Understanding Food

Understanding Food

Understanding food: What you put in is what you get out.

Food is an essential part of our lives as it fuels our system, optimises our performance and it plays an important role in our health status.

Your understanding of healthy foods and their function is a priority before you start your Body Makeover. This will have a positive impact on your ability to stick to the food options and it will help you to select good food preparation methods.

Nutrition is the process of consuming and absorbing food sufficiently into the system, so that the body can use the necessary raw materials to stimulate growth, improve your energy levels and to enhance recovery. Vitamins and minerals keep your system healthy and enhance optimal functioning.

Your focus should be on selecting food groups that are as close to their most natural source. Fresh vegetables (colour and crunch are important factors), low-GI starch options and lean protein sources are valuable allies in the weight-loss process.

Avoid processed foods, tinned goods, baked products and confectioneries, take-aways and fried meals. Condiments should also be reviewed with a sceptical mindset as these often harbour hidden calories and sodium which are counterproductive to your goals.


Diet, low-cal and zero sugar beverages are allowed to be consumed in moderation during the USN Body Makeover Challenge, with 2-3 cans per week, or during social functions being an acceptable volume.

Water is the most ideal beverage of choice as it contains no calories, preservative or additives, and it plays a core role of assisting in hydration and appetite suppression. You can add sliced fruits or freshly squeezed lemon juice to add variety and zest! Avoid all fruit juices as these contain a naturally high level of sugars, yielding a high calorie score.

You may consume 2 to 3 cups of coffee/tea a day with skimmed milk or fat free milk, and make use of Xylitol as substitute for sugar, which is widely available in retail stores.

We Are What We Eat

Food is not there to fill you up, but rather to fuel your system. Make sure that you always make wise, healthy choices. The importance of good nutrition and dietary habits cannot be underestimated. Adequate planning and execution of a well balanced, healthy eating plan will benefit you during the coming 12 weeks. The USN Body Makeover Challenge includes a very well balanced, low-GI, low fat, moderate protein eating plan that supports an excellent dietary balance, never neglecting one food group.

You are a product of your food choices, and part of your Body Makeover process is to self-educate on why you should be eating specific foods, supporting healthy cooking mediums and developing positive relationships with good food choices.

The Importance of Nutrient Timing

One of the important components of the USN Body Makeover Challenge is nutrient timing. We have been made accustomed to eating three large meals daily. Unfortunately due to time constraints on our lifestyles, three meals have become two large meals per day with the majority of people missing breakfast. This cycle perpetuates weight-gain as it does not support a healthy metabolic rate, nor does it support calorie management in your meal plans.

The rule of eating 5-6 smaller, well balanced meals per day is an essential component in helping you achieve lasting weight control. You do not necessarily eat more food than normal; you simply spread your calorie intake more effectively throughout the day.

This way, you don’t overload your body with unnecessary (and unwanted) calories at any one time, your blood sugar levels are well maintained, you suppress your appetite and you fuel your body with exactly what it needs, when it needs it.

Understanding the Metabolic Rate

Your metabolic rate is the process through which your body absorbs, stores and uses energy for survival. Your metabolic rate is influenced by many factors of your lifestyle, and many of these factors are under your control.

Generally speaking, if you have a slow metabolic rate, you will tend to gain weight easily, storing additional fat mass in the process. The metabolic slowing occurs due to a compounded effect of long-term inactivity, poor food choices and irregular eating times. All of these factors are in your control. You can make significant improvements to how your metabolic rate functions by simply increasing your activity levels, selecting food from healthy sources, and eating at regular time intervals.

You will notice an improved energy level, improved sleep cycles, improved mental state and stress coping ability, as well as increased weight-loss and a significant reduction in the potential risks associated with obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol levels.

Understanding Kilojoules and Calories

Understanding the Energy Value of Food

Your body needs energy to survive. Your system’s energy requirements are mostly met by your daily food intake. Your body has the ability to store energy as fat, and this reserve can be utilised to supply energy to support life.

Your metabolic rate, the amount of energy you expend and your basic life requirements determine how much food is required to support and fuel your body. It is important that you remain aware of the energy value of the foods that you eat, especially since one ‘cheat’ can add a significant amount of unwanted calories to your system.

