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How can I keep my digestive system healthy?

Every person's taste in foods is unique. One person may like jalapeño peppers and green chilies. Another may prefer goat's milk, calves' liver, and cabbage. And someone else may prefer simply cooked meat and potatoes. The challenge lies in finding those healthy foods that make you feel and function at your best. The first step is building an awareness of how you feel in response to what you eat. The next step in this quest is developing a healthy, well-balanced diet that tastes good, fits your budget, and uses the foods that are available.

What Do You Think?

Is a taste for particular foods something you are born with or something you acquire from your family and culture?

A big part of helping your body develop during puberty, staying healthy through adolescence, and being healthy throughout your life is learning to take care of yourself. Diet and nutrition play an important role in keeping you healthy. But they are not the only factors that you control that help keep you functioning at your best. The factors that you control are diet and nutrition, rest, stress, and exercise. Each of these components works together with the others to determine how you feel each day. Once you start paying attention to them, you may realize how a change in these factors can affect your whole body including circulation and breathing.

Did You Know?

Water makes up about 60% of your total body weight. Your brain alone is 85% water. Water improves your digestion and circulation, helps the nervous system send messages around your body, helps regulate your temperature, and helps the body flush out bacteria and viruses. On an average day, you lose (through urination, perspiration, and breathing) about nine liters of water. Most doctors recommend drinking five or more 16-ounce glasses of noncaffeinated beverages (preferably water) every day.

You've learned a lot about digestion and nutrition. So let's turn to the other lifestyle factors and look at their role in keeping you healthy and happy.

Exercise

Getting regular exercise keeps your body strong. By making your major systems and organs (such as the heart, liver, and kidneys) work harder, you improve their strength and capacity. If these systems are stronger, they can fight disease better and work more efficiently when they are at rest. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 20-30 minutes of any aerobic exercise 3-5 times a week to help keep your body strong.

Your Target Heart-Rate Zone Not everyone's target zone is the same. To find your target heart-rate zone, try the following:

  1. Subtract your age from 220.
  2. Multiply this number by 60%. This is the low end of your zone.
  3. Multiply the number from Step 1 by 85%. This is the high end of your zone.
  4. Can you find the middle of your zone?

There are two kinds of cardiovascular exercise-aerobic and anaerobic. Anaerobic refers to exercising in the higher range of your heart-rate capacity. Anaerobic exercise refers to shorter bursts of intense physical activity, such as sprinting in athletic events or weight lifting. Anaerobic means “without oxygen” because the energy utilization during the intense burst of activity exceeds the available oxygen supply to the muscle, and an oxygen debt is incurred. Aerobic means “with oxygen” and refers to exercising in the middle range of your target heart-rate zone. If maintained for more than 20 minutes, aerobic exercise burns fat as its main source of energy while anaerobic exercise burns other food nutrients such as sugar. Aerobic activities such as swimming and basketball develop muscles, coordination, and heart efficiency. (See Mini Activity: Your Target Heart-Rate Zone for identifying your target heart-rate zone.)

Exercise also affects digestion. A mild walk after a meal can stimulate digestion by increasing blood flow around the body. Exercise also suppresses appetite, uses up calories (Cal), and can influence the kinds of foods you crave, as the body seeks to replace essential vitamins, minerals, and sources of energy.

How Much Sleep Do You Need? For two weeks (including two weekends), keep track of how much sleep you get by recording the times you fall asleep and the times you wake up. Note your physical and mental energy levels for each day, and draw some conclusions about the connection between sleep and performance.

Rest

No one completely understands why we sleep or exactly what happens when we sleep. But we do know that without sleep our body functions deteriorate. The brain and nervous system begin to function more slowly, the reflexes slow down, and you think less clearly. Also the immune system works less efficiently, so when you're run down or tired, you are more susceptible to illness. It is important to realize that when we cut back on our sleep, we develop a sleep debt that stays with us. Someone with a large sleep debt might fall asleep in class. Why is a sleep debt a problem for people who drive?

