Sunday, February 20, 2011

Healthy Eating 101

I.   Introduction
II.  Each meal should consist of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and a fruit/vegetable.
     2.1 - Carbohydrate Digestion
     2.2 - Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
     2.3 - Protein
     2.4 - Healthy Fats 
III. Eat smaller, more frequent, high-protein portions (every 3 hours)
IV. Drink at least 64-128 oz. of water
V.  Caloric intake to lose weight 
VI. Bibliography

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I.  Introduction
I receive many questions regarding day-to-day eating habits for losing fat and building muscle.  So I decided to write a short blog on some of the basics.  But then it turned into a long blog (Sorry!)…Some (or all) of this may be repetitive to some of you, so I apologize for that.  But for those who are trying to start a new healthy life and don't know where to begin, this is for you!

Here are the rules:
II.  Each meal should consist of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, and a fruit/vegetable.  

   2.1 - Carb Digestion (ACSM, 2007)
When carbs are digested, they are converted into glucose, and absorbed into the bloodstream.  This induces a rise in blood-glucose levels and initiates the release of insulin into the blood.  Insulin allows glucose to be converted into glycogen for stored energy in the liver and in muscles.  However, when muscles and the liver are full of glycogen, remaining blood-glucose is converted to fat and stored.  Therefore, you should be avoiding frequent, large spikes in blood-glucose throughout the day.  

The use of glycogen as energy also spares muscle protein from being used as energy.

   2.2 - Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates (ACSM, 2007)
Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugar units (saccharides or disaccharides).  Because of their simple structure, they are quickly converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in large, rapid spikes in blood glucose and insulin.  High levels of blood glucose and insulin can lead to a variety of health issues, including excess fat storage.

Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) are made up of at least three sugar units.  Because of their complex structures, they require a longer period of time for digestion and conversion into glucose.  Therefore, they increase blood-glucose levels more slowly, avoid large insulin spikes, and storage of excess glycogen as fat.

With the use of the glycemic index, you can easily differentiate between carbs that increase blood-glucose levels quickly or slowly.  Carbs are compared with the ingestion of glucose, which has a glycemic value of 100.  Therefore, carbs that cause quick rises in blood-glucose have a high-glycemic index, whereas, carbs that cause slow rises in blood-glucose have a low-glycemic index.  

Common foods with a high-glycemic index (GI ≥ 70) are:

Baked potato - 85
Sugar - 70
White Bread – 70
White Rice – 75
Corn - 70
Cooked carrots – 85
Bagels – 72
Honey - 85

Common foods with medium-glycemic index (56 ≤ GI ≤ 69):

Oatmeal - 58
Raisins - 64

Common foods witih low-glycemic index (GI ≤ 55):

Orange juice - 50
Black Beans, cooked - 20
Banana, ripe - 52
Apple – 38
Grapes - 46
Sweet Potato - 50
Peach - 30
Brown rice - 50
Cherries - 22
Kidney, navy beans – 40
Stone Ground Whole Wheat – 53
Whole wheat pasta – 50
Rye bread – 40
Pumpernickel bread - 40
English muffin, whole grain - 45
Split peas – 22
Yams - 37
Chickpeas - 28
Lentils, boiled - 30
Raw Carrots - 30
Broccoli - 10
Spinach - 10
Cabbage - 10
Lettuce - 10
Mushrooms - 10
Peanuts - 15
Walnuts - 15

For your carbohydrate choice, stick to complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, that are have a medium to low-glycemic index.  There are plenty of options, no excuses!

   2.3 – Protein
Proteins are complex compounds made of various amino acids and play many roles in the body, such as (ACSM, 2000; Manore and Thompson, 2000): 

1.  Tissue and enzyme synthesis
2.  Hormone production
3.  Energy
4.  Growth and Tissue Maintenance
5.  Balance of fluid between the blood and surrounding tissues

Sources for high-quality lean protein include:

1.  Chicken Breast
2.  Turkey Breast
3.  Wild Caught Fish (Sockeye Salmon, Cod, Orange Roughy, Haddock, etc.)
5.  Canned Fish (Salmon, Tuna)
6.  Egg whites
8.  Free-range whole eggs
7.  Lean Beef

   2.4 - Healthy Fats
Polyunsaturated fatty acids play a role in lowering cholesterol in the blood. The most popular examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids are linolenic acid (omega-3), linoleic acid (omega-6), and oleic acid (omega-9).  Since the human body cannot synthesize omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they are considered "essential" and can only be obtained through one's diet.  Omega-9 fatty acids are synthesized in the body, but only in limited amounts.  Therefore, a diet with omega-9 fatty acids is also necessary.  These fatty acids play a vital role in supporting MANY systems in the body, such as the immune (Calder, 1999), nervous (Alessandri et al., 2004) and cardiovascular system (Richard et al., 2009). Omega-3 deficiencies have been linked to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, excessive inflammatory factors throughout the body, hypertension, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease (Alessandri et al., 2004; Calder, 1999; Richard et al., 2009).

