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Nutrients: Why You Need Them?

  • Does Your Daily Diet Lack Nutrition?

    There are many reasons for wanting to pump your nutritional game. Perhaps, there is a desire to lose a few pounds. Maybe you just want to feel more youthful and gain more energy to do more with your family. 

    Often times, we have the best of intentions when it comes to getting healthy and is easily discouraged by hard it can seem to see improvements.

    Chances are you have been loading up the fridge and cupboards with foods appearing to be healthy, yet you are wondering why you aren’t seeing health improvements. You aren’t alone. Millions of Americans are struggling with obesity-related health conditions. 

    • The truth is the marketing of food is intentionally deceptive. 


    • Food labels are deliberately designed to resemble a healthy food choice. 


    • Most Americans are not able to determine the correct serving size of a given food choice. 


    "Super-sized portions at restaurants have distorted what Americans consider a normal portion size, and that affects how much we eat at home as well," said Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, director of NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute."

    We live in a time where convenience food is prevalent and often those food choices are absent of nutritional components needed for optimal health. Most chronic diseases and illnesses are tied to a nutritionally poor diet.

    Therefore, this discussion is an educational compass to help shine a light on what it means to eat in a way that can help extend life, promote wellness, and correct adverse health conditions. 

    Nutrients – What Are They Exactly?

    Nutrients are the amount of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, protein and water a food choice has per serving. Medical experts or Nutritionists normally qualify a food item as being nutrient-dense if a single serving portion contains a high amount of beneficial nutrients as opposed to non-healthy fats and sugars.

    A nutrient-dense food choice will provide the body with energy while also providing macronutrients to support a healthy lifestyle.

    We Are a Nation Surrounded by Nutritionally Deficient Food Choices

    The overconsumption of nutrition-poor food is a by-product of a culture who has grown very accustomed to convenience. The era of providing an easy way to get to dinner at the table began with the introduction of the TV dinner. Soon after, we began to see the fast-food options grow to be a normal avenue to how we feed our nation's families.

    The popularity of the drive-thru is evidence of fast-paced and stressful lifestyles of many Americans. The ability to get inexpensive food at any time of the day has replaced food preparation and perhaps changed the propensity towards healthy food preferences.

    "On any given day in the United States, an estimated 36.6 percent or approximately 84.8 million adults consume fast food," said Cheryl Fryar, first author of the report and a health statistician at the CDC

    Sandwich consumption was associated with obesity/overweight based on BMI to 35%, fried chicken to 40%, and pizza more than 80%. (Statistic provided by the NIH)

    Nutritional Concerns Around the Globe

    Malnutrition is a common problem most seen in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia.

    The Nutrition Barometer, a report published by the organization World Vision and Save the Children cites that there are 36 countries that are home to 90% of the world’s most malnourished children.

    Some of those countries include Nepal, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sudan, India, and many more. Government intervention alongside other Non-profits to help correct this statistic, however the condition is ongoing and without immediate remedy due to poverty-stricken conditions and availability. 

    Is it True That Today’s Food Supply Is Losing Their Nutritional Value?

    It is true that fruits and vegetables are losing some of their nutritional value. Several factors can be attributed to this loss. They are heat, oxygen, and light. When produce is in its whole form, it is protected from the oxygen and the light, but becomes exposed to those elements once it is cut.

    Vitamin C is the first major nutritional antioxidant to become affected, as it reacts to oxygen. Also, Vitamin C is carried by water which makes it easier to leak out of the fluids when rinsing. 

    Other antioxidants in produce also becomes affected and loss through exposure to oxygen and temperature changes. Time is a major factor when consuming cut produce. It is best to eat them within the first 24-48 hours after being cut. If buying pre-cut produce, it is really important to check the dates for the freshest available options and then consume within a 24-hour period.

    Hints Your Food Selection May Be Missing Valuable Nutrients

    Selecting the most nutrient-dense foods that you really enjoy consuming might take a little research, however, consuming a food selection that is considered nutrient-poor is a bit easier.

