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***Healthy Legends - Diets***

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Hello all!!

I am finally settled in after a month of lakes and beaches. Lot's of fun and good times but it is good to be home! I hope all have had a good summer and have stayed safe and hydrated.

The second installment of Healthy Legends will discuss the true meaning of the word "diet". My intentions are for each of you to understand what a diet is and how you can make small changes to yours to be a more educated, healthier consumer of food.

The Definition of Diet

Webster defines the word diet as follows:

a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed
b : habitual nourishment
c : the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason
d : a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight <going on a diet>

Yes, there are multiple definitions. However, most health professionals will agree on the first definition as the "primary." Our "diets" are the foods and liquids we consume on a daily basis to help keep our bodies functioning. However, the majority of people throughout the world believe in the last definition as the "true" or "common" usage of the word. So let's find out the difference between the two.

Diet Differences: The Mass Confusion

Have you ever turned on the television and saw a commercial to try a new diet? Maybe you have seen an advertisement for some weight loss product with a disclaimer at the end saying the product goes along with "diet and exercise." To understand how to correct this confusion, we first need to understand how definition "a" and "d" differ.

The following is a list of "worldly" diets you may or may not have heard about:

- Vegetarian - Individuals who use a variety of beans and vegetables to meet their daily eating requirements. These individuals do not consume dairy or meat products. (Please note: There are a variety of different types of vegetarians. For the purpose of this thread, we are only discussing the term in general.)

- Atkins Diet - A focus to decrease the amount of carbohydrates and increasing the amount of protein in one's diet. Developed by Dr. Robert Atkins.

- Weight Watchers/Nutrisystem - Two companies who provide the subscriber with pre-planned meals for a specific amount of time (week or month is typical.) The consumer is given a meal plan and follows this to maintain healthier eating habits and in hopes to lose weight.

- Slim-Fast - A series of shakes and food bars intended to be used as meal supplements in an attempt to decrease the amount of food eaten to assist in weight loss.

These are only a few of the many diets found or advertised. As you can see, each of them vary in philosophy and purpose. Confusing huh?? Why don't we take a moment to look at what most doctors and health officials say our bodies need to function on a daily basis. Then, we can compare that information with some of these "diets".

What's In Our Food and How Much We Need

Everyday, we consume foods of all kinds, but do we know what we are eating? Do we understand how much of it we need or if we need to eat more of something else?

Here is a list of things found in the foods we eat:

1. Carbohydrates - Also known as "carbs" or "sugar", this nutrient is the main source of energy for our bodies. Approximately 60% of our diet should be made up of this nutrient. It can be found in breads, grains, noodles, vegetables, and fruit. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars which the body can break down easily and quickly. These can be found in candy, fruits, vegetables, white breads, and on. Complex carbohydrates are just that: complex. They are more difficult for your body to process, thus, are used more efficiently by your body for energy. When carbohydrates are not needed, or eaten in excess, they go through a chemical process which turns them into fat and are stored when the body needs them.

2. Protiens - Also known as "amino acids", this nutrient aids in the process of muscle building/repair. Approximately 30% of our diet should be made up of this nutrient. Proteins can be found in beans, meats, and some breads. Many types are amino acids are prevalent in the foods we consume, however, there are 9 "essential" amino acids. The essential amino acids are protiens our bodies need on a daily basis and can only be found in meats.

3. Fats - Also known as "fatty acids", this nutrient aids in organ protection, nerve conduction, and is a source of energy during long periods of exercise. Fats make up the final 10% of our diet and can be found in numerous food groups. Despite popular belief, some fat is needed and should never be completely excluded from our diets.

Your Diet VS. Diets

We have examined the definition of diets, the types of diets, and what is found in the foods we consume. So how do we decide what is best? How much is a serving when we eat? Do diets really help me to lose weight? Let's quickly discuss this.

Your diet should be well balanced. The percentages above should be approximately the amount you take in during your daily meals. The percentages can vary based on your daily needs. Endurance athletes may consume more carbohydrates and protein as they need the extra energy and protein for muscle recovery. Weight training and heavy labor may require an increase in protein. A lazy day may require a deduction of all categories to keep from the body converting the extra calories into fat.

So how much do I eat? For carbohydrates, focus on a cup. Yes, a measuring cup. Your serving should be about that size. Also get into eating whole grains for pasta and breads. Those complex carbohydrates are much better for you. For meats, take the palm of your hand, minus the fingers (lol), and that is how much of a serving is for meat. Fat usually takes care of itself.

As for the "diets", stay away. Vegetarians, though eat healthy, do not get the essential amino acids their bodies need due to the fact they do not eat meat. Atkins focuses too much on protein consumption and neglects the other nutrients. Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, and so on, provide you with foods as I have described in the previous paragraph. Their food is no different than what you and I cook ourselves, they just focus on portion control. Don't waste your money.

As far as diets helping you lose weight. As a generalized statement, yes they will. However, diet alone is not the only answer. Exercise, water consumption, and appropriate sleep are other factors that, when combined with your diet, optimize weight loss and control.

I hope you guys find this helpful. As always, feel free to ask questions and discuss. I will check regularly to answer all I can.


- Crim

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  1. Siejo's Avatar
    Thank you good sir. I may have to use this to achieve my goal in time for the wedding.
  2. CrimsonTider's Avatar
    Keep an eye out. Some of this info I will go into greater detail down the road.
  3. Whirlzap's Avatar
    Never knew you were so obsessed with food, Crim.
    Perhaps consider venturing into a spare-time cook career during retirement?