Monounsaturated fats also lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol while maintaining "good" (HDL) cholesterol levels (Spiller et al., 1992). 

Good sources of these fats are:
1.  Olive oil
2.  Coconut oil (saturated fat from coconuts is GOOD FOR YOU!)
2.  Flaxseed oil
3.  Flaxseeds
4.  Walnuts
5.  Salmon
6.  Almonds
7.  Brazil nuts
III.  Eat smaller, more frequent, high-protein portions (every 3 hours)

The research on this section is pretty interesting.  A common rule of thumb is that just by eating smaller portions, you can increase your metabolism and lose more weight.  However, once you look into the research, this isn’t the case.  In fact, a very recent review paper on this subject discusses this very issue.  While there are lower peaks in perceived appetite, satiety, glucose, and insulin with greater meal frequency, the total values of these parameters throughout remain unchanged (Leidy and Campbell, 2011).  So simply eating smaller, more frequent meals is not enough.  The type of foods in these meals is of the utmost importance.  Additionally, high-protein meals facilitate fat loss and weight maintenance more effectively than high-carbohydrate meals (Claessens et al., 2009; Clifton et al., 2009).  So to reiterate, each meal should consist of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a fruit/vegetable, and should be eaten every 3-4 hours.  This allows you to take advantage of the lowered peaks in perceived appetite, satiety, glucose, and insulin throughout the day while earning the weight loss and health benefits of these eating habits.
IV. Drink at least 64-128 oz. of water

One of the major roles of water in the body is to carry nutrients to cells and carry waste away from cells.  All of our lean tissue consists of 70% water.  However, we constantly lose water through breathing, urination, bowel movements, sweating, and even through the skin when there is no sign of sweat (ACSM, 2000; Williams, 2002).  Therefore, it is very important for you, especially athletes and active individuals, to replenish these fluids throughout the day.  Some benefits of being hydrated during exercise include (Manore and Thompson, 2000):

1.  Less dramatic increase in heart rate or core body temperature
2.  Improved skin blood flow
3.  Reduction in net muscle glycogen use --> more endurance

Here are a couple of other tips (ACSM, 2000; Horswill, 1998):
1.  Don't use thirst as a signal to drink water - this signal occurs after 1-2 liters of fluid in the body has already been lost.

2.  Spread it out throughout the day - drinking large volumes in a short period of time can cause gastrointestinal distress and affect exercise performance
V. Caloric intake to lose weight

First, it is important to know that everyone's caloric requirements are different!  Factors such as genetics, age, gender, and weight all play a role in an individual’s requirements.  So, just because your girlfriend lost weight on some X-calorie diet does not mean it will work for you.  You need to know how know how many calories your body needs to maintain your current body weight.  One of the most common methods for finding this value is the use of the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) formula.  

An individual's BMR represents the amount of energy expended by the body in one day if you didn't move at all.  For fat loss and maintaining a lean body, you’d like your BMR to be as high as possible.  Here's the formula:

Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )

: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in years )

BMR calculators can also be found online with a simple search.

Then, your BMR can be used in the Harris-Benedict equation to determine your daily energy expenditure in calories (Harris and Benedict, 1919).  In this equation: 

If you do little or no exercise: BMR x 1.2
If you are lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375
If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55
If you are very active (hard exercise 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.72
If you are extra active (very hard exercise & physical job or training twice a day) : BMR x 1.9

The result of this equation will give you the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current body weight.  If you want to lose fat, reduce this value by 500-1000 calories.  For those with only a small amount of fat to lose, your caloric deficit should be closer to 500 calories.  Extreme caloric deficits are NOT the way to go!  Starvation and extreme caloric deficits can lower your BMR.  The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that daily caloric intake should be no lower than 1200 calories in women and 1800 calories in men.  However, this doesn’t mean you should be aiming for this low values.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

