Nu­tri­tion Know How

Melinda Lund, MS, RD in­tro­duces her­self and tells us what she has in store for her new col­umn.

Mountain Bike for Her - - Contents - Words by Melinda Lund, MS, RD

There’s a con­stant flow of nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion cir­cu­lat­ing in the me­dia. Some of it seems too good to be true, some of it is very com­plex, while some seems just about right (think Goldilocks). Pa­leo, Atkins, low carb, low fat…it’s no won­der many of us are con­fused and over­whelmed and have no idea where to start. When sorting through the nu­tri­tion may­hem, we have to start at the be­gin­ning…

In this first of a se­ries of nu­tri­tion ar­ti­cles, we will travel back to ba­sics and re-learn the nu­tri­tion foun­da­tion that puts on the path for a healthy life­style (no di­ets here) and from which we can build up­wards. So let’s begin with a sim­ple dis­cus­sion about nu­tri­ents…from ba­sic in­for­ma­tion to what’s con­sid­ered “cut­ting edge” new in­for­ma­tion.


If I asked you what foods are con­sid­ered car­bo­hy­drates, many of you would be able to throw out some ex­am­ples: bread, pasta, cook­ies/sweets, etc. and you’d be right. Car­bo­hy­drates can be bro­ken down into the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories:

• Breads/ce­re­als/grains/starchy veg­eta­bles

• Fruit/fruit juice

• Milk/yo­gurt

• Snacks/Sweets

Car­bo­hy­drates are also clas­si­fied as sim­ple and com­plex depend­ing on their “sugar struc­ture”. Sim­ple carbs are made up of one or two sug­ars (e.g. fruc­tose found in fruit or galac­tose found in dairy, candy, soda) while com­plex carbs have three or more sug­ars (e.g. starchy foods like bread, ce­real, starchy veggies, whole grains). The sim­ple carbs tend to be ab­sorbed very quickly and there­fore in­crease your blood sug­ars at a fast rate, which can lead to health is­sues over time.

Car­bo­hy­drates (in all forms) pro­vide fuel for our bod­ies and brains. We need car­bo­hy­drates, but the type of car­bo­hy­drates we choose, and more im­por­tantly, the quan­tity are cru­cial com­po­nents to the health of our bod­ies (think blood sug­ars, triglyc­erides, etc.). So what’s new with car­bo­hy­drates? What have we learned over the past few years?

Some of the most ground-break­ing re­search as of

late, has been with sugar (sim­ple car­bo­hy­drate). We’ve seen some of the head­lines: “Sugar is Toxic” and “Sugar is an Ad­dic­tion” (to name a cou­ple). We have com­pelling re­search that shows the link be­tween high sugar/starch in­take and an in­crease in triglyc­eride lev­els. We do know that there is an ad­dic­tion com­po­nent to sugar in which case “lack of willpower” is less to blame. We know that too many car­bo­hy­drates can cause in­flam­ma­tion which may be con­tribut­ing to joint pain and headaches. Be­cause the role of car­bo­hy­drates and the ef­fect of too much of them is so com­plex, we will be ded­i­cated the next ar­ti­cle to this one topic. We will take that op­por­tu­nity to break down the science of it all.


The build­ing blocks of our bod­ies – many of you have heard pro­tein de­scribed with this one state­ment. I won’t dis­agree. I will say, how­ever, that typ­i­cally many of us eat way more pro­tein than we need – es­pe­cially those of you who are very phys­i­cally ac­tive… Pro­tein foods are typ­i­cally easy to iden­tify for many of you – meat. That’s the an­swer I usu­ally get when I ask peo­ple to name sources of pro­tein. And yes, that is true – meat is a pro­tein source. How­ever, we have many more sources of pro­tein that, when in­cluded, can pro­vide us

with more of a va­ri­ety of foods to choose from… • Eggs • Cheese • Cottage Cheese • Nut but­ters • Tofu/soy Like car­bo­hy­drates, there are two clas­si­fi­ca­tions of pro­tein – com­plete and in­com­plete. Com­plete pro­teins are those foods that con­tain all of the amino acids (an­i­mal sources of pro­tein). In­com­plete sources of pro­tein con­tain some (but not all) of the amino acids (e.g. beans, grains, nuts, seeds). The amino acid “makeup” in each food varies, so in the­ory, foods that fall into the in­com­plete cat­e­gory can be com­bined to make a com­plete pro­tein. The beans and rice com­bi­na­tion is a popular one – beans have a spe­cific set of the amino acids and rice con­tains the amino acids that the beans lack. To­gether, they bal­ance each other out.

“We need car­bo­hy­drates, but the type of car­bo­hy­drates we choose, and more

im­por­tantly, the quan­tity are cru­cial com­po­nents to the health of our bod­ies...”

