7 dietary sources of energy

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It’s important to fuel your tank properly if you want to keep it running. The food you eat supplies many types of macronutrients — carbohydrates, fats and proteins — which deliver the energy (or calories) your body needs to function. Food also supplies micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which don’t provide calories but help the body with chemical reactions. In addition, food is a source of water, fiber and other essential substances. Below you will find important nutrients that your body needs to stay energized.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars found in fruits, honey, milk and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quickly for energy.

Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, are found primarily in whole grains, pasta, potatoes, beans and vegetables. Digestion is required to change complex carbohydrates into simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. During processing, however, complex carbohydrates may be refined, removing many important nutrients — along with their benefits.

Fats

Fats are a natural component of various foods, and they come in different forms. The oils used in cooking are a form of fat. Fats are also found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, dairy, poultry and fish, and in such common foods as avocados, nuts and olives. Fats are a major source of energy — or calories — and also help your body absorb some vitamins.

Proteins

Proteins build and repair body structures, produce body chemicals, carry nutrients to your cells and help regulate body processes. Excess proteins also provide calories. Proteins are composed of basic elements called amino acids. There are two types of amino acids: those your body can generate, known as nonessential amino acids, and those that can only be obtained from the food you eat, known as essential amino acids.

Vitamins

Many foods contain vitamins, such as A, B complex, C, D, E and K. Vitamins help your body use carbohydrates, fats and proteins. They also help produce blood cells, hormones, genetic material and chemicals for the nervous system. Deficiencies of these vitamins lead to various diseases.

During processing, foods can lose nutrients. Manufacturers sometimes enrich or fortify the processed food and add back nutrients. Fresh, natural foods, though, contain vitamins in their preferred natural state.

Minerals

Minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus are important to the health of your bones and teeth. Sodium, potassium and chloride, commonly referred to as electrolytes, help regulate the balance of water and chemicals in your body. Your body needs smaller amounts of minerals such as iron, iodine, zinc, copper, fluoride, selenium and manganese, commonly referred to as trace minerals.

Water

It’s easy to take water for granted, but it’s a vital nutritional requirement. Many foods, especially fruits, contain a lot of water. Water plays a role in nearly every major body function. It regulates body temperature, carries nutrients and oxygen cells via the bloodstream and helps carry away waste. Water also helps cushion joints and protects organs and tissues.

Fiber

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body doesn’t absorb. The two main types are soluble and insoluble, and fiber-rich foods usually contain both. Foods high in soluble fiber include citrus fruits, apples, pears, plums and prunes, oatmeal and oat bran, and barley.

Legumes, such as dried beans and peas, are also high in soluble fiber. This type of fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, slows the rise in blood sugar and adds bulk to stools. Insoluble fiber is found in many vegetables, wheat bran, and whole-grain breads, pasta and cereals. Insoluble fiber also adds bulk to stool, stimulates the gastrointestinal tract, and helps prevent constipation.

Happy, healthy eating!!

Tip of the Day

Brighten up your breakfast! Brighten up your breakfast routine by adding fresh fruit to yogurt, cereals, and toast or by blending frozen fruit into a smoothie.

Daily Inspiration 

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7 tips to breaking breakfast barriers

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Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day for a reason: People who regularly eat a healthy, balanced breakfast tend to concentrate better and get more physical activity than those who skip it. Breakfast eaters also have an easier time managing their weight and have good cholesterol levels. Take a bite out of the habit of skipping breakfast with these strategies:

  1. Get into the habit. Start with grabbing just a piece of fruit as you walk out the door. Gradually include other food groups.
  2. Curb your sweet tooth the healthy way. Try making French toast using whole-grain bread dipped in a batter made of egg whites or an egg substitute, a pinch of cinnamon and a few drops of vanilla extract. Fry in a nonstick skillet or use a cooking spray. Top with thinly sliced apples, unsweetened applesauce, berries or sliced banana for sweetness.
  3. Prepare in advance. If you’re rushed in the morning, set the table the night before with bowls and spoons for cereal or slice some fruit ahead of time and place your smoothie blender out on the counter. Keep easy favorites such as hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, instant whole-grain oatmeal and low-fat yogurt on hand.
  4. Think out of the (cereal) box. Don’t limit yourself to traditional breakfast foods. Leftover vegetable pizza or a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread can make a healthy breakfast.
  5. Take it with you. If there’s no time to eat breakfast at home, pack a brown-bag breakfast or grab a banana and take it with you.
  6. Split it up. If you’re not hungry first thing in the morning, eat a slice of whole-wheat toast or drink a glass of 100 percent fruit juice. Later, eat a healthy mid-morning snack.
  7. Change gradually. Have breakfast on two mornings at first, and three mornings a little later. Your eventual goal is to eat breakfast every day.

