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Understand components of nutrition needs

Stop by Health 1st’s Wellness Wednesday table in the Children’s Hospital lobby between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. June 18 for information on personal nutrition needs from a registered dietitian.

by Janet Carter
Registered Dietitian
We all are different, as our our nutrition needs. Registered dietitians (RD) are the nutrition experts and can help you estimate your nutrition needs while explaining the nutrients and their effects on your body. Without a reference, it’s hard to know when you’re looking at a nutrition facts label, and what is a lot or a little of the nutrients listed.
It is easier and information is more accurate when a nutrition expert, such as a registered dietitian, performs a nutritional assessment, since they can factor in important considerations such as weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.
Below, are the various components to consider in determining a proper and healthy diet.

Calories are the measurement of the energy produced by food in digestion, and the energy our body uses to function. If we consume more calories than our body uses, we will gain weight. Conversely, if we consume fewer calories than our body uses, we will lose weight. If we burn the same amount of calories we consume, our weight will stay the same.
Calculating an individual’s calorie requirements can be tricky. Ways to directly measure a person’s calorie needs while at rest (Bod Pod, underwater weighing, metabolic cart, etc.), are not always available and can be expensive. Another way is to use a calculation that estimates your calorie needs based on your height, weight and age. This calculation is pretty close to direct measurements, but activity level also must be factored in, which can be tough since it relies on an educated guess. Again, this is where an RD can help.

The commonly used equation for estimating calorie needs at rest for adults (Harris-Benedict Equation) is:
Women: 655 + 9.56 (weight in kilograms) + 1.85 (height in centimeters)—4.68 (age)
Men: 66.5 + 13.75 (weight in kilograms) + 5.0 (height in centimeters)—6.78 (age)

Fat has gotten a bad reputation throughout the years. Too much fat is not healthy, but getting enough good unsaturated fat can protect against heart disease and other health problems. These are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, flaxseed oil, etc. The not-so-good fats are saturated. We need some fat in our diet to help us transport and absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K). Most of us don’t have a problem getting enough fat, but rather too much of it. Based on your calorie needs, a healthy diet for a healthy adult would include about 30 percent from fat.
Because 1 gram of fat has 10 calories, then:
48 grams has 1,600 calories
54 grams = 1,800 calories
60 grams = 2,000 calories, and
66 grams = 2,200 calories
For nutrition facts label readers, a quick way to find out if something is too high in fat or not (based on the 30 percent recommendation), consider the following:

Take the calories from fat grams and multiply them by 3. Compare that number to the total calories. If it’s higher, that item is too high in fat. (This formula will not work with things like peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing, cheese, olive oil, etc., since these foods primarily contain fats.

Saturated fat
We need some saturated fat in our diet, but very little. Too much saturated fat can cause our body to produce more cholesterol than it needs, which can build up and form plaque on the walls our vascular system. Healthy adults need less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat (remember that 1 gram of fat has 10 calories). The fat gram-to-calorie equivalent is starkly different for saturated fats:
16 grams of saturated fat contains 1,600 calories
18 grams = 1,800 calories
20 grams = 2, 000 calories
22 grams = 2,200 calories

Trans fat
Trans fats are rarely found in nature. The major source of these fats is through a process called hydrogenation that was created to make products more shelf-stable. Trans fats are not good for our bodies. Trans fats also cause our body to produce more cholesterol than it needs, which can clog our blood vessels and arteries. In addition, trans fats themselves can stick in your blood vessel walls, increasing your risk for heart disease or stroke. Trans fats should be avoided.

Healthy adults should eat no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. Because cholesterol is found only in animal-sourced foods, don’t expect to find it in fruits, vegetables or whole grains.

Too much sodium can increase blood pressure in salt-sensitive people. Healthy adults should consume the least amount of salt possible and no more than 2,400 mg per day. A teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg, so we should try to limit the salt we add in cooking and at the table. People with certain health conditions may need to decrease their sodium intake even further.

Fiber is important for our bodies, because it helps us stay regular, inhibits colon disease, and it also can help lower blood cholesterol. If your daily diet includes whole grains and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables, you’re probably doing fine with your fiber needs. Otherwise, healthy adults should include in their diets a minimum of 20-35 grams of fiber per day, or 11.5 grams per 1,000 calories.

Protein plays many important roles in our body. Most of us get plenty of protein, and more likely, more than we need. Too much protein can also be stored as fat in the body. Adults are recommended to have 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight. One ounce of red meat contains 7 grams of protein. A 3-ounce chicken breast, about the size of a deck of cards, provides about 21 grams of protein.
A registered dietitian will be available June 18 during Wellness Wednesday in the Children’s Hospital lobby, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Brief assessments of personal nutritional needs will be provided.
More information can be obtained from Outpatient Nutrition Services, or by visiting
Editor's note: The preceding column was brought to you on behalf of Health 1st. Striving to bring various topics and representing numerous employee wellness organizations and committees on campus, this weekly column seeks to provide MUSC, MUHA and UMA employees with current and helpful information concerning all aspects of health.

Friday, June 13, 2008
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