OVERVIEW of Diet and Food-Content

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INTRODUCTION to diet and food-content

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This web page provides access to TABLES of the content of foods --- a table per food category (fruits, meats-and-eggs, vegetables, etc.). Also, this page provides some food-planning guidelines based on those tables.

The food-content data in these tables are essentially the numbers presented in the "Nutrition Facts" labels on food products.

Those labels provide a summary of 3 main food components: carbohydrates, fats, proteins.

And the labels provide some breakdown within those 3 categories. Example: "fiber" and "sugars" within "total carbohydrates".

Note that there are other food components, like vitamins and minerals and "anti-oxidants" and enzymes and other "co-factors" --- but the "Nutrition Facts" do not attempt to give a total weight of these categories.

That would be difficult to do, because some of these "micro-Nutrient" categories over-lap.

Furthermore, there are undoubtedly some beneficial co-factors that are not discovered yet.

Besides that, the weight of these micro-nutrient components is very small compared to the weight of carbohydrates plus fats plus proteins.

There is no doubt that vitamins-minerals-etc are very important to health --- just as water is. But the tables in these pages are oriented toward measuring the food components that contribute the most weight to the formation and maintenance of fat (and other tissues and cells) in the body.

With that purpose in mind, there is not much utility in providing a total weight of vitamins or minerals or other categories of micro-nutrients.

Fortunately, by picking healthy foods from these tables, you will almost certainly get essentially all the micro-nutrients that you need each day. In fact, you are much better off getting your micro-nutrients from these foods than from pills. There are many phytonutrients (plant nutrients) in vegetables and fruits that you will not find in pills.


On water content and fruits, sugars, starches:     (and why dieters fail)

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Most cells --- of animals or plants --- are about 70 to 85 percent water. So most foods --- like fruits, vegetables, meats --- are about 75 % water.

An exception is dried fruits. Many fruits contain about 8 to 15% sugar (mostly fructose). But when dried, these fruits contain about 30 to 45% sugar --- which is about as "sugar-intense" as the "junkier" breakfast cereals.

This high sugar content of fruits (especially dried fruits) is why most diets suggest limiting fruits during an initial weight-loss phase. Fruits can be added back to the diet as one reaches a maintenance phase. But even in the maintenance phase, one should take into account all sources of sugars (and starches) in the diet.

Note that starches are chains of glucose ("blood sugar") molecules, and starches are quickly broken down into glucose (sugar) during digestion.

Failure to reduce sugars-and-starches ("net-carbs") in one's daily diet --- even if one drastically reduces fats in the diet --- is why most dieters eventually fail.

    NOTE: The sugar industry must be happy that most articles, in various media, that urge people to improve their diets, say to reduce 'net-carbs' (a rather hazy term) rather than reduce 'sugars'. In fact, it becomes clear, after reading articles in many food and health magazines, that the sugar industry (individual companies and their lobbying organizations) are putting pressure on the magazines to remove direct references to terms like 'sugar', especially when a reference is suggesting people reduce their consumption of sugar. Since a preponderance of ads in these magazines are from the sugar industry, the magazines have little choice but to comply.

    In fact, some 'health' articles even insert comments to increase consumption of sugars. One particularly offensive case was in an article promoting the healthful benefits of chocolate. Toward the end of the article, it suggested that by eating M-and-M's (sugar-coated milk-chocolate --- the chocolate with the highest percentage of sugar, over 50%), you are improving your health. It is quite likely that the author was in the employ of the sugar industry --- or that the article was submitted for final editing by an agent of the sugar industry.

Most processed foods nowadays are "loaded" with sugars and starches.

And so-called "low fat" processed foods are usually loaded with sugar(s), in order to make the food appealing after fats are reduced.

[Take a look around a "convenience" store. About the only healthy food that you can find are packages of nuts or seeds --- and, sometimes, bottles of distilled or well-filtered water. Almost all the "foods" are sugar-and-starch heavy. Refined flour products are almost pure starch. All the fiber and wheat-germ --- the really healthful parts of the flour --- have been removed to make a product that sticks together easily. That stickiness makes for great 'gut-bombs' in your alimentary canal.]

