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A healthy meal of salmon and salad.




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Fats, Proteins, and Carbs

The following information will better help you understand the difference between Fats, Proteins, and Carbohydrates and their effect on your body:

Fat, an essential nutrient, provides energy, energy storage, insulation, and contour to the body. The types of dietary fat are:

Saturated fat - animal flesh, butter, margarine, processed/hydrogenated oils, tropical oils, and fried foods.
Polyunsaturated fat - vegetable oils: sunflower, safflower, corn, and flaxseed oils.
Monounsaturated fat - vegetable oils: olive, peanut, canola, and many other nut oils.
Omega-3 fatty acids - (highly polyunsaturated) from seafood such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon, as well as nuts, soy, canola, and flaxseed oils.
Omega-6 fatty acids - (highly polyunsaturated) vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, and safflower oils.

Fat provides 9 calories per gram.

The Role of Fat - Fat helps the body in many different ways:

  • Fat deposits surround and protect organs, such as the kidneys, heart, and liver.

  • Fat balances hormones.

  • A layer of fat beneath the skin, known as subcutaneous fat, insulates the body from environmental temperature changes, thereby preserving body heat.

  • Dietary fat acts as a long-lasting fuel source for low-intensity exercise.

  • Dietary fat provides fat-soluble vitamins and vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Amount of Fat to Consume - If you eat too much fat, the following occurs:

  • Fat is stored in fat cells and adipose tissue.

  • Fat provides the body with the building blocks for cholesterol.

Eating too little fat can cause an essential-fatty-acid deficiency, which may lead to skin problems, fatigue, poor mental function, hair loss, and poor wound healing.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we should restrict our dietary fat intake to 30% of our calories. Type of fat is also important. Certain types of fats, such as omega 3's from whole foods (found in nuts, seeds, and oily fish), now are viewed as essential to a healthy diet. If you want to lose weight, a reasonable daily fat target is 30% of calories, of which no more than 10% are from saturated fat.

What Exactly is a Trans Fat? - Food manufacturers know that solid fats increase the shelf life and flavor stability in many baked and processed foods, and often result in a better food product. As a result, they began changing liquid oils, such as corn and soybean, into solids by adding hydrogen. This process is called hydrogenation and results in a type of fat called trans fats.

Trans fats are different from the saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats that you probably know about. Trans fats have the same effect on the heart as saturated fats - both raise low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol levels ("bad cholesterol") and, therefore, increase your risk of heart disease. You have seen and heard about trans fats in recent years for this reason. Food manufacturers are required to include trans fat information on food labels to make it easier for consumers to know how much trans fat they are eating.

What is the Difference Between Trans Fats and Saturated Fats? - While some trans fats are found naturally in foods, most are liquid fats that are turned into solid fats through a chemical process. Saturated fats are found naturally in foods. The best sources of saturated fat in the diet are fatty animal foods (high-fat cuts of beef, pork, and chicken; high-fat milk and cheeses; and butter). Saturated fats also are found in two plant foods: palm oil and coconut oil.

What Foods Contain Trans Fats? - Trans fat is found in any food that contains hydrogenated vegetable oils, including shortening and margarine. In recent years, many manufacturers have made an effort to decrease trans fats in their products.

The Major Sources in the Diet are:

  • Commercial baked goods, such as cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, bread, etc.

  • Animal products

  • Margarine

  • Commercially fried potatoes

  • Snack foods such as potato chips, corn chips, and popcorn

Review date 4/09

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body. They are made up of amino acids, and help build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body, and most of it (around 60% to 70%) is located in the skeletal muscles. Protein provides 4 calories per gram.

Protein Provides:

  • Valuable enzymes that regulate bodily functions

  • Transport of nutrients, oxygen, and waste throughout the body

  • The key to muscle building and development

  • The structure and contracting capability of muscles

  • Collagen to connective tissues of the body and to tissues of the skin, hair, and nails

What Happens if I Eat Too Much Protein? - A diet containing excess protein can have the following adverse effects: an increased caloric intake, which results in excess calories stored as fat in the body; and elevated blood lipids and heart disease, caused by eating many high-protein foods that are also very high in total fat and saturated fat.

What Happens if I Do Not Eat Enough Protein? - Too little protein in the diet limits the amount of protein your body can use for daily cell function and building muscle. This can result in protein energy malnutrition (PEM).

Vegetable Protein - Legumes, seeds, and nut proteins are considered incomplete proteins because each individual food does not contain all the essential amino acids. Eat a variety of vegetable protein sources daily to get all of the amino acids your body needs. Some grains and vegetables also contain smaller amounts of protein that can contribute to your daily protein intake.

Review Date 4/11

Carbohydrates offer an immediate source of energy for your body. They provide the fuel for your muscles and organs, such as your brain. Carbohydrates provide all the cells of the body with the energy they need for everyday tasks and physical activity.

Carbohydrates are your body's first choice for fuel. If given a choice of several types of foods simultaneously, your body will use the energy from carbohydrates first. A low-carbohydrate diet might seem healthy, but if taken to the extreme, it is very dangerous to a person's overall well-being. It is important to remember that "low carb" does not mean "no carb." Make sure you eat moderate amounts of carbohydrates to keep your body fueled properly, with 50% - 55% of calories coming from carbohydrates.

The Two Types of Carbohydrates Are:

  • Simple Carbohydrates - These are found in fruits and fruit juice, and are easily digested by the body. They also are often found in processed foods and anything with added refined sugar, such as soft drinks and some candy.
  • Complex Carbohydrates - These are found in nearly all plant-based foods and usually take longer for the body to digest. They are most commonly found in whole-wheat bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and starchy vegetables.

If the Foods You Eat Contain Too Many Carbohydrates, the Following Occurs: Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscle cells, and are used when the body needs an extra burst of energy. Anything left that is not stored in the liver and muscle cells is turned into fat.

If You Do Not Eat Enough Carbohydrates, the Following Can Occur: Fatigue easily results from deprivation of carbohydrates, which is seen in people who fast, possibly interfering with activities of daily living. What also may occur is muscle cramps and poor mental function.

Review Date 4/11

*This article is from the Nutrition 411 website and used with permission. We recommend you visit their website at www.nutrition411.com or click on the logo below.

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