Nutrition Basics

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Food Substitutes

Healthy Eating

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What Diets Can I Use to Lose Weight?

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Online learning resources for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and nutrition.
Diabetes 101: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels, and your diet.
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Nutrition

Nutrition Basics





Nutrition Basics

What do you think of when you hear the word "diet?" Minimized food consumption in the service of weight loss? Fat-free cookies? Salads for dinner? Eating specific foods to reduce or prevent chronic disease? Or, do you think simply of your daily eating habits? In this module, you will learn the basics of nutrition as it applies to all of the above conceptions of "diet" — namely general nutrition for health, nutrition for weight loss and nutrition for chronic disease management.

By the time you've finished this lesson you should be able to answer the following questions at the drop of a hat:

  • What is diet?
  • Why is diet so important?
  • What is a healthy diet?
  • What is in my food?
  • What is the Food Guide Pyramid and how do I use it?
  • How can I eat a healthful vegetarian diet?

Assignment #1

Before we jump into the thick of it, take the Nutrition Quiz to test what you already know.

Done already? How'd you do? If you did well, that's fabulous. If you could use a little more knowledge, that's what we're here for. So, read on. To your dietary health!

What sort of diet are we talking about here?
We're talking about your daily eating habits. This means what food your consume on a regular basis without the specific focus of weight-loss or disease management. Besides the fact that we need food to sustain life, eating can be one of the greatest pleasures in life. What we choose to eat depends on many factors — like our environment, culture, beliefs, tastes, energy and nutrient needs.

How can my diet help keep me in good health?
The good news is that diet can be an enjoyable and effective way to help keep you in good health. Health is affected by many genetic, environmental, behavioral, and cultural factors. If we understand our family history of disease or risk factors — body weight and fat distribution, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol, for example, we can make better food choices to support optimal health and functioning.

This knowledge will also help you plan meals for your little ones. Healthy diets help children grow, develop, feel energized and perform in the different areas of their lives, as well as teaching them good dietary habits for life.

What's in my food?
We all require energy and certain other essential nutrients in order to function. We need to obtain these nutrients from food because our bodies cannot make them. Essential nutrients include vitamins, minerals, certain amino acids and certain fatty acids. Foods also contain other components such as fiber and calcium that are important for overall health.

The carbohydrates, fats and proteins in food give us energy, which is measured in calories. Carbohydrates and proteins provide about 4 calories per gram. Fat contributes more than twice as much -- about 9 calories per gram. Foods that are high in fat are also high in calories. However, many low-fat or nonfat foods can also be high in calories, as they usually contain a lot of carbohydrates like the popular fat-free treats on the market.

How can I put this information to use?
First of all, to get the nutrients and other substances needed for good health, vary the foods you eat. Foods contain combinations of nutrients and other healthful substances. No single food can supply all nutrients in the amounts you need. For example, oranges provide vitamin C but no vitamin B12. Cheese provides vitamin B12 but no vitamin C. Besides the obvious health benefits of a varied diet, eating many different foods makes meals more interesting and appetizing.




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