Don's Home Health Nutrition
Nutrition | Foods for Health | Good - Bad Food | Omega-3 | Supplements | Other superfood products
Under Construction
Basics | Essential Nutrients | Good - Bad Food | Food Facts | Food Pyramids | Alternative Medicine
Note: This is a bunch of facts I started collecting, but I haven't made sense out of them yet.

Categories of Nutritients

The primary puropse of eating is to provide nutrients necessary for energy, growth, and mainenance of the body, and proper functioning of body organs. Food consists of:
  • Macronutirents - Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.
    Functions: Growth, repair and mainenance and energy (calories). Energy requires calories - 40-50% from carbohydrates, Fat - only after 20-30 minutes of continuous activity does your body begin to rely more on fat than on carbohydraes.
  • Micronutirents - Vitamins and minerals.
    Vitamins regulate chemical processes. Minerals assist with this, and pay a role in body maintenance as well, notably in the formation of new tissue, including bones, teeth and blood. ADD RDA link here
  • Water - Water provides a fluid medium for all chemical reacctions, circulation of the blood, removal of waste, lubrication, and regulation of body temperature. In addition to all the benefits of food, our diets have been implicated in a variety of cronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity.
See Basics for more.

In the '50s and '60s, researchers started fingering fat as a cause of heart disease, and started advocating low-fat diets. Countries with low-fat diets (Japan, Greece) have low heart disease rates and countries with high fat diets (US, Sweden, Finland) have high heart disease rates.

They also identified a correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease risk. Animal fat, saturated fat, which raised LDL (bad) cholesterol was blamed.

Starting in 1977, the government started telling all Americans to eat less fat.

This all led the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to issue recommend a diet with more carbohydrates and less fat than the average diet in the 80's.
Percent of calories by source:
1980's 1992
Carbohydrates 45% >50%
Fat 40% <30%
Protein 15% 20
They published the popular food pyramid which recommended eating foods from plant sources, such as breads, grains, cereals, rice, pasta, or beans, several times each day.

There were several studies done in the late '80s, where they actually calculated how much longer you would live if you cut back on saturated fat. The result was a week to a few months.

In the '50s, '60s, and '70s, there were a school of British researchers said it was sugar, flour, white rice, what we now call "easily digestible carbohydrates" or "high glycemic-index carbohydrates", which were to blame for "Western diseases" such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers (colon, breast.)

Somewhere between 1976 and 1986 obesity rates in the US shot up from 12-14% to 22-25%. The fast food industry and it's high carb (french fries and jumbo sodas) is commonly blamed along with the common use of high-fructose corn syrup and our sedentary life style.

Diet guru Robert Atkins has been an advocate of reducing carbs for 30 years.
Award-winning science writer Gary Taubes, has also been critical of the science. In 200? he published "The Soft Science of Dietary Fat" in Science, In July 2002 he wrote the New York Times Magazine cover story, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?".

Current evidence indicates there were flaws in resulting recomendations. Substituting carbohydrates can mess up the body's glucose and insulin levels and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol. Increasing the ratio of LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL increases the risk of heart disease. Insulin is the hormone that controls the deposition of sugar and carbohydrates and fat in your body. Most agree that if insulin levels are high, you'll preferentially store calories as fat; and that as long as insulin levels stay high, you won't be able to get to that fat to use it for fuel.
Excess carbohydrates can be converted to fat, so substituting carbs for fat doesn't necessairly mean weight loss. Excess carbohydrates may also be contributing to the increase of diabetes.

See: Diet Wars: Frontline interview of Gary Taubes.

Current thinking is:

  • Eating the right kind of fat (monounsaturated) and carbohydrates (complex) may be more important than the ratio for reducing heart disease and weight loss.
  • Reduced calorie intake is just as important as reduced fat to avoid obesity.
  • The mixture of macronutrients does not seem to affect cancer, however many micronutrients have been touted to reduce cancer rates.
The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is now reassessing the food pyramid (below), but the results of this effort is not expected unti 2004.

Best Sources of nutrients
See Also:Basics.

Carbohydrates 40% (4 cal. / gram)
Complex carbohydrates - Thousands of sugar units linked together in single molecules.
* High Fiber (high-cellulose) - best - Nondigestible (by humans) carbohydrate. Slows down entry of sugar into blood. - good
    - e.g. legumes , salad, fruit, lettuce and broccoli
* Low Fiber (Starchy)-     - e.g. banana, tomato, squash and all cereals and grains (bread and pasta), potatoes and rice. - Simple - 1 - 3 sugars linked together.
    - alcohol, sweets - bad
    - fruits - In moderation
Starchy - complex - bread, pasta, rice - not as good
Non-starchy - legumes, salad, fruit - Best
There are no "essential" carbohydrates. 100 grams of carbohydrates should be enough to prevent breakdown of the body stores of proteins and fats (for calorie needs). Fiber is an important part of a good diet.
Although honey is sweeter than sugar, there is not a significant nutritional difference between the two sweeteners. Molasses, on the other hand, contains significant amounts of iron and calcium.
Many carbohydrate-rich foods are also a good source of protein.
Protein 30% (4 cal. / gram)
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are the foundation of all life. There are 9 essential amino acids.
lean best - white meat
Source of "essential" amino acids.
Fat 30% (9 cal. / gram)
fats are composed of triglycerides that are, in turn, made up of fatty acids. Three types of dietary fatty acids-saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated-are known.
As a rule of thumb, animal products have an abundance of the saturated fats, and vegetable oils are richer in the healthier mono- and polyunsaturates.
saturated - butter, cheese, egg yolks,
trans-fatty acids (partially hydrogenated vegitable oils) - margarine, french fries - bad
unsaturated - olive oil, nuts, avocados - good
poly-unsaturated - vegetable oil. - good There are two families of Essential fatty acids: Linoleic acid (Omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (Omega-3).
The saturated fatty acids have been shown to increase the levels of the "bad cholesterol" (LDL cholesterol).
Fats delay pangs of hunger because a food mixture containing fat remains longer in the stomach.
Food conversion in the body -
Carbohydrates converted to simple sugars
complex are converted faster than simple Too much sugar produces insulin which signals to body to store calories as fat.
Old USDA Food Pyramid - 1992
Conceived by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Intended to convey the message "Fat is bad" and its corollary "Carbs are good". These sweeping statmements are now being questioned.
New Healthy Eating Pyramid - 2001 - Harvard School of Public Health

