Nutrition and Diet – 2021 Healthy Weight Loss Strategies
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Nutrition and Diet

Nutrition and Diet

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The carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins in the foods you eat are used for energy to power molecular, cellular, and organ system activities. Importantly, the energy is stored primarily as fats. The quantity and quality of food that is ingested, digested, and absorbed affects the amount of fat that is stored as excess calories. Diet—both what you eat and how much you eat—has a dramatic impact on your health. Eating too much or too little food can lead to serious medical issues, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, anorexia, and diabetes, among others. Combine an unhealthy diet with unhealthy environmental conditions, such as smoking, and the potential medical complications increase significantly.

Food and Metabolism

The amount of energy that is needed or ingested per day is measured in calories. The nutritional Calorie (C) is the amount of heat it takes to raise 1 kg (1000 g) of water by 1 °C. This is different from the calorie (c) used in the physical sciences, which is the amount of heat it takes to raise 1 g of water by 1 °C. When we refer to “calorie,” we are referring to the nutritional Calorie.

On average, a person needs 1500 to 2000 calories per day to sustain (or carry out) daily activities. The total number of calories needed by one person is dependent on their body mass, age, height, gender, activity level, and the amount of exercise per day. If exercise is regular part of one’s day, more calories are required. As a rule, people underestimate the number of calories ingested and overestimate the amount they burn through exercise. This can lead to ingestion of too many calories per day. The accumulation of an extra 3500 calories adds one pound of weight. If an excess of 200 calories per day is ingested, one extra pound of body weight will be gained every 18 days. At that rate, an extra 20 pounds can be gained over the course of a year. Of course, this increase in calories could be offset by increased exercise. Running or jogging one mile burns almost 100 calories.

The type of food ingested also affects the body’s metabolic rate. Processing of carbohydrates requires less energy than processing of proteins. In fact, the breakdown of carbohydrates requires the least amount of energy, whereas the processing of proteins demands the most energy. In general, the amount of calories ingested and the amount of calories burned determines the overall weight. To lose weight, the number of calories burned per day must exceed the number ingested. Calories are in almost everything you ingest, so when considering calorie intake, beverages must also be considered.

To help provide guidelines regarding the types and quantities of food that should be eaten every day, the USDA has updated their food guidelines from MyPyramid to MyPlate. They have put the recommended elements of a healthy meal into the context of a place setting of food. MyPlate categorizes food into the standard six food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, dairy, and oils. The accompanying website gives clear recommendations regarding quantity and type of each food that you should consume each day, as well as identifying which foods belong in each category. The accompanying graphic (Figure 24.7.1) gives a clear visual with general recommendations for a healthy and balanced meal. The guidelines recommend to “Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.” The other half is grains and protein, with a slightly higher quantity of grains than protein. Dairy products are represented by a drink, but the quantity can be applied to other dairy products as well.

The figure shows a plate with different food groups assigned different portion sizes.
Figure 24.7.1 – MyPlate: The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed food guidelines called MyPlate to help demonstrate how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

ChooseMyPlate.gov provides extensive online resources for planning a healthy diet and lifestyle, including offering weight management tips and recommendations for physical activity. It also includes the SuperTracker, a web-based application to help you analyze your own diet and physical activity.

Everyday Connections – Metabolism and Obesity

Obesity in the United States is epidemic. The rate of obesity has been steadily rising since the 1980s. In the 1990s, most states reported that less than 10 percent of their populations was obese, and the state with the highest rate reported that only 15 percent of their population was considered obese. By 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 36 percent of adults over 20 years old were obese and an additional 33 percent were overweight, leaving only about 30 percent of the population at a healthy weight. These studies find the highest levels of obesity are concentrated in the southern states. They also find the level of childhood obesity is rising.

Obesity is defined by the body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of an individual’s weight-to-height ratio. The normal, or healthy, BMI range is between 18 and 24.9 kg/m2. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, and obesity is considered to be a BMI greater than 30 kg/m2. Obesity can arise from a number of factors, including overeating, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, limited sleep, genetic factors, and even diseases or drugs. Severe obesity (morbid obesity) or long-term obesity can result in serious medical conditions, including coronary heart disease; type 2 diabetes; endometrial, breast, or colon cancer; hypertension (high blood pressure); dyslipidemia (high cholesterol or elevated triglycerides); stroke; liver disease; gall bladder disease; sleep apnea or respiratory diseases; osteoarthritis; and infertility. Research has shown that losing weight can help reduce or reverse the complications associated with these conditions.

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RAKILAH HAYES