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Now that we have studied the Food Guide Pyramid you should be familiar with the variety of nutritious foods available. You may be wondering why one food is better for you than another. Today we are going to study the nutrients in foods that make this difference. Nutrients are vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water. These six essential nutrients are something we all need for growth, energy, and for maintenance and repair of our cells. Eating a well-balanced diet with a wide variety of foods will provide you with the right amount of all the nutrients you need.

1) Water
Does anyone know what our bodies are made of?(Bodies are made of bones, blood, muscle, fat, WATER.) Water is a nutrient that makes up 60% of our body weight. It is important in many functions, it is part of every cell in every tissue in the body. Water carries other nutrients to all parts of the body, it carries waste out of the body and it helps to regulate body temperature.

When you run or play sports your body heats up pretty quickly. Who sweats a lot when they are outside playing??? Your body starts to sweat as a way to get rid of the heat. When the sweat evaporates on your skin your body and blood get cool. It is very important to replace the fluid that is lost by sweating so your body does not become dehydrated. If you get dehydrated the body cannot cool itself anymore and your performance will drop. Without enough water, whether you are exercising or sitting all day, you are at risk for dehydration which can be fatal.

*About eight 8 ounce glasses are needed each day just to keep our body working properly.

2) Protein
Protein is a nutrient used to make and repair our body cells (like blood and muscle cells). About 1/2 of your dry body weight is protein. If you do not eat enough carbohydrates, protein will be changed to carbohydrates so that you can get energy. If you eat too much protein, the extra amount will be changed into fat and stored in your muscles to use later. Your body cannot store protein as protein so you need to eat some every day. Your muscles need some protein every day especially if you play sports, run or exercise. Taking in the right amount of protein can help build strong muscles. Can you name some foods that are high in protein?(chicken, meat, seafood, milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, dried beans and peas).

3) Carbohydrate
What do you think of when you hear the word carbohydrate??? ENERGY! Carbohydrates are the primary (number one) source of energy for our bodies. With enough carbohydrates, the protein and fat that we eat can do their jobs. If you remember our study of the food guide pyramid you'll remember that the carbohydrates were the largest group on the bottom of the pyramid.

If we do not eat enough carbohydrates, the protein and fat that we eat have to be used for energy and cannot do their jobs of promoting growth and activity. Growing children need a bit more carbohydrates because you are more active and your bodies are still developing.

There are two types of carbohydrates, do you know the difference??? SIMPLE and COMPLEX carbohydrates. Can you name some foods that are high in carbohydrates? (breads, cereal, pasta, fruits, jelly, vegetables, sugar, honey) The difference between these groups is that the simple carbohydrates are in a simple sugar form like jelly, jam, honey, sugar; while the complex carbohydrates have to be broken down by the body through digestion before they are in the simple form. It is recommended that we get most of our energy from the complex carbohydrate group because the length of time it takes to absorb the nutrient provides energy for a longer time. Some complex carbohydrates include breads, pasta, fruits, and vegetables.

Sugar While we are talking about SIMPLE carbohydrates lets focus on sugar. Sugar is a source of calories but it has NO nutrients at all. It provides no vitamins or minerals only empty calories. Do you think it would be a good idea to get all of your calories from sugary foods??? (NO) This would keep you from getting any vitamins, minerals, and protein that your body needs to be healthy and strong! Another big problem with sugar is that it causes tooth decay. If you left a tooth sitting in a glass of water with sugar you would see how it eats away at the tooth, leaving holes and brown decay. Natural sugars are a great substitute for sweet treats. Instead of candy or soda you could have fresh fruit or fruit juice.

Fiber Some of those COMPLEX carbohydrates we were talking about have another benefit. They are high in fiber. Fiber is the plant material that cannot be digested by your body. It is best seen as the "strings" in celery or the veins in a lettuce leaf. Because we can't digest it, it passes through our body and helps to move all the other food and nutrients along with it. This is very good because it helps prevent heart disease, cancer of the intestines, diabetes and obesity. High-fiber diets are usually low in fat and very filling. Some high-fiber foods are fruits with seeds and peels, vegetables, beans, and whole grain cereals.

4) Fat
Fat is a nutrient that is the most concentrated source of energy for the body. What happens when we eat too much fat? We store it in our body. What about when we eat too many calories? Extra calories also get stored as fat if they are not used up for energy that day.

Do you know why our bodies store fat??? One of the reasons is so it can be used for energy later on. The fat we store in our body protects our vital organs. Fat gets deposited under the skin where it works to keep our bodies warm by insulating and preventing heat loss. Fat is necessary in our diets because it is the only carrier of some vitamins called fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. All normal people need some fat in their diet each day. Only 25-30% of your total daily calories should come from foods containing fat. What foods do you know of that are sources of fat??? (butter, margarine, salad dressing, fried foods, chocolate, nuts, seeds and oil)

5) Vitamins
Vitamins are a category of nutrients that include: Fat-soluble vitamins A,D,E,and K Water-soluble vitamins B and C.

Vitamins keep us healthy, prevent disease, help us grow properly, use energy, have good vision and keep us in proper condition. As with calories, children need more vitamins every day because they are growing and their bodies are developing.

Vitamin A is primarily responsible for good eye sight at night; helps keep us from getting infections; helps keep skin healthy; and supports normal bone growth. Some good sources of vitamin A are dark green or yellow vegetables and fruits like turnip greens, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, mangos, and cantaloupe.

B Vitamins help our bodies to use carbohydrates, protein, and fat; to maintain a healthy nervous system; produce new red blood cells; and use minerals. The best known B vitamins are Thiamin, Riboflavin, and Niacin. Everybody needs the B-Complex vitamins each day. We get them from whole grain breads and cereals (or enriched breads and cereals), eggs, milk, cheese, meat, fish, poultry, and green leafy vegetables.