The Harvard School of Public Health, published this in Eat, Drink, And Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating., Walter C. Willett, P. J. Skerrett and Edward L. Giovannucci. Simon & Schuster, 2001.

New USDA Food Pyramid - 2005
Grains (1/2 whole.) Eat at least 3 oz of whole grain bread, cereal, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
Eat more dark green veggies, orange veggies, dry beans and peas.
Eat a variety of fruit. Choose fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit. Go easy on fruit juices.
Oils: Make most of your fat sources from fish, nuts and vegetable oils. Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.
Get calcium-rich foods: Go low-fat or fat-free.
Go lean on protein. Choose low-fat or lean meats and poultry. Bake it, broil it or grill it. More fish, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.
Be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
Discretionary Calories
Printable version of pyramids.

In 2011 the USDA rolled out its new "MyPlate" program, with 5 food groups; fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

In a recent article in the Wise Traditions journal, Adele Hite shares "A Tale of Two Breakfasts." She compares a breakfast that's compliant with USDA dietary guidelines with one that complies with the Weston A Price Foundation's Healthy 4 Life dietary guidelines.
She claims the USDA's goals are to increase profitability of the ag industry, not to make us more healthy.

Her Summary:
"Fear-the-fat" messages that are not based in science steer us away from minimally processed foods like eggs and meat. Instead, we are encouraged to buy enormously profitable, fortified and enriched products that are virtually devoid of nutrition until they are transformed by the miracles of modern chemistry to meet the USDA's definition of "healthy."
Source: Say Goodbye To The Food Pyramid | Food Renegade

In Don't Blame the Fat, June 23, 2014, Time they say fat is not the problem.
All the vilification of fat (see background above) and reduced fat diets over the last 30+ years have not helped. Heart disease is still the number 1 killer (although lower because of better emergency care and cholesterol-controlling drugs). Type 2 diabetes and obesity have increased dramatically over that time.

"Most experts agree we'd be healthier if more of our diet were made up of whaat the writer Michael Pollan bluntly calls 'real Food.' The problem over the past few decades doesn't just stem from refined carbohydrates messing with our metabolism. More and more of what we eat comes to us custom designed by the food industry to make us want more. There's evidence that processing itself rases the danger posed by food. Studies suggest that processed meat may increase the risk of heart disease that unprocessed meat does not."

See other references

Popular Diets

Dr. Atkins - Low Carb. - High fat
The Zone - High fat
South Shore - Low Carb.
Dr. Dean Ornish - High carbo, Low fat
Weight Watchers  - Low calories
Suzzane Summers - Don't eat fat and carbs together 


Eat raw vegitables as much as possible. All enzymes and most vitamins are extremely sensitive to heat.

Be careful when browning or burning food especially when barbecuing; fat dripping onto an open flame produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a carcinogen. When amino acids and otrher chemicals found in muscle are exposed to high temperatures, heerocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs), another carciogen, are created. Even browned or buned bread crusts contain carciognetic substances.

Avoid aluminum cookware.

Fruits and Vegitables
Antioxidents (vitamins, minerals and enzymes which protect cells from oxidation)
Phythochemicals -(e.g. Sulforaphane in broccoli) Actuvate enzymes which protect cells from carcinogens. Flavanoids, found in citrus fruits and berries, keep cancer causing harmones from laatching on to cells. Genistein, found in soybeans, kills tumors by preventing the formation of the capillaries needed to nourish them.

Other superfood products:
Organifi Green Juice

Bodybuilder Diets
Protein Drinks
Diet and Exercise at Accu Measure Fitness
NEW DIET REVOLUTION, 1992, Atkins, R. C. Dr.
The Zone, 1995, Sears, Barry, PhD.
DR. ATKINS' NEW DIET REVOLUTION, Revised 2001, Robert C. Atkins Atkins Web Page
"Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition:" How to Buy, Store, and Prepare Every Variety of Fresh Food, University of Calif. 1991; Margen, Sheldon
What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?, New York Times Magazine July 7, 2002
Rebuilding the Food Pyramid, Scientific American, Jan. 2003
Effects of Alcohol on Muscle Building Explained - Wellsphere

See Also:
Foods for Health
Good - Bad Food
Diet and Fitness at iVillage.
Vitamin Synergy
Alternative Medicine
Grass-fed vs Grain-fed beef Organic food in Home & Garden
Low-Carb and Low-Glycemic Index Diets Best for Keeping Weight Off |
Food ratings at the GoodGuide
Food Facts (Caffeine)
Environmental Nutrition
Return to Don's Home.
last updated 12 May 2006