Nutrition Science 101

The study of Nutrition is a science; The application of nutrition is an art.  The wonderful thing about nutrition is that eating right for your body doesn’t require any special knowledge or training.  Humans have an intuitive ability to know what their body needs, and yet, most of us aren’t listening.  Many people tend to be obsessed with fad diets and nutrition facts, and yet lack an overall appreciation or understanding of the affects that whole foods have on their health.  They may “major in the minors” when it comes to nutrition and “miss the forest for the trees.”  An example might be avoiding gluten, while neglecting areas such as over-consumption of foods and physical inactivity.  Four major areas to investigate with weight loss are nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep, but let’s start with a super basic review of nutrition.

Calories

  • In human nutrition, calories are needed by the body to do work
  • Individual needs vary depending on age, sex, size, genetics and activity levels
  • They are neither bad, nor good, but simply a way of measuring the amount of energy a food provides us

Calorie expenditure is divided between resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of foods (energy used for the digestion of food), non-exercise activity and exercise. Our muscles and organs are the biggest consumers of calories at rest.

Macronutrients

  • Nutrients that provide calories or energy
  • Nutrients are substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions
  • Needed in large amounts

Carbohydrates*Generally, should comprise ~45-65% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. Slow carbs are low-glycemic load and fast carbs are high-glycemic load.

ProteinGenerally, should comprise ~20-30% of daily caloric intake. Provide 4 calories/gm. 

FatGenerally, should comprise ~15-30%. Provide 9 calories/gm. Saturated fats are typically found in animal products, whereas unsaturated fats are primarily sourced from plants.

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring chemicals that provide plants with color, odor and flavor. They contribute greatly to our health by fighting inflammation, free radical damage and they also help to balance our hormones.

Right now many individuals are starting to understand that a calorie is not a calorie.  In fact, different foods have different effects on the body and with genetic testing more widely available, we know that no two people respond to the same diet in the same way.  That’s why it’s important to get a nutrition plan specifically tailored for you.  If you are interested in working with a registered dietitian who can write a nutrition plan for you, click here.  Dietitians are uniquely qualified to prescribe specific nutrient recommendations and it can be highly worth your time.