Up to 60% of the body is composed of water. It is used to maintain blood volume, which is required for regulating body temperature and delivering oxygen and nutrients. Water also provides a medium for the biochemical reactions that occur in the cells, and is crucial for the removal of waste products.
Suggested fluid intake is often used interchangeably with suggested water intake, but fluid requirements are met through both foods and drinks. While calorie-free water is the preferred source for fluid, you also consume fluid through fruits, vegetables, and drinks such as coffee, tea, and fruit juices.
There are many methods for calculating daily fluid requirements. One simple equation for adults is a half ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, multiply 140 by 0.5 to estimate your daily fluid need in ounces. You can then divide that number by eight to estimate your fluid need in cups per day. [example: 140 x 0.5 = 70 ounces; 70 ounces divided by 8 = 8.75 cups of fluid per day]
0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces
Another common way to calculate daily fluid need is based on calorie intake -- one milliliter of fluid for every calorie ingested. Converted to ounces, your body needs .034 ounces for every calorie that you ingest.
0.034 ounces x Daily Caloric Intake = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces
As you calculate your daily fluid requirements, you will likely find that the number is close to the common recommendation of eight to 12 cups per day. The above equations will give you a more accurate guideline because fluid needs vary depending on body size. Also keep in mind that fluid requirements increase under extreme conditions such as exercise in hot and humid weather, and during illness.
Gluten is a protein naturally found in the grains wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten provides elasticity to dough helping baked goods rise and hold shape while giving them a chewy texture. Gluten is also used to make vegetarian meat substitutes such as seitan.
Who should avoid gluten?
There are medical conditions that require some people to avoid gluten for long term nutrition and health.
Celiac disease: It’s estimated that about 1% of the population has celiac disease, a gluten intolerance and intestinal disorder. When those with the disease eat gluten, they produce antibodies which damage the lining of the small intestines, reducing the absorption of nutrients. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, skin rashes, fatigue, and joint pain. The malnutrition caused by celiac disease can lead to serious issues such as osteoporosis and infertility. Eliminating gluten allows the small intestines to heal and properly absorb nutrients.
Gluten sensitivity: Non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), also called gluten sensitivity, is a newly recognized condition. As a result, there is still debate regarding how to diagnose it. People with gluten sensitivity experience some of the same symptoms as those with celiac disease, but there is no damage to the small intestines and a lesser risk for malnutrition. Some find relief by eliminating gluten from the diet, others can still tolerate it in small amounts.
What foods contain gluten?
Wheat, rye, and barley contain gluten. Additionally, oats are often produced and processed with other grains causing cross-contamination. Grains related to wheat contain gluten such as bulgur, durum flour, spelt, and kamut. Other products include malt vinegar, beer, baked goods, candy, French fries, salad dressings, soy sauce, packaged foods, and soups.
Will a gluten-free diet help me lose weight?
There is no research to support that a gluten-free diet alone promotes weight loss for people without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Many people who lose weight after trying a gluten-free diet can contribute this loss to changes in lifestyle. For example, identifying gluten-free foods increases nutrition awareness and can lead to healthier food choices such as increased fruit and vegetable intake. If you experience fatigue, eliminating gluten may increase your energy level and cause you to exercise more often.
If you turn to the many packaged gluten-free foods, such as breads, crackers, and cookies, there is a good chance you will gain weight on a gluten-free diet. These foods often contain more calories than the original versions. Weight gain may also occur for those with celiac disease who switch to a gluten-free diet. One research study showed that after 2 years, 81% of patients following the diet gained weight. Researchers feel that this is related to a healing of the intestine and proper absorption of nutrients.
How do I know if I should stop eating gluten?
