Nutrition for weight loss

When going in a weight loss diet, it is important to know the basic rules of nutrition.

A healthy diet requires items from the four basic food groups in certain proportions and one must juggle those with the basic equation for weight loss: calories in must be less than calories out. When going in a weight loss diet, it is important to know the basic rules of nutrition and be able to identify if nutritional supplements are needed.

It is important to know the basic rules of nutrition when trying to lose weight.

Nutrition basics

In order to optimize your health a good diet is essential. But, with all the fad diets around it can be difficult to know what is 'good'. Nutrition science to the rescue! Though some things are still controversial, numerous studies reinforce the following basic information.

A healthy diet requires not just items from the four basic food groups, but in the proper proportion. The average person will need about 2000-2500 calories (sometimes more for larger men, less for women and those looking for rapid weight loss). About 50% of those calories should come in the form of carbohydrates, with 30% from fats (yes, fat is good!) and 20% from protein.

Carbohydrates are the main source of compounds needed for energy. Simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose, are rapidly broken down in the intestine and absorbed. Some processing starts the minute they hit your tongue. Complex carbohydrates - starches, such as those found in potatoes - take longer, but are also healthy in moderation.

Fats are chemically similar to carbohydrates, and contain fatty acids essential to health. Proteins are lysed (split) to make amino acids, that are then recombined to form proteins used in muscles and other structures.

Meat is a valid and healthy source of protein for almost everyone. About 3 ounces per meal is about right for the average sized person. A cup of pasta is a good source of carbohydrates. Two cups of leafy green vegetables supply fiber, minerals and vitamins.

A balanced meal can be made up of a serving of meat or other protein source, starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, corn or potatoes, and fruit. Easy on the butter or margarine, go light on cheese, sauces and anything high in sugar or fat.

Though you could get the basics from a variety of sources, when considering weight control in addition to getting the proper balance, it's important to know which sources are high in what.

Fat contains nine calories per gram, which is double than other energy sources. Thus, you need to keep those foods high in fat down to modest levels. That also helps control cholesterol levels.

All sources of carbohydrates have four calories per gram. But healthy sources also contain needed minerals, vitamins and fiber. Some examples are fruits (apples, pears, peaches), nuts (walnuts are lower in fat than peanuts or cashews, for example) and grains (for fiber and minerals).

Why is candy bad, unless consumed in very modest portions? Because they are designed to be high in fat, high in sugar with much lower amounts of helpful nutrients. Neither fat nor sugar are harmful in moderation. Indeed, they're essential to good health. But when consumed in a form that contains an excessive proportion, they provide enormous calories and fewer other nutrients.

A single Snickers candy bar, for example, contains 63g, with 53g of sugar, but only 2g of fiber. A cup of broccoli, by contrast, has only 6g total, of which 2.5g are fiber, 1.5g are sugars. A cup of sweet corn has 31g total, 21g are starch (complex carbohydrates), 3g of fiber.

Making a list of items you consume will show you the relative amounts of helpful nutrients - and how many calories each contains. Putting a little arithmetic into your diet plan will help you reduce the number you obsess over - your weight.

Nutritional supplements

A supplement, by definition, is something that accompanies something essential. But, in some cases, nutritional supplements can themselves be an essential part of a healthy nutrition regimen.

Whether because of a busy life style, or an individual genetic or physiological condition, there are those who benefit from nutritional supplements. Everyone requires a certain amount of vital biochemicals, with the proportion varying within a narrow range for almost everyone.

But diet doesn't always supply those amounts, even when a sincere effort is made to eat properly. Some have rigorous exercise routines, others are forced to a more sedentary lifestyle because of work and family life. Most importantly, every individual is unique and therefore requires a particular amount of nutrient that differs slightly from others.

B-complex vitamins, for example, are essential for everyone. But the proper amount will vary depending on weight and unique physiology. For some, an all-purpose daily vitamin pill is enough to supply any needed amount that doesn't come from a balanced diet. The body has a well-tuned ability, in most cases, to absorb what's needed and slough off the rest.

For others, added amounts or specialized types are a requirement for good health. Vitamin C is eliminated in the urine when consumed in excess amounts. But what is excess one day may not be enough the next, requiring tomorrow's deficit to be made up through diet or supplements.

Taking Vitamin C once helped eliminate the dangers of scurvy and rickets. That's rarely a problem in developed countries today, but there is strong evidence that it helps boost the immune system, leading to fewer colds and infections. Past claims overstated the facts, but Vitamin C remains a needed element.

Many people as they get older consume much less calcium. To an extent, that's normal and healthy. Young adults don't require anywhere near the amounts that they did when they were infants or young children.

But the curve picks up again later in life, as bones become less able to manufacture the appropriate amount. For many who are lactose intolerant, or simply don't care for the taste of cow's or goat's milk, getting calcium in the form of a supplement is a great way to get that essential mineral.

Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and prevent heart disease, to name only two benefits. But one of the main dietary sources - fish - isn't to everyone's taste. It's also unfortunately the case that sometimes the local fish supply is temporarily unsafe. In those circumstances a nutritional supplement is an excellent alternative.

There are dozens of supplements that can help balance out hormonal deficiencies that many women and some men suffer from. Soy is one that can smooth out imbalances and help reduce PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) or menopause symptoms. Others are helpful for thyroid imbalances.

Cortisol is another example. Naturally produced by most people in the proper amount, some people have a deficiency due to a gland weakened by disease, age or genetic condition. Those low in cortisol can suffer from fatigue, aching joints and other symptoms. Taken in the proper amounts, it can make a huge positive lifestyle difference.

Each person should undergo rigorous testing before taking anything more than an average daily vitamin or one of the more common supplements. Ginko, for example, can lead to excessive bleeding in some. You need to know which are safe for you. But once you have the results, taking nutritional supplements can make the difference between mediocre and optimal health.