Back to fruit. Determine an appropriate amount of fruit to add to the diet on a given day, according to the amount of other sugars and starches being consumed that day.

Note that fruits contain a good natural source of fiber and are a source of many vitamins and minerals and other "co-factors". So fruits, in spite of their fructose content, have many redeeming qualities and are important to good health.

The classic example is the discovery that lemons could prevent scurvy --- which was decimating and killing sailors who were at sea for long periods of time.

When you are choosing between foods, consider their sugars (which should be considered to be "pre-fats") --- and consider starches (pre-sugars = pre-pre-fats) --- as well as "outright" fats. Also consider protein and fiber.

    NOTE: It is really criminal that the U.S. medical establishment (especially 'leadership' of the AMA = American Medical Association) has been pushing for reduction of fats in the U.S. diet, for about 50 years now (circa 1960 to 2010) while minimizing the effect of sugars (which are the molecular basis for the bulk of the fat being created in U.S. bodies).

    One sign of this 'criminal' leadership is the emphasis on reducing cholesterol and sweeping under the rug the fact that triglycerides are actually a better measure of cardiovascular risk and other un-health risks.

It is preferable to choose fruits over sugary-starchy items that have essentially no redeeming nutrients, such as "junk foods". Choose fruits over sweet-rolls, candies, cookies, donuts, cakes, pies, etc. And it's better to choose fruits over mostly-starchy items such as french fries, baked potatoes, potato chips, rice, and pasta. The latter have relatively few redeeming micro-nutrients.


On "intensity" of sugarS and starches ("net-carbs"):

(and the uniqueness of the food content tables below)

<Go to Table of Contents, above. >

The "food content" tables presented below differ from those you see in "gram counter" and "calorie counter" books, because these tables also include PERCENTs (like percent-SUGARS) --- to give an immediate idea of the "intensity" of the component (like sugarS --- and starches --- and fats --- and proteins) in the food.

For example, when a "Nutrition Facts" label tells you that ketchup (Heinz, Hunt, and most other mass-produced brands) contains 4 grams of sugarS in a tablespoon --- that statement does not have much meaning. (A gram is about the weight of a typical paper clip.)

But, because a tablespoon of ketchup weighs about 15 to 16 grams, that means that the ketchup is about 25% sugarS. So, if you like to slather your burger (and fries) with a lot of ketchup, this can add up to quite a "hit" of sugarS.

    Note: SugarS can mean a combination of various kinds of sugars, under various names. Examples:
    • high fructose corn syrup
    • sucrose [ = glucose + fructose, a 'di-saccharide' = 2 sugar molecules bound together ]
    • dextrose [ = glucose ]
    • fructose
    • galactose
    • glucose
    • lactose
    • maltose
    • maltodextrin [manufactured from maltose & dextrose ]
    • corn syrup
    • cane sugar
    • honey,
    • etc. etc.
    (The first two sugars are the most commonly used sugars in foods, from about 1970 onward.)

Another PERCENT example: Ghirardelli Chocolate squares (Dark Chocolate with White Mint filling) are labelled as having 26 grams of sugarS per 3 squares of chocolate. Not very meaningful, is it? It turns out that this is about 55% sugarS in that chocolate "food". And this is "relatively benign" DARK chocolate. The sugar percentages are usually much higher in MILK chocolates.

Did you realize the "intensity" of sugarS is this high in ketchup and chocolates? You may not eat much ketchup or chocolates --- but when taken in combination with all the other "foods" that are loaded with sugarS --- like "soda pop", salad dressings, cookies, cakes, pies, ice creams --- you can see that the typical U.S. citizen is eating a heck of a lot of sugarS.


On Starches :

The human liver breaks starches (chains of glucose molecules) into "blood sugar" (glucose) molecules, and the liver converts glucose to triglycerides, which circulate in the blood and are stored in fat cells. Thus the triglycerides in your blood are a good indicator of "fatiness".

Note, then, that starches are like "pre-sugars" --- and sugarS are "pre-fats". So starches also are "pre-fats". Hence ...

