Most of us have a bit of a sweet tooth. Sadly, the things we love so much will never be as healthy as vegetables or fruits are. That does not mean, however, you should live on a diet of carrots and blueberries alone. There might be room for improvement, though, especially when it comes to the things we indulge with. Having the intention to make healthy food choices is great. Making sure your diet contains everything you need and is balanced, is much more challenging. The first thing to look for when trying to make your recipes healthier is the nutritional value of your ingredients.
Major and Minor Components
Our diet is mainly made up from four major components; water, carbohydrates (sugars), lipids (fat) and proteins. Coultate, T. (2008). Food: The Chemistry of its Components (5th ed., p. 501). Royal Society of Chemistry. Our bodies use these major components as a source of energy and to keep all the complicated mechanism in our body going. (Things like maintaining your nerve system, forming new cells to heal wounds, producing saliva and much more).Chiras, D. D. (2012). Human Biology (7th ed., p. 494). Jones & Bartlett Learning. Eating just the major components, however, is not enough. We also need minor components. These minor components are minerals and vitamins. We grow up with our parents telling us that we need calcium to keep our bones strong, and that is why we should drink milk. Compared to for instance carbohydrates, however, we do not need a lot of calcium on a daily basis.
According to the Institute of Medicine, we should get 45 to 65 % of our calories from carbohydrates. This means that when the average person needs 2000-2500 calories a day, the number of carbohydrates could be converted to 300 grams of dry pasta or 1.7 kilos of potatoes! The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for Calcium is only 2500 mg. This amount is significantly less but even so very important.Institute Of Medicine ‘Dietary Reference Intakes For Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, And Amino Acids-See More At: Http://Iom.Nationalacademies.Org/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-For-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-And-Amino-Acids.Aspx#Sthash.13Rurtfe.Dpuf’. N.p., 2002. Web. 1 Aug. 2015.
What is the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)? It is the amount (by weight) of a substance that you should consume on a daily basis to stay healthy. This amount has been established by government bodies that concern themselves with health and nutrition (An example is the FDA for the United States). The RDI is a standardised amount but varies per person, depending on your age and gender.
What is healthy?
A lot of research is being done on what is healthy for us, what we need and what can be harmful. This research is very relevant, and new things are being discovered every day. What every person needs exactly varies from one person to another. For instance; a baby needs different nutrition than a pregnant woman or an elderly man. An athlete has to eat something else than someone with an office job. Not just age, gender, and lifestyle are important but also your DNA plays a part.
To find out what food is healthy for you, there are some things you should think about:
- How active am I during the day? (depending on your gender, height, and age, the amount of energy you need varies)
- Do I get all the nutrients that I need through the food that I am eating? (Not just carbs and proteins, but also the right kind of lipids, water, minerals, vitamins and fibers are essential.)
- Is there enough variation in my diet?
I am not in the business of telling you how to eat or what choices to make when it comes to your diet. The aim is to provide scientific information on everything that has to do with cooking at home, as objectively and truthful as possible. The recipes all include their nutritional information, and there is a growing category of articles that take a closer look at individual ingredients and their nutritional value.
On Truthful Food I try to create recipes with four things in mind:
- How do you make something that is delicious and easy to make?
- What ingredients implement a large variety of nutrients into your diet?
- How can you use fewer ingredients (or less of the ingredients) that fall into the category ”unhealthy”?
- Scientific reactions that take place in the food will give you the product you want. These reactions influence the structure, taste, colour, etc. To make sure that the recipes turn out right in your kitchen as well, I try all the recipes at least three times.
Regularly used ingredients are flour, butter, sugar, milk and eggs. They all have their nutritional value, and some are healthier than others. Let’s look at the information we have on these ingredients. Because it is easier to compare individual food products if they all have the same serving size, we will compare 100 grams of each.
All-purpose flour has a relatively high-calorie count per 100 grams (364). As can be seen on the label, the main nutrient in flour is carbohydrates; it makes up about 80% of the total weight. Carbohydrates can be found on a nutrition label under different names, depending on the type of carbohydrates. A few more common types of carbohydrates are sugars, fibres, and starches. All these carbohydrates have a different nutritional function (see the nutrition label below).
Butter has a large number of calories per 100 grams (717) and consists mainly, again about 80%, out of lipids, better known as fat (see the nutrition label below).
Sugar adds 387 calories to a recipe per 100 grams. The calories again, come in the shape of carbohydrates but in this case, all of them are sugars. On the flour nutrition label, you can see that only 0.3% in flour is sugar. Not surprisingly for sugar, this percentage is 100% (see the nutrition label below).
Whole milk has a low number of calories per 100 grams. The 61 calories per 100 grams come from carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Depending on the percentage of fat in your milk, the calorie count varies. Skim milk only has a calorie count of 35 per 100 grams because the fat content is close to zero. The major component in milk is water, and because water contains 0 calories per 100 grams, the overall number of calories is very low (see the nutrition label below).
Eggs two components we all know well; egg yolk and egg white. The egg whites mainly contain water and protein. The egg yolks, however, contain a fair amount of fat. Per 100 grams, eggs contain 143 calories. These calories mainly come from the fat in the yolk (see the nutrition label below).
After looking at these ingredients, we see that they all bring different nutrients to the table when we use them. While sugar and flour mainly contain carbohydrates, we all know that eating a spoon of flour is very different from eating a spoon of sugar. Not just the taste and the structure are different, but also the way both ingredients behave in our food. The structure, flavour, colour, texture and general appearance are just the major aspects that we experience. There are many different types of carbohydrates, fat or proteins we can introduce into our product. The different types of flour available are already incredible. Fiber contents can vary from 3% like we saw here, to 30% like you will find in coconut flour. Also, the sugar and protein presence can differ significantly.
The differences in the presence of both major and minor components influence your health. We all know that eating only carbohydrates is not healthy, even when you eat a wide variety of them. Living on a diet of lipids will not make you happy either. So what choices to make?
Healthy Food Choices
When talking about truthful nutrition, it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- Make sure you know what you are eating. Read the nutrition label and get familiar with what the information on these labels means. (Even though sugar and fiber are both carbohydrates, your body doesn’t need them for the same things.)
- Variation in your diet is fun and healthy.
- Nothing is good for you when you overdo it; moderation is your friend. (You do not need 10 cookies to enjoy the taste of it, 1 or 2 will do the trick. Don’t keep eating unless your body is sending you signals you are still hungry. Give yourself time to listen to these signals.)
- Everything tastes better when you share it with others. Take your time to enjoy your food and be aware of what you are eating.
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Important note: If you are worried about your health, or if you are looking to make adjustments to your diet in order to lose or gain weight, please consult a health professional like your family doctor or a registered dietician. Information that is being offered on the internet is usually broad and in some cases even untrue.
|↑1||Coultate, T. (2008). Food: The Chemistry of its Components (5th ed., p. 501). Royal Society of Chemistry.|
|↑2||Chiras, D. D. (2012). Human Biology (7th ed., p. 494). Jones & Bartlett Learning.|
|↑3||Institute Of Medicine ‘Dietary Reference Intakes For Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, And Amino Acids-See More At: Http://Iom.Nationalacademies.Org/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-For-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-And-Amino-Acids.Aspx#Sthash.13Rurtfe.Dpuf’. N.p., 2002. Web. 1 Aug. 2015.|