Ask the Dietitian
Our culture is obsessed with food and dietary silliness, and there is a great deal of misinformation. For this reason, it is a pleasure to visit this Web site. There are a great many diet-related questions and they are all answered sensibly and knowledgeably by a dietitian. If it's real information you want about food, nutrition and diet, make this your first stop.
Basal Metabolism Calculator
Here is my simple, four-step plan to achieve optimal health. (1) Visit this Web site and enter your height, weight, age and gender. The computer will perform a calculation and tell you your basal metabolism rate. (2) Specify the activity level that best describes your favorite activity. The computer will then display a detailed breakdown of how many calories you should be eating, and how much of those calories should come from fats, proteins and carbohydrates. (3) Study these numbers carefully, paying particular attention to the maximum suggested values. (4) Order a pizza.
You are just about to pop a couple of chocolate-chip cookies when, suddenly, the god of remorse pops in and gives you the old sleeve across the windpipe. "Do you know," he asks, "how many calories are in those things you are about to put into your body?" Well, you don't need to take this type of abuse. Fire up the old browserooni, and check with a calorie-counter Web site. In two whisks of a cat's tail, you'll be able to say, "Of course I know. These cookies have 90-115 calories, and if you watch carefully, you will now see me ingest them before your very eyes." Ha, that will show the god of remorse.
If you think you need to go on a diet, but you are not sure exactly where to start, check with this Web site. They offer a nutritional profile that might help you determine the amount of calories you should eat in order to maintain or decrease your weight. Other information about dieting is also available.
If you are serious about maintaining a healthy diet, you may want to analyze what you eat. If so, use this resource to help you figure out just what you are ingesting. Specify what you have eaten today, and let the computer estimate the calories, protein, vitamins and minerals you consumed. (Remember, however, that all such numbers are gross estimates. There is no way to know exactly what is in a particular food.)
When you are suffering from too much information, get some help sorting it all out with the FAQ from alt.support.diet. This list of frequently asked questions covers issues such as general diet and nutrition, weight loss, liquid diets and fasts, weight loss organizations and diet books, motivation, exercise, diet aids, and more.
Dieting Talk and General Discussion
Does your diet work? Or like the other 99.9 percent of humanity, do you have to suffer to lose excess weight? Join ultra-nutrition-conscious people around the world who will thank you for sharing. Trade stories, scientific trivia and leftover Weight Watchers' menus. Are you just about ready for your own zip code? Lonely no more.
Every day you can see new fad diets in magazines and books. Each one claims to be the way to fill your dieting needs. This has been happening for years, and the diets still come and go like the tide. The American Heart Association has a page that talks about fad diets from a health point of view. You might want to read this before starting any new program that you think may be a flash in the fad-diet pan.
Fast Food Calorie Counter
When you go to a fast food restaurant, you can't exactly read the labels to see what you are putting into your body. In fact, you are probably better off if you don't read the labels. Instead, use these calorie counters to find out how fattening everything is. After all, what's the point of eating junky fast food if you can't at least get a substantial helping of guilt out of the experience?
It's 11:00 PM, do you know what your cholesterol/HDL risk ratio is? Saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, good fat, bad fat, everyone is talking about fat. Sometimes the stories, ideas and rumors are so conflicting, you can't tell if you are sinking slowly or rising to the top of the soup bowl of life, only to be skimmed off. Don't despair, get your fat facts hot off the Net.
Healthy Diet Guidelines
When it's time to get off the Pepsi and cheeseburger express, get help from your friend the Net. You'll find everything you need to eat well except willpower. In particular, you will find simple guidelines for a healthy diet. Here is my suggestion: eat vegetables, fruits, fish, grains and oil (in that order). However, I recognize that, when it comes to food, there is no single diet that works for everyone, so I am including a special Web page at the USDA site. Here you'll find links to different food pyramids for various food and ethnic preferences, including one for vegetarians.
Holiday Diet Tips
Inevitably, when the holidays roll around, out come the trays of party snacks and rich chocolates, not to mention the high-fat cheeseballs sent across the country by your well-meaning Aunt Matilda (who used to send fruitcakes until she found out you were using them as doorstops). Don't get caught in the holiday-eating pitfall. Prepare now by reading tips on how to enjoy the holidays without overeating.
There are a number of reasons that people go on low-fat diets. Usually, it is to lose weight or to lower cholesterol, or both. Some people, however, must go on low-fat diets because they have medical conditions (such as pancreatic problems) that prevent their bodies from producing the enzymes or other chemicals they need to digest fat properly. As a general rule, it is a good idea to keep your fat intake down, but don't make it too low: we all need some fat regularly. The type of fats we need are called "essential fatty acids". (A good source is olive oil, which is the main fat I use in my diet.) If you are thinking of going on a low-fat diet, my advice is take some time to learn about what types of fats are good for you and what types are best to avoid.
Should you eat the Twinkie or opt for another seaweed sandwich? Join the conversation and talk about the usual gang of suspects: vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and fiber. Then hop over to a Web site, and read and read and read about food until you are stuffed.
