General Nutrition



General Nutrition
The three main nutrients that you should be aware of are fats, carbohydrates and protein. Saturated fats and cholesterol are included under fats and fiber under carbohydrates. Below is a description of each and their importance in your diet.


FATS


Fat is a very concentrated energy source, which contains more than twice as much energy as protein or carbohydrates (approximately 9 calories per gram). Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad for you and certain fats are essential for good health. Fats help your body absorb many essential vitamins, preserve the integrity of your immune system and maintain the structure and function of cell membranes. However, you should try to avoid certain types of fats, such as saturated fats and cholesterol, which can increase your risk of coronary artery disease. As a general rule of thumb, you can tell if oil is high in saturated fat if it turns white and solid at room temperature, for example bacon grease. Oils which stay liquid at room temperature a usually low in saturated fat.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fat is most often found in animal products, such as red meat, poultry, butter and whole milk. Other foods high in saturated fat include coconut, palm and other tropical oils. Saturated fat is the main dietary culprit in raising your blood cholesterol and increasing your risk of coronary artery disease.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol is vital to the structure and function of all your cells, but it's also the main substance in fatty deposits (plaques) that can develop in your arteries. Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs for cell function. You get additional cholesterol by eating animal foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products and butter.



CARBOHYDRATES


Carbohydrates are your body's main energy source and are approximately 4 calories per gram. When on a diet you should try to consume complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, whole grains, peas, corn and leafy vegetables. As a general rule you should try to avoid simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, bleached flour and corn syrup (used as a sweetener). See the Glycemic Index section for more information on healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates.

Fiber

Fiber is the part of plants that your body can't absorb. Eating a diet high in fiber can help your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Some examples of foods high in fiber are, whole grains, bran, fruits and vegetables.



PROTEIN


Proteins are sometimes referred to as the building blocks of life. It is essential to healthy skin, muscles, blood and organ tissues. When you are on a diet it is very important that you get enough protein. Although proteins are mainly used as the building blocks of your body, they can be used for energy also (approximately 4 calories per gram). Some example of foods high in protein are legumes, poultry, seafood, meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds.

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