When sugar-y "foods" are eaten in combination with all the "foods" that are loaded with starches --- examples: sweet rolls, donuts, bisquits, french fries, chips, pizzas, pasta, and sandwich buns (most of the "foods" in "convenience" stores and fast food establishments and hotel/motel breakfasts) --- then the typical U.S. citizen is eating a heck of a lot of fat in the form of sugarS (pre-fats) and starches (pre-sugars = pre-pre-fats) --- not to mention eating actual fats.

Note:
The "total carbs" in a food generally has 3 main components, shown on a "Nutrition Facts" label:

  • fiber(s)

  • sugar(s)

  • the remainder (which is usually 100% starches, but in rare cases --- such as some "manufactured" diet bars --- the remainder can include "sugar alcohols" or other such non-starch, non-sugar, non-fiber components)

The point here is that "total carbs" typically have 3 main components: sugars, starches, fiber.

On a "Nutrition Facts" label, when nutritionists subtract the "fiber" weight from the "total carbs" weight, they get what is called the "net carbs" weight.

So, in most cases, "net carbs" are exactly equal to the weight of sugars plus starches --- which are the two components of carbohydrates that contribute to high blood sugar, and high triglycerides in the blood --- and eventually to excess body fat.

Thus, the "net carbs", in "gram counter" books, are meant to represent the carbs that can contribute to weight-gain (namely, fat-gain) --- and contribute to unhealthy blood conditions such as high-triglycerides and high-blood-glucose levels.


The food-content tables (below) :

The tables in these pages are meant to elucidate BOTH the "pre-fats" (sugarS and starches) and the actual fats in products.

The tables intend to "elucidate" by presenting the food components both in grams and in percents.

The grams are of use to dieters trying to keep their consumption below a certain number of grams per day. BUT the percents give a better idea of the relative "intensity" of sugars, starches, fats, and proteins in the products.

These "intensity" percents give us a better idea (than grams do) of which products we might want to avoid --- or, at least, ingest in smaller amounts or less frequently.

And the "intensity" percents can help when deciding how to "mix" various products in complementary ways.

Note that it is difficult to compare foods based on the measurements given in the "Nutrition Facts" labels --- mostly because so many different serving-sizes are used. By computing the percents, we have a better basis for the comparison of foods and their relative contributions to our need for the four macro-components: Proteins, Fats, NetCarbs (the Pre-Fats), and Fibers.

The food tables in these pages contain some further discussions --- beyond the general discussion above --- pertinent to the particular food category of the table.


An overview of the food-categories :   (of the tables below)

In the vegetables category, (white) potatoes and sweet potatoes (orange potatoes) are the "badest guys" in the vegetable category --- based on content of net-carbs (starches and sugars = pre-pre-fats and pre-fats). These are "bad guys" that you would want to avoid when trying to lose weight and/or reduce symptoms of diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

The next vegetables, in net-carbs (starches and sugars), are corn, carrots, and peas.

Much lower in net-carbs are vegetables like broccoli and spinach and tomatoes and peppers.

Unlike high-carb (high-sugar) "milk" chocolates and "soft" drinks --- starchy vegetables like corn, carrots, and peas have many redeeming qualities --- like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and various other "co-factors" (many of whose benefits are not fully understood yet).

And corn, carrots, and peas are much less "intense" in terms of sugar content than are "milk" chocolates and "soft drinks".

Hence, although corn, carrots, and peas are sometimes 'painted' as vegetable bad-guys, they are certainly much more desirable as a food than milk chocolates and soft drinks --- and much more desirable than potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Among the vegetables, it is a good idea to avoid potatoes, which are super-starchy. But, when you get bored with broccoli and spinach, remember to try carrots, peas, and corn (even though the latter is the manufacturing basis of the literally dangerous "high fructose corn syrup"). They have more nutrients and fewer net-carbs than potatoes (and corn syrup).


On Setting Diet Targets:

<Go to Table of Contents, above. >

Besides tables of "food content" (further below), we also include a pair of Weight-versus-Height tables (for Men and for Women), here.

These Body-Weight-versus-Height tables are helpful in determining a body-weight target --- and thus a weight-loss target --- when the body-weight target is compared against your current weight.

Then, once you have determined your (life-time) body-weight target --- and your weight-loss target --- from a Body-Weight-versus-Height table, you can determine target grams of Protein, Fats, NetCarbs (pre-Fats), and Fiber per day --- to achieve and maintain your target body-weight --- and to maintain your health.

