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Nutrition: Top 10 Questions

February 2013

Thanks to Ruth Schneider, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Idaho State University; and Colleen Fillmore, Director, Child Nutrition Program, Idaho State Department of Education for the answers.

1: How does nutrition relate to a better life?

When you eat a balanced diet, you have more energy and feel better. You are getting all of the nutrients you need. Nutrients are your carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. You are also getting your micro-nutrients which are your vitamins and minerals. By consuming a balanced diet and not just eating one kind of food, your body metabolizes food better and you have more energy. (From Addison at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

2: Why is water so important for your body?

Water is one of the main essential nutrients. Your body is about 60% water. Everything that happens in your body happens in the medium of water. All of the chemical reactions take place in water. So, it's really the nutrient you can't live without. You can live quite a while without other nutrients, but you can only live a few days without water. (From Brooke at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

3: How much food is a serving?

It depends on the person, their gender (male or female), and their age. Younger people can have more servings throughout the day and take in more calories. As you get older, your metabolism slows down so you need less. We recommend that you look at the USDA Choose My Plate Program and it will tell you the serving sizes that you need for your age, gender, and current weight. (From Gavin at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

4: Which food group is the healthiest for you?

Overall, the healthiest food groups that we eat are the macro-nutrients. The foods that are less processed. You would want to have a chicken breast cooked fresh versus one that is frozen or processed. Processed foods tend to have more chemicals and are higher in sodium and additives. It's healthier to eat food cooked from scratch. Otherwise, one food group is not healthier than another. You need them all to have a balanced diet. (From Afton at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

5: Why did they change the food pyramid to MyPlate?

The food pyramid was hard for people to understand. We all eat off of plates, so it's easy for us to see the proportions of different foods and organize the recommendations by the plate rather than by a pyramid. They really did it to make it easier for the consumer to understand the message. (From Paige at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

6: What's the most important part of the food pyramid or MyPlate?

All parts are important because of the nutrients the food groups contain. It's important to get food from every group. There are the proteins, grains, fruits and vegetables, and some dairy. All contribute to getting a healthy diet. (From Claire at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)

7: Can you have too much healthy food?

You can consume too many calories whether it's from healthy food or foods that are lower in vitamins and minerals. So you want to make sure that your calorie intake is equivalent to your physical activity. It's really a mathematical equation. To maintain your weight, eat the amount of calories that your body burns. (From Emily at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

8: How do calories burn energy?

Food provides macro-nutrients, which are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Those three nutrients provide calories which is a way we measure the energy in food. Our body has a very complicated metabolism system that takes food and breaks it down, forming ATP (Adenosine-5-triphosphate). ATP helps to transport energy for metabolism, and your body uses this energy to think, run, play, and do all sorts of different activities. It even keeps your heart beating. Eating breakfast can make you smarter by giving you the energy you need to learn all day long. (From Jack at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

9: How do we know if the food that we buy is safe?

There are several regulations and laws that are put into place to keep our food safe. Whether it's the proteins, fresh produce, grains and more, they all have regulations that they have to follow. If food is determined not to be safe, it is recalled. (From Michael at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

10: How can your small intestine be 22 feet long when you are not even seven feet tall?

Your intestines are very long and narrow. They wind around back and forth and kind of get stuffed into your abdominal cavity. In fact, your small intestine has the absorptive capacity of a football field. This is because in the walls of your intestines there are fingerlike projections called villi, and on those are microvilli. If you took all that surface area and spread it out, you would have a lot of surface area for all of the nutrients to be absorbed. (From Logan at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

January 2010

Thanks to Ruth Schneider, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Idaho State University; and Colleen Fillmore, Director of the Child Nutrition Program, Idaho State Department of Education for the answers.

1: Does an apple a day keep the doctor away?

What that saying most likely means is if you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, you will have a healthy diet. If you have a healthy diet, you are less likely to get sick. (From Cassidy in Mr. McNally's class at Morley Nelson Elementary School in Boise)

2: Is Gatorade healthy or unhealthy?

