What Does Water Do?
Why Are Carbohydrates So Important
Oat Bran: Isn't It Special
Breakfast: For Champions
Increase Life Expectancy 28 Percent
Four Basic Food Groups
High-Fructose Corn Syrup And Invert
Importance Of Dietary Carbohydrates
Avoid Sugar Like It's The Plague
Lowfat: Not Where It's At
Quality Of Fish
Q: Is there any difference between pink and white grapefruits?
A: While most people choose pink grapefruit over white because they
think it will be sweeter, there is very little difference in actual
taste. The grapefruit is pink because of beta carotene, a plant pigment
that's abundant in dark green and deep yellow vegetables like carrots
and squash. According to the USDA dietary guidelines and the National
Cancer Institute, we need about five to six milligrams of beta carotene
a day. Pink grapefruit only contains 0.2 milligrams, while white
grapefruit contains trace amounts. While beta carotene-rich foods may be
linked to reduced rates of cancer, the amount found in pink grapefruit
will be of little benefit, so choose either pink or white depending on
availability, freshness and preference rather than for any apparent
Q: I always drink plenty of water, which everyone says is very good for
me. What does water do?
A: Water accounts for 60 percent of the bodyweight of the average male
and 50 percent of the average female. Every tissue in the human body
contains water, but not all tissues contain the same proportion of it.
Muscle tissue contains 72 percent water by weight, bones are about 25
percent water. And fat contains 20 to 35 percent water. Consequently,
people who have a higher percentage of bodyfat have less water in their
bodes than thinner people of the same age and sex because muscle tissue
contains more water than fat tissue. Women generally contain less water
because they have a greater proportion of fat tissue than most men.
Water is necessary for many bodily functions, including hydrolysis, the
process by which proteins, fats and carbs are broken down with water for
absorption. It also acts as a lubricant and cushion in saliva, tears and
synovial fluid, which is the thick liquid that is encapsulated around
many joints to cushion the joint.
Another of water's functions is to regulate body temperature. In
maintains an even temperature better than other fluids because water
temperature is not easily affected by changes in environmental
temperature. Both blood and interstitial fluids, which are present
throughout the body, have high water contents.
If your body is exposed to cold, it conceives heat by narrowing the
blood vessels near the skin surface. This causes less blood to be
circulate near the surface, which slows the loss of heat from the body.
If your body is overheated from exercising, the blood vessels of the
skin dilate, which brings a larger volume of blood close to the surface,
where it loses heat to the environment. When you perspire, the skin
excretes fluids, which results in a further loss of heat.
Water, as you can see, is a very important element to the human body-and
not just to athletes' bodies. You should drink eight to 10 glasses a
Q: I like meat and eggs, but when I add a lot of carbohydrates to my
diet, I eat too many calories. Why are carbohydrates so important?
A: Carbohydrates are the human body's fundamental source of fuel, but
not all carbohydrates are major sources of energy. There are two
different types of carbohydrates, available carbohydrates and dietary
fiber. Available carbs include starches and sugars, which are
hydrolyzed, or absorbed, in the human digestible process. Dietary fiber
is a plant food component make of linked carbohydrate units that cannot
be separated by human digestive secretions.
Sugars and starches are metabolized, or processed, by the body and
broken down to glucose, which is used by all the body's cells to create
energy. Inadequate carbs in your diet, thee fore, can cause the higher
centers of your brain, as well as your muscles, to malfunction.
Available carbs also play a role in metabolizing fat for energy. In fact
even when you're burning away fat through diet and exercise, your body
needs a byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism to function optimally
during exercise. Therefore, if there are no carbohydrates, your energy
production will be limited and you'll burn protein instead-an
undesirable situation because your body has other specific needs for
protein. Consequently, you should eat at least the minimum recommended
amount of carbohydrates so the protein is spared from being used as
energy. This is referred to as the protein-sparing effect of
Dietary fiber, or unavailable carbohydrates, enhance the activities of
the gastrointestinal, or digestive, tract. The human digestive tract
doesn't use fiber, because it can't breaks it down. Instead, most
dietary fiber remains a solid material in the large intestine after the
other components of food are absorbed, and the intestinal muscles get a
workout moving the solid waste through the colon. Fiber is also source
of food for bacteria in the guy, and soluble fiber is believed to lower
blood cholesterol because it reduces the absorption of cholesterol from
the digestive tract.
