I recently read an article in the Daily Mail: Bad lifestyles are crippling the NHS: Hospital watchdog warns hospitals and surgeries are ‘straining at the seams’ as we live longer but much unhealthier lives. The article went onto say “Much of this demand is fuelled by illnesses caused by ‘lifestyle choices’” and I agree. Unfortunately bad lifestyles are hard to change and lifestyle changes are difficult to achieve, however a good place to start is with good nutrition and this comes from what you eat.
Eating Habits and Good Nutrition
Understanding the basics of what we eat will help us improve our eating habits.
Good nutrition should provide six categories of nutrients that the body requires from food plus water:
Protein supplies amino acids to build and maintain healthy body tissue. Twelve amino acids are manufactured by the body but eight must come from the diet.
Carbohydrates are the body`s main source of energy. The simple carbohydrates such as sugar have more calories per gram and a higher glycaemic index than the complex carbohydrates such as grains.
Fat supplies energy (and transports nutrients). Not all fat is bad. The essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 are not manufactured by the body and must be supplied by the diet and all the omega free fatty acids, in the correct proportions, confer benefits. The very good omega 3 fatty acid which was previously obtained from fish liver oil (especially cod liver oil) was often contaminated because of environmental pollution and the liver of fish concentrates these contaminants. Today the omega oils including omega 3 is derived from krill or algae, the latter being a marine plant and as such being acceptable to vegans. Today these algae are responsibly sourced, mainly under the facility of the Food and Drug association (FDA), adhering to the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines. The omega fatty acids, especially omega 3, has become recognised as an important ingredient of healthy nutrition and for most people should be taken as a supplement to an otherwise healthy diet.
Minerals which are either macro or trace minerals. The macro minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulphur and chloride are required in large amounts. These minerals are the building blocks that make up muscles tissues and bones. They are also important components of hormones and enzymes. The trace minerals iron, zinc, iodine, copper, manganese fluoride, chromium, selenium, molybdenum and boron are only required in very small amounts. They participate in many chemical reactions and in the manufacture of hormones.
Vitamins, so called because they are vital to maintain health. are organic substances present in food and are required in small amounts for regulation of metabolism and maintenance of normal growth and functioning.
Many vitamins eg. A, C and E and the minerals zinc, copper selenium and manganese act as antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals by neutralising these highly reactive radicals and changing them into inactive less harmful compounds and in so doing the essential nutrients help prevent cancer and many other degenerative diseases such as premature aging, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, Alzheimer`s disease and diabetes.
Fibre is the material that gives plants texture and support. Although it is made up primarily of carbohydrates it has very few calories and the body hardly ever breaks the fibre down to provide energy. Dietary fibre is present in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Soluble fibre, as the name implies, dissolves in water. It is found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as apples, oatmeal, oat bran, rye flour and dried beans.
Water provides hydration. The amount of water necessary to maintain hydration varies depending on many factors such as climate and temperature, how much we exercise and sweat.
There should not be a proscribed intake of water and a reliable indication of good hydration is our urinary output, not just how much urine we produce but its colour, which will be pale when our hydration is good.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water because it contains a large amount of cellulose. It is found in the bran of grains, the pulp of fruit and the skin of vegetables.
Both types of fibre are partially digested when eaten, liberating very few calories and each type of fibre confers health benefits. The soluble fibre lowers blood cholesterol by attaching to the cholesterol, preventing it from recirculation and eliminating it from the body. The insoluble fibre speeds up transit through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stool. It helps prevent colon cancer.
The health benefits of good nutrition result from eating a diet of whole food that is ideally plant based containing a wide variety of vine ripened fresh fruits and vegetables that provide a rich source of antioxidants as well as the macronutrients and fibre. The reward is less degenerative disease including ageing and cancer.
Good eating habits may be acquired via a metabolic process whereby a craving for healthy food is created when good nutrition begins at a young age.
I can help you to acquire healthy eating habits and tell you how to engender them in your children. To find out more sign up for my newsletter and receive my eBook.