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Simran Kataria  Sep 01 2022

A beginner's guide to nutrition

Articles on health and nutrition may seem a bit daunting, confusing, and rather boring at first glance, especially when you're new to the terms and technicalities. Taking that into account, we’ve devised this guide to break it all down and simplify all you need to know! 

Let’s start with the most basic question- What does our body need?

The answer is: 'nutrients'.
All of us need nutrients in our bodies to produce energy to be able to grow, develop, stay healthy and go on with our daily tasks. It is fuel.

 Now nutrients can be divided into two categories:

-Macronutrients: These are the nutrients your body needs in larger amounts, namely carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They provide your body with energy, or calories.

-Micronutrients: These are the nutrients your body needs in smaller amounts, which are commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals.

Now, what are calories?
A calorie is a unit of measurement for the energy value of food.
Calories come from the aforementioned ‘nutrients’. We need calories for energy to fuel our daily activities – from simple breathing to intense exercise.

How many calories do we need?

We're all different, and so are our needs. A person's calorie requirements majorly depend upon age, metabolism, levels of physical activity, and overall lifestyle.

Two major factors determine the calorie requirement of our bodies-

1.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR): It refers to the energy spent when the body is at complete rest. BMR is often used interchangeably with resting metabolic rate (RMR). We need this energy for involuntary and life-sustaining functions like breathing, heartbeat, regulating body temperature, etc.

2. Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE): This is the daily calorie requirement for maintaining weight. TDEE is the sum of BMR and the amount of energy required for any kind of physical activity.

How many calories should you consume?

The logic is quite simple. To maintain weight, consume as many calories as you burn. To gain weight, consume more than you spend. Similarly, to lose weight, consume less, and burn more.
You can use a calorie calculator to get a rough estimate of how many calories you need.



Once your calorie goals are set, the macronutrient split needs to be understood-

Macronutrients
There are three groups of macronutrients-
-Fat
-Protein
-Carbohydrate

-Fats
The term 'fats' holds a negative connotation but they’re actually an essential part of a healthy diet. Fats are one of the main sources of energy. They deliver essential fatty acids needed for the normal functioning of your brain and muscles.

They can be divided into three groups-
1. Saturated fats
2. Unsaturated fats
3. Trans fats

 To remain healthy and maintain a balanced diet, avoid trans fats, have some saturated fat, and prioritise unsaturated fats as they're the main source of energy.

Protein
Protein is essential for immune response, organic activities, maintenance of muscle structures, and transportation of substances around the body.
They're made up of building blocks called Amino acids. Out of 20 principal amino acids, 9 are essential.
A protein source that contains all these nine amino acids in adequate amounts is considered to be a 'complete protein source'. By combining two or more incomplete protein sources, a complete amino acid profile can be achieved.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are important energy carriers in nutrition and play an essential role in the structure and function of cells, tissues, and organs.

There are two types of carbohydrates -

1. Simple carbs- They get digested quickly, leading to a substantial spike in the blood glucose level. Most of these are consumed via processed foods with added sugars.
2. Complex carbs- They are digested slowly, making the blood glucose level remain steady. Complex carbs like rice, oats, potatoes, quinoa, and whole-wheat products that fit a healthy diet are recommended as the main source of carbohydrates.

Fibre
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest. It passes into the place where most of the gut bacteria are present- the large intestine.
They promote a healthy digestive system, maintain gut health, give a feeling of satiation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Micronutrients

Micronutrients consist of vitamins and minerals.
Even though they are required in lesser amounts, that doesn't make them any less important.

Vitamins assist the release of energy from macronutrients. Every vitamin plays a unique role.

Minerals affect fluid balance and are important for building structures like teeth and bones.

Some fascinating facts about nutrition

1. Fad Diets Do not Work in the Long Term: You may lose some weight at the beginning, but there is a high chance that you could gain the weight back after discontinuing the diet. Eating a balanced diet with the right number of calories is the best way to watch your weight.

2. Drinking Plenty Of Water Is A Prerequisite To Your Overall Good Nutrition Levels: not only does drinking water in itself offer several health benefits to the body, such as flushing out toxins and giving you a healthy glow, it also keeps your body running smoothly as it should.

3. Health Does Not Necessarily Correspond To The Number On The Weighing Scale: It is a common notion that the lower the number on the scale, the healthier the individual is. However, it has been shown that it is possible to improve overall health without weight loss occurring, or the opposite happening.

4. Not all Fat is Bad: Fat always gets a bad reputation, when the fact is that there are many “healthy” kinds of fat found in foods such as avocados, nuts, and fish. However, the kind that happens to be trans fat – found in junk food – truly is bad for your health.

5. Not All Sugars Are Bad: The sugars you need to avoid are those found in processed foods, that are sucrose, dextrose, maltose and other such added sweeteners. Fruits on the other hand, have sugar in the form of fructose and milk has sugar as lactose. These naturally occurring sugars are a part of a healthy diet.


SOURCES:
https://www.getsmarter.com/blog/market-trends/what-are-macronutrients-and-micronutrients/ https://www.credihealth.com/blog/nutrition-facts-everyone-should-know/

Check out this informative video on exercise, nutrition & health

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