All of this means that carbs are very important to your body even though
some of their functions are minor. The national Research Council and
other experts recommend that 60 percent or more of your daily calories
should come from carbohydrates, primarily a complex-carb and fiber
intake of 25 to 40 grams a day.
Since the early 1980s oat bran has been touted as a health breakthrough.
Recently everything from muffins, cookies and cereals to breads has been
advertised as containing oat bran. The medical community has endorsed
oat bran's use based on its supposed cholesterol-lowering effects in the
blood. This research is now being challenged.
In a recent study of individuals with normal blood cholesterol levels,
including oat bran in a lowfat diet resulted in no greater reduction in
blood cholesterol levels than a lowfat diet itself. Apparently, eating
oat may only be beneficial for individuals with normally high blood
cholesterol levels. Fiber seldom exerts much influence on serum
cholesterol in people whose cholesterol levels are already low.
Q: I've heard that having a good breakfast is important for weight
control, but does it do anything to promote good health?
A: In a study conducted in California, those who ate breakfast almost
every day generally had better health and were sick less often than
those who ate breakfast only some of the time. Furthermore, a good
breakfast may be a prerequisite for good performances in your work and
sports activities. Breakfast often comes 12 hours after your last meal
of the previous day and is important for maintaining energy and cellular
metabolism. A few researchers suggest that breakfast should be the
largest and most important meal, and everyone agrees that it should
include more than a cup of coffee and a doughnut. In related experiments
erratic eaters had poorer health than those who ate regularly. So
setting up a regular eating schedule will not only help you maintain you
desired weight, but it will also help to maintain your health.
Q: My wife read that eating too much causes people to die sooner than
they might otherwise. Is this true?
A: Some researchers feel that the most important factors determining
life span are those that influence fatness. Animal studies have shown
that eating fewer calories can extend survival time dramatically.
Reducing calories by up to 40 percent increased life expectancy 28
Studies done on older people living in remote areas of the world found
that their diets were low in fat and calories. These people were also
physically active and had productive and respected roles in society. All
of these factors are important for good health and long life.
While maximum life expectancy has changed little in recent years, you
can increase your own life expectancy if you remain healthy and active.
A lowfat, restricted-calorie diet may help you to extend your years and
postpone chronic illness.
Q: What exactly is heartburn? Is it caused by something you eat?
A: Hiatal hernia, more commonly known as heartburn, is caused by a
protrusion of part of the stomach above the diaphragm, the muscle that
separates the chest from the abdomen. The result is an enlargement of
the diaphragm opening that connects the esophagus to the stomach. There
may be no symptoms, or there may be pain, swallowing difficulties and
frequent, objectionable burping.
By reducing the amount of food you eat at any one time, you can keep the
size of your stomach smaller so it will protrude less. In addition you
should cut down on irritating foods, such as citrus fruits and spicy and
greasy dishes, and limit your intake of coffee and antacids, as
excessive amounts of those substances can lead to further problems.
Rather than making the symptoms, the best treatment is to avoid large
meals or those foods that promote acid development in the stomach, as
discussed above. Instead, stick to more frequent meals of soft and bland
foods to relieve the problems.
Q: I recently read that food companies will have to change the claims
they make about how healthy their products are. Do you know anything
A: The Food and Drug Administration has indeed begun investigating
manufacturer's labeling practices. The first issue it took up was the
use of the word "fresh" on orange juice cartons. As the juice is
frequently reconstituted from concentrate, manufacturers are no longer
permitted to say "fresh from concentrate" and imply that it is fresh
juice when it is not.
