Nutrition 911, Part
One From Team Beachbody - Click here for resources, tools and information
to help you to reach your health, fitness and positive lifestyle
Emergency Nutrition Class
We hear a lot about
nutrition on TV these days. Carbs, net carbs, impact carbs, trans fats,
essential fats . . . on and on. Yet studies show that this is way over most
people's heads. In fact, it seems that most people have forgotten what they
learned back in eighth grade nutrition classat least those who had a
nutrition class. Nowadays, most people get through school having taken no
nutrition at all.
But we've all got to eat.
So forget about Nutrition 101. There's no time for math; let's break it down
even simpler than that. Maybe we'll call it Nutrition 1. All we want to do is
get you out of Vons with some idea of what you just bought. For some of you,
this 411 on nutrition is more of a 911, so let's call it that. A bit more
impact than Nutrition 1, and maybe not as patronizing. It's like Traffic
School, but for nutrition. You've been cited for poor eating habits. You can
pay the fine and endure a chronic disease, or take Nutrition 911 and get your
health back. Ready for class?
Hello class. I'm Prof.
Edwards, but you can call me Sir SteveHey, you, in the back. Stop
shooting spitballs at Mr. Kroc! Give me that thing. What's your name, son?
Okay, Carl, one more slipup and you're back on bypass waiting list. Seems the
situation is more dire than I thought, so let's get straight to it.
We're here to talk about
food. This is the stuff we eat that gives us nutrients. You in the clown suit
with the big red wig, stop laughing. This is a lot more important than it
sounds! Because we also eat a lot of stuff that's not food but comes with our
food. Some of it we're supposed to eat. Things like fiber in plants. But many
companies also add things to foods that aren't food at all. Stuff like color,
flavors, and things to make the food last longer sitting on a shelf waiting for
you to buy it. It has no nutritional value and, often times, is bad for
Why do they do this, you
ask? That's a very good question, Ralph, but we can't answer that here. This is
Nutrition 911. Politics 911 is in the other room.
Anyway, the part of food
that your body can use gives it its nutrient value. Nutrient value, in
packaged foods, can be found on the food label. It breaks down what you are
eating into various components. For more on food labels, read
Learning to Read Food Labels from Issue 101 of the
Beachbody Newsletter. These various components are vitamins, minerals,
proteins, fats, and carbs. Nutrients have something called calories.
Most of us know what these are because we blame them for making us fat, but, in
fact, they are just a measurement for the energy of food that we turn into the
energy of us. We'll talk more about this later, but first let's talk about
natural foods. Natural foods, in general, come without food labels.
Lesson # 1: Foods without labels are better
than foods with labels
Some foods don't require a
label. These are mainly very fresh and haven't been tampered with, making them
more healthy alternatives. The more unlabeled food you eat, the better chance
you have of being healthy. Of course, all of these foods can also be bought in
packages with labels, but that means they've been, in some way, processed,
which gets rid of someor a lotof their nutrient value.
First are foods like
apples, oranges, broccoli, and many other things that you can buy in the state
that they come from the earth. We call them fruits and vegetables. These foods
have parts that aren't really foods either. Called fiber, it's the indigestible
part of a plant. It has no nutrient value, but it's still important because it
does all kinds of things, including cleaning out our digestive tract. It's very
important that our diet features plants. They are loaded with nutrients and
fiber and have no man-made ingredients (okay, some have pesticides, but we'll
get to that later). But when we do things like cook or make juice from these
items, they lose their nutrients and fiber, and get a label.
Next are grains and
legumes. Things like rice and beansalso plantsthese foods have more
protein and calories than fruits and veggies. They are less easily found in
their natural state. Rice, for example, often has its shell stripped, so it's
white. Grains get turned into breads and crackers, often at the expense of
their healthiest ingredients. Beans get smashed and have things added to them.
As a rule, the closer you can get a legume or grain to its original state, the
better it is for you.
Meats and dairy products.
Nowadays, unless you live on a farm, you probably have to buy these with
labels. That's mainly due to suspect growing and harvesting practices,
something else for politics class, though we'll brush over it a bit in a
What are you rolling your
eyes at? Yes, you. The guy in the white suit taking up two seats. What are you
dressed like that for? Going to the Kentucky Derby after class? Well, pal. I
believe that this subject concerns you more than anyone, so pay attention.
Even in their natural
state, both meats and dairy products often have a lot of saturated fat. More
than you need. I know we haven't gotten to what this is yet, but remember the
term. Anyway, you can buy all of these products with much of this fat removed.
For the most part, this is recommended, which we'll cover in the "fat free"
portion of the lecture later on.
Lesson # 2: Organic, grass fed, free range,
farm raised, low carb, fat free, and other marketing jargon
Before we even discuss
what's in food, we need to address what you're most likely to hear about food.
These terms are evidence that advertisers have used their "market research"
tools, and have determined that they need to shove these words down your
throat, even if you have no idea what they mean. You see, this way they can
spin them however they like. Yes, "spin doctors" are not just politicians. But
these terms do have meaning. And once you understand them, they will help you
choose foods that are more healthy.
