Let’s face it: nutrition can be confusing. One minute fat is the enemy, and the next minute carbohydrates are in the hot seat. While the nutrition fads are ever-changing and difficult to keep up with, the basic recommendations for calories, carbohydrates, fat, sodium and protein remain the same.
The amount of calories you need each day depends on your age, sex, height, weight and activity level. To determine your calorie needs, you first must calculate your BMR, or basal metabolic rate. This number represents the amount of energy your body needs to function. The formula is as follows:
Women: 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Once you’ve calculated your BMR, you must determine your activity level – sedentary, lightly active, moderately active or very active. If you are sedentary, you multiply your BMR by 20 percent. Lightly active individuals multiply BMR by 30 percent, and moderately active individuals multiply BMR by 40 percent. If you are very active, multiply your BMR by 50 percent.
For example, if you are a 25-year-old woman who is 130 pounds and 5 feet 3 inches tall, your BMR is 1,392.6. If you are lightly active, you multiply that number by 30 percent, or 0.30, and add the two numbers together to get 1,810.2 calories per day.
The amount of carbohydrates you should consume is based on your calories. According to the USDA's Dietary Reference Intakes, carbohydrates should comprise 45 to 60 percent of your calories. If you consume 2,000 calories per day, 900 to 1,300 of them should come from carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, this equals 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates per day.
The amount of fat you should eat daily is also calculated by how many calories you need. Fat should comprise 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake. If you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet, 400 to 700 of those calories should come from fat. Fat is the most energy-dense nutrient, containing 9 calories per gram, so this equates to approximately 44 to 78 grams of fat per day.
Protein, which contains 4 calories per gram, should comprise 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories. For a typical 2,000-calorie diet, this means that 200 to 700 calories, or 50 to 175 grams, should come from protein.
Sodium recommendations are provided as an upper limit, which means you should consume no more than the recommended amount daily, but as little as possible is best. The upper limit for sodium for healthy adults is 2,400 milligrams per day. If you have high blood pressure or are at an increased risk for heart disease, you should keep sodium intake below 1,500 milligrams per day.
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