Katie learns to Cook – Chapter 3, Nutrition

July 17, 2012

This past Sunday, I missed posting for my Katie learns to Cook series.  Its definitely been my favorite chapter so far, so I thought I’d share it with you today.  Hope you enjoy it!

This week’s chapter was all about nutrition – a subject that is becoming more and more dear to my heart.  The pages were jam-packed with information and I’m happy to share some of it with you today!   First up, vocab.

Essential Nutritents:  I’ll be going into these in a little more depth, but for now, these are the nutrients that our bodies cannot make enough of them (or any at all)  on their own, so in order to obtain them, we have to eat them.  They include Fats, Carbohydrates, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals and Water.

Macronutrients: Nutrients needed in larger quantities, of the essential nutrients, they are Fats, Carbs and Protein.

Calorie:  Scientifically speaking, a calorie is a unit of energy, not the bane of a workout’s existence 😉  1 calorie is the amount of heat required to bring 1000 grams of water up one degree Celsius.

Micronutrient:  Logic follows that a micronutrient are those that we only need in smaller quantities, like Vitamins and Minerals.

Ingredient Substitute:  Something that replaces an ingredient.  Typically contains a similar flavor, texture , etc, maintaining the appearance and taste of a dish.  Often times, this substitute is a more nutritious alternative than the original.  Example – Using reduced fat in place of full fat.

Ingredient Alternative:  Something that replaces an ingredient, but provides a different flavor or texture to the dish.  For example, using lemon juice on steamed vegetables, rather than butter.

Additives: Added to foods to prevent spoiling, discoloration, improve nutritional value or appearance.  Can be natural or synthetic.  Incidental (such as pesticides) or intentional (chemicals added to improve shelf life)

Ok.  So that’s a general outline of the vocab words in the chapter. Now, lets talk briefly about those essential nutrients I mentioned above.  They are Carbs, Fats, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals and water.    The macronutrients, the nutrients we need in larger quantities, include carbs, fats and proteins, whereas the micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities, the vitamins and minerals.  Lets take a closer look at each one.

Carbohydrates:  These guys can be separated into simple carbohydrates (single and double sugars) and can be found in naturally occurring sugars, like fruits and vegetables, milk and natural sweeteners like honey.  Complex carbs are longer chains of sugars and include starches and fibers.  Starches you can find in cereal grains as well as fruits and vegetables.  Fiber, is an interesting beast, because our bodies can’t digest fiber, so we derive no calories from it.  There are two kinds of fiber, insoluble and soluble, both of which are important players in our health.  Insoluble fiber, is found in whole wheat and is really important in helping for proper elimination of waste, which makes it super important in helping to prevent colon cancer.  Soluble fiber, which can be found in oats and beans, can help to reduce cholesterol, which is important in the prevention of heart disease.    Sadly, carbs have gotten kind of a negative reputation lately, but clearly these guys are pretty important to our health and we should probably think twice before eliminating them from our diet.

Lipids:  The dreaded fats.  Again though, like carbs, a moderate amount of healthy fats in our diet is a good thing.  Not only can they make a dish taste more pleasant (think about a nice creamy avocado), but they are also important in helping to carry fat soluble vitamins.  Fats are generally classified in one of three categories, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Saturated fats, are the ones that we should probably keep to a minimum in our diet.  These fats are usually solid at room temperature, so think, butter and lard.  Unlike saturated fats, mono and poly unsaturated fats are typically softer or liquid at room temperature and include things like avocados, olives and their oils for monounsaturated fats and we get our polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or corn, as well as fish.  One type of lipid that our bodies can produce, however, is cholesterol.  Cholesterol can only be found in animal products and because we can produce it on our own, its not considered an essential nutrient.  And it probably goes without saying that diets high in fat are advised against and can lead to a variety of health problems.

Proteins:  Most people understand the idea behind proteins, which can be found in both plants AND animal foods.  Proteins are comprised of amino acids, of which there are 20 total, 9 that are considered essential.   Meaning we cannot produce them on our own.  A common misconception is that vegetarians cannot get enough protein or all of the essential amino acids without eating meat.  However, anyone who eats a varied diet is generally good about getting all of the essential amino acids and enough protein, even without eating meat.  Proteins are essential for maintaining body function, including repairing tissue damage, movement of nutrients and water balance.

Vitamins:  There are 13 vitamins total, all of which help to regulate metabolism (chemical and physical processes within the body) and are categorized as fat soluble and water soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are not stored as easily as fat soluble vitamins and deficiencies in these can occur more readily.  To minimize loss of vitamins when cooking foods, especially vegetables, they offer these tips:  prepare your foods as close to serving time as possible, steaming and microwaving are the best way to preserve vitamins in a veggie, whereas roasting and grilling preserve the vitamins in meats and poultry.  Finally, storage of your fruits and vegetables can also play a role in maintaining vitamin concentrations.

Minerals:  Found in plants, or in the meat of animals who have EATEN the plants.  These guys help in the maintenance of hard and soft tissues (think calcium for bones and teeth).  There are trace and major minerals, which are needed in smaller or larger quantities, respectively  and like vitamins, are directly affected by cooking and storage conditions.

Finally, Water:  Good ol, H-two-Oh.  Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water.  That’s a lot ya’ll.  It acts as a cushion,  a transporter, a temperature regulator, waste elimination…the job titles for water are endless.  Its super important to stay hydrated, but the good news is, even though we get most of our water through beverages, most foods contain high water content as well, especially fruits like watermelons and oranges, or veggies like iceberg lettuce.  Almost all foods provide some water in our diet, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aiming for those tall glasses of water over a soda!

Still with me?  Impressed if you are.  We’ve made it to our final take home lesson, where I want to talk briefly about ingredient substitutes, specifically artificial sweeteners.  What I found most interesting about this section was how much sweeter these artificial sweeteners actually are, compared to sugar.  To me, diet sodas have always tasted sweeter than a real soda, but it was still amazing to see that the sugar substitutes like Saccharin, Aspartame and Splenda are all 300, 180 and a whopping 600 times sweeter than sugar, respectively.   I’m not a nutritionist so I would never claim to know what is better for someone else, but for myself personally – I avoid artificial sweeteners whenever possible.  When I was younger, I was standing in line at a candy shop and in front of me were an older lady (I say older, but she looked to be anywhere from early 40s to late 60s? I was young) and a younger girl.  I don’t know if they were together or not, but the older lady ordered some candy and the younger girl asked why she didn’t get the sugar free instead, because wasn’t that healthier?  The woman h ad the best  response, which has stuck with me for ages – to paraphrase

I’d rather have a small amount of the real thing every now and then, than a lot of something else all the time.  Its more special that way.

Words to live by, don’t you think?



One Response to “Katie learns to Cook – Chapter 3, Nutrition”

  1. […] for another addition of Katie learns to Cook!  If it seems like you only just read the last  installment, its true, it was only on Tuesday!  But i’m back on track and ready to talk […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: