Happy Saturday Morning and Welcome to the 5-part Human Nutrition Series!
As you can probably imagine, nutrition is an important part of my every day. I am honored you’re here to learn, and I’m happy to answer any questions you have. As I browse your posts, pages, and blogs – especially during the holidays that are centered around food – I see you are mostly worried about four things: calories, carbs, sugars, and fats. Trust me, I get it. We are probably the most overweight population in the history of the world, and I’m including those fat Romans with binge and purge issues hundreds of years ago.
First, some light housekeeping: I am not a scientist, nutritionist, or dietitian. Nobody is paying me to write this, there is no sponsorship or direct monetary compensation, and I doubt that I’ll be inserting any affiliate links for anything, though I’ll let you know if I do. It would cheapen this experience, so everything you read, everything you’ll download, is free for this series. I expect this to take 12 weeks, but it may go longer as questions come up. For anything specifically related to your health and dietary needs, please talk to your primary care physician and nutritionist. I am not capable of diagnosing or treating any medical conditions. I can tell you that peanuts are a fantastic source of protein, but if you know you’re allergic and eat them anyway, I won’t be responsible.
Let’s get this show on the road!
Why Should I Care About Nutrition?
I know, I get you. It is all a little overwhelming, and easier to just go about your merry “in moderation” way. While that is not a bad guideline, it’s not the best rule of thumb either. Caring about your nutrition is a way of telling your body that you love it and want it to work for you for as long as it can. Learning about nutrition will give you the tools necessary to improve your relationship with food (let’s be honest, it’s always a little strained, even inf you eat well), and provide you more knowledge so you can have an open and direct conversation with your doctors and health professionals, without it all going over your head or being left to interpretation.
Why do I Eat This and Not That?
For starters, appearance plays a major part in what we eat, followed closely by texture and flavor. Flavor is, of course, dependent on our ability to smell. Over our lifetimes, we’ll spend an average 4 years engaging all 5 senses in the act of nourishing our bodies, and what we eat says a lot about what we think of ourselves. This will not become a life-coachy drum circle about what our food choices mean, though. Let’s just say our relationship with food, no mater how great it is, is complicated.
Other things that have a major role in what we eat and why are our early influences from family and friends, community and cultural customs, socioeconomic status, food availability, psychological needs, convenience, and of course marketing. Restaurant food is typically served in larger portions than our bodies can possibly use, is of lower nutritional quality, and high calorie. Don’t worry! I’ll teach you how to ballpark-calculate the calories on your plate. It’ll be much more reliable than the app that can barely get correct how many steps you took. My Fitbit is counting steps as I sit and type. I hardly think it’s trustworthy for anything else it provides, except the time and how many flights of stairs I’ve traversed. It’s great for those two things.
So, what terms do I need to know?
- Appetite vs. Hunger – both are responsible for influencing our drive to eat, but they are not the same thing. Your appetite is your psychological need to eat, and hunger is your biological need. Hunger is controlled by the act of digestion, so that as you eat, signals are sent to your liver and brain that tell you to stop eating because you don’t need anymore food. Appetite is a little more pesky, and is completely dependent on mood, stress, smells, environment – absolutely everything – and won’t shut down until we’ve reached satiety. Hunger = Biological. Appetite = Psychological
- Nutrition – the science that links health and disease to foods, and includes the ways the body processes nutrient intake
- Nutrients – necessary chemicals in food that contribute to body health
- Essential Nutrient – 3 criteria for a nutrient to be essential: it must perform at least one biological function inside the body; leaving it out leads to the decline of a biological function; replacing the nutrient before damage occurs restores normal function
- Glucose – a six-carbon sugar ring found in blood and table sugar bound to fructose. It’s a simple sugar, and sometimes goes by dextrose
- Macronutrient – required in large amounts, they are the energy-giving compounds we know as lipids, carbs, and proteins
- Lipids – fats and oils; they provide energy; primary form of energy storage; dissolve in certain solvents; fats are solid at room temperature and oils are not – excepting tropical oils like palm kernel and coconut
- Carbohydrates – simple sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy; starches are complex carbohydrates; complex carbs are broken down to simple sugars during digestion, except for the bonds in some complex sugars that we know as fiber; fiber cannot be broken down by the body, and passes through undigested
- Protein – primary building block of the body; also an important part of enzymes, immunity, cells, and blood; can be acquired from both plant and animal sources; most of us eat twice as much as we need on a regular basis
- Micronutrients – we need small amounts of these vitamins and minerals, and they don’t provide us with any calculable energy
- Kcal – kilocalorie; the heat energy needed to increase the temperature of 1000 grams of water by 1 degree Celsius; also called calorie
- Metabolism – how we create energy in the human body and keep on living
And, about that math you said is involved…
It’s pretty easy-peasy once you know the formulas. We’ll use math to count calories, BMI, how many calories we actually NEED (hint: it’s probably not 2,000, no matter what that TV doctor or food label made you think), how many calories necessary to drop or increase weight, and perhaps more as questions arise.
Source: Contemporary Nutrition: A Functional Approach