Posts Tagged ‘Nutrient’

Many Americans know something about vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. What do we know about fiber? Health professionals may disagree as to whether fiber is a nutrient, but it is essential to health. A healthy diet includes sufficient fiber, a form of carbohydrate that differs in significant ways from other types of this nutrient. The complexity of the sugar molecules linked together causes fiber to be more difficult to digest.

Fiber comes from plant sources, primarily whole grains which have twice the amount of fiber as refined grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Unpeeled fruits and vegetables also provide more fiber as well as other nutrients than those that have been peeled.

Fiber is divided into two types, soluble and insoluble. Dietary sources are basically the same. Soluble fiber is water solvent and aids in digestion by causing carbohydrate and other nutrients to be absorbed more slowly. This helps control blood sugar levels, a positive for those with diabetes. It also plays a significant role in lowering blood levels of LDL cholesterol because it interferes with absorption of fat and cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber provides bulk in the diet which in turn helps stimulate movement through the intestinal tract to regulate waste removal from the body. Because both soluble and insoluble fiber cause a feeling of fullness, they can be beneficial in weight loss. Those who consume higher fiber diets usually eat less and remain free from hunger for longer periods of time.

How much fiber do we need? Requirements may vary, but most women need at least 30 grams and men 38 grams per day. After age fifty, both need less. Women need about 21 grams and men 30 grams of fiber per day.

To avoid abdominal distress, it is best to increase fiber intake slowly. Gradually change from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet. The following are suggested ways to increase fiber in our diets:

  • Switch from refined foods to those made with whole grains.
  • Add beans to soups, salad and side dishes.
  • Add unsalted nuts and seeds to foods and use as snacks in place of sweets.
  • Add fruits and/or vegetables to cereals, salads, and other foods.
  • Add vegetables (such as zucchini and carrots) into main dishes like lasagna, meatloaf, stews, and more.
  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables prepared and refrigerated for quick snacks.

When buying foods, check labels of similar products to determine those with higher fiber content. Increasing fiber in the diet isn’t difficult. It will pay dividends in better health and well-being.




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I am a longtime hot tea fan. For decades, anytime has been tea time for me. While others order a different favorite brew, as I do occasionally, I prefer black tea. Now comes evidence of my reward for my beverage choice. As little as one cup per day may improve health.

Tea contains flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids come from a broad category of non-nutritive phytochemicals found only in plants. These substances help to maintain health in varied ways. Other familiar phytochemicals include carotenoids, isoflavones, phenolic acids, and many more. It is estimated that hundreds of phytochemicals are yet to be identified. Tea has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids of any plant. The type and amount in tea varies depending on several factors.

While antioxidants are in a different category, some phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, meaning they can help prevent or delay damage to cells and tissues. Antioxidants are found in both plant and animal sources.

Green tea has more of the flavonoid called catechins. Black tea, which has been fermented or oxidized, contains more of the flavonoids theaflavins and thearubigins. Both are water-soluble and readily absorbed into the body. For maximum concentration of flavonoids, steep tea for at least one minute. The longer the brew time, the higher the concentration of flavonoids and increased health benefits.

How is tea effective in health promotion? Research shows several conditions affected by flavonoids and perhaps other unidentified phytochemicals.

  • Heart disease: Tea drinkers may be more than one-third less likely to have a heart attack. Calcium deposits are linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular events. Buildup of these deposits, associated with plaque development in coronary arteries, is less in those who drink tea.
  • Dementia: Older adults with high levels of calcium plaques in their arteries are more likely to develop dementia earlier than those without calcium buildup. As in heart disease, tea seems to decrease the accumulation.
  • Neurological conditions: Antioxidants in tea have possible neuroprotective agents and may prove to reduce risks for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other diseases: Researchers have found favorable, but not conclusive, evidence of lower risks of skin disease, cancer, excessive weight, and other maladies in tea drinkers.

But is it the tea or something else? Although researchers have not found a direct relationship, tea drinkers tend to live healthier lifestyles. Whatever current and future findings, tea is a wholesome, inexpensive drink that contributes to a healthy diet.

Drink up!

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Sometimes it’s important to get back to basics. My blog relates to nutrition and food events based on current research or newsworthy items. As a dietitian, I tend to believe everyone has heard of the foods we need daily for a healthy diet. Not true. With a plethora of information, people tend to forget the simple. Often advertising or false claims mislead people. How can we eat for optimum health and enjoy food without the hassle? Below is a brief summary of nutrients our bodies need plus those we may eat in access.

