Most all the parts of our bodies are made from protein: hair, skin, blood, organs, and muscles. It is needed for cells to grow. It also repairs or replaces healthy cells and tissues. If we do not get enough calories from fat and carbohydrates we may use protein for energy.
Because carbohydrate-rich foods are usually low in calories, they can help us keep a healthy weight. When we shop we can get the carbohydrates we need without added fat by reading food labels. Compare crackers and bread products and try the ones with less fat. Use more vegetables without fatty sauces.
We get more fiber when we eat whole fruits and vegetables with the peels and seeds than we do when we eat foods like applesauce or instant mashed potatoes. When we shop we can look on food labels to find products that say "100%" whole grain. We can also compare the Nutrition Facts to find foods with more fiber.
Fat is found in many foods. Some of the fat that we eat comes from the fat we add in cooking or spread on breads, vegetables or other foods. A lot of fat is hidden in foods that we eat as snacks, pastries or prepared meals.
We can reduce the amount of fat we eat by cutting down on the fat that we add in cooking or spread on foods. We can eat skim milk and low fat cheeses instead of whole milk and cheese. We can also use less fat, oil, butter, and margarine. Another way to cut down on fat is to drain and trim meats and take the skin off poultry. We can also read labels and compare the amount of fat in foods to make lower fat choices.
When we eat too much saturated fat, it increases our chances of getting heart disease. When we reduce the amount of saturated fats in our diets, it may reduce the blood cholesterol level and reduce our chances of developing heart disease.
We can reduce the saturated fats in our diets by using skim milk and low fat cheeses instead of whole milk and cheese. We can also use less fat, oil, butter, and margarine. At the table, use tub margarine instead of butter. Another way to cut down on fat is to drain and trim meats and take the skin off poultry. Simply reducing the total amount of fat we eat goes a long way toward reducing saturated fats.
Our bodies need some cholesterol, but we make all the cholesterol we need in our livers.
Since every animal has a liver, when we eat foods made from animal products (fish, eggs,chicken, milk, beef or cheese) we eat cholesterol.
If we make too much cholesterol or eat too many foods that contain cholesterol or saturated fat, the level of cholesterol in the blood increases and so does the chance of getting heart disease.
Eating less fat, less saturated fat, and less cholesterol will all help lower blood cholesterol.
Cutting the amount of cholesterol we eat may only have a small effect on blood cholesterol. To cut down on cholesterol, we can eat more plant foods as sources of protein instead of meat. Eat legumes like black beans, lentils, black-eyed peas and kidney beans instead of meat and poultry.
Vitamin A is also needed for healthy eyes. It forms the part of the eye that helps you to see in dim light. Vitamin A may also help prevent certain types of cancer.
You can get vitamin A from both plant foods and animal foods. Dark orange and green vegetables and fruits like carrots, kale, turnip greens and other dark greens, broccoli, red and green peppers, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squash, cantaloupe and peaches are all good sources of this vitamin.
Animal foods, such as egg yolks, milk, cheese and liver are good sources, too.
Vitamin C helps form a cement-like material between our cells. We need vitamin C to heal cuts, wounds, and burns. When we don't get enough vitamin C the "cement" between cells loses its strength and can cause us to bleed easily. It may also prevent some cancers.
Vitamin C is not stored in the body. When we eat too much of the vitamin we get rid of it in our urine. Therefore, we need some vitamin C every day.
Another name for riboflavin is vitamin B2. Riboflavin works with other B vitamins to help your body use the energy you get from food. It also helps the body to use protein in food to build new cells and tissues.
Like other B vitamins, riboflavin is easily lost when foods are cooked or processed.
Folic acid is important for making blood and building cells. It is also called folate or folacin. Plant foods like leafy greens, broccoli, corn and whole grains are good sources of folacin. Cowpeas, lentils, kidney and navy beans are good sources, too. Some meat and milk products like eggs, liver, nuts, cheese, and milk are also ways to get this vitamin.
Animal products like pork, liver, kidney, poultry, eggs and fish are the best sources of vitamin B6. Many plant foods like whole grain foods (brown rice, whole wheat bread and oatmeal) are good sources. Some legumes and nuts like soy beans, peanuts and walnuts are other plant sources of this B vitamin.
Vitamin B12 is needed for healthy blood. It is found only in animal products. If you are a vegetarian and do not eat any animal foods like eggs, milk or cheese, you may need to take a supplement for this vitamin.
One of the best sources of calcium is milk, and foods made from milk, like yogurt and pudding. Leafy green vegetables, tofu, and canned fish with bones are also good sources. Other foods, such as some brands of orange juice, have added calcium. We can read food labels to find how much calcium is in the foods we eat.
Green vegetables such as spinach are good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which gives green vegetables their color) contains magnesium. Some beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are also good sources of magnesium.
Iron is a mineral that is an important part of our red blood cells. It is needed to carry oxygen from our lungs to our cells, muscles and organs. If we do not get enough iron, not enough oxygen will be delivered to our muscles and organs. Without enough oxygen, our muscles and organs cannot work properly and we will feel tired and weak.
Selenium may delay or prevent the onset of cancer and also have anti-aging effect. Selenium is also an important mineral needed for proper thyroid function. It also promotes immunity system.
Natural food sources high in selenium include cereals (eg. corn, wheat, and rice), nuts (brazil nuts and walnuts), legumes (soybeans), animal products (beef, chicken, egg, cheese), seafood (tuna). Other selenium rich foods are oats, cods and turkey. Brazil nuts are among the very rich sources of selenium.
Potassium is a mineral salt (electrolyte) that is essential for maintaining the balance of pH levels in our body fluids. It plays an important role in regulating our blood pressure, bone mass, nervous system, muscle function, and heart, kidney, and adrenal functions. Low levels of potassium can cause potassium deficiency and bring on a whole host of health problems.
Sodium is important for keeping a balance in pressure between the inside and outside of our cells. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure may increase the risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
We can get some sodium, naturally, in foods, like milk and fresh vegetables. Most sodium in our diets comes from salt we add to foods during preparation or processing. We may also add salt and salty sauces to food at the table.
When we use less sodium and salt our liking for salty foods decreases over time. To cut down on sodium we can:
Read labels to find food with less sodium.
Taste foods before adding salt and then add less salt during cooking and at the table.
Use spices for flavoring instead of salt.
Use garlic or onion powder instead flavored salts like garlic salt or onion salt.