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Nutritional Basics

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Nutrition Facts - Plan a healthy daily diet

What are the basic food groups? Foods are grouped together when they share similar nutritional properties, by understanding the basic food groups, you'll be able to plan a healthy daily diet.

Drink Plenty of Water

Water is involved in every function of the body. It's in every cell, tissue and organ of the body. In this section you'll learn why getting enough water every day is important for your health.

Dietary Fat - the good & the bad

While fats are essential for normal body function, some fats are better for you than others. Trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol are less healthy than polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

The Dietary Guidelines for 2010 recommend that for a healthier diet Americans:

  • Consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fats.
  • Replace solid fats with oils when possible.
  • Limit foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fatty acids (such as hydrogenated oils), and keep total trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible.
  • Eat fewer than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day.
  • Reduce intake of calories from solid fats.

Carbohydrates - Maximize your energy intake

Your body uses carbohydrates to make glucose which is the fuel that gives your body energy. Glucose is either used immediately or stored in your liver and muscles for when it is needed.  Carbohydrates containing dietary fiber and whole grains without added sugars are the healthiest options.  

There are two main types of carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates and Simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates consist of starch and dietary fiber. Many foods contain starch and/or dietary fiber including breads, cereals, grains and vegetables.

Simple carbohydrates include foods containing natural sugars such as fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products.  However, simple carbohydrates also include sugars added during food processing and refining.  In general, foods with added sugars have fewer nutrients than foods with naturally-occurring sugars, so be sure to read the ingredient lists on food labels to avoid added sugar in your diet. 

Protein - Building Muscle & Body Mass

Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. Since these body proteins are constantly being broken down, it’s important that we get an adequate amount of protein in our diet to replace these proteins in our bodies.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make all types of protein. Some of these amino acids can't be made by our bodies, so these are known as essential amino acids. It's essential that our diet provide these.

In the diet, protein sources are labeled according to how many of the essential amino acids they provide:

  • A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids. You may also hear these sources called high quality proteins. Animal-based foods; for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are considered complete protein sources.
  • An incomplete protein source is one that is low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids.

It’s important that we include a variety of protein sources in our diet.  Examples include:

  • meats, poultry, and fish
  • legumes (dry beans and peas)
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • milk and milk products including whey protein
  • grains, some vegetables, and some fruits (provide only small amounts of protein relative to other sources)

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that your body needs to grow and develop normally. Vitamins are organic substances made by plants or animals. Minerals are inorganic elements that come from the earth and are absorbed by plants, and then we absorb minerals from the plants we eat.

Vitamins and minerals have a unique role to play in maintaining your health. For example, Vitamin D helps your body absorb the amount of calcium it needs to form strong bones. The body cannot produce calcium; therefore, it must be absorbed through our food. Other minerals like chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are called trace minerals because you only need very small amounts of them each day. The best way to get enough vitamins and minerals is to eat a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

"Nutrition Basics." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 25 July 2013.

Download Nutrition Brochure PDF

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