Chapter 2

 The Chemistry of Food – Know Your Food

Any discussion about weight loss or weight management conjures up visions of going on a near starvation diet for most people. But the truth is very different. Weight management or loss is not necessarily about cutting down on the quantity of food you eat, but more about regulating proper food intake. Many people, who have tried starving to lose weight, have found that as soon as they start eating again, they regain all the lost weight. Often, they end up heavier than they were before the diet.

In addition, the weight fluctuation caused by a roller-coaster cycle of gaining and losing and re-gaining weight can also cause serious health issues such as nutritional deficiencies, organ damage, and osteoporosis, as well as the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia nervosa, which are not just physical ailments but also take a toll on your mental health and emotional stability.

Experts believe that losing excessive weight in a short span of time is an indication that your body is losing lean muscle mass and not excess fat. This can result in the body storing more fat when you finally start eating again. This is why many people who go on a ‘starvation diet’ end up heavier than they were before the diet. If you go on a very low calorie diet, the body’s natural reaction is to go into starvation mode and try to conserve energy. This results in a decrease in metabolism, your body storing the calories as fat, and breaking down muscle mass for energy. A proper diet is one that promotes a faster metabolism and a regulation of caloric intake so that your body gets just the energy it needs without going into starvation mode. It’s evident that the healthy way to lose weight and maintain a trim figure does not lie in starvation.

Doctors advise that rather than trying to lose weight by drastic starvation methods, it is healthier and more effective to adopt a nutritionally balanced diet plan like The Healthy Diet Way Program. In fact, it is very important that you eat the right quantity of the right food to get in shape and stay that way.

Eating healthy, in accordance with an effective weight management or loss program, requires that you understand how different kinds of foods benefit your body. It is important that you are aware of the nutritional contribution that different foods provide in your diet. Armed with knowledge, you will quickly be able to determine if the foods you like are adding any value to your daily nutritional intake. You are then able to make a judicious and conscious decision to pick and choose those foods that are nutritious, taste good, and also fall in line with your weight loss program.

Some foods have high nutritional value but they can be detrimental to a weight loss program if on sumed in large quantities. Such knowledge is important when planning your diet. For example, consider nuts – they are high in protein and fiber, and a type of fat that can be beneficial in decreasing cholesterol levels, but they are also very high in calories, so if you are on a weight loss regimen, it’s best to consume them in moderation.

Knowing your food, its nutritional value, and how much of it is good for you, will help you to develop and sustain a balanced diet to support both good health and good physical shape. Understanding various types of food has another advantage. You can mix and match different food types to balance out the negative effects of one with the benefits of another. This way you do not have to avoid every single fattening’ food that you like. You can have a diet plan that includes your favorite foods, is nutritionally balanced, and each food chosen adds to the taste and not to your waist.

Such a diet program is easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. When this happens, not only do you not regain the weight that you’ve lost, but you also stay in shape effortlessly.

Understanding Different Food Types

The USDA classifies foods into six key types: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk Products, Meat & Beans, and Oils. Each food type has specific benefits and plays a special role in diet planning. We’ll use the same classification to discuss each food type and how to incorporate it into your diet in a balanced way.

  1. Grains

The most commonly consumed food grains are oats, maize, millet, barley, corn, rice and wheat. Food items such as breads, biscuits, cakes, crackers, cereal or any other product primarily made from one or more of these grains can be categorized as grains in your diet plan. When it comes to grains, whole grains are the most nutritious.

Food products made with whole grains retain the bran, germ and endosperm, which make the products healthier and more nutritious than refined grains. During the refining process, the bran or outer husk, and the germ are removed, as well as most of the nutrients, leaving only the starchy endosperm. This produces a finer texture in the grain, as well as ensuring a longer shelf life of the product, but a significant portion of the grain’s nutritional value and fiber is lost, which is what is retained in the whole grains.

Many refined grain products replace the lost nutrients and are labeled “enriched refined” grains, but they still lack the fiber and many other benefits of the whole grain product. Whole wheat bread, for example, is much higher in fiber (which aids in digestion, metabolism, and lowering of cholesterol), protein, antioxidants, and vitamins compared to bread made with refined white flour.