Sources of Stress What are some sources of stress for you? Work in small groups or individually to think about the things that create stress. Then think about ways of handling each kind of stress. In making your lists, consider the following.

  • Which causes are internal, or caused by the kind of person you are?
  • Which causes are caused by external circumstances?

Analyze your list to suggest ways to reduce stress during your daily activities.

Stress

What is stress? Stress is a response to your surroundings. You can show stress in many ways. Think about how you feel when you get really nervous or when you run very quickly. Your heart beats faster. You breathe harder. And your muscles tense. These responses prepare your body to respond quickly to danger. True, these reactions may not strike you as helpful during a pop quiz. But remember that our early ancestors had to be prepared to fight or flee from dangerous situations and these responses helped them do so.

In the short term, stress can be stimulating and exciting. A certain amount of stress before a musical performance can help you concentrate better and play or sing better. Many athletes who have “butterflies” before competitions do well. Responses such as an elevated heart rate may be good for sudden, short-term situations, like anticipating the start of a race. However, they are not healthy if they are maintained over long periods of time. Long-term stresses such as constant worry, nervous tension, and holding back your emotions can change the way your body works. If you are under constant stress, your body is always working harder to prepare itself for a quick reaction.

Did You Know?

Your brain has a pleasure center that, when stimulated, releases a chemical that makes us feel happy and energetic. This feeling of well-being can lead to addiction to whatever activity produces those chemicals. Exercise can cause the release of the same kinds of chemicals.

When you are stressed, your body diverts energy away from digestion, the immune system, and vital processes such as growth. You are more likely to get an upset stomach, headache, or become sick. If the stress continues over a long period of time, your growth and development may be seriously impaired.

During times of stress-which everyone has-it is more helpful to pamper your body by paying close attention to the lifestyle factors affecting your health. Exercise, good nutrition, and lots of sleep can help your body handle the natural stresses that you encounter.

Activity 6-1: You Are the Food Expert

Introduction

When people are busy and under pressure, they often turn to fast food instead of eating home-cooked meals. In fact, according to the Consumer Reports magazine, “One out of five Americans line up on a typical day at a fast food restaurant.” Can you get a nutritious meal at a fast food restaurant? In this activity you can find out.

Materials

  • Fast food nutrition information
  • Fast food menus
  • Food Nutrient Chart, page 60, (or Resource 2 from Activity 1-1)
  • Resource (Recommended Daily Allowances chart)
  • Activity Report (Table A and Table B)

Procedure

Step 1 What foods make up a favorite fast-food meal? List them on Table A of the Activity Report. Compute Student Food Table A.

Step 2 Create a new menu on Table B to meet RDA guidelines.

The human has adapted uniquely to function in an efficient and effective way. However, how you treat your body has a serious impact on how you feel. Eating well and having good nutrition are vital to staying at your best. But remember that there are other important factors such as good rest, less stress, and regular exercise that work together with good nutrition to keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally well-balanced.

Using your knowledge of the digestive system, think of a slogan that promotes keeping your digestive system healthy.

You've learned how the body breaks down and uses the food you put in it, what foods you need to keep your body running well, and where digestive system problems come from. Take what you've learned, and try it out on your own body.

