Nutrition 101 Quiz: Fundamentals of Healthy Living

Understanding the principles of the Atkins Advantage® is a great starting point--but making sure you're applying them to your life and enjoying the payoffs in increased health and energy is even better! This two-lesson course will help you determine how well you're doing following the Atkins Advantage principles by asking yourself some simple, self-test questions. You'll also learn why each principle matters and how following it will enhance your health and energy levels. You'll get proactive suggestions to help you improve your results, if needed, and discover how the Atkins Advantage principles help you achieve your goals

The Atkins Advantage for Health and Energy
The principles of the Atkins Advantage are truly principles for life. Not only are they principles you'll want to follow for a lifetime of health and energy; following these principles will improve the quality of your life every day:

High protein
No trans fats
Vitamins and minerals
Low sugar
High fiber
Low-glycemic
Our purpose here is to help you understand how these principles can be applied day to day, every day, and to make sure you have all the knowledge you need to get maximum benefit from these principles as you go about your life.

Before we get started, a brief word about measurements. As with most scientific data, measurements for dietary components are normally given using the metric system: grams and kilograms for weight, and milliliters and liters for fluids. If you're not comfortable with the metric system, use this quick and easy converter for grams to ounces and fluid ounces to milliliters. To give you an idea, 100 grams equals one-tenth of a kilogram, which equals 3.53 ounces. And 100 milliliters equals one-tenth of a liter, which equals 3.38 fluid ounces.

Now, let's get started!

Protein is the basic building material for our bodies. It is absolutely essential for life, and our bodies need sufficient amounts of quality proteins for growth and health. Protein has been shown in dozens of studies to increase both metabolism and satiety. In addition to being a natural appetite suppressor, it raises the rate at which your body burns calories. Protein also provides you with the amino acids needed to build strong bones, muscles and other body chemicals.

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions Yes or No:

Do you consider yourself more active than the average person?
Do you know how to calculate your daily protein requirement?
Do you eat tend to eat protein at only one or two meals a day?
Do you eat high-quality protein from a variety of sources?
Now, let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: If you answered "Yes" to this question, your protein requirement is going to be higher than the average person. Depending on your activity level and age, it may much higher. If you work out at medium intensity, your requirement goes up to0.6 to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight, and at a high-intensity exercise level, your need rises 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Question 2: If you answered "No" to this question, here are some formulas you can use. Typically, many nutritionists suggest 0.5 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you'd need a minimum of 75 grams of protein daily. That's about 3 ounces of protein a day.

That doesn't sound like much, but wait. According to the USDA, an average cut of beef (a composite of all cuts) consists of about 50 percent water, 25 percent protein and 25 percent fat. So to get your minimum daily protein, you would need nearly 10.5 ounces of beef.

And if you answered "Yes" to Question 1, using the same USDA percentages and a 150 pound body weight, you will need 90 to 112. 5 grams of protein (just over 12. 5 to 16 ounces of beef) at a medium intensity level workout. At a high intensity level, that figure goes up to 150 to 180 grams of protein. That's 21 to 25 ounces of beef!

The protein percentage from different sources of food varies, of course. The average amount of protein in the edible portion of a whole chicken is just under 27 percent, for example.

Assuming that your activity level is higher than average, you will need more--possibly twice as much. And if you're really into exercise or other physical activities, if you have a muscular build, if you're a nursing mother, or if you're dealing with a lot of stress, you may need even more than that. And since, as we age, our ability to utilize protein becomes less efficient, older people may need as much as 15 percent more protein than they did when they were younger.

You can check the protein content of any edible product online at the USDA Web site, and you can download software for your PDA or Windows computer so you can search the database without even being online.

Question 3: If you answered "No" to this question, good for you! Because your body can't store dietary protein, you should be eating protein throughout the day for maximum energy. Atkins guidelines call for at least six ounces (uncooked weight) of protein with each meal, and it's important that you spread your protein intake as evenly throughout the day as possible, rather than, say, eating a huge T-bone steak for dinner as your only source of protein for the day.

Question 4: Even if you answered "Yes" to this question, are you absolutely sure you know all your options? Sure, there's meat, poultry and seafood, but have you also considered:

Tofu: This versatile food has 7. 4 percent protein.
Eggs: A hen's egg is almost 13 percent protein.
Cheese: Cheddar cheese is typically nearly 25 percent protein.
Yogurt: Plain yogurt has 8 to 12 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving.
Legumes: As an example, lima beans are nearly 8 percent protein.
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are valuable sources of protein, and they're handy if you're on the go.
Of course, you can always count on Atkins products to supply you with healthy amounts of high-quality protein. When you need a quick, delicious source of supplemental protein, Atkins Advantage products are right there for you.

