Proper nutrition is an area of confusion for most people. With all of the conflicting information in the media and all of the fad diets out there, it is hard to know how to eat right. Eating right comes down to eating the proper balance of the three main compounds that make up our food: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Knowing the balance is the first step, knowing the right foods to eat within these groups is the next.
Carbohydrates: 40% of your calorie intake should come from carbs. A good portion of the carbs you take in should be low glycemic and dietary fiber rich. Low glycemic carbs take longer to digest and fill you up quicker. Good sources of these types of carbs are fruits such as mangos, grapefruits and pears. Whole grains breads, rice and pasta, veggies and popcorn (without butter) are all excellent sources of dietary fiber as well. Eating carbs rich in dietary fiber help prevent many cancers, decrease cholesterol in the bloodstream and decrease the chance of diabetes, which is increasing within the population.
Protein: 30% of your calorie intake should come from protein. You should take in no more than 2 grams per 2.2lbs of body weight to avoid kidney damage although this takes a long time to develop (15 years of high protein intake). Animal proteins are the most complete form of protein. Good animal sources are chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef. Plant proteins are incomplete sources and a variety of them must be consumed to get a complete protein. Vegetarians run into this problem and depending on the type of vegetarian, a protein or amino acid supplement may be needed.
Fats: 30% of your calorie intake should come from fats and less than 10% should come from saturated and trans fats (the bad and evil fats). The rest should come from essential fats. I know, this sounds like a lot of fat in a diet but hear me out. The big thing is to decrease saturated and trans fats and eat the essential ones. But what are sources of essential fats? Good sources are cold-water fish, peanuts, walnuts, avocados and sunflower seeds. Also, using olive or canola oils for cooking will increase essential fats in the diet. The most important thing to do is to stay away from foods cooked in shortening, processed foods, deep-fried foods and fatty cuts of meat.
Now the next question, how many calories should I eat a day to have a healthy lifestyle? Well that depends, is your weight ideal right now? To maintain your current weight, there is a certain amount of calories you must take in. To figure out your maintenance level, multiply your weight in kg’s (lbs/2.2) by 24 + 200 for males and 23 + 200 for females. Dieting is very simple. To lose weight, take in fewer calories. About 500 less than your maintenance level is a safe start. To gain weight, eat more than your maintenance level. It’s as simple as that.