Understanding Nutrients


One of the biggest struggles for most people embarking on their journey to weight loss is nutrition. We’ve all heard the terms proteins, carbs and fats, but when it come to  understanding them, that is an entirely different matter  altogether. I’ve found that when  talking with my clients about nutrients and ratios, there is a lot of confusion running amuck. In an effort to clear things up a bit, I’m going to go over the basic nutrients we all need and give you examples of each. To keep it simple, I’m only going to cover protein, carbs and fat.


Protein is needed for several functions throughout our bodies, but most people seem to associate it with muscles. It’s true, you do need to have an adequate protein intake in order to maintain or increase the amount of muscle you have, but there’s a lot more to  protein than that. One of the other functions of protein  is slowing of  the body’s absorption of glucose (this is a big deal for diabetics). Eating protein in the same sitting as carbohydrates will actually aid the body in preventing the all too common high’s and low’s that most diabetics feel. So what are some  options for lean proteins?

  •  Lean cuts of beef and pork
  • Chicken or turkey, white meat only, with skin removed
  • Fish (halibut, tilapia and salmon are among my favorites)
  • Cottage cheese (1% or 2%)
  • Eggs (the protein is in the whites, so be careful how many yolks you eat)
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Soybeans/Tofu
  • Protein powders/supplements


There are two types of carbs, simple sugars and complex carbs. As I begin explaining this particular nutrient to people in nutrition classes, at the gym or even in my office, nine times out of ten, I watch them nod their head up and down a few times like they know exactly what I’m talking about. Then I ask, “So what’s the difference between the two?” and that’s when the room is filled with the unmistakable sound of silence. So I proceed to tell them exactly what I’m going to tell you, the difference is fiber.

Simple sugars includes anything that is processed, manufactured and otherwise gunked up by man. Candy bars, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, hot chocolate mixes, ice cream toppings  and all other sweet treats are  simple sugars. Also, white products such as breads, tortillas, crackers  and pastas (because they are processed and refined) affect our body the same way. When we eat these foods, our body converts  the sugars found in them to glucose very quickly, and the amount of sugar in the blood spikes. You’ve heard of a sugar high, haven’t you? Bingo!

The down side to this group is that fruit actually falls into this category too. Even though it is grows in nature and is good for us, there is such a thing as too much fruit…trust me. Eating too much fruit per day will result in the same effect as eating too many candy bars, so you have to limit your fruits to 2-3 a day and always try and eat them before 3:00 in the afternoon. I’ve already listed examples of  simple sugars  in the previous paragraph, so I won’t list them again.

Complex carbs include vegetables and whole grains such as wheat, oats, barley, green beans, broccoli, spinach, squash and peppers. Each of these has fiber, both digestible and indigestible, which slows the absorption of glucose in the body, just like protein does. Complex carbs are the foods that will provide us with the energy we need to  support cell activity  throughout our body without having  sugar highs (and lows), which are a major deterrent to weight loss. A few examples of complex carbs include

  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Leaf Lettuces
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Turnip Greens
  • Yams
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Cornmeal
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Oat Bran
  • Wheat
  • Wheat Germ
  • Wild Rice


This nutrient is one that is booed and hissed at, avoided by some and indulged by others. As with carbs, there are basically two groups, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are those fats that are usually animal based and are solid at room temperature like shortening and the fat ring around your steak. Unsaturated fats are plant based and are usually  liquid at room temperature like olive oil, canola oil and grapeseed oil. There are some exceptions to the liquid at room temperature rule however, such as avocados, olives and almonds. Our bodies need a little bit of each type per day to maintain homeostasis and function at their most efficient rate.

Saturated Fats include cream, cheese, butter, lard and fatty cuts of meat. Unsaturated fats include

  • avocados
  • nuts
  • olives
  • seeds
  • vegetable oils such as
    • canola oil
    • olive oil
    • grape seed oil
    • safflower oil

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