Eating for good health and the energy to embrace life.
You are what you eat. It’s an old adage- but it couldn’t be more true. The nutrition provided by the food in your diet is the fuel that allows your body to breathe, to move, to work, to think- in essence, to live.
Given all that, it’s no surprise that what you eat matters- and that by eating the right kind of diet, you can help your body function at its best.
You need a balance of nutritious foods.
In your body, nutrients do their work together. And to work best, they must be in balance with one another. Too much of one nutrient or too little of another- and the balance is thrown off. It is within your power to find a balance that provides good nutrition for your body. A good place to start is by understanding the nutrients that make up a balanced diet and why they’re so important.
Although protein can be converted into energy, its primary job in the body is to provide the building blocks needed for growth, repair and the maintenance of body tissues.
Protein is found in practically every food. Among the richest sources of protein are:
Meat | Poultry | Dairy Products | Cereals and Grains
Fish | Eggs | Beans and Legumes | Nuts and Seeds
Protein itself is made up of amino acids. During digestion, your body breaks protein down into these building blocks and uses some of them to build and rebuild body tissues, such as skin, muscles and bones.
Most of the energy used by your body is provided by the carbohydrates in your diet. Carbohydrates are available from:
Pasta | Fruits | Vegetables | Sweets/Honey
Bread | Milk | Cereals and Grains | Rice
Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates should be most plentiful foods in your diet. These foods are often good sources of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and fiber. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as whole-grain breads and cereals, rice, pasta and vegetables.
Sugary foods such as desserts and soft drinks are usually very low in nutritional value. So limit your intake of sugary foods to special occasions- and use fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth most of the time.
Fats are another important fuel source for your body. They are found mostly in:
Butter | Margarine | Whole Milk | Nuts and Seeds
Meats | Vegetable Oils | Ice Cream | Cheese
Fats, in general, may have a “bad” reputation, but here again, balance is the important issue. Some fats are absolutely vital to life and health, and they play important roles in keeping the body’s immune system functioning at its best. They are an important source of energy, and they’re required for the body to carry the “fat-soluble” Vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are also essential to good health.
Your body depends on minerals for practically every process necessary for life. The major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride. These are the ones that are present in your body in the largest amounts. The trace minerals are iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, selenium and molybdenum. These are required in much smaller amounts.
Sometimes known as “roughage” fiber is the indigestible component of foods from plants. Although fiber is not a significant source of energy (calories), it is an essential component of a balanced diet- and most people don’t consume enough of it. There are two types of fiber:
• Soluble Fiber- Found in foods such as oatmeal, fruits and vegetables (including beans), this type of fiber can have cholesterol-lowering properties and may help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
• Insoluble Fiber- Whole grains, such as wheat bran, are a good source of insoluble fiber, which helps promote regularity. Insoluble fiber may help prevent colon cancer because it is believed to bind to potentially harmful substances and eliminate them from the body quickly through the digestive system.
Vitamins help regulate the many chemical processes in the body, including those that convert food into energy.
• Fat-soluble vitamins- (Vitamins A, D, E and K) need fat to be absorbed into the bloodstream and transported around the body. They dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body.
• Water-soluble vitamins- (B- complex and Vitamin C) dissolve in water, are easily absorbed and excreted but are not easily stored.
Water: the forgotten nutrient
Water has several vital functions in the body. It:
• Delivers to each cell the nutrients needed to carry on the processes of life
• Dissolves vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose and other nutrients
• Helps the body flush out waste materials
• Helps maintain the body’s temperature
Most adults should drink between 8 to 10 cups (8 fl oz per cup) of water each day. If you are physically active, live in hot climate, or have an illness that produces vomiting or diarrhea, you may need to drink more than 10 cups of water daily.
Healthy snacking: an easy way to increase calories.
Healthy eating can be fun and pleasurable experience. To make healthful changes in your diet, start small- with healthy snacking. If you need to gain weight, this is an easy way to increase calories.
• Keep a variety of nutritious snack foods on hand, such as cheese and crackers, canned or dried fruits, cereals and breads.
• Muffins, nuts, peanut butter or fresh fruit make a delicious snack
• Try a variety of new tastes and textures to find those that appeal to you most
• Yogurt is a nutritious snack between meals or at bedtime. Try various flavors or buy plain yogurt or with a dip