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Calories, fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate, fiber, sodium the list is long. Because your body is working all the time (even when you're sleeping), you need a source of calories and other nutrients to keep you going. It's reassuring to know that it's easy to get all of these. Different foods have different assortments of nutrients: foods like meat and cheese are high in protein, fruits are high in carbohydrates, and whole wheat bread has lots of fiber. When you eat a variety of foods, it balances out so that you get all the nutrients you need. The Complete Food Counter is the most comprehensive nutrition resource, listing nutrition values for over 17,000 foods.
You get calories from fat, protein, and carbohydrate in foods. Fat has the most calories of the three, more than twice as many as protein and carbohydrate. One teaspoon of olive oil (fat) has 40 calories, while a teaspoon of either sugar (carbohydrate) or unsweetened gelatin (protein) has only 16 calories.
Most men need about 2,400 calories a day, while most women need 1,800 or less. If a person is very active, calorie intake can go as high as 3,900 for men and 3,000 for women. Very few people need this many calories.
Eating too much fat is not healthy. But some fat is needed by your body. How do you figure out how much to eat? A government recommendation, the Daily Value (DV), for a 2,000 calorie diet is 65 grams of fat or less each day. As a rule of thumb, if you are an average-weight, moderately active adult, and want a benchmark for your total fat grams each day, simply divide your weight in half.
It's now alwayseasy to tell if a food is high in fat by looking at it. Some visible fat can be seen on slices of roast beef or bacon or in foods like butter, margarine, and oil. But in many foods, like milk, eggs, cheese, avocados, cookies, and nuts, the fat is not so obvious. That's when The Complete Food Counter comes in handy.
Although the body needs cholesterol to function normally, when the blood level gets too high, it's not healthy. Some of the cholesterol can be deposited in arteries, narrowing them and interfering with normal blood flow. Cholesterol is found in animal foods like meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese, and eggs. It is also made in the body. Strict vegetarians, who eat no animal foods, make all the cholesterol they need. Most experts suggest that people limit their cholesterol intake to 200 milligrams or less a day.
Protein is in every cell and substance in the body except urine and bile. It is used for growth, repair, and to replace cells worn out in daily living. Most experts recommend a protein intake of 51 to 64 grams a day for a woman weighing 140 pounds, and 62 to 77 grams for a man weighing 170 pounds. Since high protein foods are popular, many people eat much more than that amount. Proteins are found in both animal and vegetable foods. Meat, dairy, beans, and soy foods are excellent sources.
Carbohydrates include sugars, starches, cellulose, and other fibers. The sugars and starches are digested and used in the body, while cellulose and fibers cannot be digested. A healthy carbohydrate intake is 50-60% of the calories eaten. In a 2,000 calorie diet, that would be equivalent to 250 to 300 grams of carbohydrate; 250 grams of carbohydrate equals 1000 calories, 300 grams equals 1200 calories.
Fiber is the part of the plant that isn't digested. When you eat enough fiber it helps you avoid constipation and hemorrhoids, control weight, lower cholesterol, and protect against some cancers. Americans eat about 15 grams a day, half of the 25 to 30 grams recommended by experts.
Sodium is an important mineral in the body, but you don't have to worry about getting too little. Almost all foods contain sodium, either naturally or as added salt. Table salt is a mixture of sodium and chloride, another mineral. Americans, on average, eat two to three teaspoons of salt a day. That's equal to 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium, which is about twice the recommended 2,400 milligrams. Even when the body loses a lot of salt through sweating, the salt is replaced quickly when food is eaten.
Copyright © 1999, 2003 by Annette Natow and Jo-Ann Heslin