Incorporating whole grains into your diet has many benefits. The high fiber content keeps common problems like constipation at bay while ensuring that food is being digested properly and easily. This increases the body’s metabolism, which in turn enhances the nutrition that is gleaned from the food you eat.

Many chronic diseases can be alleviated by sticking to a whole grain rich diet, including heart ailments and digestive disorders. Cholesterol levels can be maintained in part with the proper intake of whole grain foods.

Fiber-rich whole grains also help satiate your hunger quickly so that you feel fuller after consuming a smaller amount of food. This helps in reducing your total food intake, and is helpful if you are trying to regulate your diet to lose weight or tone your body.

Whole grains are also rich in Iron, Vitamin B and Folate. All these are critical to our general health and well being. Magnesium and selenium that are found in whole grains help boost our immunity, which is an added benefit.

How Many Whole Grains Do You Need?

An average of 2.5 servings of whole grains a day reduces the risk of heart disease by 20% according to The International Journal on Diabetes, Atherosclerosis and Human Nutrition. The USDA recommends ingesting at least 3 ounces of whole grain foods per day. A large number of experts have attested to the many benefits of including the right proportion of whole grains in your daily diet. However, according to Reuters Health, less than 5% of Americans 19-50 years old consume the daily recommended servings of whole grains. More alarmingly, many do not consume any whole grain product for many days.

It is recommended that adults consume 6 to 8 ounces of grain products per day, with at least 3 ounces coming from whole grains. One ounce is equivalent to a slice of whole grain bread, 1 cup of dry cereal, ½ cup oatmeal or cooked cereal, and ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta.

Which Foods have Whole Grains?

Visit any supermarket, and you’ll realize that you have many options. Although whole grain based food products are best, you can also supplement some part of your whole grain diet with enriched-refined grain foods. Enriched grain foods have many of the lost nutrients added back after the refining process is completed. This makes them more nutritious than non-enriched refined grains, but not nearly as nutritious as whole grain products.

When you buy a grain-based product, you can look for enriched products by reading the ingredient list on the label. But remember, enriched-refined grains will still lack fiber.

Whole grain products – Cereals are perhaps the most widely consumed and also the most readily available whole grain product. Cereals can provide you with required nutritional elements, as well asgood taste. Popular whole-grain cereals include Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Total, Life, Muesli, Raisin Bran, and Grape Nuts. Cooked cereals include Oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.

When choosing whole grain side dishes for lunch or dinner, good options include brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Make a sandwich from whole grain bread, instead of refined white bread for lunch. Bake up a batch of oatmeal cookies instead of sugar cookies for dessert. Even these small changes make a big difference in your nutritional intake.

Other examples of whole grain foods include popcorn and grain sprouts.

Refined grain products – White bread is possibly the most commonly consumed refined grain food product. Other popular refined grain products are white rice and pasta. White flour and de-germed corn flour (corn without the germ) are also flours made from refined grains. Although it is fine to obtain some of your daily grain requirement from refined grains, try to incorporate whole grains whenever a choice is available.

Incorporating Whole Grain Foods into Your Diet

Whole grain foods are available in many forms in the market. One of the simplest and most effective ways to add whole grains into your diet is to add them to your breakfast. There are several breakfast cereals made with whole grains that come in flavors and tastes to suit everyone’s preference. A cup of cereal or half a cup of oatmeal gives you a highly nutritious, low fat and completely filling breakfast. Enhance the meal with an addition of fresh cut fruit or raisins, and you have a healthy breakfast that you can really enjoy.

If cereals are not your thing, then a slice of whole wheat bread will give you one full serving of whole grain for the day. Make a crunchy and nutritious breakfast sandwich by combining two pieces of whole wheat toast with thin slices of your favorite vegetables. Add an egg-white omelet and a smear of tehina and you’ve incorporated three of the main food groups into a quick yet healthy morning meal. Wash it down with a glass of fresh fruit juice and you have a balanced breakfast, which can also fit into your weight management goals.