The FDA is currently looking into the widespread use of several other
terms, including "light," "nonfat" and "cholesterol-free." As there are
no regulations regarding the use of such words, the uneducated consumer
is often misled. An example is vegetable oils that are labeled
"cholesterol-free." Cholesterol is only found in foods of animals
origin, so any product that has a vegetable origin would be
cholesterol-free. Furthermore, describing an oil as "cholesterol-free"
implies to the consumer that the oil is healthier than oils that contain
cholesterol, which isn't completely true. Remember that most medical
groups recommend a diet that is low in total fat, not just cholesterol.
While the FDA is just beginning to control labeling practices, it is
gratifying to see that both the government and consumers are interested
in eliminating such deceptive advertising.
Q: After reading one of your columns about iron deficiency, I had a
blood test done to check out my hemoglobin and iron stores, as you
suggested, before taking any supplements. I was found to be mildly
anemic, and my physician recommended eating more red meat and taking an
iron supplement. Now I'm afraid of overloading on iron. Is this a real
A: Your concern is valid. Excessive and random supplementation will
always leave you open to the possibility of overdose and toxicity. A
mild oral overdose of iron typically causes gastrointestinal distress,
nausea and/or black diarrhea. Having a second blood test taken will
alert you to changes in your hemoglobin levels and iron stores. You have
indicated in another part of your letter that you are a premenopausal
female, so it is likely you will need to take a supplement for an
extended period and then intermittently during periods when you're
menstruating. Your doctor should be able to give you more individual
advice after seeing the results from your next blood test. To maximize
your absorption of iron, remember to take your iron supplement with
orange juice or vitamin C and avoid eating foods that are high in
calcium, such as dairy products.
Q: In school we were taught about the four basic food groups. Have they
changed much since then?
A: while the four food groups of meat, dairy, vegetables and fruits, and
grains still exist as they always have, you can expect changes in
diet-planning guidelines based on those groups. The four foods group
plan was designed in the '40s primarily as a means of encouraging people
to get adequate nutrition. Since that time additional standards have
been formulated, and during the past year the U.S Department of
Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services created new
guidelines based on a pyramid scheme: Vegetables and fruits are on the
bottom tier, grains are on the next tier and so on, with salt, sugar and
oil on the top.
The point is to eat foods from each group in quantities based on their
position in the pyramid, with those on the bottom being the most
desirable and those on top being more restricted. Unfortunately, many
people misinterpreted the pyramid diagram, thinking that the foods on
the top level were the most important. The government is currently
rethinking the scheme to emphasize foods from the two carbohydrate
groups-grains and vegetables and fruits-with fewer servings coming from
the meat and dairy groups and very limited servings of items containing
salt, sugar and fats.
Q: I often see high-fructose corn syrup and invert sugar listed as
ingredients on food labels. Are they the same as sugar, or are they
better or worse for you?
A: Both high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and invert sugar contain the
same molecules as sucrose (table sugar), glucose and fructose. HFCS is
the predominant sweetener found in processed foods today. While ordinary
corn syrup, which is produced from cornstarch, contains mostly glucose,
HFCS contains mostly fructose, with glucose making up the balance. Many
nutritionists believe that fructose is healthier than glucose, since
fructose does not require the body to metabolize insulin.
Invert sugar is a mixture of glucose and fructose that forms when
sucrose is split in a chemical process. It's sold only in a liquid form,
and, like HFCS, is sweeter than sucrose. Invert sugar is used as an
additive to preserve food freshness and prevent shrinkage.
There are numerous sweeteners besides sugar substitutes on the market.
Since JFCS and invert sugar are sweeter than sucrose, manufacturer must
use less in processed foods. It is important to remember, however, that
unlike sugar substitutes, these sweeteners contain calories.