Whenever you’re tempted to skip your morning meal, just remember that a good breakfast also helps keep you from becoming ravenously hungry later in the day, so you won’t eat as much.

Tip of the Day

Dip into dairy! Looking for ways to get your dairy today? Use low-fat or fat-free yogurt to make a dip for fruit or vegetables. Try cucumber, ranch or cinnamon varieties.

Daily Inspiration 

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Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet

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Eat more fiber. You’ve probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health? Dietary fiber — found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But foods containing fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as helping to maintain a healthy weight and lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn’t difficult.

What is dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body. Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve.

  • Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
  • Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Most plant-based foods, such as oatmeal and beans, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.

Benefits of a high-fiber diet

A high-fiber diet has many benefits, which include:

  • Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
  • Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. And high-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Another benefit attributed to dietary fiber is prevention of colorectal cancer. However, the evidence that fiber reduces colorectal cancer is mixed.

How much fiber do you need?

The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily fiber recommendations for adults:

Age 50 or younger Age 51 or older
Institute of Medicine
Men 38 grams 30 grams
Women 25 grams 21 grams

Your best fiber choices

If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:

  • Whole-grain products
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron back after processing, but not the fiber.

Fiber supplements and fortified foods

Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements — such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon — don’t provide the variety of fibers, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that foods do. Another way to get more fiber is to eat foods, such as cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and ice cream, with fiber added. The added fiber usually is labeled as “inulin” or “chicory root.”

Some people complain of gassiness after eating foods with added fiber. However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren’t sufficient or if they have certain medical conditions, such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Check with your doctor before taking fiber supplements.

Tips for fitting in more fiber

Need ideas for adding more fiber to your meals and snacks? Try these suggestions:

  • Jump-start your day. For breakfast choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal — 5 or more grams of fiber a serving. Opt for cereals with “whole grain,” “bran” or “fiber” in the name. Or add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
  • Switch to whole grains. Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label and has at least 2 grams of dietary fiber a serving. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur wheat.
  • Bulk up baked goods. Substitute whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking. Try adding crushed bran cereal, unprocessed wheat bran or uncooked oatmeal to muffins, cakes and cookies.
  • Lean on legumes. Beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of fiber. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried black beans, lots of fresh veggies, whole-wheat tortilla chips and salsa.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Try to eat five or more servings daily.
  • Make snacks count. Fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fiber snack — although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.

High-fiber foods are good for your health. But adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Also, drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

Tip of the Day

Hydrate to feel great! Water is a refreshing choice. Jazz it up by adding slices of fruit or fresh herbs like mint, rosemary or basil.

Daily Inspiration 

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6 ways to snack smarter on the go

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Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, take your healthy-eating habits along by using these tips:

  1. Take these snacks to go. Tuck portable, nonperishable foods in your backpack, purse or tote when traveling. Single-serving packets of peanut butter and whole-grain crackers, low-fat granola bars, trail mix, nuts and dried fruits travel well.
  2. Traveling by car? Pack a cooler with skim milk, yogurt, individually wrapped string cheese, small packages of lean sliced meat or poultry for sandwiches, fresh fruit and fresh pre-cut vegetables. Whole-grain bread and cereals round out meals and can also be a quick snack.
  3. Don’t forget the fluids. Include water with sliced lemons or limes, individually packaged 100 percent fruit juices, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea.
  4. Utilize your resources. Ask employees at hotels or conferences about local restaurants that have healthy foods on their menus or that offer grilled or broiled foods in addition to fried foods. You might also ask if there’s a grocery store nearby where you can purchase fruit and easy-to-fix items.
  5. Practice portion control. At business events, use portion control. Allow yourself small servings of some higher calorie foods so that you don’t feel deprived and eat larger servings of lower calorie foods.
  6. Eat for energy. Focus your mind on how eating healthy will give you the strength and energy you’ll need for your trip.