When you consider non-meat sources of protein, it's important to recognize that what we call "protein" is actually a collection of different amino acids. Our bodies can use some of them as is, but others only furnish part of the material we need, and must be matched with other amino acids to provide a complete protein supply. Animal and dairy products are both sources of high-quality protein, along with some vegetables, soybeans, and nuts and seeds.

To learn more about the effects of protein and physical activity, read this study.

Next Up
Test yourself on your understanding of trans fats.
Even though you're probably already aware of the new labeling laws and may have a good idea what's behind them, this is important, so let's briefly review your working knowledge of trans fats.

Trans fats, also referred to as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, are man-made fats. Basically, they're vegetable oils that have been chemically modified so they remain solid at room temperature. That makes them handy for products like shortening and margarine, and it gives products a longer shelf life.

Unfortunately, trans fats also clog arteries and have been positively linked to all sorts of diseases of the circulatory system and even heart attacks.

To learn more about the known dangers of trans fats, read these Atkins Research Library articles.

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions either Yes or No:

Are you familiar with the new FDA regulations about trans fats and food labeling?
Do you still have any trans fats around the house?
Do you know how to identify products that contain trans fats, and do you know, in general, the kinds of foods to be wary of?
Do you know what your alternatives to trans fats are?
Now, let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: Effective January 1, 2006 the Nutrition Facts Label of all packaged foods must list trans fat information. But there's a catch--even with the new rule changes for the Nutrition Facts Label, manufacturers can still list "zero" under trans fats if there is less than half a gram per serving of the food. They can also make a "zero trans fats" claim on the label if a serving size contains a half gram or less. This is why you must read the ingredients list to determine if the product contains any trans fat. Look for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the list of ingredients

The Nutrition Facts Label will not tell you the full story regarding trans fats.

Question 2: We hope, for the sake of the health of your family and yourself, that your answer was a resounding "NO!" But if it wasn't, now is the time to hunt through your pantry and refrigerator and dispose of everything you still have that contains trans fats. You might think it expensive to throw away food, but when you consider the negative health impacts of trans fat you should view it as an investment in good health.

Question 3: Certainly you know to check the Nutrition Facts panel on any packaged food, because trans fats must be listed if they're in the product. Unless, as we mentioned above, the amount per serving is less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, in which case it can be rounded down to zero. That might not seem like a big deal, but if the serving size by which the measurement was taken has been set deliberately and unrealistically low in order to get the trans fat content below 0. 5 grams, it can be a very real problem. Since, according to the Institute of Medicine, the upper dietary intake for trans fats should be zero, even less than a half-gram is still too much

To learn more, read " Trans Fats: Truth in Labeling."

Even though a sufficiently low amount can be shown on the Nutrition Facts panel as zero, the only sure way to know is check the list of ingredients and watch out for "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oils of any kind. That's the only way to be sure that zero on the Nutrition Facts panel also means zero in the product.

You should be especially careful with packaged baked goods, butter substitutes, semi-dairy products like whipped cream substitutes, and solidified vegetable fats.

To stay safe when you're dining away from home, be sure to read " Avoiding Trans Fats While Eating Out."

Question 4: Vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, are much better for you than trans fats. For that matter, so is butter. Keep in mind, though, that even healthy fats can be rendered unhealthy by overheating or charring them, and when you deep fry foods, you're actually manufacturing small quantities of trans fats in your frying oil, so don't overuse it. Olive and coconut oil hold up better to heat than vegetables oils.

Next Up
Test your knowledge of vitamins and minerals.
At the same time that medical science has learned more about human nutritional needs, our culture has moved steadily away from the whole foods that have sustained us for thousands of years. Instead, many of us have embraced a wide range of packaged, processed and mass-marketed food products. To add insult to injury, as it were, even the nutrient levels of whole foods have been dropping, primarily as a result of the pressure toward higher-yielding, faster-growing crops. It's another example of bigger not necessarily being better, and some of the drops--like a 5 to 35 percent decline in some concentrations of vitamins and minerals--are alarming.

