Nutrition is the study of the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food with the body. A diet, simply put, is the food that an organism eats.
Scientists debate which sorts of diets are optimal for human health. You may know someone—or yourself—who is vegetarian, vegan, or practices some form of monitored diet for nutritional or ethical reasons. The amount of information out in the world on nutrition can be confusing and sometimes conflicting.
One great starting point is to understand how food energy works. Calories – also known as kilocalories or food calories – are the unit of measurement for dietary energy.
Balancing the calories you consume with the calories you expend, or burn, lets you maintain your weight. Consuming fewer calories than you burn will lead you to lose weight. Consuming more calories than we burn will lead us to gain weight. But how can you know how many calories you burn?
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is an estimate of the calories your body would consume on an average day just by resting. The amount of calories your body burns changes with each activity that you do: walking, sitting, napping, sports, playing an instrument. You can use this BMR Calculator to estimate the amount of calories you should be consuming each day to maintain your current weight or lose weight.
Calories can come from three primary sources, called macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. (To be fair, alcohol can also be considered an energy source, at 7 calories per gram, but most sources of alcohol do not provide essential nutrients. Sorry folks.)
Macronutrients provide important structural materials from which amino acids and proteins are built, and lipids from which cell membranes and some molecules are built, as well as your energy.
Tips for Tracking and Improving Your Diet:
- Use a food journal to track your calories. Better yet, use one of many apps available to assist with keeping track of your daily intake.
- Incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet.
- Drink plenty of water with each meal and between meals to stay hydrated and to feel fuller longer.
- Read nutrition labels to better understand what’s going into your body. As a general rule of thumb: avoid overdoing it on the processed foods. The fewer the ingredients, the better it likely is for your body.