Whole Grain Cereals

½ cup cooked or 1 cup ready-to-eat

Whole Grain Bread

1 slice

Whole grain tortilla, muffin, waffle,


1 small


2 cups

Whole Grain Crackers

5-7 small crackers or 1 ounce

Whole Grain Bagel or Pita

½ bagel or ½ pita

Brown Rice or Whole Grain Pasta

½ cup

  1. Vegetables

Vegetables do not just give your body the nutrition that is essential for it to stay healthy, it also adds flavor to food and makes it good tasting and fulfilling. A simple rule to remember when adding vegetables to your diet is that different colors mean different benefits. By adding a different color vegetable to your meal everyday, you get the entire spectrum of benefits that these natural foods have to offer. Here is a chart showing vegetables in different colors and the nutrients they contain:









Vitamin C,


folate, beta



allagic acid,


Beta glucans,

lignans, SDG,


Beta carotine,




vitamin C

Vitamin C,





Reduces blood

pressure, LDL




reduces risk of



immunity and



Reduces risk

of prostate

cancer, lowers

blood pressure

and LDL


limits tumor



arthritic pain



Reduces risk

of cancers of


prostate gland

and breast,

helps rectify





Reduces risk

of prostate


reduces blood

pressure and






makes bones


Reduces LDL



, reduces risk

of cancer,

impairs tumor



vision and


enhances bone







green leafy


peas, okra



cranberry, red



radish, apple,






garlic, ginger,


potato, turnip,


onion, white




apricot, carrot,




papaya, peach,


sweet corn,





plum, grape,


raisins, purple


How Much Vegetables Do You Need?

Diet experts recommend taking at least 3 cups of vegetables per day for an average adult. If your vegetable for the day is leafy greens, then double the number of cups to make for adequate vegetable intake for the day. For vegetable juices, one cup of juice is the same as one cup of vegetables.

Ideas on Incorporating Vegetables and Beans into Your Diet

Vegetables can be included in your diet along with grains. Fresh vegetables are by far the best form in which these healthy foods can be consumed. Add fresh vegetables of different colors to rice, pasta or bread to make a complete meal. You can also include purees or vegetable juices in your daily diet.

To lose weight, it is important that you consume fewer calories than your body burns. Vegetables help you add volume to your food without adding calories. Substitute your morning eggs with a vegetable plate or a raw vegetable salad. If your morning starts with cereal or oats, finish your breakfast with a glass of vegetable juice to keep you feeling fresh all day.

Use vegetables to fill wraps or burgers instead of cheese to keep calories in check. You can even add chopped veggies to pasta, noodles and rice to make a nutritious, yet low fat meal.

  1. Fruits

No weight loss diet program is complete without a helping of fruits in the diet plan. Fruits detoxify the body and are very helpful for people who are trying to avoid sugars, fats and salty foods.

Fruits are natural sources of many vitamins, enzymes and minerals. They aid digestion and their nutrients are absorbed by our blood stream quickly and easily. The sugar content found in fruits helps you stay energized all through the day without having to consume the calorie rich refined sugar.

Fruits also help the body stay hydrated, which is why it is advisable to consume adequate quantity of fresh fruits in various forms during hot climate. Include seasonal fruits in your diet for easy diet planning.

The chart below discusses the benefits of various fruits in your diet:



Additional Information

Improve digestion

Dates, Apricots, Raisins

Although all fruits help

digestion, these are found to

be especially beneficial

Build bones and strengthen


Dates, Apricots, Raisins,

Custard Apple, All Berries

These contain calcium, iron

and other nutrients in abundant


Enhance immunity

Guava, Custard Apple,

Lemon, Orange, Papaya

Build vitamin C stores in the


Help with bronchial problems

Pineapple, Lemon,

Pomegranate, Grapefruit

Found beneficial in keeping

away respiratory and lung

related ailments

Improve blood circulation to


Apples, Bananas, Figs, Grapes

Useful remedies for brain


How Much Fruits Do You Need?

Nutrition experts recommend including at least 2 cups of fruits in your daily diet. Cut fresh fruits or a single medium sized fruit (example apple, grapefruit, banana) taken as a whole constitutes 1 cup of fruit.