If you experience any symptoms related to celiac disease, doctors urge that you get tested before you try a gluten-free diet. If you do have celiac disease and you remove gluten, the antibodies that show up in testing will no longer be present. For diagnosis, you will need to begin eating gluten again and suffer the symptoms. Diagnosis may seem unimportant if you find the diet works for you, but celiac disease is a genetic disorder. It’s important for it to be reported in your medical history for the health of your family. And if you begin to incorporate low levels of gluten again, its important to know if you are simply gluten sensitive or if this could be causing long-term malnutrition.
Are there risks with eating gluten-free?
Foods with gluten often contain iron, calcium, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and magnesium. If you regularly eat whole grains, they can also be a major source of fiber. Cutting out foods with these nutrients can have health consequences. It becomes increasingly important to select gluten-free foods that also supply these nutrients such as dark leafy greens, fruits, beans, lean meats, or dairy products.
What can I eat if I don’t eat gluten?
If you require a gluten-free diet, at first the options may seem dismal. The good news is that many food labels now list if a product contains gluten. But don’t fall into the trap of eating high-calorie processed foods. Stick with fresh, gluten-free foods and minimally processed packaged items. The Mayo Clinic lists several gluten-free grains for cooking and baking such as corn, millet, quinoa, rice, and sorghum. Fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free as well as most dairy products, beans, unprocessed nuts, and unprocessed meats without breading.
Is it habit or hunger? Before you grab a snack, stop and assess how you feel. If your stomach is grumbling or you can’t focus, you likely need to eat. If you feel anxious, stressed, or bored, you may be eating out of habit. Find an activity to distract you such as making a phone call or taking a short walk.
Fill nutrient gaps. Healthy snacks can boost nutrient intake. For example, if you have difficulty getting enough vitamin C or calcium during meals, a small smoothie made with strawberries and low-fat milk, or bell pepper strips with a yogurt-based dip will help fill in your nutrient gaps.
It’s all about balance. Snacks balanced in nutrients have staying power to get you through to the next meal. Concentrate on protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Fruit is good for you, but a piece of fruit alone may not keep you full. Add nut butter, low fat yogurt, or roasted chickpeas for a more balanced, filling snack.
Keep them low in calories. Nutrition professionals recommend that snacks contain about 200 calories. If you are eating large, high calorie snacks, it’s time to evaluate your regular meals to determine why they are leaving you so hungry.
Timing is everything. It’s natural to feel hungry every three to four hours so plan snacks with this in mind. If you exercise during your lunch break or after work, be sure you eat your small snack at least one hour before your workout.
Liquid calories count. If you eat an apple and almond butter as an afternoon snack, and an hour later you drink a soda, you’ve almost doubled your calorie intake. Liquid calories count, too. Stick with sparkling water or unsweetened iced tea to keep both your calorie and sugar intake in check.
Find the right substitute. Sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy -- we all have cravings. For each unhealthy snack you crave, find a substitute that provides the same eating experience. Try low-sodium nuts or pretzels for salty and crunchy, or low-sugar dried fruit for sweet and chewy.
Measure it. Never eat your snack from a bag or box unless it’s a single-size portion. Pay attention to serving sizes, and count, measure, or weigh your food before you eat.
Track every bite. Did you have half a bagel at your morning meeting and then a few nuts at the bar during happy hour? Don’t forget to record these nibbles and bites. These calories can quickly add up.
Butter and margarine have long been topics of nutritional debate leaving consumers confused about the best choices for health. This is what current research tells us about butter and margarine, including tips for selecting the healthiest option.
Margarine was once looked to as the healthy alternative to butter because it is made with plant oils, which contain less saturated fat and more heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Unfortunately, these oils have to undergo a process called hydrogenation to turn them from a liquid to a spreadable product. As a result, margarines may contain dangerous trans fats. Trans fat raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, making margarine worse for your heart than butter.
When the health effect of trans fats became clear, manufacturers began to formulate new margarine and butter-like spreads that contain little to no trans fat. Current labeling laws in the U.S. allow nutrient labels to state 0 grams of trans fat if the food contains 0.5 grams or fewer per serving. The American Heart Association recommends that trans fat be less than one percent of total calorie intake, so it’s important to check the ingredient list as well as the nutrient label. If you see “partially hydrogenated” in the list, this is an indicator that the spread still contains trans fat.
