A-C

Future Fit Training's nutritional fact file listing items from the letter A to C, covering Alcohol right through to Carbohydrates.

Alcohol

The alcohol content of drinks is measured in ‘units’. Each unit is equivalent to around 10mls or 8g of pure alcohol (ethanol). This could be: half a pint of beer/lager/cider, a pub measure of spirit or half a glass of wine.

The Department of Health advises that men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. It is advisable to have alcohol free days in between to allow your body to recover. 

Benefits of cutting down on alcohol are:

  • Improved mood - there is a strong link between heavy drinking and depression
  • Improved sleep
  • Behaviour - drinking affects your judgment and behaviour. It can cause you to become aggressive and can also lead to memory loss
  • Improved health - reduced risk of health conditions such as liver disease, stomach ulcers, stroke and a variety of cancers

Allergy and intolerance

Food intolerance is the general term used to describe a range of adverse responses to food. It includes a number of different types of reaction including food allergies (reactions that involve the body’s immune system). Most food intolerances are not true allergies, although they may cause uncomfortable or distressing symptoms.

An allergic reaction to a food can be described as an inappropriate reaction by the body's immune system to the ingestion of a food. Foods that commonly induce adverse reactions are milk, gluten-containing cereals, nuts, peanuts, eggs and shellfish.

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by an allergic reaction to gluten. It is also triggered by related proteins in other grains (rye and barley).

Lactose intolerance is the most commonly diagnosed adverse reaction to cow's milk among adolescents and adults. Symptoms include flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Peanut allergy can be very severe and, in some cases, life threatening. Symptoms appear almost immediately after exposure in sensitised people.

It is important that people who think they suffer from a food allergy or other food intolerance seek professional advice from their GP before changing their diet dramatically and risking it becoming unbalanced. Dietary change prior to tests can make diagnosis more difficult, for example in the case of coeliac disease.

Body Mass Index

BMI is a method of classifying an individual’s weight. It is calculated by dividing an individual’s weight by the square of his or her height:

Weight (Kg)/height x height (metres)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards a BMI of less than 18.5 as underweight while a BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is considered obese.

A major limitation of BMI is that it looks at overall weight and does not distinguish between fat and lean tissue. This means that it overestimates adiposity in those who have a higher than normal lean body mass e.g. athletes.

Calories

A calorie is a unit of measurement for the amount of energy our body can get from food. In nutrition, calories are usually displayed in units of 1,000. 1,000 calories equals 1 Kilocalorie or 1Kcal. Many nutritionists prefer to use joules as the measurement of energy. 1 calorie equals approximately 4.18 joules (or 1Kcal equals 4.18 Kj). However, most of the general public still prefers to talk in terms of calories (Kcals).

A person's calorie intake should consist of 50-55% carbohydrates, 30-35% fat and 10-15% protein.

The average healthy male requires around 2,500Kcals per day and the average healthy female requires around 1,940Kcals per day.

Caffeine

Caffeine is not an essential nutrient but, like alcohol, it plays an important role in many people's eating and drinking habits. It has been estimated that at least half the world's population consumes tea while in America coffee is the biggest source of caffeine.

Although caffeine is readily accepted as an ingredient in coffee beverages (at about 100mg a cup), caffeine, or derivatives of caffeine, can also be found in many other products such as cocoa, baking chocolate and cola.

To reduce caffeine intake you could either switch to using decaffeinated versions of drinks or exclude sources of caffeine in the diet/

To reduce the undesirable effects of eliminating caffeine in one go it is often best to reduce intake gradually. It takes about 4-6 days to wash out all the effects of caffeine from your system.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral needed for strong bones and muscle contraction. Rich sources of calcium include milk, cheese, yoghurt, canned fish, dark green leafy vegetables, cereals, nuts, seeds and soya products e.g. tofu.

In vulnerable people, large intakes of calcium can lead to kidney stones. Other than this group, the risk of calcium toxicity is small.

Recommended intakes depend on age, gender and certain medical conditions. For most adults the recommended intake is 700mg/day.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate is a macronutrient that provides us with energy (4Kcal per gram). The two types of carbohydrate that provide dietary energy are sugars and starch. Dietary fibre is also a type of carbohydrate found in plants. One function of dietary fibre is to keep the digestive system healthy. Some studies have shown that populations with a high intake of fibre-rich foods experience a lower incidence of large bowel cancer.

At least half the energy from diet should be from carbohydrate sources (mainly starchy carbohydrates).

Food sources are breads, cereals, rice and potatoes, beans, pulses, fruits, some vegetables, milk and dairy products.

Starchy carbohydrates (breads, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes) are an important source of carbohydrate and also tend to be rich in many other nutrients like vitamins and minerals. You should choose wholegrain varieties as this will help manage steady blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer.

 

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