We've known about the importance of dietary carbohydrates for quite some
time. Research shows a direct relationship between the carbohydrate
content in a person's diet and the amount of glycogen stored in his or
her skeletal muscle. By simply raising the amount of carbohydrate
calories in your diet from 50 to 70 percent, you can practically double
your muscle glycogen stores, going from 18 to 37 grams per kilogram of
muscle. Along with the increase in muscle glycogen stores comes an
increase in endurance-exercise performance.
Conversely, if you don't get enough carbohydrates from your diet, your
muscle glycogen levels will be depressed and your performance hindered.
The adequate supply of dietary carbohydrates become critical during
training, when successive days of exercise lead to depletion of muscle
glycogen levels. If you're also not taking in enough carbohydrates your
muscle glycogen stores may remain depressed, and performance will be
hindered during training or competition on subsequent days. Even so, the
question remains as to how much carbohydrate is enough.
While the answer will vary from individual to individual and depends on
numerous factors including exercise intensity, duration and frequency,
several studies suggest that everybody needs a substantial amount. It is
important to note that these studies were done on cyclist and runners.
Bodybuilders probably create an ever-greater degree of muscle glycogen
depletion due to the anaerobic nature of weight training coupled with
the typical one or more forms of aerobic exercise that they do. In the
case of runners and cyclists, researchers found muscle glycogen
depletion in their leg muscles by the third consecutive day of training
for as little as 30 minutes at 70 percent of their maximum capacity.
There was significantly less glycogen in the leg muscles of both groups
even though the athlete consumed 3,500 calories and from 450 to 625
grams of carbohydrate per day. These levels corresponded to five to
eight grams of carbohydrate intake per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
Apparently an even higher intake of carbohydrate would be required to
resupply muscle glycogen levels following additional successive days of
training. While these athletes were not doing excessive amounts of
exercise, their muscle glycogen levels were still depressed by the start
of the third daisy's training. This could be critical for a bodybuilder
on a calorie-restricted percents diet. Most bodybuilders are apparently
in a state of partial glycogen depletion throughout their entire
preoccupation phase and so they should not expect to be able to perform
high-intensity exercise on successive days during that periods. A large
athlete may need 3,000 to 4,000 calories in the form of carbohydrate in
order to fully restore muscle
glycogen stores after intense training. Total caloric intake would have
to be substantially higher.
While the caloric and carbohydrate intakes of endurance athletes often
meet these requirements, those of competitive bodybuilders and other
athletes whose bodyweight is a factor seldom do. Current thinking on the
subject of weight loss and fat loss must change before bodybuilders will
be able to meet the nutritional requirements for optimal training and
performance in order to reap maximum benefits in terms of muscle
hypertrophy and fat loss.
Q: Why do bodybuilders avoid sugar like it's the plague? Isn't it okay
to eat a certain amount every now and then?
A: For some reason table sugar, or sucrose, has gotten a bad reputation.
Purists who forgo all processed foods consider it to be no less than
poison. Many nutritionists recommend avoiding sugar both by itself and
in food products. Diabetics are often warned to limit their intake of
simple sugars, and individuals who have high blood triglycerides can
control their plasma lipid levels by reducing their intake of sucrose
and other simple sugars.
While sucrose is a highly processed food that has little vitamin or
mineral content and is considered by some to have no nutritional value,
it does provide calories and a concentrated source of carbohydrate. For
athletes who are involved in intense training and whose intake and
expenditure are between 5,000 and 10,000 calories a day, sucrose is a
viable source of carbohydrate and calories. Sucrose also has lower
glycemic index value than some other complex carbohydrates have,
including rice, potatoes and bread.
Research has shown that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol are the
main culprits in the development of numerous diseases, such as heart
disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. Limiting your dietary fat intake
goes a lot further in controlling these diseases than does limiting
sucrose intake. While it's never a good idea to eat excessive amounts of
calories or any nutrient, sucrose can play a role in a healthy diet,
particularly that of an athlete involved in regular, intense training.
