Britannica defines food as “a substance consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, fat and other nutrients used in the body of an organism to sustain growth and vital processes and to furnish energy. The absorption and utilization of food by the body is fundamental to nutrition and is facilitated by digestion”.
As we scroll on social media, talk to friends or watch television, we are inundated with information about dieting and eating trends, including fat free, low carb, gluten free, Paleo, Keto, intermittent fasting and more. But is a gluten free cookie “food” based on its definition? No, a cookie is a cookie. High in sugar and saturated fats. Thus, in order to live a healthy lifestyle and to optimally nourish our bodies we need to eat a “clean diet” rich in all macronutrients, lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats.
However, many of us make our food choices based on convenience rather than health benefits. The quick fix claims of the dieting trends are appealing because they give us hope that we can lose weight and be healthy and still enjoy the convenience of processed foods. Unfortunately this is not the case. The fundamentals of good health require us to consume whole nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats to nourish our body to be strong and energized. Below is a playbook to the building blocks of the nutrients you need in your food choices and in which foods you can find them. The good news is that healthy foods can be very tasty and there are more and more options to access truly healthy prepared meals if you don’t want to whip them up yourself.
Protein, or more specifically amino acids, are the building block of most of the tissues in the body, including muscle tissue. Protein is essential for recovery of muscle, hair growth, skin renewal, and enhances satiety. How much protein should we eat? .75g – 1g per lb of body weight is the optimal amount of protein to strengthen muscles, ligaments, bones, promote recovery and lose weight. Our goal should be to eat lean proteins like fish, poultry, lentils, quinoa, green leafy greens, beans etc and ¼ of our plate should be
What to do about carbs? High carb low fat diets were the craze now carbs are the enemy. Well let’s break down carbhydrates to understand what we need for optimal healthy function. Simple carbohydrates are pure sugar or highly processed starches that break down easily and cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are multiple sugars bound together which take longer for the body to break down. This means there is less of a rise in blood sugar, and levels are elevated for a longer period of time. In essence it’s best to stick to complex carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats etc. For the average person maintaining 10000 steps per day 150 grams per day is best for fat loss.
You may wonder “Is fat bad for you?” Yes some fats are bad for you. You may wonder isn’t fat bad for you, but your body needs some fat from food. It’s a major source of energy, helps you absorb some vitamins and minerals, builds cell membranes, is essential for blood clotting, muscle movement, and inflammation. Good fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Bad ones include industrial-made trans fats. Saturated fats fall somewhere in the middle. Some good fat sources are nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil etc.
When we sit down to a meal we need to consider all of these 3 macronutrients in order to feel full and for optimal energy levels. In addition it’s best to get our minerals and vitamins also known as micronutrient from our food. Eating a colorful plate full of clean organic vegetables and fruit is the best way to get the proper nutrients in our diet.
To keep it simple, eat whole foods that either walked or grew on this earth. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and stay far away from anything processed which is what is in the aisles of the grocery store. Eat a colorful plate that is half full of veggies, 1/8 complex carbs, 1/8 fat and ¼ lean organic proteins.
Bottom line, healthy eating will benefit your brain and body — both in the near-term and into older age.