The energy value of food is important, but the source of the calories and your portion control takes priority during your Body Makeover.

The more processed and refined a food option is, the lower the vitamin and mineral value of the food and the higher the Glycemic Index or fat value tends to be.

What is the Glycemic Index (GI)?

The Glycemic Index is a factor of measurement of the effects that a specific carbohydrate source has on your blood sugar level.

Processed and refined foods tend to have a drastic effect, elevating blood sugar levels, and increasing the likelihood of fat storage occurring. Unprocessed whole foods tend to have a lower GI level, with a less prominent effect on blood sugar levels, further stimulating an improved metabolic rate and an improved level of weight control.

How do I Measure Energy? 

The energy value of food is measured by the common universal measurements of Calories and Kilojoules. They really represent two different values for the measurement of the same thing; ENERGY.

Both calories and kilojoules are measured per gram of food. For instance:
1g of carbohydrates = 4 calories/ 17 kJ
1g of protein = 4 calories/ 17 kJ
1g of fat = 9 calories/ 37 kJ
1g of alcohol = 7 calories/ 29 kJ

How Can I Best Manage my Energy Intake?

You can significantly reduce the volume of calories you consume by changing the way you prepare your meals. Rather opt to steam and grill foods instead of shallow frying and deep frying them. Sauces, dressings and condiments add large amounts of calories to an otherwise healthy meal, they should be avoided as far as possible.

Low GI 55 or less Most fruits and vegetables, legumes, some whole, intact grains, nuts, fructose, kidney beans, beetroot, chickpeas, seed loaf.
Medium GI 56–69 Whole wheat products, pita bread, basmati or parboiled rice, grapes, sucrose, raisins, pumpernickel bread, cranberry juice.
High GI 70 and above White bread, most white rice, processed breakfast cereals, warm potatoes.

The calorie ranges shown in this table allow for the needs of people of different ages within an age group. Adults need fewer calories at older ages. For example, an active 31-year-old man needs about 3,000 daily calories, but an active 50-year-old man needs only about 2,200-2,800 calories.

FEMALE 19-30 2000 2000 – 2200 2400
FEMALE 31-50 1600 1800 2000 – 2200
MALE 19-30 2400 2600 – 2800 3000
MALE 31-50 2200 2400 – 2600 2800 – 3000
MALE 51+ 1800 2000 2200
  • Sedentary means you have a lifestyle that includes only light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life
  • Moderately active means you have a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 2 to 5 km per day at 5 to 6 km per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life
  • Active means you have a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking moreAbout Chicken Breasts

    Upon first glance at chicken breast nutrition facts, most people notice the high cholesterol content but it does only make up 24% of your daily value so as long as you monitor your intake you can eat chicken breast for fat loss.

    You should notice that ½ chicken breast has just 142 calories and just 3 grams of fat. Chicken breasts nutrition facts also tell us that there are no carbs, sugar or fiber but there are 27 grams of protein in just a half breast!

    But that’s just the beginning.

    Chicken breast nutrition facts also tell us that you can get many essential vitamins including E, B6 and B12. You can also get vitamins essential to healthy body functions, including riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and pantothenic acid.

    Minerals, which provide many of the health benefits of chicken breasts, are found in healthy numbers in one serving. For example, phosphorus and selenium make up more than 20% of your recommended daily value. There are also small, but helpful amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and zinc found in chicken breasts.

    You’ll also be happy to know that ½ chicken breast also gives you significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a healthy body.

    Health Benefits of Chicken Breasts

    Chicken breast has many nutrients that can reduce your risk of many types of cancer, thanks to the more than 60% of niacin found in a half breast. Selenium is also another culprit responsible for the health benefits of chicken breast, protecting your immune system, which helps in the fight to keep cancer away.

    The vitamin B in chicken breasts is a great source of energy, which is a great health benefit for anyone looking to burn more fat each day. Which brings me to protein’s fat burning properties in chicken. A chicken breast half provides you with more than 50%of your daily value of protein, which is what makes chicken breast such an amazing fat burning food.

