I am sure you’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”. What does it actually mean? Your well-being, health, how you feel and think are all dictated by what you eat.
Your body requires both macronutrients (macros) and micronutrients (micros) to function. Carbohydrates, fat and protein are called macronutrients. They are the nutrients you use in the largest amounts to maintain the body’s structure and systems. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals which are needed in much smaller amounts but critical to producing enzymes and hormones.
When we talk about carbohydrates- one must remember that they are not all created equally. Sugar and oats for example are both sources of carbohydrate but they are poles apart. Oats is not ultra-processed and has complex carbohydrates which are better for you. On the other hand, sugar is refined and has simple carbohydrate.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are also packed with fibre and digest more slowly. Sugar on the other hand is refined and a simple carbohydrate. Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, are made up of shorter chains of molecules and are quicker to digest than complex carbohydrates. This fact means that simple carbohydrates produce a spike in blood glucose, providing the body with a short-lasting source of energy.
Choose wholegrain sources like millet, oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, stone ground wheat flour.
Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. A complete protein or whole protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. All animal protein is complete protein. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, then you could use a combination of nuts or beans with a grain. Peanut butter on wholemeal bread or a bean and brown rice salad is an example of a complete protein source.
Low Fat? No Fat? Fat helps give your body energy, protects your organs, supports cell growth, keeps cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helps your body absorb vital nutrients.
What do Saturated or Unsaturated Fats mean?
Saturated is the so-called “bad” fat. It’s primarily found in animal products like beef, pork, butter, margarine, cream, and cheese. High amounts of saturated fat also are found in many fast, processed, and baked foods like pizza, desserts, hamburgers, and cookies and pastries. These fats tend to more “solid” (think butter or lard) than healthier fats.
There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats are found in avocados and peanut butter; nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans; and seeds, such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds. It is also in plant oils, such as olive, peanut, safflower, sesame, and canola oils.
Polyunsaturated fats include omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats are found in plant-based oils like soybean, corn, and safflower oils, and they’re abundant in walnuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and trout.
The minerals for humans include 13 elements that cannot be synthesized such as calcium and iron. Others such as Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, etc. are essential too but in microgram quantities. Vitamins are substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They include vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, choline, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate/folic acid). 5-7 serves of fruits and vegetables each day will ensure that your body is getting all the micronutrients it needs.