Review Questions

  1. What factors can you control that will help you stay healthy?
  2. What are some of the benefits of regular exercise? Why is exercise important?
  3. In what way does vigorous exercise shortly after eating affect digestion?
  4. Describe some ways in which the body responds to stress. In what way does stress affect digestion?
Food Nutrient Chart
Fruit Group Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Apple, 1 medium 70 18 1
Apple juice, 1 cup 120 30
Applesauce, 1 cup 110 0 28 0
Apricots, 5 halves (dried, uncooked) 40 0 10 0
Avocado, \frac{1}{2} 185 2.5 6 18
Banana, 1 medium 101 1 26
Cantaloupe, \frac{1}{4} (medium) 30 1 7
Cherries, 1 cup 105 2 26
Fruit cocktail, 1 cup (canned) 195 1 50
Fruit salad, \frac{1}{2} cup 99 2 25 1
Grape juice, frozen (diluted, 1 cup) 135 1 33
Grapefruit, \frac{1}{2} pink (medium) 45 1 12
Grapes, \frac{1}{2} cup 48 12
Honeydew melon, 1 medium wedge 56 1 15 1
Kiwi, 1 medium 46 1 11
Lemonade, frozen (diluted, 1 cup) 110 28
Mango, 1 medium 135 1 35 1
Orange, 1 medium 65 1 16
Orange juice, frozen (diluted, 1 cup) 100 2 31
Peach, 1 small (uncooked) 35 10
Peaches, \frac{1}{2} cup (canned) 100 1 26
Pear, 1 medium 101 1 25 1
Persimmon, 1 medium 118 1 31
Pineapple, 1 cup (no sugar added) 76 1 19 1
Plum, 1 small (uncooked) 25 7
Raisins, 4\frac{1}{2} TBS 123 1 33
Raspberries, 1 cup (uncooked) 60 1 14 1
Strawberries, 1 cup (uncooked) 55 1 12
Tangerine, 1 medium 40 10
Watermelon, 1 cup diced 49 1 11
Milk/Yogurt/Cheese Group Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Cheese, American or cheddar, 1 oz 113 7 0 9
Cheese, cottage, 1 cup low fat 162 28 6 2
Cheese, cream, 1 oz 100 2 1 10
Cheese, mozzarella (whole milk), 1 oz 90 6 1 7
Cheese, Parmesan, 1 TBS 25 2 4 2
Cheese, Swiss, 1 oz 105 8 1 8
Ice cream, \frac{1}{2} cup 135 2 16 7
Milk, chocolate (2%), 1 cup 190 8 27 6
Milk (2%), 1 cup 121 8 12 5
Milk (nonfat), 1 cup 85 8 12 0
Milk (whole), 1 cup 150 8 11 8
Milkshake, 11 oz (chocolate) 371 10 66 8
Milkshake, 11 oz (other flavors) 350 12 56 9
Sherbet, 1 cup 270 2 59 4
Whipped cream, 1 cup 154 2 7 13
Yogurt, 8 oz (frozen) 247 9 44 5
Yogurt, fruit, 8 oz 230 10 42 3
Yogurt, vanilla or coffee, 8 oz 200 11 32 4
Food Nutrient Chart
Bread/Cereal/Rice/Pasta Group Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Bagel, 1 medium 165 6 28 2
Bran flakes, \frac{3}{4} cup 105 4 28 1
Bread, 1 slice (whole wheat) 60 3 13 1
Bread, 1 slice (enriched, white) 70 2 12 1
Corn bread, 2'' \times 3'' piece 191 6 30 5
Cornflakes, \frac{3}{4} cup 72 2 16 0
Crackers, 4 graham 108 2 21 2
Crackers, 4 saltines 110 1 8 2
Granola, 1 bar 127 3 19 5
Muffin, 1 blueberry 110 3 17 4
Noodles, egg (enriched), 1 cup 200 7 37 2
Oatmeal, \frac{1}{2} cup 66 2 12 2
Pancake (4'' diameter) 60 2 9 2
Pasta, 1 cup 190 1 39 0
Rice, \frac{1}{2} cup 112 2 25 2
Roll, 1 hard (enriched) 159 5 30 2