Here is a web page to help you set a daily target for each of those four food components --- Protein, Fats, NetCarbs (pre-Fats), and Fiber.

The grams of each of those components --- Protein, Fat, NetCarbs (sugars-plus-starches), and Fiber --- are listed in the "Nutrition Facts" label of foods packaged in the United States. So it is feasible to verify (if only occasionally) whether you are meeting, and not exceeding, your daily-gram-targets of these food-components.

For a 150 pound person who gets a moderate amount of exercise, the targets will be in the neighborhood of 80, 80, 80, and 40 grams of Protein, Fat, NetCarbs, and Fiber, respectively.

Say you have 3 meals a day and say you try to equalize the Proteins-Fats-NetCarbs-Fibers (Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib) amounts that you have at each meal. This would mean you are aiming to consume roughly 27-27-27-13 grams of Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib at each meal.


Food Content Tables:

<Go to Table of Contents, above. >

Before presenting tables of "food content", we present, here, tables of Weight and Volume Conversion-Factors, where the units-of-measure are those typically used for measuring food-serving sizes.

The Conversion-Factor tables are useful when determining percents of food components --- for example, for converting "serving size" --- in ounces, tablespoons, or cups --- into grams, in order to compare ingredients, like sugarS-grams, to serving size (in grams).

The following food-content table-pages include both the GRAMS-per-serving and the PERCENTAGE, for each of the food components (Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib).

The PERCENTAGE can be a lot more helpful since the serving size for a 90-pound woman is quite different from the serving size of a 330-pound man. For either person, the PERCENTAGE figure is probably going to be much more immediately meaningful in order to determine whether to avoid or moderate consumption of a given food.

These FOOD-CONTENT TABLES-PAGES are in a preliminary state. They need some tender loving care and thus are to be considered still 'under construction'.

One reason for presenting these tables on separate web pages is to provide for printout of each of these tables, separately.

A good source for "Nutrition Facts", other than actual package labels, is/was the web site http://www.nutritiondata.com (in 2006). In 2006, you could use the "Food Search" button at the top of each page.

In 2012, you could access a nutritiondata.com Food Search widget. Enter a food name, like 'potato', to see its nutrition facts.

A major part of that data is based, in turn, on U.S. Department of Agriculture data in the USDA Nutrient Database of the National Agriculture Library. This data includes detail data on mineral, vitamin, fatty acid, and amino acid content.


Food Planning Examples:

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Ideally, it would be nice to add a calculator to these pages --- to add up the grams of Proteins-Fats-NetCarbs-Fibers for you as you choose foods and daily (or meal-time) amounts of those foods. This ideal calculator would allow the amounts of each food serving to be specified in convenient units --- tablespoons, cups, ounces, grams, or fist-fulls, for example.

This calculator would give an idea of the combinations of foods (healthy foods) that meet your Proteins-Fats-NetCarbs-Fibers daily (or meal-time) target-grams.

However, such a table would require a huge database of complete food content data. Besides the enormous effort of compiling such a database (which would never be complete --- given the plethora of processed/manufactured foods being added almost daily), there would be a major programming effort in implementing such a facility in a highly user-friendly way.

SO ... in place of such a calculator-and-database utility, I will put here some examples of food planning --- not specific recipes, but, instead, some examples of combinations of basic foods that would provide nice "target" combinations of proteins, fats, net-carbs, and fiber.

Say we are aiming for a fairly typical combination of these nutrients --- roughly 27-27-27-13 grams of Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib at each meal --- a "ball-park" target that we noted above.

To start with, note that soybeans are a fairly well-balanced food in terms of these nutrients. For example, soy nuts (roasted & unsalted) are 39%-21%-25%-7% Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib --- and none of the net-carbs are in the form of sugars.

So if you ate about 100 grams of soy nuts for a meal, you would come reasonably close to the 27-27-27-13 target above. You would be a little heavy on the protein. Far better this than heavy in net-carbs (sugars plus starches) or in fats.

