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  Foods We Need  

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When looking at our meal guide, it provides a lot of great information on eating healthy. It is broken down into foods we should pay close attention to. We break these foods into groups called "MACROS". For the duration of this challenge, we will be focusing on our macros intake as well as how many calories we consume. Macros we will be focused on are:
 
PROTEIN - CARBS - FAT
 
Below you will find more information on each category and why it is so important to add to your diet.

PROTEIN

Ever wonder why exactly our bodies rely so much on protein? Proteins are the building blocks of human and animal structure. It is used in our bodies for growth and repair. Protein helps us prevent illnesses and infection, to transport nutrients to cells, to keep organs working well, promotes healthy brain function, helps control blood sugar, and much more!  Proteins are built from amino acids. Amino acid chains make up about 75% of the human body which is why it is so vital to how our system functions. Most essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and must be consumed in our diet. Generally animal products contain all of the essential amino acids while plant foods do not. One exception of plant protein is soy. Our bodies need a combination of both in order to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Our bodies can not store protein which is why we need it on a regular basis. If we consume more protein than what our body can use, it then gets broken down into amino acids and converted to carbohydrate or fat in the liver.

Portion Size:

The amount will vary depending on age, sex, and level of physical activity. The recommended amounts varies between 5-7oz for adults per day. Proteins should be a variety of animal and plant. It is also recommended that 2 of those servings per week contain some type of seafood for non vegetarians. An easy guide to figure out how big a portion size might look like is using the palm of your hand. Of course using a food scale is ideal and more accurate, however, if you are looking for an idea of how much a portion of protein can look like you can use this trick. Keep in mind, Americans often eat TOO MUCH protein and not enough of a variety. For this challenge, we will focus on 30% of our caloric intake coming from protein.

FAT

Fats serve many critical functions in the human body, including insulation, cell structure, nerve transmission, vitamin absorption, and hormone production. It's important to understand the different types of fats. There is trans fat which is what we should steer clear of. Saturated fats which we should limit the amount we consume-but not avoid. Then there is unsaturated fat or "good" fat, which is important for our overall health. Let's break it down a little more:

Trans Fat:

Trans fat works a lot like saturated fat except it IS WORSE. Trans fat is added into foods to increase the shelf-life of the product. Trans fat in the body damages the blood vessels and contributes to increasing blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. 

Trans fat is so bad for you that the FDA banned manufacturers from adding it into foods. Products made before the FDA ban of artificial trans fats may still be for sale, so it is important to check the ingredient list for "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil". Also keep in mind that if a product has less than 0.5 grams per serving of trans fat, the manufacturer does not need to claim it in nutrition list. This is why reading the ingredient list is so important!

To sum it up, AVOID ALL trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils.

Saturated Fat

Saturated fats is another example of an "unhealthy fat" and most often solid at room temperature. Examples of these fats include butter, palm and coconut oils, beed fat, lard and cream, and also cheese. Another example of foods with high saturated fats is animal sources including meat and dairy products. These examples include red meat, lamb, pork, poultry with skin and dairy products that are made from whole or reduced fat (2 percent) milk. Also baked goods and fried foods contain high levels of saturated fat.

Eating too much of this fat will increase "bad" cholesterol levels. The American Heart Associated recommends limiting saturated fats to 5% to 6% of overall calories. For example, if you consuming a 2000 calorie diet, 120 calories at most can come from saturated fats. That's about 13 grams a day. AHA also recommends avoiding high saturated fats and replacing them with monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats. This means avoiding tropical oils and eating foods with liquid vegetable oil. This also means eating more nuts and fish and replacing some meat with beans or legumes.

Polyunsaturated & Monounsaturated  (Unsaturated) Fats

These types of fats are considered the "good" fats or the fats that can help reduce "bad" cholesterol levels in your blood which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. They also provide nutrients to help develop and maintain your body's cells. These types of fats are usually liquid in room temperature but when chilled turns solid. Some examples of these fats include olive oil, sesame seed oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, avocados, peanut butter, tofu,  and many nuts and seeds.

Like all fats, contain 9 calories per gram. These fats you can eat in moderation and used to replace the "bad fats"-Trans & Saturated fats.

Portion Size of Fat:

-Trans fats: ZERO

-Saturated fats: 5%-6% of your caloric intake. ie: out of 2000 calories, not more than 120 calories come from Saturated fat. It's best to replace these fats with monounsaturated and/or polyunsaturated fats.

-Unsaturated fats: Roughly 20% of your caloric intake.

To summarize: we want to stick to consuming the least amount of fat. Yes, some fat is good, but only in moderation. Understand serving sizes and reading labels and always aim for the least amount of unsaturated fat listed.

CARBS

Carbs/complex starch is another name for "Complex Carbohydrates".  When talking about carbs, there are two different types we consume; complex and simple or starches and simple sugar. The difference between the two is how quickly it is digested and absorbed-as well as it's chemical structure. Simple carbs or simple sugars are easily broken down by your body and are found in a variety of natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and milk. This type of starch gives food that sweet taste (see my sugar video to learn more about simple sugars). Complex starch or complex carbs take a little longer for your body to break down because it supplies a lower more steady release of glucose into the bloodstream. Just like simple sugars, not ALL complex starches are healthy for you. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, have been processed, which removes many nutrients and fiber. Pay attention to the ingredient list to be sure you are getting the most pure form of a starch. Look for words like whole wheat or whole grains and try avoiding terms such as "enriched" or "fortified" (functional foods) or "refined". We want the most purest form for our bodies. 

Portion Size of Complex Carbs

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65 percent of your total daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 and 1,300 calories should be from carbohydrates. That translates to between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates a day. For this challenge we will stick to 45% of total calories will be your carbohydrates.