What you eat affects your health and your quality of life. A bad diet is linked to many serious diseases. On the other hand, a good, healthy, well balanced diet, leads to less chance of developing cancer and heart disease and increased overall quality of life and well-being, from brain function to physical performance.1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Many people are concerned about calories and are heedlessly counting their calories. That is not always necessary; however, if you’re trying to lose weight you will need a calorie deficit, meaning you have to eat less calories than you burn. On the other hand, if you want to gain weight or muscle then you have to eat more calories than you burn. Nonetheless it remains important to keep a proper balance of both macro and micro nutrients.1, 2, 3, 4, 5
There are three macronutrients you should be aware of, namely carbohydrates, fats and protein. Your body needs these macronutrients in large amounts. When it comes to carbohydrates this is the preferred source of energy for your body. Carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, which is the main energy source for your body. In fact, specific organs, such as your brain, need glucose in order to function properly, and without the proper amount of carbohydrates you can feel more sluggish. Beyond just being your main energy source, there are also carbohydrates that help you synthesize specific building blocks that allow consistent bowel movements. We mostly know these building blocks as fiber. Fibers present in foods with carbohydrates are important to help rid your body of waste and keep your intestinal tract healthy.
Protein on the other hand allows your body to grow, build and repair tissues, and protect your muscle mass. There are 2 types of protein; the non-essential and essential kind. Non-essential proteins can be created by your own body. However essential amino acids are required through your diet. While you don’t have to necessarily eat animal products, you do need a good plant based source which contains all the necessary essential proteins to keep your body healthy.
Lastly, fat allows you to store energy, cushions organs, makes specific hormones, absorbs fat soluble vitamins, and helps with cell membrane integrity. There are three types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat.
Trans and Saturated fat
Trans fat is not needed within your diet and it is often found in artificial foods, such as margarine, baked goods, and fried foods. If you see trans fat on the label it is best to avoid it. Saturated fat is known to increase cholesterol levels and can increase your risk for heart disease. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal sources with high fat contents such as for instance pork, chicken wings, butter and dairy. It is best to limit the amount of foods you eat that contain saturated fat.
Unsaturated fats are considered a more healthy fat as they can decrease your risk for heart disease. These fats originate from mostly plant sources such as nuts, seeds, olives, and oils (olive oil, canola etc.). There are however also animal sources such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and herring. The downside of these animal sources is that there is a limit on how much of these one can eat, due to the heavy metals often prevalent within these types of fish, which are not healthy if eaten too often. 1
Overall fat tends to get a bad reputation because it has the highest caloric value, and because some types of fat are not good for us; however, it is still instrumental to a healthy diet. 1
Your body also needs micronutrients, which are very important vitamins and minerals you need in smaller doses. Some of the most common micronutrients are:
Magnesium: contributes to over 600 cell processes in your body, e.g. it produces energy and helps with functioning of your nervous system and contracting of your muscles
Potassium: is a mineral important for controlling your blood pressure, balancing your fluid and functioning of your muscles and nerves
Iron: carries oxygen in your blood and improves your blood and immune system function
Calcium: strengthens your bones and teeth and is also an important mineral for your heart, muscles and nervous system
Vitamins: important for every organ and cell in your body
All minerals and vitamins are essential for your body and your health. You have to get them from your diet in order to survive; however, if you can’t, you can also use supplements.2, 3, 4, 5
The most important thing to remember is to consume whole, natural, non-processed foods at least 80-90% of the time. These types of foods are more nutrient dense and less energy dense. In general, your diet should consist of;
- vegetables (low in calories + full of micronutrients + fiber)
- fruits (natural desserts + micronutrients + antioxidants)
- meat and fish (protein)
- nuts and seeds (healthy fats + micronutrients)
- eggs (protein + healthy fats + micronutrients)
- dairy (protein + calcium)
- healthy starches, beans and legumes (fiber + protein + micronutrients)
Were you already aware of the necessity of certain macro and micro nutrients? Let us know!
Stay healthy and safe friends!
1 Dolson, L. (2019, July 17). The 3 Macronutrients Your Body Needs Most. Retrieved from verywellfit: https://www.verywellfit.com/macronutrients-2242006
2 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2011). Healthy Eating Plate | The Nutrition Source. Retrieved from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/
3 Heart and Stroke Foundation. (n.d.). Healthy eating basics. Retrieved from Heart and Stroke Foundation: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/healthy-eating/healthy-eating-basics
4 Mawer, R. (2016, July 5). Healthy Eating — A Detailed Guide for Beginners. Retrieved from healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-eating-for-beginners
5 Torrens, K. (2019, July 4). A balanced diet for women | BBC Good Food. Retrieved from BBC Good Food: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/balanced-diet-women