  • Calories: Our bodies need energy (fuel). We get that energy only from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. An ounce of fat provides more than twice as many calories as the same amount of carbohydrate or protein (which have about the same). The calories we need depend on age, activity, gender, and other factors. Healthy adult women of appropriate weight need about 2,000 calories a day. Men and very active women need more. In addition to calories, the body requires the following.
  • Vitamins: These nutrients help convert carbohydrates, fats, and proteins into energy, carry out body functions within the cells, and form bones, teeth, and tissue.
  • Minerals: Mineral elements help regulate enzymes, build body and bone tissue, and keep nerves and muscles healthy.
  • Water and Fiber: Drink ample fluids (six to eight glasses per day), especially water, and eat foods high in fiber to help eliminate waste from the body.

Sometimes our diets have too much or not enough of varied nutrients. While excess of some nutrients may be okay, others can harm health. Consider the following as you eat.

  • Sugar (carbohydrate): Many, if not most, Americans have a sweet tooth. A little is okay as long as you don’t over do it. Foods high in sugar, especially sweetened beverages, are responsible for much of the obesity in society. Sugar may also increase the risk for dental decay, especially in children.
  • Fats: The body needs fat for body fuel and other functions. Fat in the diet helps keep us from getting hungry as quickly. Some types of fats are good while others can increase risks of health problems. Saturated fats, found mostly in meats, may increase risks for heart disease. To consume less of these fats, trim fat from meats, remove skin from chicken, and switch to low-fat milk and milk products. Unsaturated fats, found in plant sources, may help decrease heart problems. Olive oil, a mono-unsaturated fatty acid, is considered a healthier source of unsaturated fats. Use more vegetable oils in cooking (see post for 8/20/2013) and limit the use of trans fats.
  • Meats and Protein Foods (protein, fat, vitamins, minerals): About four ounces daily of a protein food is adequate. Legumes and nuts are healthy sources. For a healthier diet, choose skinless chicken and fish instead of red meat. While controversy lingers over the health value of eggs, they are excellent sources of protein and other nutrients.
  • Milk and milk products (carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals): Consume the equivalent of two to three servings a day. Milk, a natural source of calcium and other minerals and vitamins, is fortified with Vitamin D. Choose low-fat options for a healthier diet.
  • Breads, Cereals, Pasta (carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, fiber): Choose five to six servings a day with at least half from whole grain sources.
  • Fruits and Vegetables (vitamins): While Americans may get too many calories from carbohydrates and fats, most fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables. A healthful diet will include a variety of four to five vegetables and three to four fruits each day. Choose from fresh, frozen, or canned sources. Consider the following selections and others.
    • Fruits: apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, dates, figs, grapes, grapefruit, mangos, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, strawberries.
    • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, green beans, green peas, kale, legumes (field peas/beans), mustard greens, okra, potatoes, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips/turnip greens, pumpkin, zucchini. Choose one serving of a deep green or deep yellow fruit/vegetable at least three to four times per week.
  • Salt (the minerals sodium and chloride): Controversy continues about the amount of salt (actually the sodium) needed by healthy people. While the body needs salt, too much can damage health, especially for those with high blood pressure. With the increased consumption of prepared foods, snacks, and meals eaten away from home, it’s safe to say most American exceed the amount needed. To cut back on the amount in the diet, check sodium content of foods and avoid using extra salt at the table.

Sometimes we make eating the right foods way to difficult. Make your choices based on guidelines for a healthier diet without a lot of hassle.

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Calories are to our bodies what gas is to our car. It’s the fuel that keeps us going. We need calories. The problem is, nearly seventy percent in our nation consume too many.

The average adult needs about 2,000 calories each day. That number moves up or down according to activity, age, and other factors. After eating foods to meet nutrient needs, approximately 300 discretionary calories can be selected from calorie-laden foods.  Calories with little or no nutritive value—empty calories—come mostly from foods high in solid fats and added sugars. Too many extra calories pile on excessive pounds resulting in overweight or obesity. While snacks can add to nutrient needs, often they fall into the empty calorie category.

About one-fourth of daily calories come from snacks. According to the Food Surveys Research Group of the Agricultural Research Service, snacking among adults increased during the past thirty years. On average, men consumed 586 calories and women 421 calories daily from snacks. Those who ate between meals four or more times daily took in almost one and one-half times more calories than those who had fewer snacks. However,  normal weight, overweight, and obese people did not differ in how often they had snacks.

