Basic Principles of Nutrition

What's the meaning of Nutrition in the Balanced diet

The food you eat is generally made up of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that are found in different proportions. Carbohydrates and proteins provide 4 calories per gram, while fats provide 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrates and excess proteins are metabolized in preference to fats. Excess fats are deposited in the fat cells in the body for use in an emergency such as famine or starvation. Proteins are made up of small building blocks called amino acids and they are found in nearly most food substances. Meat, pulses, and soybean are rich sources of proteins.

Earlier, nutritionists were under the mistaken impression that animal proteins were better than vegetable proteins but now it is known that if one eats a balanced meal with proteins from a variety of sources, one gets enough high-quality proteins from vegetables. Because of this, it is important for you to eat a wide range of foods from all the food groups.

Carbohydrates: There are two types of carbohydrates - the simple carbohydrates or sugars and the complex carbohydrates found in grains and vegetables. The simple carbohydrates are sugar, glucose, honey, molasses, jaggery, and fructose. The complex carbohydrates are found in vegetables, grains, and pulses. One must limit the intake of simple carbohydrates and sugars as much as possible. Remember that fruit juice contains lots of simple sugar and it is less healthy than eating fruit.

The simple sugars provide instant energy but at the same time trigger the release of a large amount of insulin into the bloodstream. This facilitates the passage of sugar from the blood into the cells. This causes blood sugar levels to fall and the person feels more tired and hungry. Sugar has very little nutrient value and is mainly 'empty calories, so try to have a little simple sugar as possible. Usually, people find that after some time they adapt to adding very little sugar to their food.

Artificial sweeteners are an alternative to sugar. But we do not know much about their long-term safety and they may have adverse effects. Aspartame is a commonly used artificial sweetener with no bitter aftertaste. One problem with aspartame is that it is broken down at temperatures near boiling point and therefore must not be cooked.

Complex carbohydrates are present in large amounts in grains, vegetables, pulses, and tubers such as potatoes. Complex carbohydrates are broken down slowly and are gradually released into the body, providing sustained energy over an extended period of time. Eating them is advantageous in that there is no sudden rise in the levels of sugar and insulin in the bloodstream. It is better to use unrefined sources of complex carbohydrates such as brown rice instead of white rice and wholemeal bread or chapattis instead of white bread.

Fats: These are made up of fatty acids and required by the body in small quantities for optimal health. The requirement of fat can be obtained by consuming a vegetarian diet without any extra added fat, provided there is enough variety. To bring about a regression in the blockage to the arteries you need to restrict yourself to a diet that contains less than 10% of calories from fats.

Cholesterol: Most animal products contain cholesterol -a fatty substance. There is evidence that there is a correlation between the amount of cholesterol consumed in the diet and the progression of atherosclerosis. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep your cholesterol intake to a minimum To do this, avoid meat and eggs. Cholesterol is also produced in the liver from saturated fats. All cooking oils and dairy products contain fats, consequently, it is important to restrict the use of cooking oil, butter, cheese, paneer, and milk.

Cooking oil: It is necessary to restrict the amount of cooking oil to a minimum. This program allows a maximum of one teaspoon of cooking oil per day. This oil should be used to prepare the tempering for the food. If you have heart disease and want to reverse the blockages you should not use any oil in cooking. If you cannot do without it you may use a teaspoonful of oil provided that your cholesterol levels are in the healthy range. However, if your cholesterol level rises again, stop using oil.

Cooking oils contain three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated (MFA) and polyunsaturated (PUFA), Different types of oil contain different proportions of these types of fatty acids. For example, butter and ghee are rich in saturated fatty acids. Safflower oil and corn oil are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil, Canola (rapeseed oil), mustard, and peanut or groundnut oil are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids.

Coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, and hydrogenated fats are rich in saturated fatty acids and should not be used as they raise cholesterol levels especially LDL.

While polyunsaturated fatty acids marginally reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, they do not reduce the risk of a heart attack and, in fact, may even increase it. They also depress the immune system and cause oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which makes it more likely to be deposited in the arterial wall. Based on the fact that oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) lower cholesterol, some manufacturers make exaggerated claims that their oil is good for the heart, especially for safflower oil. In actual fact, its high Omega-6 content also adds to the danger.

