Basic Nutritional Facts

Food provides the human body with the nutrients it needs to grow, repair itself and stay fit and healthy. These nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and mineral.

• Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which travels through your bloodstream and supplies your cells with energy. Simple carbohydrates, which are found in fruits, soda, candy and table sugar, are digested quickly. Complex carbohydrates (fiber and starches), which are found in rice, bread, whole grains, pasta and vegetables, take longer for the body to digest.

What is Fiber? It is a kind of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Because it helps food and waste move through your body, fiber is necessary for staying healthy. It also helps to lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Some great sources of fiber are whole-grain cereals and breads, beans, fruits and vegetables.

• Proteins

Proteins, found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, dairy products and legumes (such as peanuts, lentils and beans) keeps us strong. They help the body build new cells and repair damaged tissues. Most Americans eat much more protein than they actually need. Excess protein is often stored in our bodies as fat.

• Fats

Not only do fats help your body grow, they also help you protect your internal organs and your skin. But they should be eaten in small quantities. There are different types of fats, and some are better than others. Saturated fats are considered “bad” fats, as they increase your risk for diseases. Saturated fats are most often found in foods that come from animals, including meat, cheese and butter. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are considered “good” fats. They lower your risk for disease. These fats are found in olive, safflower and canola oils, among others. They are also found in fish and nuts.

What are Trans Fats? These are the worst types of fats you can put into your body. They are unsaturated fats that have been treated with chemicals to make them stay solid at room temperature. Because of the way they are prepared, they last longer than other fats. Many fast-food restaurants and commercial bakeries use them in their products, though some cities now ban them from using trans fats. Trans fats can be found in margarine and some cookies, potato chips, doughnuts and other snack foods, and will increase your risk for heart disease.

• Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients that help regulate body processes.

VITAMIN A, found in milk, many greens, carrots and egg yolks, benefits your skin and eyes.

VITAMIN C, found in many fruits and vegetables, is good for skin, teeth and gums.

VITAMIN D, found in spinach, nuts, olives and almonds, has great antioxidant properties, and it lowers your risk for heart disease.

MINERALS such as potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium are necessary for healthy bones, blood and muscles. Minerals are found naturally in many foods. For example, milk, yogurt and leafy greens like spinach and broccoli are good sources of calcium, and red meat is a food high in iron. Minerals are sometimes added to foods to make them more nutritious. For example, you may see calcium-fortified orange juice at the grocery store.