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Nutrition: Diet, Sanitation, and Menu Ideas

The main objectives of a good diet are to 1) maintain optimal bodily functions, 2) avoid nutritional deficiencies and excesses, and 3) make eating tasty and enjoyable. Our diet must incorporate the proper proportions of food components in the right quantities so that the amount of energy (measured in Calories) obtained from the food is appropriate for our level of activity and our age, since as we mature our bodies require fewer Calories. The diet must provide essential vitamins and minerals, avoid harmful substances that degrade health, and take into consideration individual allergies and intolerances to specific foods.

Healthy Plate

The human body does not function in isolation from its environment. The mouth and intestines harbor many types of bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum that have adapted to live within our body. These probiotic bacteria prevent harmful bacteria from becoming established, help to digest some foods, and produce some necessary vitamins and nutrients. Yogurt, kefirs, cheese, sour cream and other foods have these beneficial bacteria.

Sanitation. Since many diseases are caused by environmental contaminants and disease-causing organisms, one of the most important things that we can do for our health is to reduce our exposure to them. Here are some helpful sanitation tips:

Eating Right. There are two main reasons why a large percentage of the population is overweight. First of all, eating gives us pleasure and we frequently overeat. Secondly, we tend to have sedentary life styles. We start by sitting in a car or a bus to go to work or school, then we sit at a desk all day and, when we come home, we sit on the couch to watch television while we snack. The combination of too much food, the wrong balance of nutritional components, and lack of exercise often results in obesity and poor health.

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Ancient Greek statues portray ideal proportions of the human body. Today, we still admire those old statues and the muscular structure of body builders. What do modern body builders eat to achieve such spectacular form? Without counting the water, 75% of our body weight is protein. So it is not surprising that along with a strenuous exercise schedule, body builders enhance muscle growth with diets that are high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. They eat five or six small meals per day to constantly nourish the muscles and to prevent the stomach from stretching. Even if improving our physical appearance is not our main goal in life, we can take the idea of a protein-enriched diet that is low in carbohydrates and contains the right fats as a basis for our menus. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein for both men and women is 0.8 grams of good quality protein per kilogram (0.35g/lb) of body weight per day. This is the minimum to prevent protein deficiency for low levels of activity, but for active people it should be increased to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight. Professional body builders consume about 4.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (2.0g/lb). The quantities of carbohydrates and essential fatty acids should be proportioned to promote health and sustain an adequate level of activity. A typical high-protein diet would derive 30% of the Calories from protein, 40% from carbohydrates, and 30% from fat. There are many factors that contribute to the development of a trim and muscular body, but a diet rich in protein is a fundamental requirement.

How much should you eat? The following form calculates daily energy requirements in Calories based on sex and height for persons whose Body Mass Index is in the normal range. The minimum applies to persons who are relatively sedentary and the maximum applies to persons who are physically very active. World class athletes, like the Tour de France bicycle riders, consume about 6,000 Calories per day during competition and their diets are established by sports nutritionists. To measure the Calories that you consume, you will need a diet scale and a list of Calories per gram or per ounce for the foods that you eat. Eating fewer Calories than required for your level of activity will result in weight loss, whereas eating more Calories than required will result in weight gain because the extra Calories are stored as muscle or as fat, depending on the composition of your diet. Research in the biology of aging indicates that caloric restriction, that is, eating somewhat less than you would eat to feel full, and spacing your meals so that you only eat when you are really hungry helps to extend life. Calorie restricted diets must be carefully balanced to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Enter your height in the appropriate units and
click the "Calculate Daily Energy Requirements" button.
  English Units Metric Units
Height   feet   inches   centimeters

According to the Institute of Medicine.
Minimum Calories per day   
Maximum Calories per day  

Menu ideas.

What happens if you are still hungry after eating a meal? Wait twenty minutes and then, if you are still hungry, eat an apple, a pear or an orange. When you wait, you give your body time to digest the food that you just ate and your hunger will diminish. A high-protein snack fills you up longer than a high carbohydrate snack. A sardine on a cracker, hummus on a pita bread chip, or a dab of peanut butter on a celery stick will satisfy your hunger longer than the equivalent weight of carbohydrate snacks.

General dietary suggestions:
Additional information about DIET is found under WEIGHT CONTROL.


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When evaluating diet advertisements, keep in mind that the Federal Trade Commission has determined that any product claims are false if they state that you can lose more than two pounds per week for more than four weeks without diet and exercise.


  1. Harvard School of Public Health - Nutrition Source. Provides information on diet and nutrition
  2. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Provides clinical information about many topics of internal medicine.
  3. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients) (2002). A 900-page, comprehensive assessment of nutritional needs from the Food and Nutrition Board and the Institute of Medicine.
  4. Mary G. Enig, Trans Fatty Acids in the Food Supply: A Comprehensive Report Covering 60 Years of Research, 2nd Edition, 1995, Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, MD
  5. Michael R. Eades, M.D., and Mary Dan Eades, M.D., "Protein Power", Bantam Books, 1996. Describes a low carbohydrate diet that has had great clinical success in reducing obesity and normalizing insulin levels. The book explains the biochemistry and metabolic pathways that are the basis for the diet.
  6. Robert C. Atkins, "Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution", Avon, Revised edition 2001. This book describes experimental results of diets with different ratios of macronutrients, their effects on fat metabolism, and the application of this knowledge for weight control.
  7. Roy Walford, M.D., "Beyond the 120 Year Diet", 2000. Describes Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition (CRON) as a way of losing weight, retarding aging, and increasing life span. Numerous scientific studies are referenced to support the claims.
  8. Barry Sears, Bill Lawren, "The Zone: A Dietary Road Map to Lose Weight Permanently", ReganBook, 1995. Advocates a diet with 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates.
  9. A. Scott Connelly, M.D., Carol Colman, "Body Rx", 2001., The Berkley Publishing Group, New York, 2001. Describes a high-protein, high-fiber diet that combined with strength training stimulates muscle building and fat burning.

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