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25 Nutrition Facts You Need to Know Before Choosing a Diet

February 20, 2014

If you want to lose weight and improve your health, the first step is to increase your knowledge of nutrition. Here are 25 important food facts that will help you choose the diet that’s right for you:

1. There is no such thing as a healthy soft drink


Soft drinks have no redeeming nutritional value. The regular varieties contain up to 9 teaspoons of sugar per serving, and the so-called ‘diet’ versions are an unsavoury blend of dubious chemicals. Cross these liquid abominations off your diet list.

2. Calcium is most easily obtained from dairy products


Calcium helps your bones, teeth and nerve endings, and even assists in the body’s fat-burning processes. You can get it from green vegetables, but the best sources are dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese. Always choose the non-fat options.

3. Plain oatmeal is an amazing food


Oatmeal is a wholegrain food that contains beta-glucans (which help lower cholesterol), protein, fibre, carbohydrates and plenty of vitamins and minerals. Because it is minimally processed, it’s a natural super-food and a terrific source of slow-burning energy.

4. Choose lean beef and poultry for muscle-building


Chicken breast, lean beef and turkey are excellent diet choices if you are trying to reduce fat and build up your muscle mass. They are packed with quality protein as well as beneficial amino acids. They also boost your metabolism during digestion.

5. Get your fruit juice from fruit, not from a bottle


The best way to absorb the nutritional goodness of fruit is by eating the whole fruit. When fruit is juiced and bottled, it often contains colourings, flavourings, preservatives and added sugar. Some bottled juices contain as much sugar as four doughnuts.

6. Green vegetables are a dieter’s friend


Green vegetables have a lot going for them: they’re full of iron, vitamins and fibre, and they supply high levels of nutrients that are difficult to obtain from other foods. Eating your greens will make you feel full, but without too many calories.

7. Checking food labels can help you shed fat


Food marketing is full of hype: terms like ‘fat-reduced’, ‘cholesterol-free’, ‘all-natural’ and ‘wholesome goodness’ are thrown around a bit too freely. The only way to know what’s in the packaged food you buy is to check the labels yourself.

8. You don’t need pills or supplements


Supplements and vitamins constitute a multi-billion dollar industry, but if you maintain a healthy diet full of wholesome, natural foods, you won’t need to spend a cent on them. Human bodies are designed to ingest food, not pills and capsules.

9. Improve your health with Omega-3 fatty acids


Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body, so you have to get them from your food. Salmon, mackerel and sardines are great sources. Omega-3s have been shown to improve the health of your heart, brain, skin and joints.

10. The best diet drink is water


It may not be the most exciting beverage in town, but every diet should include about 3 litres of pure water per day. Dehydration inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat, and interferes with all the other bodily functions essential to good health.

11. You don’t need sports drinks when you work out


Unless you’re running a marathon or playing five sets of tennis against Rafael Nadal, you probably don’t need to be guzzling sports drinks. These tend to be overloaded with sugar, and can totally negate the positive effects of your workout.

12. French fries don’t qualify as food


French fries are loaded with the worst kinds of fats for your body, and should be the first item to add to your ‘never eat again’ list. The tally of gruesome ingredients is frightening: trans fats, acrylamide, partially hydrogenated corn oil and dirty fryer grease.

13. Leave that 650-calorie muffin alone


When it comes to bad fats and heavy doses of sugar, packaged baked goods are some of the worst offenders. Cookies, biscuits, muffins, pastries and doughnuts are full of empty calories and practically devoid of any real nutrition.

14. Nutrition needs to be paired with exercise


Changing your diet takes motivation, determination and will power, so you should pat yourself on the back if you are able to accomplish it. It’s not enough by itself, however; you need to add regular exercise to the equation for noticeable results.

15. Fresh or frozen – which is healthier?


Generally speaking, fresh and frozen foods are equally nutritious. Fresh food is often picked a bit early and may be exposed to more heat than frozen food, but frozen foods can lose a little of their nutrition in the processing. Call it a tie.

16. Trans fats are everywhere; know your enemy


Trans fats are created by the process of hydrogenating vegetable oils. They have been implicated in increased rates of human heart disease and cancer. To avoid them, reject any food that lists any kind of ‘hydrogenated oil’ on the label.

17. Eating out too often can ruin your diet


Prepare your meals from scratch at home, using natural ingredients. This is the only way to know for sure what’s in your food. When you eat out, you tend to consume more fat, sugar and other undesirables than you normally would at home.

18. Low-fat doesn’t always mean low-calorie


Foods that are labelled low-fat can still have an abundance of sugar and calories. The other problem is that low-fat is a relative term. Non-fat is always better than low-fat, but you still need to check labels for other undesirable ingredients.

19. Eggs are awesome


Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. An egg contains all 9 essential amino acids as well as iron, vitamins and choline, all wrapped up in a convenient package containing only 70 calories. Eggs are great; it’s the bacon that’ll hurt you.

20. You should eat more fruit


Fruit is low in fat and calories, but full of essential nutrients like Vitamin C, folic acid and potassium. Eating fruit gives you the fibre you don’t get in fruit juices. Eating plenty of fruit (and vegetables) is beneficial to any diet.

21. Gym sessions don’t erase a horrible diet


Some people think that if you eat junk, you can just cancel out the detrimental effects with extra gym workouts. This is a fallacy. Weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet. Without the right fuel, all that iron-pumping isn’t helping you much.

22. Breakfast is absolutely crucial


From a dietary standpoint, skipping meals (especially breakfast) is always a bad idea. It disrupts your body’s blood sugar levels, and can lead to binge eating of unhealthy foods. Always have a solid breakfast and a healthy, mid-morning snack if you need it.

23. Margarine: it’s nothing like food


Margarine is an artificial, manufactured substitute for butter. It is made from steam-cleaned vegetable oil (with the antioxidants and vitamins removed) and then solidified by hydrogenation. Its natural grey colour is then dyed yellow. Avoid this toxic, chemical mess like the plague.

24. An apple a day keeps the blubber away


Apples contain about 65 calories, but no fat or sodium. They’re packed with vitamins and beneficial flavonoids. In a Brazilian study, women who habitually ate an apple before each meal lost over 30% more weight than those who didn’t.

25. Successful dieting isn’t about restrictions; it’s about change


A successful diet simply replaces bad food with good food. It’s easy to replace soft drinks with water, cheeseburgers with chicken breasts, fried potatoes with steamed, green vegetables, and sugary breakfast cereals with fresh fruit and oatmeal. Embrace the change!

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