Of course, this is a very plain meal. Let's go a step further and look at a two-food meal. Note that the profile of nuts (like peanuts) is 25%-50%-14%-7% Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib (rather heavy in fats) and the profile of green peas is almost the opposite (low in fats, but relatively high in the other 3 components) --- 4%-0%-11%-2% Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib.

Hence a mixture of about 50 grams of peanuts and about 170 grams of peas would come reasonably close to the target of 27-27-27-13 grams of Pro-Fat-NetC-Fib at each meal.

50 grams of peanuts is about 1/3 cup or about 1/3 the size of an average adult fist. 170 grams of peas is about 1 1/3 cups of peas, or about 1 and 1/3 the average adult fist.

Similar combinations to consider (veggie and nuts):

  • brussel sprouts and walnuts
  • spinach and almonds
  • broccoli and cashews
  • lima beans and pecans

And you can switch these combinations around. Given about 6 different vegetables and 5 different nuts, that you would find acceptable, there are 6 x 5 = 30 vegetable-and-nut combinations that you can make. So people who say that food is boring if you leave out cookies, cakes, donuts, and other processed junk foods are certainly not using their imagination. And when they jetison the high-starch-and-sugar diet, they will find that food combinations such as these are delicious --- especially if you drizzle on some olive oil and sprinkle on some salt, to heighten the flavor.

Of course, if you had a sugar-y soft drink with this meal --- that would upset this "applecart" by over-weighing it in the direction of "net-carbs" --- and nutrient-empty net-carbs at that. A better choice of drink would be (distilled or well-filtered) water or a tea. Add a squeeze of lemon for flavoring and healthy micro-nutrients.

This section is under construction. It is the intent to provide a little more numeric detail in the future. And it is intended that this section be extended somewhat in the future.


Start Now, for weight-loss & health (a quick-start food plan):

<Go to Table of Contents, above. >

NOTE: You do NOT have to go to a detailed level of gram (or calorie or whatever) counting to achieve weight loss and "powerful health".

Simply choose foods with a relatively low percentage of 'net-carbs' = sugars-plus-starches = pre-fats.

A typical indicator of too much body fat (and high sugar-and-starch consumption) is high triglycerides in your annual blood test.

YOUR GOAL: Get those triglycerides below 100 mg/dl ! It's easily done.

  • REPLACE soda pop and other sugary drinks with pure water and juices, or a mix thereof.

  • REPLACE 'junk food' (cookies, candies, pies, cakes, donuts, and other such sugar-and-highly-processed-flour foods) with nuts (peanut, pecan, cashew, almond) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin) --- or with fruit and/or veggie snacks (example: diced carrots and raisins).

  • REPLACE 50%-sugar breakfast cereals with less-than-25%-sugar breakfast cereals. (One technique: Mix very-low sugar cereals with higher sugar cereals.)

  • REPLACE potatoes (fries, chips, mashed, baked), i.e. high-starch vegetables --- with healthy vegetables, say salads.

  • Reduce intake of ice cream. Try berries and skim milk as a replacement, for example.

  • Reduce intake of white bread, white rice, and pasta. For example, get hamburgers with lettuce wrap, instead of a bun. Tastes great!

    Also, eat pizza no more than once a week.

  • Avoid and replace unhealthy, hydrogenated oils. Use healthy oils, like olive oil.

  • Read labels! "Nutrition Facts" and "Ingredients". Then

    • Avoid products where sugar (in any form) or corn syrup is among the first 3 ingredients.

    • Avoid "hydrogenated" anything.

    • Reduce intake of high-starch-and-sugar products, products in which "net carb" grams ( = "total carb" grams minus "dietary fiber" grams ) is a relatively high percent of the serving weight --- say, more than 10% of hydrated foods, and more than 50% of de-hydrated foods.

    This would result in reducing intake of processed foods that contain a high proportion of grain products, a high-proportion of sugars and fruits, and a high proportion of starchy/sugary vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and beets.

    Replace eating these high-starch-and-sugar processed foods by choosing to eat relatively low-starch-and-sugar vegetables --- and protein-containing foods such as peas, beans, nuts, and seeds.

If this sounds like your eating habits already, then I would bet that your weight is well within the recommended range for your height.

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Page created 2006 May 30. Changed formatting 2012 May 03.