Vitamin C is needed to form collagen which holds our cells together. It helps make our cells strong so that they are better able to fight infection and heal wounds quickly. Vitamin C is also needed for healthy teeth and gums; and it helps in absorption of Iron which we will talk about more later. Our body has no way to store vitamin C so we need to get some every day. What foods do you know of that are high in Vitamin C??? (oranges, citrus fruits, pineapple, strawberries, tomatoes, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables.)

6) Minerals
Minerals are another nutrient category that, like vitamins, include a number of different forms. When we talk about minerals we are referring to calcium, iodide, phosphorous, fluorine, potassium, zinc and iron. Minerals help you have strong bones and teeth and healthy blood. They also help your body stay regulated in many ways. Calcium and iron are two of the important minerals we will cover in this lesson.

Calcium Can you guess what mineral our body has the most of??? Calcium! Calcium is found in and required for strong teeth and bones. It helps to build strong bones so they will not break easily. It also builds strong teeth to help fight the bacteria that can cause cavities. We all need calcium everyday for these reasons. Children and teenagers need more calcium than adults do because your bodies are still growing. Like we said earlier, your body has more calcium in it than any other mineral. Sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and turnips, and some seafood (sardines).

Iron is an important mineral for energy. Iron works with protein to help the red blood cells make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is needed to help carry oxygen to all parts of your body. That oxygen gives you energy to play, run, and do work. Iron is very necessary in our diets. If you do not have enough you may feel tired and weak because your blood probably isn't carrying enough oxygen to other parts of your body. Sources of Iron include liver, poultry, lean meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, bread, cereals, prunes, raisins, and dried apricots.

Sodium is an element that we all get plenty of! Actually in the United States we take in much more than we need. We should not take in more than 2400 milligrams per day of sodium. Sodium is in a lot of foods and beverages we consume as well as in salt. Lots of processed foods have sodium in them for flavor and to preserve the food. Be aware of sauces, mustard, ketchup, pickles, salty snacks, and sandwich meat because these all have lots of sodium.

Food Label Facts - Nutrition Facts

The food label, titled nutrition facts, can help you to choose foods within the pyramid groups. It is important to know that some foods are not required to have labels on them. These foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and generic foods. The label will always have certain information that you can compare with other foods. What things would you expect to find on a nutrition label?

Well, let's look at our labels so you can get a better feel for where to find all of this information.

Here are the things you should look for on labels:
*The name of the food.
*How much the contents weigh.
*The style (sliced, chopped, whole)
*The packing style (heavy syrup, water, oil)
*Name and address of the manufacturer or packer.
*List of ingredients?listed from most to least by weight.

*Nutrition Facts

The nutrition facts have a lot of information listed in a small amount of space. Who normally looks at the labels on the foods they eat??? First we have the serving sizes which are based on standard servings so that most foods have the same amounts listed. This makes it easier to compare calories and it is more realistic. The next item listed are the calories per serving and the calories from fat. Then the label lists the nutrients most important to your health. You will recognize these from our study earlier. They are: total fat which some of it is saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrate,which is broken down into dietary fiber and sugars, and finally, protein.

Along the right side of these nutrients you'll see the % daily values. These numbers are the percentage per serving of this food as compared to the amount recommended in a 2,000 calorie diet. An example of these nutrient needs is usually listed at the bottom of the label. It gives you the exact amount of the nutrients that would be needed for a 2,000 calorie diet.

You will see that only two vitamins and two minerals are listed. Can you name what they are??? (Vitamin A,C; Calcium and Iron)

The list of ingredients will list the ingredients from most to least by weight. If any coloring or additives are included they will also be listed. This list is where you would find any hidden ingredients like sugar, sodium, or preservatives. Who can find some other words for sugar or simple carbohydrates??? Sugars could be listed as any of the following: sucrose, fructose, maltose, lactose, honey, syrup, corn syrup, molasses, or fruit juice concentrate. If a lot of these are listed the food is going to be high in sugars. Let's look at those food labels and try to find any hidden sugars or fats.


Research has shown that children watch more than 20,000 commercials each year. About 60% of those commercials aimed at children are for food. These items being advertised are mostly non-nutritious foods and food products. Because children watch so much television it is important that you think about what you are hearing and seeing. Remember that you are watching an advertisement. Food corporations spend a lot of money on their commercials so that the food looks very appetizing. Their goal is to make you think that you should buy their foods. After all, they need to make back all the money they have spent on the advertising!

* Be a TV Commercial Critic List of reflection questions to ask while viewing commercials:

1. Does the company use a celebrity who is believable to sell the product?

2. Do they use words that are hard to understand?

3. Do they tell you everything you need to know about the food? (A food can be cholesterol free but still be very high in fat or saturated fat. They will not necessarily tell you about the high fat content; you'll have to look at the label for that information.)

4. Do they use special lights, music, or sound effects to make the food look better?

Ask yourself these questions when viewing commercials:

1. Does the company use a celebrity who is believable to sell the product?

2. Do they use words that are hard to understand?

3. Do they tell you everything you need to know about the product? Sometimes information is left out of the commercial to make the product look better.

4. Do they use special lights, music, or sound effects to make the food look better?

Dole 5 A Day

Fast Food Facts
Food & Nutrition Information Center

Health Touch Online For Better Health

Produce Oasis

The Food Pyramid

The Food Pyramid Data Base & Images

The Food Guide Pyramid

The Nutrition Pages






For additional information or assistance contact:   Mary Peters
Broward County
Extension Education Division
3245 College Avenue
Davie, Florida, USA 33314
       (954) 370-3725
Fax: (954) 370-3737

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