Organic. Organic means
living, so organic foods are supposed to be alive or, at least, recently alive.
Originally, "organic" meant produce that hadn't been sprayed with inorganic
things, like pesticides. But now you'll see "organic ingredients" in boxed,
jarred, and canned foods, which can be confusing. Organic was once a term used
only by the folks who showed up at your weekly farmer's market. Then word
started to get out about large-scale farmers spraying nasty pesticides on their
crops that would still be on them when we bought them. Most people are pretty
sure they don't want to eat something made to kill animals, so when the little
"organic" guys started to impact their business, the big guys just started
slapping an "organic" label on anything until the government had to step in.
Now we have an imperfect
system. Organic rules can be fudged to some degree, but it seems to be getting
better and not worse. It's made the large growers a bit more cognizant about
what they add/spray their crops with. Organic has also trickled up. So now
packaged foods using "organic ingredients" are labeled as such. But you've to
be prudent because the fine print will tell you how much. Lobbyists haggle over
how much organic stuff needs to be inside in order for it to appear on the
label, and the amount has changed and will continue to. So you can see a big
"organic" on a label with very little organic inside.
Bottom line: "Organic"
on a label is probably better, but you should read the fine print. On fresh
fruits and veggies, it's always better.
fed. Cattle were once all grass fed. They lived on
prairies and ate grass, 'cause that's all there was to eat. On the prairie,
that grass is nutrient rich because of the soil. Cattle that ate it grew big
and strong, and when we ate them we grew big and strong. Then some guy figured
out that cattle, if they had to, would eat grain. This meant he could build
houses and strip malls on the prairie, put the cattle into little fenced areas
and feed them grain, and he would make a lot more money. The downside was that
grain didn't have the same nutrient value (like your eating Krispy Kremes
instead of broccoli), so the cows weren't so big and strong. To make them look
like they once did, he started shooting them with things like steroids, so that
the cattle started looking like Jose Conseco, and all was good in the world.
Except that when we ate the cattle, they didn't have the same nutrient value.
This meant we ate the same calories with less nutrient value. When this
happens, we get fat.
For a while, we were none
the wiser. Then people started getting sick and dying because, low on grain,
some genius started feeding cows parts of other cows mixed with the grain to
make more money. Cows aren't carnivorous, like animals with sharp teeth, so
this didn't work well and bad stuff like e.coli started showing up in
meat. Anyway, feeding cows other cows is now against the law, but lobbyists
also were able to make a deal in which it's nearly impossible for meat
companies to be sued, so who knows what they're actually up to.
Bottom line: Even
though meat lobbyists have been hammering away at the "grass fed" requirements,
it still means that the meat is likely to be much better in quality.
range. Cattle weren't the only animals out on the prairie. Birds were
there, too. In fact, birds were all over the place because they have wings and
can, you know, fly. This became problematic when folks decided they wanted to
raise them on farms. You listening, Whitey?
Figuring that if birds
couldn't fly, well, they would then need no space at all, "farmers"
started loading them all in tiny little pens together. Irritatednaturallythe
birds would peck at each other and cause general turmoil, so good ol' Foster
the farmer put them in little cages where they couldn't get at each otherfor
their entire lives!
Since this isn't Animal
Cruelty class, let's just talk about how healthy these birds are when they grow
up and we eat them. When you get out and exercise, how does that help you? Hmm,
since some of you can't answer this, I'll tell you. You get more healthy. Your
body systems work better, and you get more muscle. Muscle is meat, like the
part of a chicken that we want to eat. If you sit in a small room for a long
time, how do you tend to look or feel? Answer: You get fat. You get sick. You
Take two chickens. Let one
run around, maybe fly a little, and eat stuff it finds growing out of the
ground. Put the other in a two-foot-square box and feed it junk food. Which one
do you want to eat?
Bottom line: Only eat
raised. This term has to do with fish. For those of you confused, that
is natural. Fish live in water. We live on land. How the heck do we farm
The obvious answer is to
put them in big aquariums, but that would be too expensive. Instead, they raise
fish in fenced-off areas and treat them a bit like the birds above. This tends
to cause a lot of damage for the ecosystem in general but, again, this isn't
Environment class. We don't offer environment classes because they don't help
your standardized testing. Anyway, the effect on the fish depends a lot on the
type of fish. Some, like catfish that naturally live in sluggish conditions, do
okay, while others, like salmon, do terrible. In fact, salmon are migratory and
swim for most of their lives. Keeping them in a "tank" wreaks havoc on their
lifestyle. Farm-raised salmon don't even have red meat, like they do naturally,
and are dyed red for market. Do you really want to eat fish that's been dyed
Bottom line: Avoid
farm-raised fish when possible. Avoid farm-raised salmon always.
There's the bell. That's
all the time we have today. I hope you'll feel slightly more comfortable next
time you walk into your local Ralph's.
Nutrition Class Part Two, click here..