Butter is made from cream and contains saturated fat, which increases both HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. Many health professionals recommend that butter be used only in moderation, keeping in mind that recommendations for saturated fat are less than nine percent of your total daily calorie intake. (Some professionals believe below seven percent is ideal.) Butter contains seven grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
Tips for Healthy Choices
According to Harvard Medical School, solid stick margarines that are still available are worse for you than butter due to the trans fat. However, there are newer products that are lower in saturated fat and contain no trans fats. Heart healthy olive oil is still considered superior to both butter and margarine spreads so use it whenever possible. Use butter sparingly, and consider whipped butter which has a lower fat and calorie content per serving.
Another option is to use more nutritious foods that have the qualities of butter and oils. Nut butters and avocados are full of heart-healthy fat and can be used as spreads and in baked goods. Applesauce and bananas don’t provide fat, but they provide both moisture and sweetness, allowing you to cut back on butter, oil, or sugar in recipes.
It is well known that unhealthy eating can lead to excess calorie intake, weight gain, and chronic disease. What is often overlooked are those bothersome symptoms that make daily life uncomfortable and set you up for more serious issues in the future. These are five of those symptoms, and they can all be improved through healthier eating.
Heartburn is that uncomfortable feeling in the back of the throat that is caused when stomach acid irritates the esophagus. It can be triggered by overeating, and by eating high fat or oily foods, spicy foods, or chocolate. Drinks such as coffee, alcohol, and carbonated beverages are also culprits. Many underestimate the influence of unhealthy eating habits on heartburn. Simple changes such as eating more slowly, avoiding overeating, and limiting your intake of greasy, fried foods can be helpful in reducing symptoms. Keep in mind that if heartburn persists, it could be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which may require medical treatment.
Bloating and Upset Stomach
Fatty foods often have one of two effects on the digestive tract -- they slow emptying (which worsens constipation) or they speed up emptying (which can contribute to diarrhea). Either condition can leave you with an upset stomach, bloating, and abdominal pain. Reducing fatty, greasy foods can decrease these symptoms. Additionally, dietary fiber promotes a healthy digestive system. The majority of dietary fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Unfortunately, these are the same food groups that are often lacking in unhealthy diets. A rapid increase in fiber can lead to more bloating and gas, so be sure to increase it gradually until you reach the 25 to 35 grams per day recommended for health.
Fast food, pre-made frozen meals, packaged snacks, and many canned foods are loaded with sodium. When you consume excess sodium, water is retained until the body can regain fluid balance by excreting the excess through the urinary system. This causes you to feel bloated and uncomfortable. It can also show itself as extra pounds on the scale. Reducing sodium in your diet not only reduces water retention, but it promotes a healthy blood pressure, which can reduce your risk for heart disease.
Lack of Energy
Foods that are high in simple carbohydrates cause blood sugar to spike, which is followed by a blood sugar drop soon after. Often called a sugar crash, this is the reason a high carbohydrate, sugary breakfast or afternoon snack can leave you in an energy slump a few hours later. To help stabilize blood sugar and prevent this crash, choose foods that contain fiber and healthy fats, and include protein at each meal and snack.
According the National Sleep Foundation, carbohydrates also increase the amount of tryptophan available to the brain, which may cause drowsiness.
Heartburn caused by greasy foods and overeating is only one of many things that keep you from a restful night’s sleep. While a direct link between vitamins and insomnia is not completely clear, research suggests that some vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect sleep. For example, vitamin B6 aids in the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and magnesium plays a role in regulating sleep. These nutrients are plentiful in healthy foods such as fish, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains. A diet lacking in these foods is at risk for deficiencies that may make it harder to sleep. Alcohol intake also disrupts sleep and may prevent you from falling into the deeper stages of sleep necessary for a restful night.