Contrary to popular belief, nutrition is not rocket science. However, just like a rocket needs high quality untainted fuel to carry out its mission, your body needs energy to function, and good nutritional food can provide this energy. When your body receives the right fuel, you feel good, have excess energy, and are able to maintain a strong immune system.
Nutrition is simply the process of putting food into your body to use as raw materials for growth, fuel for energy, and vitamins and minerals that keep your body healthy and functioning properly.
Macro nutrients – Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein
The primary form of energy for your body is carbohydrates. You can easily digest simple carbohydrates such as sugar and starch, but complex carbs (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and potatoes) are much better for you. Carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose, fructose or galactose units. Glucose is your body’s favorite form of energy. If you don’t get enough carbohydrates, your body can make glucose from protein or fat — and if you get too many carbohydrates (especially too much sugar), your body becomes very good at storing fat.
Good nutrition provides the raw materials. Protein in the foods you eat is broken down into individual amino acids, which are used to build and maintain healthy body tissue. Your muscles contain a lot of protein, and you need to replenish that protein over time. Your body also needs protein for components of your immune system, hormones, nervous system, and organs.
You also needs fats to transport nutrients and supply energy. Membranes that contain fats surround every cell of your body. Your brain has fatty acids, and fats are also needed to signal hormones.
Micro nutrients – Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins and minerals you get from your diet are just as important as carbohydrates, protein and fats, even though you only need them in small amounts. They are needed to regulate metabolism, provide maintenance, and build muscles, tissues and bones. They usually function as co-enzymes, which means they help your body’s chemical reactions happen more efficiently. For example, many of the B complex vitamins help burn carbohydrates for energy; vitamin A is needed for vision; zinc is involved in many metabolic processes, and vitamin C helps keep connective tissue strong and your immune system functioning well. Another example is calcium. Calcium is needed for several functions in your body, but it’s best known as the mineral that is stored in your bones and teeth. You need calcium from your diet to keep your bones and teeth strong.
Your diet needs to provide adequate amounts of all of these “little helpers.” A healthy, balanced diet will provide you with lots of vitamin and minerals. An unhealthy diet may make your body deficient in one or more of these helpers.
Good nutrition provides more than energy, structural components, vitamins and minerals. Additional substances in the foods that we eat have become better known over the last few years. For example:
Phytochemicals are found in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables. Although they aren’t required for body functioning, they may have a very powerful impact on your health. For example, quercetin (found in red apples) functions like an antihistamine and provides an anti-inflammatory effect.
Antioxidants help protect your body from damage that comes from free radicals created by the sun, pollution, smoke, and poor dietary choices. They are found in the phytochemicals of fruits and vegetables, as well as some vitamins and amino acids.
When you eat food, you usually don’t eat just carbohydrate, fat, or protein. You eat a piece of apple pie, a steak, or mashed potatoes. Most of the foods you eat are made up of varying amounts of all three of these nutrition components. Good nutrition means getting the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, plus all of the required vitamins and minerals. Great nutrition means getting a lot of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, too. However, because of the degradation of our soil, the chemicals in our processed food, and our poor eating habits, it is very difficult to get great nutrition from food alone.
A good source of carbohydrates would be practically any fruit or vegetable. These natural foods allow you to get the carbohydrates you need for energy, the fiber you need (both soluble for lowering cholesterol and insoluble for moving food through the digestive system) for a healthy digestive system, plus vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. About half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, and those carbs should come from fruits, vegetables and 100% whole grain breads and cereals, not from candy, sodas and pastries.
This concept works with proteins and fats, too. A healthy protein source is one that does not add extra unhealthy fats (and perhaps offers some fats that are good for you). Navy beans are a good example: they provide protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. An example of an unhealthy protein is bacon. Bacon, and other processed meats contain a lot of saturated fats and calories which can impact your heart health, expand your waistline, and even increase your risk of cancer.
Healthy fats come from foods that contain polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, like olive oil, fish, walnuts, soy, flax seeds and canola oil. While these fats and oils contain a lot of calories, you do need the fatty acids they provide. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unhealthy fats to be cautious of. Saturated fats in red meats and trans fats, found in some stick margarines, baked goods and processed foods, are very bad for your overall health.
Finally don’t forget about water. About 70% of our body is made up of water and water is necessary to regulate body temperature, transport nutrients and remove waste.
Good Nutrition Means Good Health
A healthy diet will provide your body with the right amount of energy, enough raw materials and all of the “little helpers” you need to stay strong and healthy. Good nutrition will also provide phytochemicals and antioxidants that will keep you feeling young, looking great, and help prevent illness and disease. A bad diet will give you too many or too few calories, not enough vitamins and minerals, and will actually make you need more of the antioxidants that you aren’t getting to begin with. People who don’t pay attention to their diet don’t feel good, age faster, have weaker immune systems, and are much more subject to illness and disease.
Now that you have a better idea of why your body needs food, the next step is to learn more about nutrition and how to eat a balanced diet:
Eat a nutritious breakfast. Try Kashi cereal. Skipping breakfast sends all the wrong messages to your body.
Make your own healthy sandwiches or soups, or eat lunch at Subway and drink water instead of soda. Choose a sandwich from the 6 grams of fat or less list; every one of them is nutritious and delicious.
Use a Crock Pot to prepare a slow cooked healthy dinner such as: stuffed green peppers, pot roast, chicken cacciatore, or chili. Also consider salads, baked fish, turkey burgers or turkey spaghetti and oriental stir fry.
Throughout the day, snack on cold veggies, almonds, cheese, fruit, high fiber cereal, celery with peanut butter, yogurt, and healthy energy bars.
Drink plenty of water. By the time you are thirsty, you are already behind what your body needs.
Consider taking a probiotic supplement to improve digestion, upper G.I. problems, liver health, and assist in regularity. Healthy Trinity (from Natren) is an excellent product, but expensive. Take a few minutes to read this article about new research supporting the connection between the human brain and the gut. A shortage of good bacteria is a bad thing.
Consider taking daily supplements of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These are all critical nutrients needed for bodily functions and disease prevention. There are many reasons we are not getting the nutrients we need to live healthy lives. Effective, natural, high absorption vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are available from Melaleuca, powered by Oligo.
Keep in mind that every small improvement you make to your diet is a good one, and small changes will add up. Good nutrition will help you enjoy life and considerably avoid illness and disease.