    Essentially, anything that is considered a prepared or convenience food is, more than likely, ladled with salt, fat, and sugar. Checking labels for just about everything is considered a best practice, especially If you have existing health issues such as HBP (High blood pressure). 

    Unfortunately, convenience food suppliers have gotten really savvy when it comes to disguising an unhealthy food choice. They mislead consumers with pretty packaging and cover labels that might say: 

    • Fat-Free (But, still contain a high amount of sugar)


    • No sugar added (high in fat, low in fiber, or contains artificial sweeteners)


    • Whole Wheat (not the same as whole grains)


    *Food experts advise looking for produce and vegetables rich in color and texture. Those choices are most likely to the most healthful.

    Food Testing and Labeling

    Most of the food we eat is regulated by the FDA. They require nutritional food labels to be affixed to most products available in commercial markets. The foods send a sample to a third party nutritional analysis lab and they are analyzed for both nutrition and HAACP (Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Point) guidelines and then labels are generated as part of the process.

    They test for fats, sodium, sugar, and other various components through scientific methods. There are alternative methods for labeling that consumers should be made aware of, such as the database method. This is based on provided nutritional values sent in by the supplier. 

    Consequences of Eating Nutrient Poor Food

    Eating for optimal health is one of the best things you can do to support a longevity and quality of life. Medical experts strongly urge individuals to engage in macronutrient rich diet to keep disease and ill-health at bay. Nutrient poor foods alongside toxic substances foreign to the body are linked to many adverse health conditions such as cancer, heart, and brain disorders. 

    The Benefits of Eating Locally Grown Food

    Obtaining locally grown organic produce and vegetables is a great way to improve our chances of getting adequate nutrition. When a vegetable is harvested at the peak of its intended season, the nutritional content is at its highest. Due to loss time of transport and temperature exposure, the products available in stores is already vulnerable to nutritional loss. Other aspects to consider are:

    • You are supporting your farm community of local growers.


    • Seasonal vegetables provided at local farmer’s markets are often lower in price than commercial grocery stores. 


    • You might find an exciting mix of produce varieties not available in market places. 


    • You are assisting environmental concerns by the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and packaging.


    Four of the Most Nutrient Dense Foods Available

    Kale. Often referred to as a nutritional powerhouse, it contains high amounts of calcium, Vitamin K, anti-oxidants and Chlorophyll. It assists in keeping blood pressure low, helps maintain hair, skin and bones. 

    Blueberries. Low in calories and packed with fiber and antioxidants, this delicious fruit helps reduce DNA damage. 

    Wild Salmon. Packed with Omega 3 fatty acids, this wonderful tasting fish is an excellent source of B vitamins and helps to fight inflammation.

    Spinach. This leafy green is low in calories and rich in antioxidants and vitamins. For the win it is super-easy to add to salads and smoothies or is tasty by itself lightly steamed.

    Four of the Most Commonly Eaten Unhealthy Foods – The Answers May Surprise You! 

    Low-Fat Yogurt. Contrary to popular belief, many yogurts contain high amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrups. Plus, many don’t contain the beneficial live bacteria’s (probiotics) that make them a healthy food option. The key here is to read labels. 

    Charred Meats (Meats cooked with High Heat). Meats that are cooked with high heat form something called HCA’s and PCA’s. The concern is for cancer. In animal trials run by the American Cancer Institute, these chemicals caused cancer of various forms (colorectal, prostrate, pancreatic); so medical experts warn against over cooking foods to avoid production of these chemicals. 

    Many Common Breakfast Cereals. Many cereals are marketed as healthy choices such as Kelloggs, Smart Start or Life Cinnamon Grain Multi-Cereal but in fact they are very bad for your health because they contain high amounts of refined sugar and not enough fiber to make them healthy choices. More importantly, some contain a carcinogen known as BHT. 