LOWFAT: NOT WHERE IT'S AT
Q: I tried to follow a lowfat, Pritikin-type diet, and it was
impossible. Maybe this kind of regimen is okay for you fanatics, but for
myself and many others it's just not worth it! I still want to eat
healthy, so could you cut me some slack and give me some reasonable
A: You are not alone. Most people find it impossible to follow a strict
Pritikin diet. In fact, the follow-up studies reveal that once patients
leave his live-in program, they start eating a diet in which
approximately 15 percent of the calories come from fat. While it's true
that the less cholesterol and fat you take in, the better, particularly
saturated fat, and reduction is beneficial.
The American Medical Association recommends that less than 30 percent of
your calories should come from fat and less than 10 percent should come
from saturated fat, and you should take in less than 300 milligrams of
cholesterol per day. It appears that these fat and cholesterol levels
are beneficial in lowering your risk of heart disease, obesity,
hypertension and diabetes. It also appears that keeping fat consumption
at much less than 30 percent of calories-closer to 20 percent
actually-can reduce the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancers.
Obviously, the lower you reduce your intake of fats, the lower your risk
You need to find a level of fat consumption that you can stick with for
the long term. Your diet should feature large quantities of fruits and
vegetables, grains and nonfat dairy products; limited amounts of lean
meats and virtually no added fats in the form of oils or butter. Start
changing your eating habits slowly by eliminating visible fats such as
butter or margarine on your bread or potato; limiting or eliminating
mayonnaise, avocados, nuts and other high-fat foods; and experimenting
with nonfat seasonings, sauces and products. You can make a modest
reduction in your fat consumption without too much difficulty, and that
will get you started on reducing your risk of disease and leading a
QUALITY OF FISH
Q: I love to eat fish, but how do I know if it's fresh or not?
A: Unfortunately, to date there is little control over the quality of
the fish we buy at the market. Although a package may be stamped with a
"sell by?" label, many stores remove old labels, drain off excess
accumulated fluid, rewrap and redate the packages and set them back out
on the shelves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) imposes few
regulations on the packaging and labeling of fish-one among many food
products that the government does not regulate strictly. According to
one Washington, D.C.-based consumer group, the risk of getting food
poisoning from seafood is 25 times greater than the risk of getting it
from beef and 16 times greater than from poultry.
So how do you know the fish is good? Seafood that is displayed in
refrigerated cases is safer than that which is displayed on trays of
ice. Prewraped fish is the last choice; if it smells fishy, pass. Fresh
fish, Class 1 in FDA terminology, has no smell. Anything deemed Class 2
is decomposing and smells "fishy." Class 3 can make you sick, smells
pungent and should obviously be avoided.
Always trim away skin and any dark parts of the flesh because these
areas tend to contain the highest concentrations of contaminants. Eat
raw fish only when it's extremely fresh, and when you cook fish, make
sure you cook it thoroughly to kill bacterial contaminants.
Q: Is it true that many foods naturally contain cancer-causing
chemicals? Am I in danger if I eat a lot of these foods?
A: Foods can contain carcinogens (substances that cause malignant tumors
to develop in greater incidence than would occur spontaneously) as
natural ingredients, accidental additives and on rare occasion, as in
the case of saccharin, intentional additives. Carcinogens that occur
naturally in foods include aflatoxin in corn and peanuts, solanin in
potatoes and patulin in apple's and apple juice. Natural carcinogens are
banned for use as additives but allowed when they appear in their
natural state. For example, safrole, a natural ingredient of the
sassafras root and a known carcinogen, cannot be added to root beer for
flavor but occurs as a natural component of nutmeg, mace, ginger and
It is unlikely that the amounts of these compounds that occur naturally
in foods contribute to cancer development. Limiting your fat and
cholesterol intakes, maintaining adequate fiber intake and avoiding
tobacco are three proven methods for reducing your risk of cancer.