Friday, January 23, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere but How Much do You Need?

Water, water everywhere but how much do you really need? The question of how much water is needed for adequate hydration is one that has more answers than many other nutrition related questions. The answer to the question is very simple.

In two thousand four the Institute of Medicine assessed hydration status by reviewing research studies and food and nutrition surveys. The IOM stated that the vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their hydration needs by letting thirst guide them. The IOM did not set exact requirements but set recommendations for women at about ninety one ounces of fluids per day and for men one hundred and twenty five ounces per day. The recommendations also stated that all fluids count so water, milk, coffee, tea and soft drinks count to body hydration. In addition to fluids, the fluid content of fruits and vegetables also count in the day’s intake. The IOM report stated that about 80% of fluid intake comes from beverages and 20% from foods. So how much fluid do you need?

A good place to start is with about eight cups (8 oz each) of water and other water based beverages. Take note of how you feel, are you thirsty, what is the frequency of urination and is your urine color too yellow? If you answered postively to these questions it maybe time to boost your fluid intake. While guidelines recommend fluid intake levels how much you need depends on your body so assessing your intake is the best place to begin the determination of how much you need.

These new guidelines are for adequate hydration so more fluids are needed during physical activity or with weather extremes. As temperatures deviate from the ideal temperature for body functions the amount of fluid needed increases so the hotter or colder it gets the more fluids needed. In addition to these two examples more fluids are needed during pregnancy and lactation or when sick with a fever, diarrhea or vomiting.

Adequate fluid intake is important to the overall functioning of the body with fluids playing a role in regulation of body temperature, transportation of nutrients and oxygen, elimination of waste products, moisturizing body tissues and serving as the main part of all body fluids.

While all fluids count towards your daily need not all fluids are equal in terms of calories or sometimes in terms of nutrition. Water is the best choice for hydration since it supplies no calories, no caffeine, (a stimulant) and it has no sodium or fat. Juice and milk are next best choices since they offer a wide variety of vitamins and minerals but they do contribute calories so they shouldn’t be the source of all your fluid needs.

Tips for the Week
· Take count of your fluid intake to determine if you need more
· Assess how much water you drink versus other beverages to see if calorie beverages need to be reduced
· Drink water before, during and after a workout
· Limit sports drinks to workouts that last longer than 45 minutes in order to keep calories down

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Protein Points

Most people know all about protein, or so they think, but in fact how much is needed is often a question that causes much confusion. Protein is essential to growth and repair of all tissues and cells within the body but it is also important to fluid balance, immune health and many other functions. As you might expect more protein is needed during periods of growth or times of healing or repair of cells that are damaged due to activity, surgery or other trauma. While protein has many functions the amount needed is much less than many people expect.

The current guidelines for protein intake recommend 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Since most of us don’t think of our weight in kilograms this recommendation translates to a minimum of 45 grams to as much as 115 grams per day for someone who weighs 250 pounds.

Consuming 45 grams of protein per day is a simple task for most people if you follow the guidelines setout in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, examples of how to meet this are listed here.
· Three ounces of meat, fish or poultry (about the size of a woman’s palm), plus three cups of milk or yogurt equals 45 grams
· One and a half cups of kidney beans plus three cups of milk or yogurt
· Six ounces of tofu and one and half cups of kidney beans

In addition to the health benefits of protein it can help you feel full longer so including some at most meals is a good way to keep control of what foods you choose to eat and how much you eat. Beyond the traditional meat and potatoes or a deli sandwich there are some easy ways to get protein in your meals or snacks including the following.
· A cup of low-fat yogurt with 2 tablespoons nuts
· Two tablespoons peanut or almond nut butter spread on an apple or banana
· One fourth a cup of nuts with one half a cup of dried fruit and one cup of whole grain cereal
· One third a cup of hummus with fresh veggies
· One cup of yogurt combined with frozen fruit for a fast smoothie

If you workout on a regular basis you will need more protein to help repair muscles damaged during activity. If your activity is predominately cardio or aerobic activity your need increases slightly since damage to muscles is less than it is during weight or resistance activity. For regular activity you would benefit from about 0.2 grams per kilogram more protein per day, so about 50 grams minimum per day. Remember that this minimum is based on weight so if you weigh more your minimum would be higher.

For those who lift weights regularly or for competitive athletes the need can go as high as 2.0 grams per kilogram or up to a minimum of 90 grams per day. The best advice for protein intake is to make sure you get enough and to only boost intake if your activity or growth requires it since excess protein ends up as extra body weight.

Tips for the Week
· Choose lean protein like turkey, chicken and fish
· Enjoy plant protein like hummus, beans or tofu in place of animal protein once or twice a week
· Switch to nonfat dairy choices to get your 3 A Day of Dairy

Friday, January 9, 2009

Nutrition Bites

Welcome to the first Nutrition Bites blog entry! Nutrition Bites will appear on a weekly basis and provide insight into the basics of nutrition. Nutrition Bites will sort through the clutter of fallacies about healthful eating and serve-up the facts in an easy to use presentation.

As with any program the best place to begin is at the beginning and the same is true with healthful eating. Healthful eating starts with the right balance of the calorie nutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat. While the right balance will vary depending on body weight, activity level and growth status the basics are the same for all of us.

The right start for healthful eating is with an intake of carbohydrates of forty five to sixty percent of your overall calories, so carbohydrates are close to or the majority of your calories. The important point in choosing your carbs is to choose those that provide the most nutritional value and those that provide more satiety. The best carbs for health include the following.
· Whole grains – breads, cereals, pasta, rice
· Vegetables – fresh or frozen
· Fruits – fresh, frozen or canned in their own juice
· Beans – dried or canned

A quick look at each category provides a glimpse of the best choices for satiety and nutrition. Whole wheat bread, cereals that list whole grain or oats or whole wheat as their first ingredient, brown and wild rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, barley or faro. Vegetables and fruits that are darkly colored or strongly flavored like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, apricots, cantaloupe, berries and melons provide more health promoting benefits. Beans, of all colors, are excellent sources of fiber, protein, carbohydrates and health promoting compounds and they help you feel full longer. While carbs are essential to overall health, quantity is important; learn the proper portions by visiting

Next week’s topic will look at protein and how much you need and what are the best sources for overall health.

Tips for the Week
· Read ingredient lists in order to choose cereals, crackers and other grains that are whole grain
· Learn the proper portion size for pasta, rice, cereals and other grains
· Plan to include at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables everyday