Learn more about the decline in nutrients in whole foods.

As a result, many of us justifiably feel we're not getting all the nutrients we need for maximum health. In addition to the growing interest in organically grown foods, which may offer enhanced health-promoting qualities, there's now a booming business in vitamins, minerals and other supplements. You can see it in the aisles of supermarkets, drugstores, natural food grocery stores and nutrition specialty stores.

How Much Do You Need, and Where Does It Come From?
The essential question is this: Based upon what you're eating, which supplements are still needed? For example, there are studies that indicate that antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamins C and E are instrumental in lowering the risk of a number of cancers.

Vitamin C has also been shown to reduce inflammation, which has been called "the silent killer" because long-term chronic inflammation is a component of every major degenerative disease--including diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's and heart disease.

Learn more about the anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C.

And amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, can come from meats and some vegetables, but you may not be getting enough of the right ones in your daily diet.

Learn more about all the ways that amino acids and other nutrients benefit your liver --which may be more important than you thought.

So, while some supplements are downright necessary, some may or may not be needed, depending on your lifestyle and eating habits. But even the best, most necessary, supplements won't do you any good if you don't use them properly.

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions either Yes or No:

Have you ever read the complete label on your multivitamin bottle?
Do you take all your vitamins and supplements in the morning?
Do you really understand why you take the supplements you take?
Do you know which whole foods have the nutrients your body needs?
Now let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: It's odd, but people who will closely scrutinize every Nutrition Facts label on every food product they buy, will just accept the vitamins and other supplements they take, based on what the front of the label says, and think, "Hey, it's a vitamin pill. The only thing I have to do is remember to take one once a day! " They don't know if it contains iron (under normal circumstances, you don't need more iron) or if they're at risk of osteoporosis by long-term overdosing on vitamin A. They don't know whether to take it with or without food, or with a full glass of water.

The point is that even though nearly all of us need supplements, we don't all need the same supplements in the same dosages; and every time we pop one down unthinkingly, we may not be doing ourselves any good, and may be doing harm.

In short, know what you're taking and how you should be taking it.

Learn more about the importance of supplements.

Question 2: If you answered "Yes" to this question, you may be wasting a good part of the pill you take. Water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B complex vitamins cannot be stored by the body, and as the day goes along, those that aren't used are eliminated. So to get the most benefit from those vitamins, it's important to take them in smaller doses throughout the day. Other supplements you may be taking may have similar requirements for maximum effectiveness.

Question 3: There aren't many people who can honestly answer "Yes" to this question. If your multivitamin contains lycopene, for example, do you know why it's in there, what it's supposed to do, whether you even need it or not, and whether the dosage is effective or not?

The point is that even though nearly all of us need supplements, we don't all need the same supplements in the same dosages; and every time we pop one down unthinkingly, we may not be doing ourselves any good, and may be doing harm.

Learn more about lycopene and other antioxidants: what they are and why they're vital to your health.

The key point here is to know what supplements you're taking as and why you're taking them, as well as when and how to take them.

Question 4: You cannot--and should not try to--get all your nutrients from a bottle. As many of them as possible should be coming from whole foods.

Here's a listing of some of the most necessary nutrients our bodies need, and some dietary sources for them:

Nutrient  What it does  Primary sources 
Vitamin A  Promotes good vision; maintains healthy skin, cells and tissues  Orange or yellow vegetables and fruits and dark green leafy vegetables 
Vitamin C  Promotes healthy gums and teeth; necessary for the production of collagen; is a potent antioxidant  Citrus, berries, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, 
Vitamin E  An antioxidant which keeps cells and tissues healthy  Vegetable oil, nuts, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables 
Vitamin K  Essential for normal blood clotting  Dark green leafy vegetables, dairy products 
Vitamin B1  Necessary for heart function and healthy nervous system  Whole grains, legumes, pork, seeds/nuts 
Vitamin B2  Essential for growth and production of red blood cells  Dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, enriched grain products, dark green leafy vegetables 
Vitamin B3  Helps to maintain healthy skin, nerves and digestive system  Meat, poultry, fish, nuts, dairy products; peanut butter 
Vitamin B6  Aids in protein metabolism and helps to maintain brain and nervous system functions  Whole grains, legumes (beans), meat, poultry, fish, nuts 
Vitamin B12  Necessary for development of red blood cells and normal nervous system function  Meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs 
Phosphorus  Necessary for energy metabolism and for healthy bones and teeth  Fish, meat, poultry, milk, cereal products 
Chromium  Maintains normal metabolism and is important in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats  Liver, yeast, cheese, wheat germ, mushrooms, seafood 

 

Moving Forward
That's it for this lesson. We've reviewed the first three principles of the Atkins Advantage, and you've done some self-testing to see if you understand the key points about them. In the next lesson, we'll cover three more principles: low sugar, high fiber and low-glycemic.

