Tips for healthy eating
This article is designed to give you an overview of a few general steps you can take to give you some ideas of how to improve your health and eating habits.
You should always consult your doctor before making any major changes to your activity levels, particularly if you are very overweight, have high blood pressure, or suffer from any other health problems.
If you want clarification on any of the points or if you are unsure how to best implement them for YOU, always ask a trained fitness professional (like me!).
Eat lots of fruit and veg!
The ideal is much more than the suggested “5 a day” and is infact closer to 11 a day. The vitamins and minerals you get from fruit and veg are known as micronutrients. Your macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) cannot function without them; hence vitamins and minerals are essential to your body.
Vitamins are plant based nutrients which must be received in your diet. Minerals are inorganic substances which are needed by vitamins to function.
Interestingly, 4% of your body weight is made up of minerals. They are mainly stored in your skeletal system.
The vitamins needed by your body are A, B, C, D, E and K. Vitamins A, D, E and K can only be used, transported and absorbed in the presence of fat. B and C are water soluble. The vitamin and mineral content of a food can be depleted by cooking and processing.
Each vitamin has a specific purpose – vitamin A is found in orange and red coloured fruits and veg. The colour comes from beta carotene which your body can convert to vitamin A. This vitamin slows the aging process, is good for eyesight and is anti- carcinogenic Vitamin B (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12) are needed for energy Vitamin C is used to balance energy, slow aging and assist the immune system Vitamin D comes from sunlight. It helps to regulate calcium and the strength of your bones. Vitamin D can help with protection from diseases and interestingly, heart attack patients tend to be lacking in Vitamin D
Vitamin E slows the aging process and is also anti-carcinogenic Vitamin K assists in the blood clotting process.
Vitamins A, C and E and minerals zinc and selenium help to slow aging and prevent cancer. They are also anti-oxidants.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamins and minerals was devised many years ago, based on how much you needed to keep diseases common at the time at bay – such as scurvy, TB and other diseases we don’t remember now. RDA’s are not amounts suggested to keep you in good health. In fact, to prevent from cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes etc it is estimated that we probably need to intake more like 1000% RDA!
Unfortunately, due to the content of vitamins and minerals in our food being reduced due to the reduced content in the soil, it is difficult to obtain as many nutrients as we need through our diets. Everyone accepts colds and flu these days – why? With optimum nutrition, we improve our immune system and keep not only colds and flu well at bay – we need to supplement vitamins and minerals to achieve this optimum nutrition.
I have always been very sceptical about supplements and strongly believe that you get exactly what you pay for. There are no laws in the UK to regulate whether what goes into a supplement is what it says on the label and so I recommend a supplement by an American company called Usana, which guarantees what they say is in their supplements is in them. The contents of their supplements are based on extensive research into what is required by the body, not out-dated research; the nutrients are provided in a way that your body can easily absorb.
I am keen for this article not to turn into a sales-pitch, so if you are interested in the supplements please get in touch.
Follow the food pyramid!
70% of your diet should come from carbohydrate. This is where your body gets its energy from. When you take in carbohydrate it is stored in your muscles and liver until it is needed. If there is too much to be stored it is taken to your fat cells. Always choose complex carbohydrates over simple ones. A complex carbohydrate is more difficult for the body to break down; hence you get more energy from it for longer. Examples of these would be wholegrain bread, rice and pasta, rather than the white or non-wholegrain varieties. You should have a high carbohydrate snack within an hour of finishing your exercise session.
15% of your diet should come from protein. Protein is used for building bones and muscles, making the structure within your hair and nails, making white blood cells, which are needed by your immune system along with various other uses.
15% of your diet should come from fat. This brings me on to the next point.
You need to eat fat!
Fat is needed by the body for many reasons – insulation, protection of vital organs, protection of nerves, use of certain vitamins (the fat soluble ones) etc
A diet very low (less than 7%) in saturated fat is ideal but you need to take in poly-unsaturated fats, and mono-unsaturated fats.
A diet high in mono-unsaturated fat has been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and are therefore thought to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Poly-unsaturated fats are the “good fats” which have been popular with the press recently – omegas 3 and 6. These help keep blood thin, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation and pain, improve nerve & immune function, assist with brain functioning, vision, learning ability and coordination and can regulate mood swings.
Sources of good fats include oily fish (salmon, mackerel, fresh tuna), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds and sesame seeds.
Cut out sugar!
Sugar, among with other things such as tobacco and alcohol etc, are known as antinutrients. This is because they rob you of your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). A diet high in sugar has a high risk of developing conditions, particularly diabetes and obesity.
Sugar causes rapid energy highs, followed by energy slumps, which make you crave
more high-sugar snacks. It is far more beneficial to make better nutritional choices to
keep your blood sugar levels at a constant level to avoid the energy highs and lows of the high sugar diet.
Interestingly, many “low fat” products lose their taste when the fat is removed. Often, sugar is added to replace the taste. If you are making a good choice nutrition-wise, you should question whether having the low fat option is really necessary.
Can you pronounce it?
Turn into a label reader. If there is something in the list of ingredients which you cannot pronounce, or if you have no idea what it is – don’t eat it!
For, a perhaps slightly extreme, example, the below is the list of ingredients of the strawberry flavouring (nothing else!) of a Burger King milkshake:
Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl Nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerbate, -ionone, heliotropin, hydroxyphrenyl-2butanone (10% solution in alcohol), isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent (3)!
Amazingly, all this must be cheaper than a handful of strawberries. These ingredients do not need to be written on the packet.
Our livers must process everything we put into our body, when the liver becomes overworked the chemicals can end up in our blood stream with almost unlimited access to the cells of our bodies.
Increase water intake!
Water is needed by your body for all cellular functions, infact your body is 60-70% water. Water keeps your blood thin which reduces how hard your heart has to work to pump it round your body – dehydration means your circulatory system has to work harder, and therefore increases your risk of heart problems.
Often people mistake signs of thirst for hunger. You should be drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day, with 1 litre extra per hours exercise you do. You can get quite lot of water from fruit and veg. If you do not drink sufficient water while you are exercising, your body will sacrifice performance in your chosen activity for temperature regulation.
Don’t start by suddenly going from drinking no water to drinking 2 litres. Start with about 500ml and build up over a week or so from there.
If you are not drinking sufficient water, your body will begin to produce an anti-diuretic hormone to prevent further water loss.
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