Sunday, February 2, 2014

Intro to Nutrition Final Project

For those who normally read my blog the following post is a final project for an Introduction to Nutrition class that is wrapping up this week.  Hopefully the information in this blog will help others as they move forward to better health and nutrition.

Nutrition and Disease
Nutrition and disease go hand-in-hand.  A person cannot sustain poor nutrition without seeing breakdown and disease in one form or another at some point during his lifetime.  Without proper nutritional habits the body is unable to regenerate and grow in a healthy manner.  Malnutrition is commonly thought to be only for those who are underweight.  "Malnutrition includes deficiencies, imbalances, and excesses of nutrients, alone or in combination, any of which can take a toll on health over time" (Sizer & Whitney, 2012, p. 2).  A person can be overweight and still be malnourished.  Many diseases are directly impacted by the level of nutrition a person consumes.  Although some diseases are affected by genetics, even those diseases can be held at bay with proper nutrition.  Cardiovascular disease is one of those diseases.  A diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol can help prevent cardiovascular problems.  A study that involved women with various lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking alcohol, set controls with different eating habits.  One group ate mostly meats and the other ate mostly fruits and vegetables.  "Strikingly, an additive effect of nutrition was found for every risk factor identified, whether or not nutrition related, or a matter of lifestyle like smoking, or even largely genetically determined as by family history" (Zyriax, Boeing, & Windler, 2005).  Osteoporosis is another disease that is greatly impacted by the amount of calcium a person takes in.  Many people suffer from diabetes.  Although medication is readily available to control diabetes there is much research available that gives way to diabetes being preventable or kept under control by proper nutrition and excercise.
A Healthy Diet
Most people know the basic components of a healthy diet.  They have a general knowledge of what they should eat and probably an even greater knowledge of what they should not eat.  Charts and graphs of proper nutritional recommendations are readily available for people to view.  Food selections purchased at the store have nutritional information printed on the packaging.  Unfortunately the information can be confusing and oftentimes very misleading.   The U.S. Department of Agriculture gives their recommendations for proper nutrition for Americans.  This information is available for people starting at age two.  Obviously, the amount of calories and types of food is dependent on the type of lifestyle a person lives.  A sedentary lifestyle requires far less calories than an athlete would need.  A healthy diet contains fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein.  If that protein comes from animals it needs to be lean meats.  Dairy products should be low fat and oils should be unsaturated.  Solid fats and foods with added sugars should be mostly avoided and only consumed occasionally for treats.  Although many Americans know what to eat, actually eating as recommended can be extremely difficult.  Food choices are often selected more from convenience than from need.  In the fast paced lifestyle that many people maintain, it is not always easy to have a well-rounded meal.  Fast food stops and quick snacks have become the norm for many Americans.  Preparing a healthy meal can seem time consuming, therefore people run through the drive-thru to help save valuable time.  All the while, they are greatly contributing to the promotion of disease within the body. 
Factors that Drive Food Choices
There are many factors that drive the choices people make when it comes to food choices.  As mentioned earlier, one of the main factors is convenience.  It is quicker and easier to go through the drive-thru to grab dinner than it is to come home and prepare a healthy meal.  The text tells us that social status and cultural background play a large part in the food choices we make.  Different foods are consumed in different cultures.  Children are raised eating certain foods.  These foods are directly related to the family’s culture.  Typically children will grow up and continue those same cultural ways of eating.  Social pressures can also impact the way a person eats.  People who spend time with people who generally take care of themselves with proper nutrition are more likely to make the right choices as opposed to people who spend time with unhealthy eaters.  Where a person lives can also have an impact on what he eats.  If someone lives in a tropical climate where fresh fruits thrive, he is more likely to eat fresh fruits.  Someone who lives on a farm where livestock is raised and slaughtered is more likely to consume meat and other animal products.  The cost of food is another factor in what someone chooses to eat.  People can only eat food that fits into their budgets.  Many people are emotional eaters and will choose foods that feed their emotions at the time.  If someone is overweight, he may choose to eat foods low in fat and calories in hopes that he will lose pounds.   Conversely, someone that is underweight may choose to eat foods that are high in fat and calories hoping to gain weight.  Finally, many food choices are made simply on general taste preference.  (Sizer & Whitney, 2012, p.12)  Advertising and food loyalty can also play a roll in food choices.  Millions of dollars are spent advertising different foods and restaurants every year.  A study indicated several reasons that college age students eat at particular restaurants.  Cleanliness and friendliness were the top factors as to why they chose certain restaurants.  Nutritional value was not a reason given for choosing where to eat.  (Knutson, 2000)
 Macro and Micronutrients