Before moving on, be sure to come to the Discussion Groups and the Message Board to meet your instructors and online community members and feel frre to discuss what you've learned.

In the last lesson, you measured your progress in terms of high protein, no trans fats, and vitamins and minerals. Now it's time to take a closer look at three more important principles: high fiber, low sugar and low-glycemic.

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions either Yes or No.

Do you know what your daily fiber requirement is, and are you meeting it?
Do you understand the differences between soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and dietary fiber?
Do you know how to get supplementary fiber into your daily nutritional intake?
Now, let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: If you answered "Yes," then good for you, as long as you're meeting that amount. If you answered "No," the Institute of Medicine says that women should get 25 grams of fiber a day and men 35 grams a day. You can find out how much fiber is in any food by checking the Nutrition Facts panel. For whole foods you can either use the Carb Counter on this site or one of the USDA sources you learned about in Lesson 1. Either way, it's important that you know how much fiber you're consuming every day, to be sure you're getting enough.

Learn more about the benefits of fiber.

Question 2: A lot of people are confused by this, but it's really very simple once you understand what's going on. Some Nutrition Facts panels list both dietary fiber and soluble fiber. In fact, there are two kinds of fiber--soluble and insoluble--and they both fall into the category of "dietary fiber." Both types of fiber are necessary, and they do different things, so let's take a look at each of them.

Soluble fiber forms a gel when it's in the presence of a liquid like water. Soluble fiber also:
Binds with fatty acids
Slows the time it takes for your stomach to empty, thus helping to you to keep satisfied for longer periods of time and slowing down the release of sugar into the bloodstream. This is especially beneficial for diabetics
Lowers total and LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels, helping to prevent heart attacks
Insoluble fiber doesn't change form in the presence of liquids like soluble fiber does. What it does do is:
Help move bulk through the intestines, preventing constipation
Keeps an optimal acidity level in the intestines which prevents microbes from producing cancer substances; thus helping to prevent colon cancer
Helps remove toxic wastes through your system more quickly
Fiber comes exclusively from vegetable matter, and nearly all vegetables contain both types of fiber, so the good news is that you don't need to worry too much about balancing the two as long as you eat your veggies.

Question 3: Of course, you can always eat more veggies to get more fiber, but there are other options, too. Fiber supplements like BeneFiber (soluble) and Metamucil (insoluble) work well. Just be sure to get a sugar-free preparation.

Or you can take psyllium husks or flax seed meal. The flax seed meal is especially helpful when made into crackers or baked into muffins because they taste so good that you'll have no problem meeting your daily fiber needs. And flax contains both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Atkins Advantage products all have a remarkably high percentage of high-quality fiber, which makes them even better as snacks or occasional meal replacements.

But no matter how you get it, sufficient fiber in your diet is important--perhaps critical--so don't overlook it.

To get off to a great start every day, learn about some great ways to begin your day with fiber.

Next Up
Keeping your sugar intake under control.
Sugar is responsible for health problems from tooth decay to huge increases in diabetes and obesity, but it's not inherently evil. Sugar is easy to overconsume, too, because our desire for sweetness is both physical and psychological. And excess sugars, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, appear in just about every kind of prepared food you can imagine.

For a normal, active person, a controlled and moderate amount of sugar is not harmful. The key words here are "controlled" and "moderate."

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions either Yes or No.

Do you understand the difference between sugar and sugar alcohols?
Do you know how to spot excess sugars in food products?
Now, let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: The name "sugar alcohol" leads to more confusion than just about any other food product term. Sugar alcohols are made by modifying sugar molecules in such a way that the body doesn't recognize them as sugar. As a result, they aren't metabolized and generally don't affect your blood sugar level unless they are cooked and consumed in large doses.

