Exercise is only one of the ways in which you can become a healthier person. For instance, let’s say you take a gym class, walk everywhere and even buy some weights to keep in your room…you’re definitely on the right track. Now, picture yourself going to Frank and eating a buffalo chicken patty sandwich with extra blue cheese dressing, a grilled cheese, cream of potato soup, three glasses (or…plastic cups) of soda and…to top it all off, a nice, big piece of white on white Frank birthday cake. Mmmmm! You may say to yourself, “I deserve it, I worked out.” However, what you are really doing is reversing all of the beneficial effects of exercising. Equally worse, though, would be to not eat at all. You may think that a combination of not eating and going to the gym will definitely get you in better shape, however, this is quite untrue. Not eating, or eating significantly less than you normally would, tells your body that you are starving and instructs your body to hold on to fat cells. In turn, your metabolism will slow down, causing all of your hard work at the gym to go to waste. If you continue to eat very little, your body will eventually let go of the fat cells, causing you to rapidly lose weight. However, you will also lose essential nutrients that your body needs and is not getting. This rapid weight loss by starving is called Anorexia Nervosa and is proven to be extremely detrimental to the body, and mind. Don’t get discouraged: there is a happy medium between eating crappy foods nonstop and not eating anything at all. Knowing what you are putting in your mouth each day will help you to balance your exercise and nutrition and to gain the maximum benefits of your new, healthy lifestyle.It is important to eat foods from all of the essential food groups in order to maintain a balanced diet. Combining the right amount of food types from each group will help your body use energy in the most efficient way, without depriving itself of essential vitamins and minerals. The following is a crash course in the food pyramid, and why experts believe each food group is important:Carbohydrates: these include bread, cereals, rice, and pasta. According to most food guide pyramids, humans should eat 6-11 servings of these per day. However, recent studies (and Dr. Atkins) show that some carbohydrates will be turned into fat, which will contribute to increasing cholesterol levels (bad) and a slow metabolism (remember that fat burns calories more slowly than muscle). However, there are many carbohydrates that can actually be very beneficial to your diet. Whole grain carbs are believed to be healthier for the body for a number of reasons. They have less processed sugars added to them and they have a higher percentage of beneficial components, such as fiber. Fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates help to increase metabolism and improve digestive health. Eating enough fiber can even lower the risk of developing cancer in the future, which is an added bonus to all of the benefits it can provide now. “The recommended intake for total fiber for adults 50 years and younger is set at 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women” (Institute of Medicine). So, why eat carbohydrates? Well, carbs provide energy for your body to burn while exercising. For this reason, and many other more complex, chemical reasons, it can be considered by many experts to be unhealthy to skip out on carbs. Instead, get into the habit of sticking to mostly whole grain carbohydrates, which are now widely available as cereals, breads and pastas. Hooray!Fruit and vegetables also provide a good source of fiber for your diet. In addition, they also provide many essential vitamins and minerals that the body cannot make on its own or store for later use. Therefore, if you hate vegetables, but force yourself to eat a pound of broccoli once a week, you will not be good to go. There are 9 essential vitamins and minerals that the body can’t produce or store, and, therefore, must be obtained through eating or dietary supplements. So, if you hate vegetables and fruit, be sure to take vitamin supplements to maintain a healthy dose of your daily essential nutrients. Here’s what will happen if you skimp out on the essentials. Vitamin A deficiency is common among people who live in third-world countries and do not have the access to quality foods and supplements. People who suffer from vitamin A deficiency experience lots of dryness in the eyes, skin and internal organs, since vitamin A is needed to replenish and lubricate endothelial cells. So, protect your eyes and organs, and get your dose of vitamin A today! To learn more about vitamin deficiencies, and to see what kinds of foods will give you the best sources of nutrients, visit http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/etext/000068.html.Calcium is another important nutrient that the human body needs to maintain good health. Calcium is most often found in milk, cheese and yogurt products (of which you should eat 2-3 servings a day). Like vitamins, calcium can also be taken in the form of a supplement, for those of you who do not like dairy products. Calcium is proven to strengthen bones, decrease the risk of osteoporosis and has recently been found to help people lose weight when eaten in the correct amounts. So, get milk.A third, and very important nutrient for the human body, is protein. Protein is found in a variety of foods, including eggs, nuts, cheese, meats, fish, beans and poultry. Eating protein will help you feel full throughout the day because it is not burned up as quickly as carbohydrates. Therefore, eating a lot of carbs will only make you feel full for a little bit, and the carbs you don’t burn will be turned into fat (especially if they are low in fiber). Foods that are a good source of protein are also usually good sources of zinc and iron, which are also important nutrients the body needs. Zinc stimulates the action of hundreds of enzymes in each cell of the body, which promotes a healthy immune system and is needed for DNA synthesis. Iron is an essential component of proteins that are involved in oxygen transport throughout the body. For more information on zinc, iron and other important nutrients that you get from foods, visit: http://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Vitamin_and_Mineral_Supplement_Fact_Sheets.aspx.Fats can also be important for the body, but can also be very dangerous. Too much fat in a person’s diet will increase cholesterol levels in the body, and this can increase the risk of heart attack and high blood pressure. However eating a reasonable amount of “healthy” fats can be very good for the body. For instance, some fats found in peanuts are called high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and contribute to producing more healthy cholesterol that the body uses for fat transport to the liver for processing. Fats that come from processed sugars and in many sweets are mostly low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL is the kind of fat that you want to avoid because it produces more of the bad cholesterol that can clog arteries and increase blood pressure. Other foods to eat that will provide healthier fats include soy protein products, oats and barley, fish, olive oil (as opposed to other oils or butter), almonds and walnuts. Visit: http://www.loweringcholesterol.net/ to learn more about cholesterol and how you can control your cholesterol levels.Please “stay tuned” for next week’s article, which will include ways that you can eat healthier at Colgate and in Hamilton. Limited food choices make it difficult for people who are trying to become healthier eaters, and advice from Colgate’s dining services staff (which will be included in the next article) can be very helpful for these people.