The three main macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  They all provide energy to the body.  Carbohydrates give the body much needed glucose to fuel the body.  It is important to make sure that the carbohydrates are not from refined sugar sources. Americans should consume 45-65% of their calories from carbohydrates.  Whole grains, fruits, brown rice and vegetables are great sources of carbohydrates.  Fats are important because they store the energy.  Energy has to be stored to a certain extent to provide fuel for the body when calories are not being consumed.  Unfortunately many Americans store too much fat.  Fats also proved the energy muscles need to work properly.  Fats help insulate the body and protect organs.  Cell membranes are also mostly made up of fats.  Unsaturated fats are the healthiest fats that can be consumed.  Seeds and nuts are great sources of fats.  Olives and avocados are also healthy fat choices.  Proteins help build new tissue.  They help replace old cells and help fuel the body.  Most people are aware that proteins come from meats, but proteins also come from dairy products as well as fruits and vegetables.  Corn , avocado, and legumes are great sources of proteins along with roast beef, tuna, chicken, beef and other meats.  (Sizer & Whitney, 2012)   The body does not require as many micronutrients as it does macronutrients.  Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients.  Calcium is a micronutrient that helps with bone growth.  Phosphorus maintains acid balance, carry, store and release energy, and it is a component of cell membranes.  Magnesium helps with cell function and helps metabolize other vitamins and minerals.  Sodium balances out fluids and electrolytes.  Potassium is vital for proper heart function.  Iron aids in red blood cell production.  These are some of the minerals the body uses.  There are many more.  (Sizer & Whitney, 2012)  Vitamins are very important parts of the human diet.   Some vitamins can also be obtained through spending adequate time in the sun.  Each vitamin has its own unique job for helping to keep the body in proper health. 
Digestion, Absorption, and Metabolism of Macronutrients
Digestion of carbohydrates starts with saliva breaking down the starch in the mouth.  Once in the stomach the digestive enzymes continue to break down the starch into disaccharides and polysaccharides before it moves on to be absorbed by the body and used to fuel cells.  Sucrose and lactose are broken down into monosaccharides in the lining of the small intestine.  They then go to the liver to be converted to glucose before being carried by the circulatory system to be used as energy.  Fiber is not typically changed in digestion.   Not much fat digestion takes place in the stomach.  Bile mixes with the fat in the small intestine.  The pancreas has enzymes that divide them into small molecules so that they can be absorbed.  Then they are absorbed by the cells of the intestinal villi.  The text states that up to 98% of consumed fats can be absorbed.  Protein digestion begins in the stomach where the proteins are uncoiled and broken into smaller pieces.  Once in the small intestine, alkaline juices from the pancreas neutralize the acid.  After the final breakdown the circulatory system distributes them through body to be used as needed.  (Sizer & Whitney, 2012)
Underweight, Overweight and Obesity
Proper nutrition is a main piece of maintaining an appropriate weight.  People who are underweight do not consume enough calories to maintain their level of activity.  The body uses stored energy which causes the weight loss.  Overweight people can eventually become obese.  They consume more calories than their level of activity requires.  Diet can balance out nutritional needs with activity output.  Eating foods that provide fuel and not overeating or under-eating are the key to maintaining a proper weight. 
Nutritional Requirements for Life
During pregnancy a woman needs to consume 340 more calories each day in the second trimester and 450 more calories each day in the third trimester.  She needs 175 grams of carbohydrates and an additional 25 grams or more of protein.  Pregnant women also need increased amounts of folate and vitamin B12.   According to the text infants need 100 calories per kilogram of body weight.  If it is hot outside a baby will need additional water.  After about 4-6 months a baby can start to eat solids.  These foods should be rich with iron and vitamin C.  During childhood calorie intake ranges from around 1000 – 2600 calories a day depending on the age, sex and amount of activity for the child.  The younger the child the more glucose he needs to help with brain development.  A child needs 15 micrograms of Vitamin D and 7-10 micrograms of iron.  Adolescents need 8-16 micrograms per day of iron depending on age and sex.  They need 15 micrograms of Vitamin D every day.  Protein needs are the same for adolescents and adults.  Adults need 25 grams of fiber each day.  They need 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12.  The older a person gets the more water he needs to consume to prevent dehydration.  (Sizer & Whitney, 2012)
My Diet Plan
My current diet consists mainly of convenience foods.  As a mother of three who works a full-time job, coaches high school athletics and goes to college, I have very little time for food preparation.  Although I am completely aware of what and how I should eat, putting that into practice is a completely different story.  Eight months ago I quit drinking anything, but tea and water.  My new goal is to also quit drinking tea because it has unnecessary sugar that contributes to my weight.  I also quit eating fast food burgers in June, but continue to eat chicken and fries at fast food places.  My new goal is to slowly quit that as well.  Luckily, I am not an overeater.  My main issue is sugar.  I have a serious sweet tooth and love to eat hard candy and sweets throughout the day.  This week I purchased dried fruits that I like to help replace the candy snacking.  Finding vegetables that I like and switching my diet to mostly fruits and vegetables will help me continue to lose weight and achieve better health.  “Parents’ obesity is the most important risk factor for childhood obesity” (Maffeis, 2000).  I do not want my children to be overweight.  So far they are not, but the habits I teach them now will be the ones they carry on into adulthood.  I want to make sure they are learning healthy habits.  

B-C Zyriax, Boeing, H., & Windler, E. (2005). Nutrition is a powerful independent risk    factor for coronary heart disease in women--the CORA study: A population-based        case-control study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(10), 1201-7.            doi: 
Knutson, B. J. (2000). College students and fast food--how students perceive restaurant   brands. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 41(3), 68-74.   Retrieved from  
Maffeis, C. (2000). Aetiology of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.         European Journal of Pediatrics, 159, S35-44.             doi:
Sizer, F., & Whitney, E. (2012). Food Choices and Human Health. Nutrition Concepts &   Controversies (p. 3). Belmont, CA: Yolanda Cossio. (Original work published           2008)