1. Understand Why Good Nutrition Is So Important

Nutrition—the science of food and its effect on our bodies—is relatively new, at least in comparison to other sciences. But at this point, the science has singled out about forty specific nutrients, each of which fulfills one of three functions in the body: gives energy, helps grow and repair tissue, or regulates metabolism. Nutrients include water, vitamins, and minerals (which grow and repair tissue) and carbohydrates, fat, and protein (which give energy by providing calories). All of the nutrients regulate your metabolism by helping your body function smoothly and in balance. Nutrition is about fueling the body for optimum function, so this chapter will provide basic suggestions for providing the nutrients you need to achieve maximum metabolism.

2. Make Nutrition a Priority

Nutrition, perhaps more than any other factor, plays an essential role in our overall health, how efficiently we metabolize our food, and how long we live. The foods we eat affect every cell, organ, and system within our bodies, so it is important to make good choices. According to nutrition experts, a healthy diet provides our body with everything it needs to operate efficiently to repair damage, for cells to reproduce, and for us to flush out toxins. Healthful foods provide us with fuel that burns for a long time and helps us have a healthy immune system. Healthful foods also give our bodies the right kind of fuel so that we have plenty of energy and a strong immune system, and they can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis as we age.

3. Follow American Heart Association Guidelines

The American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines provide useful parameters for optimum health—and optimum health leads directly to optimum metabolism.

•Dietary fat intake should be between 25 and 35 percent of total calories.

• Saturated fat intake should be less than 7 percent of total calories.

• Polyunsaturated fat should not exceed 10 percent of total calories.

• Cholesterol intake should not exceed 300 milligrams per day.

• Carbohydrate intake should represent 45 to 65 percent of total calories with emphasis on complex carbohydrates.

• Protein intake should constitute the remainder of the calories.

• Sodium intake should be limited to fewer than 2300 milligrams per day.

• Alcohol consumption is not recommended, but if consumed, it should not exceed one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. One drink is 1 to 1.5 ounces a day of hard liquor, 4 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

4. Make Healthful Food Choices

Here’s reality: Some foods are very good for your body (and your metabolism); some are not. We’ll go over choices in greater detail in coming chapters, but here are the basics:

1. Eat foods that improve your health, such as:

• Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flax oil, and spinach

• Colorful vegetables that are rich in antioxidants

• Whole foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, and legumes

•Lean protein from organic meats, fish, soy, and legumes

2. Limit foods that have an adverse effect on your health, such as:

• Excess saturated fat (meat, cheese, and fried food)

• Trans fats (margarines, baked goods, chips, and fast food)

• High-calorie food

• Refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, chips, pasta, and cookies

5. Understand How Your Caloric Intake Affects Your Metabolism Calories provide energy for your body, but your metabolism decides

Calories provide energy for your body, but your metabolism decides how it’s going to use the calories you eat. If you take in more calories than your body requires, your body will generally store the extra calories as fat. Therefore, when you consume more calories than you need over a period of time, you gain weight. If you take in fewer calories than your body requires, or burn calories via exercise, your body will call upon the stores of fat to meet its energy requirements. If you do this over a period of time, you will lose weight.

6. Choose Your Calories Carefully

Empty-calorie foods are foods that often have a high number of calories, but few to no nutrients. These foods can pack on the pounds and give you energy, but they don’t help your body become and remain healthy.

As an example: You burn about 40 calories an hour watching TV. A bowl of ice cream is about 400 calories. If you eat ice cream while watching TV, you are taking in 400 calories and burning 40 calories an hour; that is, you’re taking in more calories than you’re burning. And—most ice cream calories aren’t nutritious. Yes, there’s calcium, but other than that, there is a high amount of fat and very little fiber, vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants. If you were striving to eat a nutrient-dense diet and still wanted to eat 400 calories, you could have, for instance, a tomato (40 calories) and carrots (30 calories), sprouts (25 calories), grilled chicken (200 calories), and a glass of red wine (90 calories). And if you wanted to splurge and still get a hit of something rich and decadent (like the ice cream), you could have 2 ounces of dark chocolate. Obviously this second choice would provide calories packed with nutrients, calories that nourished your body and boosted your metabolism!

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