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Healthy Eating for Weight Loss

(continued)

Is Any Fat Healthy? continued...

Fat is made up of compounds called fatty acids or lipids. Depending on their chemical structure, these fatty acids are called monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated, or trans fats. Trans fats and saturated fats are the unhealthiest fats to eat. Trans fats are formed when manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats, such as with shortening and hard margarine. Trans fats can also be found in many foods, including crackers (even healthy-sounding ones), cereals, baked goods, snack foods, salad dressings, fried foods, and many other processed foods.

Problems with too much dietary fat can also come when 10% or more of daily calories come from saturated fats such as those found in meats, high-fat dairy products, butter, and foods cooked or made with hydrogenated fats. And consuming trans fats in any amount is also not recommended. These practices may lead to high blood cholesterol levels and heart disease.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary source of energy for all of the body's cells. Adults should get about 45% of their calories from carbohydrates. Most Americans eat too many carbohydrates, especially processed carbs, leading to obesity, prediabetes, and diabetes. Most people consume much more than the recommended amount.

Carbohydrate sources include many foods that are nutrient-rich such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, as well as foods such as candy, pastries, cookies, chips, and flavored beverages (soft drinks and fruit drinks), which provide insignificant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.

What Are Vitamins?

Vitamins help with chemical reactions in the body. In general, vitamins must come from the diet; the body doesn't make them.

There are 13 vitamins essential to the body. They are divided into two categories: water-soluble (vitamin C and all the B vitamins) and fat-soluble (vitamins A, D, E, and K). The fat-soluble vitamins are more easily stored by the body. Thus, you do not need large amounts of these vitamins since excess amounts can be toxic and cause a variety of problems.

Because the water-soluble vitamins aren't stored for long in the body, we must consume them daily. And, although taking large doses of these vitamins isn't necessarily dangerous, it may be wasteful as the body eliminates the excess water-soluble vitamins in the urine.

What Are Minerals?

Minerals, like vitamins, must come from the diet; the body doesn't make them. Many minerals are vital to the proper function of the body and must be taken in relatively large amounts (such as calcium, potassium, and iron). Others, like trace minerals (zinc, selenium, and copper), are only needed in small amounts to maintain good health.

How Does Water Promote Health?

Although it has no food value, water is essential to our survival. It keeps the body adequately hydrated. Water is the most plentiful substance in the body, accounting for 55%-65% of body weight, but because the body can't store water, we must constantly replenish it.

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