Gatorade has a lot of sugar in it, so it is not considered a healthy substitute for water or milk. Water is the best beverage. You could, however, make your own Gatorade by diluting juice (like apple or orange juice) in half with water and adding a teaspoon of salt. This would not only give you the sodium and potassium that is in Gatorade, but also all the other nutrients that come with juice. Gatorade only has sugar, potassium and sodium. (From Sarah in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

3: Is ice cream nutritious?

Ice cream can be nutritious because it has different nutrients that will help our bodies, but it is also a food that is high in fat and sugar. It is best to eat it in smaller portions, less frequently. (From McKenzie in Mrs. Allen's class at Bush Elementary School in Idaho Falls)

4: Why is whole wheat bread better for you than white bread?

Both breads are made from wheat. However, when they make white bread, they remove the bran and the germ from the grain. The bran contains the fiber and the germ has a lot of vitamins and minerals. You are left with the endosperm, which has few nutrients. Whole wheat bread uses both of those parts (the bran and the germ) so the bread has fiber and a lot more nutrients. (From Abigail in Mrs. Hudson's class at Dalton Elementary School in Coeur d'Alene)

5: What makes healthy foods healthy?

The best definition of a healthy food is that it is a whole food. Whole foods are foods in their most natural state. These foods will have the most vitamins and minerals, and they will give you the nutrients you need. Processed foods remove nutrients and often add sodium, sugar and fat. When this happens, they become less healthy. The less processed a food is, the more healthy it is. So, whole foods are our healthiest option. (From Katie in Ms. Bates' class at Windsor Elementary School in Spokane)

6: Why is sugar bad?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. That means it doesn't have the nutrients that a complex carbohydrate has (like whole wheat bread). It lacks the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. You shouldn't eliminate it from your diet, but try to eat it in moderation. (From Lydia in Mrs. Gris' class at Horizon Elementary School in Boise)

7: What is the most nutritious food in the country?

There is not one food that contains all of the nutrients we need. We should eat a variety of foods. It's important to get a balance of all the different food groups in order for us to get the nutrients our bodies should have. So, there is no one food that is the healthiest. (From Hayla in Mrs. Tanner's class at Hayden Elementary School in Hayden Lake)

8: How do we gain weight with calories?

It boils down to math. If you take in more calories than you burn off, you will gain weight. If you take in fewer calories than you use, you will lose weight. If you take in about the same amount of calories that your body uses, you will maintain your weight. At the end of the day, the amount of physical activity you get in relationship to the amount of food you've eaten determines whether you are going to gain, lose, or maintain weight. (From Kaylee in Mrs. Hunt's at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)

9: Why does freshly picked fruit have more flavor?

Freshly picked fruit ripens on the vine. This allows it to develop its full flavor. As fruit matures, the carbohydrates in the fruit turn into sugar with the help of enzymes in the plant. So, the fruit may taste sweeter when it ripens on the vine rather than being picked early and ripening somewhere else. (From Joseph in Mrs. Hudson's class at Dalton Elementary School in Coeur d'Alene)

10: Can a person get too many vitamins and can that make them sick?

Yes, it is possible to get too many vitamins. The fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), in particular, can be toxic if you take too much. Even some of the water soluble vitamins can lead to problems. It's important to look at the nutrient requirements and not think that more is better. There is a certain amount that is an optimal amount, but vitamins can be toxic if you take too much. (From Kirsten in Mrs. McCoy's class at Donnelly Elementary School in Donnelly)

January 2007

Thanks to Colleen Fillmore and Rhonda O'Brien for the answers.

1: Why do people get addicted to candy and sugar?

I think part of what happens is that people skip meals and then they get very hungry and they need some quick energy and eat candy. Candy does give you a little energy boost. But then, because it's simply sugar, your energy drops and it leaves you feeling tired and hungry. So then you need more sugar and you can get stuck in a cycle. I think that's part of it.

Also, it does taste good. Our taste buds do like sugar and sweet tastes. Some sugary foods make a substance in our brain called serotonin. As the levels of serotonin go up in our brain, we can become more relaxed and happy. Dark chocolate especially has some other health benefits. We know it has antioxidants that are healthy. So if you are hungry, eat something healthy. Don't skip meals, and eat candy, soda pop and sugary foods in moderation. (Lisa from Mr. Monger's class at Rocky Mountain Elementary in Idaho Falls)

2: How much water should you drink each day?