A cup of 100% fresh juice from fruits is equal to one cup of cut fruit. If you prefer dried fruit, you can equal this quantity by consuming half a cup. To measure smaller fruits such as raisins buy a box that has the same volume as a cup or measure it out into the cup from a larger pack.

Ideas on Incorporating Fruits into Your Diet

Fresh fruits, desiccated or dehydrated fruits, tinned fruits and 100% fresh fruit juice are various forms in which you can consume fruits. Although it is best to consume freshly cut fruits, you can also include fruits from frozen tins for taste or if a particular fruit is not in season. Avoid cooking fruits because this causes them to lose much of their goodness.

Fruits are very versatile foods. It is almost always possible to add a fruit portion to your meal to make it tastier. If you prefer to have your fruits at dinner time, add cut bits of different fruits like apples, papayas, watermelons or pears to low fat ice cream for a delicious dessert.

Fruit custards are a great addition to your breakfast menu. You can replace your morning coffee with fresh juice to cleanse your body of all toxins. When your lunch consists of rice or brown bread, a fruit salad can add a contrasting taste to the meal to make it enjoyable.

  1. Milk and Milk Products

Milk as food is highly beneficial to people of all ages. The nutritional benefits of milk are also present in dairy products such as butter, yoghurt, cheese, cream and cottage cheese. Milk is, in fact, an integral part of breakfast for millions of people around the world.

Milk is a good source of protein and vitamins such as A, D and B-12. You can also get adequate amounts of riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and potassium from this food item. Milk helps build stronger bones. That is why young children are encouraged to drink milk, supplemented by other dairy products like cheese or butter. It has been proven that sufficient intake of milk and milk products keeps bone related ailments such osteoporosis and blood pressure related problems at bay.

How Much Milk Do You Need?

You should intake at least 1000 milligrams of milk a day or equivalent of dairy products. This equals 3 to 4 servings of 8 ounces each. Older people are advised to intake slightly more than this daily limit. However, it is best to include reduced fat or low fat milk products or whey instead of creams, cheese and butter if you are trying to lose weight or wish to maintain a toned figure.

Ideas on Incorporating Milk into Your Diet

Milk is increasingly being consumed more as cheese or butter these days, both of which can add on those extra pounds you are better off without. With the growing market for junk or fast foods, people are adding more fat heavy products into their diets – try and stay away from them. Always opt for low fat or no cream milk and milk products for achieving or maintaining an enviable figure, while staying healthy with all the nutritional benefits of milk products.

Milk can be added into your diet in many easy ways. A cup of cereals with low fat milk and fruits makes for a healthy breakfast. Add fruits like bananas or apples to your glass of milk and blend it to make a tasty milkshake to take care of the untimely hunger pangs. Rice puddings cooked in milk can take care of your grain and milk needs for the day. Flavored yoghurt or low fat ice cream can make for a good weight management diet dessert for both adults and children.

  1. Meat, Poultry, Fish & Beans

Any food made from meat, fish, poultry or beans provides essential proteins that are the building blocks of your body. Meat products also contain oils that are essential for your body and cannot be easily obtained from other sources. In particular, fish products are rich in such oils.

Other than the protein content, meat and poultry products such as eggs contain essential nutrients such as iron, selenium, folic acid and vitamins. Fish and seafood products (such as cod fish) contain Omega3, which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is not created within our bodies. Omega 3 is especially beneficial for those suffering from ailments such as cardiovascular problems, improper blood circulation and even mental fatigue.

Here is a tabular look at the benefits you gain from different kinds of meats:



What You Should Know

Sea food products including


Protein, Omega 3 and Other


Low fat nutrition for children,

adults, pregnant women and

the elderly.

Red meat

Iron, Protein, Vitamin A and

B, Zinc

Nutrients in these are more

easily absorbed by body than

from vegetarian foods


Protein, Vitamin B

Major source of proteins,

essential for growing children

Beans are an excellent natural source of proteins. Vegetarians whose food often falls short of this essential nutrient can make for this shortfall by including sufficient beans quantity in their diet. You can include soy beans, kidney beans, lima beans, black eyed peas and lentils as part of your diet. Beans are also good sources of fiber, and minerals like iron, zinc and folate. Although adding beans to the diet plan is essential for vegetarians, it is also recommended for non vegetarians.