ACSM. 2000. Position statement: nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 32(12):2130-2145.
ACSM. 2007. ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer. Baltimore, MD: D. Mark Robertson.
Alessandri J-M, Guesnet P, Vancassel S, Astrog P, Denis I, Langelier B, Aid S, Poumes-Ballihaut C, Champeil-Potokar G, Lavialle M. 2004. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the central nervous system: evolution of concepts and nutritional implications throughout life. Reprod Nutr Dev 44:509-538.
Calder PC. 1999. Dietary Fatty Acids and the Immune System. Lipids 34:S137-S140.
Claessens M, van Baak MA, Monsheimer S, Saris WHM. 2009. The effect of a low-fat, high-protein or high-carbohydrate ad libitum diet on weight loss maintenance and metabolic risk factors. Intr J Obesity 33:296-304.
Clifton PM, Bastiaans K, Keogh JB. 2009. High protein diets decrease total and abdominal fat and improve CVD risk profile in overweight and obese men and women with elevated triacylglycerol. Nutr Metab Cardio Dis 19(8):548-554.
Harris JA, Benedict FG. 1919. A biometric study of basal metabolism in man. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institute of Washington, Publication no 279.
Horswill CA. 1998. Effective fluid replacement. Int J Sports Nutr 8:175-195.
Leidy HJ, Campbell WW. 2011. The Effect of Eating Frequency on Appetite Control and Food Intake: Brief Synopsis of Controled Feeding Studies. Nutrition 141(1):154-157.
Manore M, Thompson J. 2000. Sports Nutrition for Health and Performance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Richard D, Bausero P, Schneider C, Visioli F. 2009. Polyunsaturated fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. Cell Mol Life Sci 66:3277-3288.
Spiller GA, Jenkins DJ, Cragen LN, Gates JE, Bosello O, Berra K, Rudd C, Stevenson M, Superko R. 1992. Effect of diet high in monounsaturated fat from almonds on plasma cholesterol and lipoproteins. J Amer Col Nutr 11(2):126-130.
Williams MH. 2002. Nutrition for Health, Fitness & Sport. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Nina,
How would you rate Agave Nectar's usage in comparison to sugar or honey? I put either sugar or honey in my tea, but now I see they rate high on the glycemic index. I also read that Splenda is bad (which I used to use instead of sugar or honey)so I'm looking for the best alternative.

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

Agave nectar would be considered low glycemic since it consists of mostly fructose. So that's a much better option than sugar or honey. You can also try stevia too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I tried to get down with the Stevia but couldn't do it. I'll go load up on the agave. Had to be a reason why such a little bottle costs so much in comparison to a 1lb bag of sugar.

Darvis Simms said...

Great article. I've been in the fitness industry for over 17 years and this is the kind of information that I need to convince my clients the value of good nutrition.

Rhonda said...

I love all the healthy food recommendations.
Whole food helps me bridge the gap when I can't always eat as healthy as I want and need to.

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

@Darvis: Thanks man...I agree, good nutrition is the ultimate key! I'll be sure to check out your blog as well!

@Rhonda: Thanks for the comment! I'm glad the recommendations are helpful!

Anonymous said...

Dr. O,

How do you feel about tofu as a protein source?

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

I think tofu is OK if that's what you prefer.

Anonymous said...

Hey doc, I am new to this. Can you tell me if I am headed in the right direction. 6ft.1in tall 235 lbs and 55 years old. I have been eating this type of foods for the last few weeks. I habve a peice of lean chicken and 12 onc. whey protein after my p90x workout. Then 2 hours later I have a bowl of special k almonds. 1,5 later I have an orange. Lunch i have a can of 100 cal. soup . Afternoon another orangwe and later almonds.Dinner I eat a salad with chicken or I will actually eat 1 lb of aspargis with almonds for dinner only. What am I doing right and or wrong. I sontimes do the stair climber 2 nights extra dfor 1 hour a week.Thanks

Timi Fadiran said...

I have a friend that cut out meat and dairy from her diet because she says animal fat is bad for you and clogs your arteries(regardless if its low fat). What are your views on this?

Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

I disagree with your friend. Unfortunately, many people have this misconception. The truth is, the diet that the animals were on plays a major factor in the quality of meat. Let's take beef for example. Cattle in some farms are purposely overfed with grain and injected with hormones or steroids to make them bigger and bring in more profit. This strategy negatively affects the quality of meat, providing an unhealthy ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.

Meat from grass fed cattle that are not injected with hormones or steroids are perfectly healthy. This difference holds true with chicken as well.

For fish, wild caught fish are much healthier than farm raised, because some farms also overfeed fish with grain, causing an unhealthy omega 3/omega 6 ratio. Wild caught salmon is loaded with high quality fat, which IS good for you.

Honestly, the biggest culprit behind clogged arteries is a diet high in processed foods and simple carbs. High-quality animal fats are good for you.

Anonymous said...

I did the equation and my caloric intake should be 1190.2 calories when I'm not doing much exercise, but you say not to go lower than 1200 calories and I need to lose a lot of fat, and you also said to lower that number 500-1000, and that would put me way below 1200, what should I do?

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Onunkwo,

What kind of lean protein would you recommend for a vegetarian/vegan diet?


Dozie Onunkwo, Ph.D. said...

Some nice protein sources are greek yogurt, different types of beans (edamame, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, etc.), nuts (peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts, etc.), and tofu.

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It is common that people think they can lose weight by only eating salads or drinking tea or whatever magical product there is on the market.
I love the all food you recommended. Thanks for nice sharing.

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