or mineral.

Or, if it says 150% or 500% then it is supplying 5 times more of the nutrient than you really need. And all those levels are based on typical values in our society. On an individual basis there may be a person who needs more than that or someone who might need even less than that. That’s when it becomes difficult to know if you are getting the right amount of nutrients. This is where it comes back to getting variety in your diet and eating according to your lifestyle. People who have an active lifestyle generally eat more than those who don’t, their body is ensuring that it gets enough energy, vitamins and minerals to be able to carry out it’s normal functioning.

What about water, how much water should we consume?

You know that whole question has been kicked around a lot too. The people who were studying that were saying for a long time that we don’t get enough and we need to be consuming more than we do. Then there were some publications that were saying that too much water isn’t good for you either.

I would tend to believe that we don’t get as much water as we need. If you drink too much you are just going to eliminate it, so if you drink a lot of water or whatever then you are probably getting enough.

As a general rule of thumb, your body will let you know when it is thirsty. If you ignore the urge to drink then you can get into trouble.

Water level is the maker or breaker of whether or not you are going to have a healthy lifestyle because it is self-regulating, you know if you get thirsty then you drink and if you are not thirsty then you don’t drink. So it is sort of self-regulating. So usually the amount of water you take in is in the acceptable range.

Is Our Food Healthy?

How healthy is our food, the stuff we buy in the grocery stores?

Well, if you make a comparison between food in the USA and other developed countries and food in under-developed countries, it is probably the safest and the most nutritionally satisfying food supply possible.

The standards for food inspections and food quality that goes into the manufacture and safety and the formulation of foods is really pretty extraordinary. Is it perfect? No, you can find problems if you look.

Does food processing really take the nutrients out of the food?

It can if manufacturers let it, but it is a marketing power struggle. Some food processing can actually be healthier for you. For example some breads have added fiber, to make it healthier.

Food preservatives have been included in the manufacturing process as a necessity to make sure that the food is not rotten and moldy by the time the food gets to you. Have you ever cooked bread from scratch – you’ll find that it doesn’t store as long as the commercially made breads.

Not all food processing is bad. Typically when fruit or vegetables are cooked it will lose some of its nutrients, but some manufacturers will actually add these nutrients back into the food to compensate.

Does food lose its nutritive value over time?

They can and can’t. Take a drink product that claims to have Vitamin C in it.

The manufacturer of this drink has to put an average of that vitamin in the product because some of the vitamins will deteriorate over a period of time. Depending on the temperature of the storage of the product, usually the higher the temperature or the longer the storage time, the more of the vitamin will end up deteriorating.

Vitamin C happens to be one of the most sensitive. The government does inspections on these products. They will randomly do surprise visits and routinely visit the food manufacturing companies to take samples for testing.

When the product is formulated, the food companies will add an average of vitamins. It protects the product during the shelf life.

If they want the product to contain 100% of vitamin C at the end of the shelf life, then they may have to put in 200% to begin with because they know that 2 years later it will have lost half of its value.

Food companies can predict the rate of loss on similar products so that when a nutritional beverage is formulated they can base the level of any particular nutrient against historical values for similar foods.

Food companies use this as the starting point and they will enter the food into something called accelerated storage. That is a higher level of temperature so they can monitor the level of loss.

They call that storage study. Most food companies will do that on their own accord but they do that in case there is ever a government inspection because they want to make sure they are meeting their label claim.

Companies that manufacture vitamins and minerals do the same thing. If it is a dry food like a vitamin tablet the rate of deterioration is usually much slower because it is a dry environment.

Fats can also oxidize. If you have ever had a bag of cake flour on your shelf in your kitchen and two or three years later it is full of weevils and you smell it and it has an awful smell, it is usually because the fat that is present in the flour has oxidized.

How Are Our Food Products Developed

What is the process that new food products go through before they end up on the shelves ?

New food products start with a product development food scientist who works closely with the marketing people of the company. The marketing team helps conceive the ideas for food products like analog products, like a cereal or whatever it may happen to be.

It could also be a fabricated product like a take off of a baked item. You come up with the idea working with the marketing people. You would then put together a prototype of the product idea so that the marketing group would have something they could look at and actually sit around the conference table and talk about.

Then the team would decide which of these products you’d like to develop. One of those products would be picked and taken to the next stage and the product development scientist would begin to refine that product. It might be improvement in flavor or taste or texture.

The product would be refined and presented again to the marketing group. There would be another round table discussion about that particular product and the marketing group would point the food scientist in the direction he needs to go.

Once the product is approved by research and marketing then you begin to pull manufacturing into the picture who would also then contribute to the development of the food product.

At what point do new food products have to presented to the FDA?

Generally it is the responsibility of the product development people to be aware of the Food and Drug Administrations requirements. Food scientists should have access to a library of different regulations called the Federal Code of Regulations and be aware of all the guidelines.