How Much Meat and Beans Do You Need?

5 to 6 ounces from this group are required daily for an average adult. One egg constitutes one ounce from this food category, while meat, fish and other poultry products can be simply measured in ounces to make up your daily requirement.

According to the Food Standards Agency, about 12% of your daily diet should comprise of foods from this group.

A good rule of thumb to follow with beans is to match your vegetable portions with beans several days a week. For many people, eating beans causes flatulence, which discourages them from eating these protein rich foods often. However, cooking beans with different spices solves this problem.

Ideas on Incorporating Meat, Poultry, Fish into Your Diet

You can use fresh forms of these foods or get canned products from stores. Eggs are best procured farm fresh and eaten fresh too. Fish and seafood products are available in tins and you can even find dried or dehydrated products that can be stored for a while. Check the packaging to see if your product has sufficient amounts of Omega 3.

Fresh meat should be bought from shops, where perfectly hygienic conditions are maintained, else you may run the risk of eating contaminated meat that can give rise to serious complications. For your daily beans intake, you can buy canned beans off the shelf at any supermarket.

Lean meat is the best choice for a weight loss or weight management program. Lean meat has all the nutrient power you need minus the fat you want to stay away from. Buy low fat cuts or trim the fat on the meat before consumption.

Include fish that is oil rich (examples: salmon, sardine) a couple of times a week. Fish products do not add as much fat to your body as meats do, so you can even replace some of your meat based meals with sea food.

Poultry products must be skinned before consumption. You can choose low fat versions of these products from the store by looking at the labels. Avoid deep frying any of the foods in this group.

Boiling, steaming, poaching, roasting and grilling are all better alternatives for your weight loss or weight management diet.

  1. Oils and Fats

Oils mainly come from plant sources such as sunflower seeds, sesame, canola, coconut, peanuts and walnut. Cooking fats such as margarine, butter, shortening come from animal sources. While oils from plants, seeds and nuts are low in cholesterol, those from animals are usually high in this component.

Oils and fats contain essential fatty acids that are required by your body. These are the best sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. They also add vitamin E to your diet. Oils are a good source of carbohydrates and proteins and are energy giving foods. However, when taken in excess, some of these, especially saturated fats, can contribute to weight gain as well as increase in cholesterol levels leading to coronary problems.

How Much Oils and Fats Do You Need?

5 to 7 teaspoons of fat a day are considered appropriate for an average adult. This daily consumption quota includes the oils and fats you ingest through nuts, salad dressings, oil/fat used in cooking, and oils from fish and sea food products.

According to the American Heart Association, total fat intake should be limited to about 25 % of the total calories you ingest daily. Saturated fat must be limited to about 5 to 7% of total calories consumed and trans fat should be less than 1%.

Ideas on Incorporating Oils and Fats into Your Diet

You can find oils and fats in many different forms in the market. Even cooking oil comes in myriad varieties such as sunflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil. For flavoring, the most commonly used oils are olive oil, walnut oil and soy oil. Solid fats such as lard, butter, shortening, margarine and beef fat are also frequently used, but if you are looking out for your weight, then it’s best to avoid these.

It is important to limit your fat and oil intake to the prescribed amounts to maintain your weight at a desirable level. Cooking food by steaming, boiling, roasting or grilling without the use of oil or fats, or using them in little quantities is a good diet management strategy. Other options include cooking with a microwave wherein even less oil results in perfectly delicious results. It is more important to cut back on the use of solid fats than on other kinds of fat sources such as vegetable or plant oils, as a certain quantity is important for a healthy, balanced diet.

Remember that essential nutrients like Omega 3 have to be ingested only through diet, as these are not produced within our bodies. Oils from fishes such as salmon, tuna and sardines are rich sources of Omega 3. You can also find this nutrient in canola and soy oil. Cut back on solid fats to include these oils in your food and stay healthy and fit.