    Vitamin B, in its many variations, provides a variety of health benefits of chicken breasts, namely heart health. We can get 26% of our daily value of vitamin B6 from one half of a chicken breast, which keeps blood vessels healthy to ward off heart disease like heart attack and stroke.

    Keep in mind that these health benefits of chicken breast can only be derived from eating chicken breast without the skin and bone. This way your chicken breast is as lean as possible, providing you with maximum fat burning potential.

    About Cucumbers

    Cucumbers are incredibly low in calories, just 16 calories per 1 cup, and have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. In addition, one serving of cucumbers has just 3 grams of carbs—enough to give you energy without pesky side effects! Cucumber nutrition facts also reveal a relatively high fiber content, which when combined with the 1 gram of protein per cup, gives cucumbers its fat burning properties.

    It’s important to note that while cucumbers do not have large quantities of vitamins and minerals in them, one small cup does provide you with small doses of nearly all essential vitamins and nutrients.

    Eating one serving of cucumbers will give you vitamins A, C, K, B6 and B12 as well as folate and thiamin. Aside from salt, all minerals are present and accounted for in one cup of cucumbers, including; calcium, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc and potassium.

    What this means is that although there are no nutritional rock stars, cucumber nutrition facts provide a great way to boost your daily vitamin and mineral intake.

    Health Benefits of Cucumbers

    Because of its high water content many health benefits of cucumber are physical, such as clear skin, reduction in under eye swelling and sunburn relief. But the water content in cucumbers is also responsible for helping rid your body of toxins that can make you sick.

    Although not a fat burning superstar on its own, adding cucumber to a salad can help boost your daily fiber intake for increased fat burning for weight loss. And thanks to the water content, you’ll get the fluid you need to help process fiber. The peel of the cucumber is an excellent source of dietary fiber than can relieve constipation and protect against some types of colon cancer.

    One cup of cucumbers has 16 micrograms of magnesium and 181 mg of potassium, which can help control and reduce high blood pressure. When combined with a well-balanced diet, cucumbers can help you regulate blood pressure.

    Another major health benefit of cucumbers that often goes unnoticed is due to the 12% of vitamin K found in just 1 cup. This vitamin helps build bone strength, which can reduce risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.

    So, what else can you do to take advantage of the health benefits of cucumbers?

    Watermelon Nutrition Facts

    Eating your fruits is an important part of any well-balanced diet, but watermelon in particular has so much to offer. Watermelon nutrition facts show us that one wedge has 86 calories, less than 1 gram of fat, no cholesterol and less than 1% of your daily value of sodium.

    But watermelon does provide you with 22 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein and 5% of your daily value of fiber, a healthy recipe for fat burning and weight loss. With 18 grams of sugar, watermelon is a great way to curb a sugar craving.

    Watermelon nutrition facts reveal this fruit as a jack of all trades; providing healthy amounts of virtually all essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and C are available in high quantities in just 1 wedge of watermelon, providing 33 and 39% of your daily value. Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and thiamin are also provided in significant amounts.

    Aside from sodium, one wedge of watermelon can give you at least 2% of your daily value of all minerals. Potassium, magnesium and manganese are provided in the highest amounts, with other minerals in much smaller amounts.

    How does this translate to health benefits?

    Health Benefits of Watermelon

    One of the main health benefits of watermelon is its status as a powerful antioxidant, found in vitamins A and C, which helps to neutralize free radicals than can lead to inflammation, general sickness and chronic illnesses such as stroke and heart attack.

    The beautiful pink color of watermelon, due to beta-carotene, is a powerful ally against many types of cancer, particularly colon cancer. Lycopene, a carotenoid found in abundance in watermelon provides additional cancer fighting health benefits of watermelon.

    The high water content of watermelon is part of what gives it fat burning benefits, helping to make your metabolism work more efficiently. With a healthy amount of fiber and protein, your body will still work harder simply processing watermelon.

    To be sure, watermelon works best for fat burning as part of a well-balanced diet, but you can rest easily that most of the calories in watermelon will be burned quickly after consumption.

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