Water consumption is extremely important for you. You should drink around eight cups a day. One of the most recent research studies shows that now we should drink when we are thirsty. They used to say drink before you get thirsty. We do know that if you are out snow skiing or something like that, you're going to want to increase your water consumption. You will need more water if you are doing any kind of exercise. Just listen to your body and when you get thirsty, drink. And remember to count all your liquids in those eight cups. A product, like say a tomato, has a very high percentage of water in it. There are all sorts of food products that have water in them. Be sure to count juices too. (Nathan from Mr. Monger's class at Rocky Mountain Elementary in Idaho Falls)

3: Why do humans overeat?

For many centuries we didn't have a lot of food. Now we have abundance here in the United States and we do overeat. I think the answer to your question could be multifaceted. We have access to a lot of high calorie, low nutrient food. We do not get all the physical activity we need, maybe sitting at a computer, watching TV, things like that. Another thing is sometimes people eat when they get emotional, either happy or sad. If someone feels they are struggling with that, they might want to journal and write down what they're eating. That might help them see what they're consuming for the day. (Einar from Mrs. Woodell's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary in Hayden)

4: How can you tell which food is best for you?

Good question. The Food Pyramid is a great way to look at which foods are healthy and how much of each type of food to eat. All of your basic food groups, the meat and protein group, the grain, fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy, those are all good for you. We do need a balance of all of them. So it's a variety.

You can also learn more about your food by reading the labels on the products. You can even find food labels in the produce section. So, learning how to read the food label really tells you if you're getting a healthier food item or not. (Alicia from Mr. Haroldson's class at Terreton Elementary in Terreton)

5: What would happen to your body if you went without nutrients for a week?

One thing that would happen, your body would start taking from reserves that you already have in your body. And so you would actually start losing weight. You would lose some fat and you would lose muscle mass. You would become more dehydrated if you are not taking in water and you would lose energy. It would just not be healthy for you. (Talisha from Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary)

6: If you eat bad foods, will you still live a long life?

It might not shorten your life if you eat in an unhealthy manner, but you will not have the energy, you will not feel as good day in, day out. You want to eat a good balanced diet. (Lindsey from Mrs. McCamish Cameron's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

7: Which is better for you, chips or candy?

Good question. Chips better than candy? Probably both of those things are products that you would want to keep to a minimum in your diet. It would probably depend upon the candy bar too. If you have one with nuts, you'd be getting some protein. But I'm not really sure that I can say one is really healthier than the other. If you look at the Food Pyramid, you would see this kind of a food product is one you would want to eat in very small quantities. So it's not really a matter of which food is better than the other, they're both kind of the same. Just eat a small amount of either. (Cody from Mrs. Lane's 3rd grade class )

8: Which fruit has the most fiber?

I'm not sure which one has the most fiber. Raspberries and berries in general are right up there. But all fruits are a great source of fiber. Whole fruit instead of fruit juice is going to be your best way to get fiber. Fruits also have something called antioxidants, which are very, very important for disease prevention and keeping us healthy. So the best bet on fruits is to eat a wide variety. (Tad from Mrs. Srholec's 2nd grade class at Pioneer School in Weiser)

9: What fruit juice has the most nutrients?

All fruit juices are good. One of the most popular juices on the market is orange juice. It has to do with probably the high amount of vitamin C. Remember, fruit juices don't have a lot of fiber. So we really recommend when you consume fruit, eat the whole fresh fruit. (Haley from Mr. Spencer's class at Lincoln Elementary in St. Anthony)

10: Is pizza bad for you?

We like to think no food is bad food. It is the amount of the portions that we eat that is the problem. But pizza itself is not bad. Actually, pizza is considered a combination type of food. It has the bread or the pasta and we're seeing lots of pizzas that now have whole-wheat grain. It will have the tomato sauce, the cheese, and different proteins. So, no, we consider pizza good. (From Jamie in Mrs. Hunt's 4th grade class at Cynthia Mann Elementary school in Boise)

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