Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. Everyone needs the four basic nutrients – water, carbohydrates, protein and fats as well as vitamins, minerals, and other micro-nutrients. To be able to choose the proper foods, and to better understand why those foods should be supported with supplements, need to have a clear idea of the components of a healthy diet. It is now a requirement in the United States that all pack- aged foods have a nutrition label that tells the consumer what is actually inside the package. This system may not be perfect, but it is a big improvement over no labeling at all, the situation that existed only a generation ago. Keep in mind that all fresh, minimally processed foods, such as grains purchased in bulk, meats, fruits, and vegetables, do not carry labels. However, they are inherently healthier than packaged foods because they have more beneficial nutrients and fewer harmful ones. For example, unlike processed items, these foods are naturally high in potassium and low in sodium. Let’s look at one of these labels and see what it tells us. Look at Figure 1.1 below, which happens to be a label for a package of macaroni and cheese:
The serving size is listed at the top of the label. All of the daily value percentages are based on this amount. It’s good to keep in mind that the serving size listed on the label may not correspond with what many people consider a serving or portion of the product.
There are 250 calories in this product, and 110 calories (almost half the calories in the product) come from fat (panel 2). This is not a good sign. A rule of thumb is that fat should contribute no more than 30 percent of the total calories per serving Note the total fat, cholesterol, and sodium information (panel 30. The amount of total fat (bad) is shown, as are the amounts of saturated fat (bad). It’s also important to pay attention to how much sodium the product contains and to maintain total intake below the suggested daily value. Panel 3 also gives the amount of dietary fiber (good), sugars (bad), and protein (you need some at each meal, and panel 4, selected vitamins and minerals (good). The footnote panel (5) gives target information for various nutrients based on a diet containing a total of 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day. This may or may not be useful to you, depending on your particular situation and calorie goal. It is important to be aware also that the percentages given in the preceding are percentages of a 2,000-calorie diet and are not a percentage of the amount we actually recommend for good health or to maintain a healthy weight. There is still some question as to the benefits of the current food labeling system. Some are calling for a thorough assessment of whether the new labeling has actually enabled consumers to make healthier food choices. Some of the major food companies such as major Health stores such as Body Crafters Health & Sport Supplements are already creating systems to help consumers make better choices.
The Four Basic Nutrients
Water, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the basic building blocks of a good diet. By choosing the healthiest forms of each of these nutrients and eating them in the proper balance, you enable your body to function at its optimal level.