Advertisers often claim that their oil is cholesterol-free but this is true of all oils from vegetable sources. Canola (rapeseed) and mustard oil have an optimum Omega-6/ Omega-3 ratio and are probably the safest. Other cooking oils that experts recommend are soya and rice bran oil.

Do not use safflower oil despite advertisers' claims that it is safe for the heart. Many doctors have been taken in by this advertising and may recommend it. Safflower has a high content of n6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. While this does reduce cholesterol levels marginally, it also oxidizes LDL cholesterol and makes it stickier. There is no evidence to show that it reduces the risk of atherosclerosis, a heart attack, or recurrences. Some scientists believe it is better to use small quantities of butter or clarified butter instead of cooking oil rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids.

You must be aware that food in commercial establishments is often cooked in cheap oils (such as palm oil) rich in saturated fatty acids. The same is also true for cakes and biscuits, which contain large quantities of hydrogenated fats rich in trans-fatty acids. A medium biscuit, for example, contains more than 5 gm of fat. Cakes, biscuits, chocolates, and wafers advisable. chocolates and wafers are not

Trans-fatty acids or TFAs: Polyunsaturated oils get rancid quickly because of oxidation. Hydrogenating them can prevent this. However, in the process, a dangerous substance called trans-fatty acid (TFA) is formed. Trans fatty acids are also formed when oil is heated to high temperatures - for instance, during frying. Hence oil for frying should not be reused.

Research shows that trans-fatty acids have an adverse effect on the lipid profile and increase the risk of atherosclerosis and a heart attack. Hence one should not eat anything with hydrogenated fats (e.g. vanaspati) and margarine. During their production, many refined cooking oils are heated to high temperatures leading to the formation of trans-fatty acids. One can avoid this by using cold-pressed oil.

Fiber: Eating a high-fiber diet is one way of reducing cholesterol. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds to the bulk of stools and helps prevent constipation and straining. Soluble fiber binds to the cholesterol in the gut and prevents it from being reabsorbed. It has been found that when people start on a high-fiber diet cholesterol levels, especially LDL levels, drop by 5% to 10%. Lentils, grains, and vegetables all add fiber to your diet.

White flour and white rice have their fiber removed. Psyllium or Isabgol is a good source of soluble fiber and also prevents constipation. One can safely add a tablespoon to the daily diet.

Garlic: People in Mediterranean countries, where large quantities of garlic are used, have a lower rate of heart disease. Some studies on the use of garlic have shown a 5% to 10% reduction in cholesterol levels and a reduction in the clotting of the blood. Garlic contains allicin, the active principle that reduces cholesterol. It is a good idea if you add a few cloves of garlic to your food.

Omega-3 fatty acids: A number of studies show that a diet rich in Omega-3 (n3) fatty acids prevents recurrent heart attacks. Fish oils and flaxseeds are very rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Mustard, canola, and soy oils are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. This is why many doctors advise people with heart disease to eat oily fish like mackerel and salmon at least twice a week. Dr. Ornish now recommends the use of flaxseed or three grams of fish oil per day. Cod liver oil is not recommended in these doses as it can lead to Vitamin D toxicity.

Flaxseed (Ulsee) is freely available in India. It is a good idea to have a tablespoon or two of coarse ground flaxseed daily. The seeds can be ground in a mixer and should be kept in the refrigerator for use within two weeks.

Vitamins and mineral supplements: Vitamins are essential substances that the body needs in small amounts to function properly. It is a good idea to take a multivitamin supplement to maintain good health. The body also needs a number of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and selenium to function well. A well-balanced diet usually provides enough vitamins and minerals.

To be on the safe side, it is wise to take a good multivitamin supplement daily. This will also reduce your homocysteine levels. If you use a combined multivitamin and mineral supplement, choose one with low iron content.

The safety of high doses of vitamins or antioxidants has not yet been determined and they should be avoided. Some multi-level marketing companies have started making exaggerated claims for the benefit of herbs and food extracts. Their usefulness is highly questionable.


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