    Bottled Smoothies/Juices. Most popular brands have high amounts of sugar plus they don’t have the fiber that eating the actual fruit has which makes them not as healthy as one might imagine. If you are interested in supplemental juicing for health concerns, look for brands that have no added sugar, more vegetables than fruit, or even better – make your own at home!

    Designing a Nutrient-Rich Diet

    Figuring out what you should eat and how much probably sounds like a daunting task. However, it is not as complicated as it sounds. Determining your daily caloric requirements is pretty simple.

    It takes into consideration some information such as: weight, activity level, age, gender, current health status, and some other details relative to establishing a basic nutritional profile calculation. 

    To aid in calculating, there are many online resources available to help. Visiting your primary physician or dietician is always a wise decision before starting a diet. Getting blood tests might paint a more detailed picture of your current health.

    The results of your blood tests can provide accurate measurements such as your: fasting blood sugar level, cholesterol, vitamin D, and other areas that might indicate a need for dietary changes. 

    For help calculating your caloric needs and basic nutritional needs, here are some good online websites to visit:

    Want to Improve Your Diet?  Here is where to begin.

    Taking steps to improve your diet is about making subtle lifestyle changes. I recommend:

    Education and Research. Take some time and explore what healthy foods taste good to you and how they fit into easy recipes for you and your family. 

    Preparation. Food prep doesn’t have to be hard. A little planning goes a long way. Begin by investing in some nifty new BPA free glass and plastic containers that help to keep food fresh and are easy transport.  

    Limit and Reduce. Out of sight and out of mind is a good philosophy to practice when trying to substitute bad food choices for better ones. I recommend not even bringing nutrient poor snack food choices into the house at all. The key is to take baby steps.

    Reduce and limit snack foods before going cold-turkey. Binge eating a bag of potato chips from feeling deprived isn’t going to make you feel so great!

    Supportive Clinical Evidence on the Importance of Diet

    Cardiovascular disease is one of the chief causes of death globally. While anomalies exist, the medical community states that the contributing factors are primarily high blood pressure, obesity, and inflammation.

    Most of these conditions can be treated effectively by eating a diet comprised mostly of macronutrients. A clinical study by a group of researchers concluded that diet does in fact play a significant role in cardiovascular health. 

    The official title of the study: Healthy diet reduces markers of cardiac injury and inflammation regardless of macronutrients: Results from the OmniHeartTrial. 

    The study was a randomized 3-period crossover feeding study model consisting of 164 adults with high blood pressure. The average age of the participants was 53 years old 55% were AA (African American) and 45 % were women. 

    Study participants were fed each 3 diets emphasizing Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Unsaturated Fats for six weeks and then a wash-out period. The weights of the participants were held constant. Fasting serums were collected at start to establish a baseline and measured for (hs-cTnl)-high sensitivity cardiac troponin and (hs-CRP)- high sensitive reactive protein. 

    The results were that compared to baseline all three diets significantly lowered both the (hs-cTnl) and (hs-CRP). They also saw reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol; but since they were not a part of the study objectives, those results were not included in the study.

    However, the findings were significant enough to recommend a diet consisting of healthy foods without any special emphasis on macronutrient breakdown. 

    The overall conclusions of the study were that a healthy diet comprised of various macronutrients and not focused on any particular one or type resulted in mitigated subclinical cardiac injury and inflammation in populations considered to be especially at risk for CVD. 

    There weren’t any adverse effects reported by the participants during and after the study.


    Hopefully, this discussion helped to shed some light on the importance of adopting a nutritionally rich diet. I also hoped I was able to debunk some of the myths about common health foods. The highlights of this discussion covered:

    • Nutrients and how they impact our diet


    • A nutrient-dense diet vs. a nutrient-poor diet


    • The origins and popularity of fast-food


    • Smart food choices vs. poor food choices


    • Clinical evidence about the reversing heart disease thru nutritional changes

    What nutritional changes do you think you can make today to help get you on the right track towards better health? 

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