We need pro­tein in our di­ets. Pro­tein en­cour­ages tis­sue re­pair and mus­cle growth. And, ac­cord­ing to Har­vard School of Public Health: “Pro­tein is found through­out the body—in mus­cle, bone, skin, hair, and vir­tu­ally ev­ery other body part or tis­sue. It makes up the en­zymes that power many chem­i­cal re­ac­tions and the he­mo­glo­bin that car­ries oxy­gen in your blood. At least 10,000 dif­fer­ent pro­teins make you what you are and keep you that way.” As I men­tioned, most of us in the United States, get plenty of pro­tein and many eat more than is needed. Our bod­ies are smart, how­ever, so it will ex­crete ex­cess pro­tein in the urine. Our bod­ies can han­dle that func­tion for the short term, but over time, it may be an over­load on the kid­neys. It’s like any­thing, things wear out as they get older: cars, ma­chines, bod­ies/ or­gans…so we have to treat them kindly and not over­work them if we don’t have to. So, a “high pro­tein” diet may have some long term health ef­fects. What con­sti­tutes a high pro­tein diet? Check back on fu­ture ar­ti­cles as we take a look at some of the popular di­ets out there and the pros and cons of each.


Su­per-hot topic right now – fats. Not so bad? Not so good? How much? What kind? There are a lot of ques­tions about fats loom­ing out there. There is also a lot of re­ally great re­search be­ing done and re­ported on right now. In my opin­ion, this topic has prob­a­bly had the most me­dia at­ten­tion lately – with sugar be­ing a close sec­ond – and right­fully so as they tend to go hand in hand. Fat sources – let’s just cut to the chase. Fat is in a lot of our foods – oc­cur­ring both nat­u­rally and as an added in­gre­di­ent. Many of us rec­og­nize fats like but­ter, may­on­naise, oils, and gravies. But fats are also nat­u­rally found in an­i­mal foods like meat and dairy. We have un­sat­u­rated fats (liq­uid at room tem­per­a­ture) that in­clude olive oil and nuts/ seeds (fur­ther break­down into mono and poly un­sat­u­rated fats) – and we also have sat­u­rated fat (solid at room tem­per­a­ture) which in­cludes an­i­mal sources and co­conut oil. For the past 30 years or so, we’ve been on the low-fat/fat-free bandwagon…and frankly, it’s got­ten us nowhere. As a coun­try, our weight con­tin­ues to sky rocket while our fat in­take has dropped. Why? A lot of re­cent re­search is ac­tu­ally tak­ing the heat off of fats and fo­cus­ing in on sugar. We rec­og­nize two things: When we re­move fat from foods we also re­move flavour. Ad­mit it, fat tastes good. In or­der to make some­thing fat-free more palat­able, we need to add flavour back in – usu­ally in the form of sugar. So those re­duced-fat Oreo cook­ies that we buy have more calo­ries and more car­bo­hy­drates (as sugar) in them than the regular Oreo cook­ies when com­par­ing the same serv­ing size! Ad­di­tion­ally, as we skim down fat (make whole milk into 2%) we de­crease the size of the fat mol­e­cules – mak­ing them more read­ily avail­able to our blood stream – where they tend to stick and ac­cu­mu­late more eas­ily. We know that sat­u­rated fat (mostly from an­i­mals) isn’t so bad for us ei­ther. TIME mag­a­zine re­cently had a cover that cel­e­brated the rec­om­men­da­tions to eat real but­ter! Look for an up­com­ing ar­ti­cle that dis­cusses the specifics on fat and the new rec­om­men­da­tions…

“...those re­duced-fat Oreo cook­ies that we buy have more calo­ries and more car­bo­hy­drates (as sugar) in them than the regular Oreo cook­ies when com­par­ing the same serv­ing size!”

What’s the Nu­tri­tion Lowdown?

In the end, go­ing back to ba­sics is key. Eat­ing real food ver­sus “man-made”, pro­cessed, highly re­fined food. Eat­ing foods that don’t have a mile long in­gre­di­ent list. Eat­ing like our grand­par­ents or great grand­par­ents used to eat. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Of course there are a lot of vari­ables added into the mix – like sugar ad­dic­tion, por­tion sizes, where our food comes from, stress, mind­ful eat­ing, lack of sleep (yes, this ef­fects our health and weight), hor­mones, ac­tiv­ity…a long list. How­ever, we can break this all down into small steps (one floor at a time) and get all of the lev­els stacked on top of our foun­da­tion to have a healthy life­style. Next is­sue: Level one…car­bo­hy­drate specifics – the lowdown on sugar!

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