Not only is it important to know fitness and gym terminology, but it's even more important to know nutrition and diet terminology. Most people have a tendency to eat whatever is before them without even knowing what it does to their bodies. A great deal of living a healthier lifestyle revolves around what food you consume, because it fuels our bodies and minds. More people need to understand that we eat to live, we don't live to eat, and we should all know exactly what we are consuming. Becoming healthy starts in the kitchen.
•Macronutrients — These are the three main essential nutrients that our bodies need the most. The three macros are carbohydrates, fats and protein.
•Carbohydrates — These are our main source of energy, especially for people who work out regularly. A lot of popular diet trends include consuming very few carbs, but the problem with that is that we still need energy. The idea is to consume "good carbs," which can be found in whole grains (whole-grain bread, brown rice, etc.), seeds, nuts, veggies and more. The only people who really need to count carbs are those with diabetes.
•Fats — These are another important source of energy and a staple that should be in everyone's diet. The key to consuming fats is to eat healthy fats and to avoid the not-so-healthy fats, like saturated and trans. These not-so-healthy fats have little-to-no nutritional value and are manufactured simply to give processed foods a longer shelf life. Some processed foods that actually say "low-fat" or "fat free" make up for the lack of fat with sugar, so know what you are eating. Some foods with healthy fats include eggs, some fruits, cheese and nuts.
•Protein — This is made up of all of the essential amino acids and is necessary for energy and muscle regeneration. Besides making sure you consume protein, you should know from where you are getting the protein. Yes, meats are a great source of protein, but stick to lean meats, since others have additional fats and unhealthy nutrients. Vegetarians need to remember that plants cannot offer whole proteins, or all of the essential nutrients, so it is important to eat a variety of plant-based proteins to ensure an adequate amount of protein in the diet. Other healthy sources of protein include nuts, eggs and Greek yogurt.
•Vitamins — These are organic compounds that are essential, but we need less in our daily intake than macronutrients. There are a lot of different vitamins that do a lot of different things in our bodies, so the takeaway should be to know what vitamins are in the foods that you are eating and how each works within your body.
•Cholesterol — This is a waxy substance similar to fat that is found all over the body. It is carried around the body by lipoproteins, which make up the two kinds of cholesterol: low-density (LDL) and high-density (HDL). LDL cholesterol is known as "bad" because it can build up and block arteries. HDL cholesterol is known as "good" because it actually moves cholesterol throughout the body. When it comes to cholesterol, avoid fatty, highly processed foods and know that at least having a balance between LDL and HDL is OK.
•Daily Values (DV) — These are the recommended daily intakes of different vitamins and nutrients. Fun fact: DV are always included on food labels as required by law, usually in the form of a percentage.
•Fiber — This is an essential part of every diet, as most people know that it aids digestion and keeps things moving along nicely and comfortably. It is good for lots of other things, as well, so be sure to get enough fiber in your diet. Some healthy, high-fiber foods include beans, whole grains and oatmeal.
•Antioxidants — These are substances that prevent oxidation within our bodies, meaning they help prevent cell damage. Some healthy foods with antioxidants include berries, nuts and dark-green veggies.
The thing with food is that companies will put just about anything on a label to get consumers to buy it and eat it. Knowing what is in our food and what it all means is crucial to ensuring that we are getting adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients and controlling the amounts of sugar and empty calories that do nothing positive for our bodies. Sound food consumption is incredibly important for many aspects of health, like physical ability, disease prevention, emotions and so much more.
Amanda Oppenheim is a senior at Stevenson University and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.