If there is an aspect of the food that does not comply with one or more regulations, then it needs to be submitted to the FDA, however, if there is no perceived problem or everything is seen to comply with the Federal Code of Regulations by the food scientist, then the development of the product will proceed without being submitted to the FDA.

How long does it take for products to hit the supermarket shelves?

The development time and the rules and regulations applied to the different kinds of products, whether they are food service items or clinic products all differ. There are varying regulations that govern the formulation of and development of and the marketing of all different products.

For example, Novartis had a line of weight loss products that were very popular. It was the Optifast Line. Within that product line I’m just going to guess there were at least 75 different products. There were different categories of products, liquid, supplements and there would be formulas of products intended to be administered through hospital tube feedings. There were solid foods as opposed to liquid. The products would be tested with years of clinical trials.

Most people have no idea what is entailed in developing a new drug or food product.

Normal consumer groups will make some blanket statement about how the consumer is getting ripped off by the drug companies and the pharmaceutical companies because they are charging 100 times more for their pills than what it costs to manufacture. This is the same even with dietary products.

Pharmaceutical drugs are sold for many times what it costs to manufacture the product in terms of the composition and the packaging and the marketing. You put all that together and that is just a fraction of the cost. However the clinical trials that these products go through can run into millions of dollars especially for the larger pharmaceutical companies.

Now the drug companies make A LOT OF MONEY, but there is another side to the picture and that would be the testing that goes into some of these products.

Diet Plans

Do you think I should use diet pills?

I would avoid them with a passion. “Diet Pills” are really only helpful when used under medical guidance when exercise and diet have proven ineffective. Even then, diet pills don’t teach you how to eat properly and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

What are some of the risks involved?

Well some of the obvious ones are the “over the counter ones” which were pulled off the market. To me it’s just a band-aid. You aren’t helping yourself, you are just covering it up.

If someone were looking for a particular weight loss plan or group what should they look for?

I would look at a few things in particular and one of the first things would be, does the particular weight loss plan advocate certain foods, in other words Jenny Craig says you have to eat my food and you have to have Jenny Craig drinks and entrees. Jenny Craig is very profitable. Do you have to make ongoing payments to this weight loss plan to keep losing weight ? If you do, then you have to consider what is more important to them, educating you about your long term health, or making as much money as possible out of you.

One of the things that I would look for, is whether the weight loss program introduces you to eating normal food and does it encourage getting into regular exercise as a lifestyle change rather than a short term exercise kick.

Is the weight loss program focused on your long term health rather than getting your weight down and then offering little help afterwards.

I don’t like those weight loss plans that delivers food to your door because it’s like spoon feeding you. After you’ve lost the weight what happens, you either continue to buy their food (which gets expensive) or you go back to the way you ate before and this is where the problems occur.

Diet plans that keep you focused on a certain area or a particular niche that they have tried to carve out in a marketing opportunity, are just treating you like a meal-ticket with no thought to your overall health and fitness. I would avoid those with a passion. I would try and go with the plans that give you a normal way of eating, train you to find out what exercise is best for you and your lifestyle and don’t require ongoing payment to the owner or company running the weight loss program.

What reputable weight loss programs do you recommend ?

There are a couple that might or might not be suitable for you. The first is Melt The Fat, it is great for beginners and veteran dieters alike. It shows you how to eat and exercise to lose weight. It’s an e-book, so there are no ongoing costs, yet you can use it on an ongoing basis.

The second is Christian Finn’s site which offers no hype research into health and fitness generally, but also focuses on how to eat right and exercise to burn fat, lose weight and become fit. The site is without a doubt a great resource, but does require an annual payment. If you are prepared to pay a bit more than the standard membership fee, Christian will work with you over the email to reach your goals. Again, the drawback of Christian Finn’s site is that you have to pay over and over again.

Now also remember how I talked about the research into vegan eating and health, well, I am a meat eater and I must admit that I love my meat and red meat is the most efficient way to get all the amino acids you need. Having said that, eating a few vegetarian meals can bring down your energy intake and improve the quality of your diet.

So while it does not provide a complete weight loss solution, I’m also recommending as a third option, that you get a hold of a  vegetarian cookbook. If for nothing else, you can learn some new ways to prepare interesting meals. The benefits of the cookbook is that you pay for the cookbook once, but learn interesting ways of preparing vegetables.

And that concludes our Q & A session. I hope that you’ve enjoyed the report and look forward to serving you in the future at Savvy Fat Burning Food.

The site constantly gets updated and newsletters are sent out frequently containing health and fitness tips. Past newsletters have covered whether green tea can burn fat ? Healthy recipes such as low fat curry fish and fitness tips such as how to exercise your abs. You can sign up for the free newsletter here.

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