Vending Machine Nutrition
How many calories are you putting into your body on those midnight snack runs to the vending machine? Before you commit yourself to putting that something-or-other in your mouth, find out exactly how many of those hard-to-burn little monsters are making their way onto your hips and thighs. Better yet, if you must live on vending machine fodder, find out which choices are actually good for you.
Vitamins and Minerals
Your body is a remarkable organism, one that is able to take relatively few simple building blocks and synthesize (create) the thousands of different complex chemicals you need to sustain life. Although you can make just about everything we need, you do require the building blocks. Without them you cannot live.
Why is this? Over the tens of millions of years that humans evolved, our biological ancestors took advantage of the fact that certain substances were readily available in the environment. These substances became the building blocks that, today, we must have in order to survive.
On a large-scale, we need air, and we need it continually. On a medium-scale, we need water and food, the so-called macronutrients. (Within the realm of food, we can distinguish carbohydrates, fats and proteins, but we won't get into that here.)
On a small-scale, we require the micronutrients, so-called because we need them only in tiny quantities. Some micronutrients are nothing more than substances found in the environment. These are the minerals and, chemically speaking, they are simple. Other, more complex micronutrients must be manufactured for us by other organisms. We call these nutrients vitamins ("vita" coming from the Latin word for life).
Thus, there are there are two types of micronutrients: the vitamins, which are organic (that is, derived from living organisms), and the minerals which are inorganic.
Along with air, the macronutrients -- water and food -- supply almost everything we need. The micronutrients, however, are crucial for an important reason. From one instant to the next, we are kept alive by a vast number of biochemical reactions. On a microscopic level, these reactions take place when particular molecules (very small bits of stuff) come together in just the right way, at just the right time. In order to make this happen, the shapes of the molecules need to fit into one another more or less exactly.
Without getting into a lot of complicated chemical details, this is where the vitamins and minerals come in: they have just the right microscopic properties to participate in biochemical reactions that, otherwise, would not take place.
In the short run, it is possible to live without an adequate supply of vitamins and minerals. After all they are micronutrients, and you don't need them in large amounts. However, in the long run, without proper micronutrients, many of your biochemical reactions would be compromised, and you would become weaker and unhealthier. Eventually, in extreme cases, you would die.
Our knowledge of micronutrients is barely a century old. It was not until 1905 that the English scientist William Fletcher discovered humans beings needed certain "growth factors" to be healthy. In 1913, the very first vitamin (later named Vitamin A) was discovered by the American researcher Elmer V. McCollum.
By the 1930s, scientists were hot on the track of the rest of the vitamins and, before long, the importance of these substances, along with the minerals, became part of the popular culture. Since then, it has been a widespread belief that, if a small amount of micro-nutrients are crucial, large amounts must be even more beneficial.
However, just because vitamins and minerals and necessary to sustain a long, healthy life, taking more than you need does not mean you will live longer or be any healthier. Indeed, all micro-nutrients will harm you, if you take too much of them. Notwithstanding, for many years, there has been a large, thriving supplement industry, selling many different types of micro-nutrients, most of which are unnecessary for normal, healthy people.
The truth is, if you have a well-balanced diet, you do not need much supplementation. Most people, of course, don't have a well-balanced diet, and some supplementation will help their overall health.
Rather than get into overwhelming details, let me just tell you what I eat. My diet consists almost entirely of vegetables, both raw and cooked. In addition, I eat nuts, fruit, fish, whole grains and olive oil. For extra nutrition, I drink vegetable juice, which I make fresh every day. (If you want to improve your health, drinking fresh vegetable juice is the single best thing you can do for yourself.) The only supplement I take regularly is fish oil, because it contains certain nutrients (fatty acids) that I want in larger amounts than my diet would provide. Aside from the vegetable juice, I drink only water.
Why do I not take a daily collection of vitamin and mineral tablets? Two reasons. First, they cost a lot. Second, to thrive, we need many more micronutrients than the vitamins and minerals -- these are the so-called phytochemicals -- and the only way to get them is to eat large amounts of different types of vegetables.
Does a diet such as the one I described work? I am one of the healthiest people you will ever meet and, as I grow older, I see other people my age falling prey to all kinds of degenerative conditions that seem to pass me by.
However, I have to say that I do more than simply eat well: I practice yoga, I get lots of fresh air, exercise and sleep, and I think pure thoughts.
There are lots of ways to lose fat, but the whole thing can be summarized into two simple rules. (1) Exercise more. (2) Eat less. For helpful tips and techniques, check out these Internet resources. (I talked to a doctor once who had a surefire method to lose weight. You serve yourself normal amounts of food, but you don't eat everything, you leave 25% of the food on your plate. It isn't easy to get started, he said, but the technique does work. Now I am ready to introduce him to my new money-saving plan in which I pay all but 25% of my doctor bill.)
© All contents Copyright 2006, Harley Hahn
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