They're called "alcohols" because the modification of the sugar molecule involves adding an oxygen-hydrogen pair of atoms onto the sugar molecule, but the label "alcohol" is only of interest to organic chemists. Sugar alcohols don't have any of the properties of beverage alcohol! They can affect some people, however, especially in large quantities, and can cause distress of the lower digestive tract, including gas, cramps, and diarrhea. Sugar alcohols are clearly noted on Nutrition Facts panels, so keep an eye on your daily intake. No one should plan to consume more than 20 grams of sugar alcohols in a day.

Question 3: Sugar can show up in an ingredients list under a number of aliases: high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, maple syrup, honey, raw sugar, unrefined sugar and molasses, just to name some of them. It doesn't matter. It's all sugar and you should avoid products that contain high amounts of it.

Next Up
We'll take a look at low-glycemic foods 
First, let's define what we're talking about here. "Glycemic" simply means "relating to sugar." It's used in the context of how much a given food will raise your blood sugar level. High-glycemic foods like table sugar, white bread and white potatoes can cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar level, causing your body to release more insulin to deal with it. Then when your blood sugar level plummets because of the overproduction of insulin, your system screams for more sugar, and the whole ride starts over again.

Measure Your Progress
Answer each of these questions either Yes or No.

Do the terms, "glycemic index" and "glycemic load" mean anything to you?
Do you understand, or have you ever experienced, the impact of a high-glycemic food?
Do you know what to look for when you're shopping for low-glycemic foods?
Now, let's discuss the questions and your answers.

Question 1: If you're unfamiliar with these terms, they're both ways of determining the glycemic level of foods. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but the glycemic load is a better guide to use. To find out why, read "The Low-Glycemic Approach to Healthy Eating."

Question 2: If you've ever experienced a glycemic overload and answered "Yes" to this question, you probably don't need any more convincing. Caused by the plunge in blood sugar level after a fast peak, the symptoms can include weakness, disorientation, dizziness, a bloated feeling, extreme tiredness and headache. It can feel as bad or worse than a hangover.

Question 3: Once you know what to look for, choosing low-glycemic foods is as much a matter of common sense as anything else. In general, low-glycemic foods are either whole foods or minimally processed. They are, by nature, low in starches and natural sugars. They are also high in fiber content, which makes sense if you remember the advantage of fiber we mentioned earlier--that fiber slows the release of sugar into the blood stream.

Put all that together, and you find that low-glycemic foods start with the dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens and kale and include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Working up from there, you find some nuts and seeds, berries like strawberries and blueberries, and farther up the scale toward the moderate range, whole-grain products like bulgur, hominy, oatmeal, wild rice and wheat germ.

It's good to remember that low-glycemic foods generally offer other significant benefits in addition to their low blood sugar impact. Many of them are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and even antioxidants and phytochemicals. Bulgur, for example, is an excellent source of insoluble fiber and provides protein, niacin and several important minerals. Wild rice, which is actually a grass seed rather than a kind of rice, is an excellent source of zinc, niacin and folate, and it provides twice the protein that other varieties of rice do. The cruciferous vegetables are high in phytochemicals. All the more reason to seek out low-glycemic foods!

To learn more about the advantages of a low glycemic regimen, read both parts of "The Importance of Low Glycemic Impact."

Next Up
Grading yourself.

That wraps up the course. We've looked at the principles of the Atkins Advantage, reviewed their importance, and you've tested yourself to check your understanding of them.

Let's review them briefly:

The Protein Principle: Now you know how to determine how much you need, where to find it and whether you're getting enough right now
The No Trans Fats Principle: You've learned what trans fats are, how to avoid them and what to use instead.
The Vitamins and Minerals Principle: You now have a better idea of which supplements you need and how to use them for maximum effectiveness.
The Fiber Principle: You now know how much fiber you should be getting every day, why fiber is important and how to work it into your daily diet.
The Low Sugar Principle: You know why avoiding sugar is important and how to apply this principle in your daily life.
The Low-Glycemic Principle: You understand what this principle means, why it matters and what to look for when you're shopping for low-glycemic foods
So regardless of how you did on the self-tests, if you understand the key points now, give yourself an "A!"

Next, please do the assignment and take the quiz, then meet us all over at the Message Board to talk about what you've learned.

Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this Site is intended to provide health care advice. Should you have any health care-related questions, please call or see your physician or other health care provider. Consult your physician or health care provider before beginning the Atkins Diet as you would any other weight loss or weight maintenance program. The weight loss phases of the Atkins Diet should not be used by persons on dialysis or by pregnant or nursing women.