Eating well on the road is completely achievable if you plan in advance and have strategies in place that will help you make good choices.

Tip of the Day

Check the label! When buying canned foods, look for “low-sodium” “reduced sodium” or “no-salt added” on the package. You can add flavor at home with herbs and spices.

Daily Inspiration 

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Get into the habit: Pack your lunch

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How often do you just grab whatever’s available when you’re hungry, even relying on a vending machine to supply your midday meal? Reinvigorate your lunch, save money and eat healthier with the following packing tips:

  • Pick foods from a range of food groups to maximize your energy. Choose fruits; vegetables; low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese; whole-grain bread, cereal, pasta or brown rice; and lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs or beans for your lunches.
  • Think beyond the typical sandwich and chips. Stuff whole-grain pita bread with sliced chicken, cucumbers, red onion, low-fat feta cheese and a dash of light dressing. Make kebabs with cut-up fruits and pair with low-fat yogurt as a dip. Replace peanut-butter sandwiches with another nut or seed spread like sunflower-seed butter.
  • No microwave? No problem. Keep hot foods hot with an insulated vacuum container such as a thermos. Fill with hot stew, chili, vegetable soup or leftovers for a satisfying meal on a cold day.
  • Have easy brown-bag options handy. Pair low-fat cheese sticks and smoked turkey slices with whole-grain crackers, crunchy raw vegetables and a handful of grapes, or try whole-grain pasta salad — made with chicken, vegetables and shredded Parmesan cheese — with low-fat pudding and a crisp apple. Another option: Layer hummus, sliced tomatoes and reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese over whole-grain bread for a taste-tempting sandwich. Add a handful of baked potato chips and a fresh pear for a satisfying meal.
  • Revive leftovers. Don’t let food from the day before go to waste — turn it into a tasty lunch! Pasta dishes can be enhanced with vegetables, such as a serving of broccoli or a handful of baby spinach. Bring salads to life by adding your favorite raw veggies or protein, such as a boiled egg, chicken or tofu.

Packing lunches can be challenging if you aren’t already in the habit. Look within yourself to find barriers to success and plan solutions that work for you…and save money while you’re at it!

Tip of the Day

Treat the family to fun! When it’s time to celebrate together, do something active as a reward. Plan a trip to the zoo, park, or lake for some outdoor fun!

Daily Inspiration 

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High-Fiber Diet Protects Against Breast Cancer

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A high-fiber diet during adolescence lowers breast cancer risk, according to a study published online in Pediatrics. Researchers monitored fiber intake and breast cancer incidence rates in 44,263 women during adolescence and early adulthood as part of the Nurses’ Health Study II. Those women who ate the most fiber during adolescence or early adulthood lowered their risk for breast cancer later in life, compared with those who consumed the least.

Farvid MS, Eliassen AH, Cho E, Liao X, Chen WY, Willett WC. Dietary fiber intake in young adults and breast cancer risk. Pediatrics. Published online February 1, 2016.

Tip of the Day

Stay on track with small changes! This month continue to make small changes to what you eat and how you move. Try adding 10 more active minutes to your exercise routine, or serve a new healthy recipe at dinner.

Daily Inspiration 

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Flavonoids in Fruit Aid Weight Control

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Flavonoids found in apples, pears, onions, and other fruits and vegetables improve weight control, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Researchers monitored weight and intake for seven different types of flavonoids in 124,086 participants from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the Nurses’ Health Study, or the Nurses’ Health Study II. Those who consumed the most flavonoids from berries, citrus fruits, and peppers were more likely to maintain their weight when compared to those who consumed the least. These findings credit dietary interventions and daily fruit and vegetable intake as effective methods for obesity prevention.

Bertoia ML, Rimm EB, Mukamal KJ, Hu FB, Willett WC, Cassidy A. Dietary flavonoid intake and weight maintenance: three prospective cohorts of 124 086 US men and women followed for up to 24 years. BMJ. 2016;352:i17.

Tip of the Day

Kitchen Time Saver! Cut up a variety of veggies: Bell peppers, carrots, or broccoli. Pre-package them to use when time is limited. You can enjoy them on a salad, with hummus, or in a veggie wrap.

Daily Inspiration 

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