Alcohol contributed sixteen percent of snack-calories for men. Sugar-sweetened beverages made up fourteen percent of calories for both men and women. The next highest group of snack-calories came from salty morsels such as pretzels, potato chips, and etc.  All these are empty calorie sources.

How can you make sure your between-meal nibbles add to a healthy diet? Choose foods that supply nutrients your body needs without providing excessive fuel. Good choices include low-fat yogurt, fruit, cereal, cheese, nuts, and other nutritious fares. Make sure your calories aren’t empty.



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How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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How do you know if you make wise food choices? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines to assure healthy food selections. The USDA developed the first food guide of five groups in 1917 with emphasis on the newly discovered vitamins and minerals. That guide remained the standard to good health until the advent of the “Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) from the National Academy of Sciences in 1940.

The National Nutrition Guide with seven food groups evolved in1946 from a 1943 version. Confusion over multiple groups resulted in the “Basic Four” recommendations of 1956. The USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) conjointly developed Dietary Guidelines in 1980 and continue to revise this publication every five years. They released the 2010 edition on January 31, 2011. (see Blog for 4/5/11)

 The 2010 guidelines suggest increasing the food and nutrients below to improve eating habits.

Fruits and vegetables.  Choose a variety of dark green, red, and orange fruits/vegetables because they:

  • Contribute nutrients (folate, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K) often inadequate in the diet.  
  • Reduce risks of chronic diseases.  As little as 2 ½ cups of fruits/vegetables per day reduce risks of heart attack and stroke. Some fruits/vegetables may  protect against cancer.
  • Lower calories. Fruits/vegetables help maintain appropriate weight by replacing less nutrient-dense foods. Whole fruit instead of juice increases fiber and aids weight loss. If you consume juice, select undiluted, pure juice.

Grains. Choose at least half of grain products from whole-grain sources:

  • Whole grains provide iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber.
  • They may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower body weight, and lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
  • Check the first or second item listed on the label under ingredients to confirm that the food product is primarily whole grain.  


  • Adults need the equivalent of three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk per day.
  • Milk products contribute calcium and (fortified) vitamin D to the diet and a significant amount of protein.

Protein Foods

  • Includes meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts.
  • Protein foods provide B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Select seafood, legumes, and nuts to cut solid fat in the diet.

According to the 2010 guidelines, selection of these food groups promotes adequate nutrients, helps control caloric intake, and may reduce risks of chronic disease. To assure you make wise choices , include these food groups in your diet. 

Sources:  http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm, Chapter 4.

 “Healthy Eating Politics,” http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/usda-food-pyramid.html  (accessed 4/30/2011)

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With showers playing peek-a-boo and days yielding to warm sunshine, thoughts turn to fresh starts, whether a facelift for the house or seedlings in the garden. Maybe it’s time, also, to take a fresh look at diet. Dull, dreary days of winter begged for hearty soups and nourishing root vegetables. Spring’s arrival calls for light, healthy, and refreshing foods to stimulate the palette.

Think color. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, lean meats, fish and poultry, and low-fat milk and dairy products create a rainbow of colors to form the foundation for healthful eating.

Access the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010,  released on January 31, 2011, at http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf  They will be available in booklet form after April 27, 2011.   

Mandated by law and updated every five years, the current Dietary Guidelines focus on helping consumers cut calories, make informed choices, and stay physically active. Design of the Dietary Guidelines accommodates varied food preferences, cultural traditions, and customs of diverse populations.

Past guidelines focused on recommendations for healthy Americans aged two years and older. With continuing concerns about health, the current guidelines incorporate Americans aged two and older and include those at increased risk for chronic disease.

Key recommendations in the new Dietary Guidelines include:

  • Balancing Calories to Manage Weight. With two-thirds of the population obese or overweight, most Americans haven’t learned to balance caloric intake with physical activity to maintain proper weight for optimum health.
  • Foods and Food Components to Reduce. The American diet tends to include excessive amounts of salt, added sugars, saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and refined foods that cause or exacerbate chronic diseases.
  • Foods and Nutrients to Increase. Appropriate nutrients and food selections help individuals maintain a healthy eating pattern within their caloric needs.
  • Building Healthy Eating Patterns.  This last recommendation guides consumers in meeting nutrient needs and educates the public about safe food preparation and storage to reduce incidences of foodborne illness.

To help you and your family stay healthy, follow the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Check this blog for the next few weeks to learn more about applying the above recommendations.

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