Roll (hot dog or hamburger) 119 3 25 2
Sourdough bread, 1 medium slice 73 2 14 1
Tabbouleh, 1 cup 186 3 14 13
Taco shell (fried) 200 3 36 6
Tortilla, corn (enriched, 6'') 41 1 8 1
Tortilla (whole wheat flour, 8'') 154 4 28 4
Meat/Poultry/Dry Beans/Eggs/Nuts Group Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Bacon, 3 slices, \frac{1}{4} inch thick 309 24 0 24
Beans, \frac{1}{2} cup (refried) 142 9 26 1
Beef steak, 3 oz (broiled) 260 23 0 15
Beef, 3 oz, regular (ground, cooked) 243 20 0 17
Beef, 3 oz, lean (ground, cooked) 237 22 0 16
Blue fish, 3 oz (baked, butter) 135 22 0 4
Bologna, 1 slice 86 3 0 8
Chicken, 6.2 oz (broiled) 240 52 0 7
Chicken, 6 oz (fried) 402 52 4 18
Egg, 1 large (fried) 83 5 1 6
Egg, 1 large (hard boiled) 79 6 1 6
Egg, 1 large (scrambled) 95 6 1 7
Fish sticks, 1 stick (breaded) 50 5 2 3
Ham, 1 oz 65 5 0 5
Hot dog, 2 oz 172 7 1 15
Hummus, 1 TBS 26 1 3 1
Meat loaf, 3 oz 230 15 13 12
Peanut butter, 2 TBS 190 8 6 16
Peanuts, \frac{1}{4} cup (salt) 211 9 7 18
Pork chop, 3 oz 308 21 0 24
Salmon, 1 oz (poached) 41 7 0 1
Sausage, 2 links 135 5 0 13
Shrimp, 1 cup (boiled) 202 39 2 3
Tuna, 3 oz 168 25 0 7
Turkey, dark (4 medium pieces) 175 26 0 7
Turkey, white (2 medium pieces) 150 28 0 3
Food Nutrient Chart
Vegetable Group Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Asparagus, 4 spears 12 1 2 0
Beans, green, 1 cup (cooked) 46 3 11 0
Bean, green, \frac{1}{2} cup (uncooked) 16 1 3 0
Beans, lima, \frac{1}{2} cup 94 7 17 0
Broccoli, \frac{1}{2} cup 20 2 4 0
Carrots, \frac{1}{2} cup 22 1 5 0
Cauliflower, \frac{1}{2} cup 13 1 3 0
Celery, 8'' stalk 5 0 2 0
Coleslaw, \frac{1}{2} cup 82 1 3 8
Corn,1 cup 14 4 32 2
Cucumber, 1 small (uncooked) 25 1 6 0
Lettuce, \frac{1}{2} cup 5 1 2 0
Peas, 1 cup (cooked) 70 9 5 2
Potato, 1 large (baked) 132 4 30 0
Potato, 2 small (boiled) 79 2 18 0
Potato, 20 pieces (French fried) 233 4 31 11
Potato, \frac{1}{2} cup (mashed) 63 2 13 1
Potato, sweet 78 1 18 0
Salad, \frac{1}{4} cup (radish, carrot, lettuce, green pepper, tossed) 13 1 3 0
Spinach, 1 cup (cooked) 40 6 7 0
Squash, \frac{1}{2} cup (summer) 16 1 3 0
Squash, \frac{1}{2} cup (winter) 56 2 14 0
Sweet red pepper, 1 small 19 1 4 0
Tomato, \frac{1}{2} medium 22 1 5 0
Tomato juice, \frac{1}{2} cup 26 1 5 0
Other Foods Calories Proteins (g) Carbohydrates (g) Fat (g)
Rice cake, 1 35 1 7 0
Cheesecake, 1 slice 405 11 37 25
Sorbet 188 1 47 0
Marinara sauce, 1 cup 186 4 26 9
Meat sauce, 1 cup 273 5 40 12
White, milk sauce, 1 cup 393 10 23 30
Hot cocoa with low-fat milk, 1 cup 101 3 22 1

Check these web sites for the most current information:

-National Academy of Sciences http://www.nas.edu

-Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/

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Grades:

6 , 7 , 8

Date Created:

Feb 23, 2012

Last Modified:

Sep 15, 2014
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