Nutrition. This is something that we are often taught about in school, we grow up learning about it, we try to apply it to our lives. However, once we gain our independence and realize we can eat candy and ice cream for every meal, it goes out the window.
Some of us, revisit it though, consider its importance, and how much nutrition actually matters in our lives.
Nutrition is basically what we need to survive in a healthy way, keeping our bodies functioning as they should. We gain these nutrients through a healthy diet. However, we can intake nutrients in different ways.
Through supplements, beverages, and some nutrients and vitamins we can get simply by being active and going outside.
But, our first thought about nutrition always lands on diet, and that is what we will talk about. We are going to reintroduce you to nutrition in a way that you will understand, enjoy, and in a way that schools should have been teaching it in the first place.
It’s all well and good saying we need these nutrients, but we usually never find out why. Today, together, we will!
The Basics Of Healthy Eating
When we think about healthy eating, many people will recoil. We usually picture a salad, a bowl of kale, or boiled chicken.
However, healthy eating is not as bad as people think it is. Healthy eating can be baking a dish instead of frying it. It can be substituting one food for another, eating a variety, instead of similar things on repeat.
Healthy eating is actually extremely appealing when you know it well enough to understand it. It doesn’t need to be complicated either, you can easily nourish your body with nutrients and the foods that you love if you want to.
Food is to be enjoyed, but also to give us the nutrition we need to grow, and maintain health. Healthy eating isn’t dieting, it’s thinking about what you are already consuming.
When thinking about eating healthy, we so often jump straight into thinking about calories. Stop it! Calories do matter, but they are not the be-all-end-all. Nutrition is even more important.
Nutrients such as carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, and proteins, are what your body actually needs to do well. The phrase ‘nutrient’ density is a phrase that refers to just how many nutrients are in food in relation to how many calories are in it.
While every food carries calories, not all foods will be dense in nutrients. Candy, mac and cheese and such are like this, they are high in calories, but do not have many nutrients.
Dieting as per the usual is also often seen as useless, but a lot of diet foods, or low calorie foods can be low in calories but don’t have the nutrients.
This means that just because food is low in calories does not mean it is good for you, and just because food is high in calories does not make it inherently bad for you either. It all depends on how many nutrients it is packing.
Diversifying your diet is another component of eating healthy. This requires a wide variety of foods. Following diets which are rich in different foods will help to keep the bacteria in your gut happy and will keep you at a healthy weight and will protect you against diseases.
If you are a picky eater this might be tricky, you should try to introduce new foods into your diet one by one. Don’t rush it. If you aren’t so hot on veggies, try to just add in a favorite veg into a meal once or twice each day and progress from here.
Not everyone enjoys trying out new foods, but science says that the more you are exposed to a food, the more likely you are to get accustomed to it over time. Like anything, you just need to get used to it.
It might not taste great at first, but this can just be your taste buds being shocked, after a little while, you might find you actually like it!
Macronutrients – a term you have probably never heard of before. These are the primary nutrients that you get from the food that you eat. These include carbs, fats and proteins.
Typically, meals and snacks should have a balance between all three, typically if you add protein and fat to a fiber rich carbohydrate source it can make the dish tastier and more filling.
If you were eating some fruit, if you added a bit of cheese, it would make you more full than just the fruit alone would do.
Counting these and following a plan for macronutrients is not actually necessary for everyone. However, for those who seek out a specific composition of their body, athletes, and those who need to gain for medical reasons, it is possible.
If you are obsessed about it, you could end up doing yourself more damage too. You cannot have a fixation on calories and foods without risking eating disorders.
Micronutrients are the name for vitamins and minerals, which are just as important. They do not provide energy like macronutrients do, and you should only consume these in smaller amounts, but they are still necessary.
Vitamins help your body to release the energy you take from the macronutrients. Your body is a delicate ecosystem that works in tandem with itself.
Vitamins each have specific roles as well. They all participate in different roles in your body.
Minerals are important as well, they influence the balance of fluids, and are very important for building your bones and teeth up healthy.
Each vitamin does something different for your body, and thus should be consumed to a certain amount. Minerals each have different roles and will need to be consumed in their own amounts.
Note that not every vitamin and mineral will come from food. Vitamin D can be soaked up from going outdoors, but you can also get it from foods like oranges.
The important thing is to ensure you get enough, as without enough it can impact your health and functionality.
The Different Food Groups – Carbs, Fibre, Protein, etc.
Most of us know the food groups, we learned about them in school.
They include carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, and fats.
Carbs are the most important for you to get in terms of energy. You can find them in many food products that could be healthy or not so. But what really matters with carbohydrates is the quality of the carbs.
Adequate intakes of carbohydrates are focused on slow-release carbs with an impact on your blood glucose. Not the ones that are short and simple and simple your blood glucose levels.
Fiber is a carbohydrate, but one your body cannot digest on its own. But, fiber foes help your digestive system. Getting enough fiber will stop problems like constipation.
Proteins are essential as they are the foundation of every cell. They are also very important for maintaining your muscular structure. They are present in every part of your body, and you need to get plenty of them.
Fats are an energy source. They keep your muscles and brain working well. Unsaturated fats are good, saturated fats are bad, and fatty acids are a bit ugly. To put it simply. You still need enough fats to function well.
So, now you know the basics. How do you start on your way to incorporating these nutrients into your diet and ensuring you get enough at all times?
It is not easy, we won’t lie to you and tell you it will be a walk in the park. It won’t. But there are things you can do to help you on your way from being a nutrient newbie, to a healthy eating hero.
The main thing is to throw the stigma and the stereotypes out the window first.
Befriend Starchy Carbs
Carbs often get a bad reputation, we too often blame them for being a source of weight gain. They can be, if you overindulge and do not get enough vitamins and minerals to help use the carbs you do it.
Eating carbs in the right amounts is imperative to being in good health.
You want starchy carbs like brown rice, potatoes, wholemeal pasta, and wholegrain bread, together these should make up a good third of your diet.
They keep you feeling fuller for longer, which makes you less likely to turn to unhealthy snacking for one. They also contain minimal fat, they are low-calorie foods, and they are topped up to the brim with fiber.
Cereals are also great starchy carbs too, so you can definitely ingest them 3 times a day, which you should. If you eat 3 tablespoons of brown rice, pasta, or couscous each day, you would be right on the money in how many starchy carbs you should be eating!
Eat Plenty Of Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should take up a good third of your meals, and you should eat 5 portions per day. Hence, the saying to get your ‘5 fruit and veg’. It does sound a bit intimidating at first, but a portion is basically an apple, a plum, 1 tablespoon of vegetables, a handful of berries, a glass of juice, and so on.
You can level up by adding side salads to meals with mixed veg, or drinking fruit juice when you have your breakfast.
Steamed vegetables can be a great way to really get the most out of the nutrients, but if you want something more flavorful, a dish of Mediterranean style vegetables can be absolute heaven on a plate. You can have a snack of hummus and carrot sticks too.
At first the concept seems a bit scary, 5 fruit and veg a day sounds really daunting, but when you think about it, and how inventive you can get with it, it’s not so hard. Let’s not forget to factor in fresh smoothies too!
Open Your Plate Up To Oily Fish
Oily fish might not sound healthy because of that word: Oily. However, oily fish are one of the healthiest options you can have in your diet. They are jam-packed with Omega 3 fatty acids.
These fatty acids are great for your brain, your heart, and for your skin too.
Ideally, when constructing a nutrient rich balanced diet, you should eat two portions of fish per week. One portion should be oily fish, and the other should be otherwise.
Oily fish would include: salmon, herring, pilchards, sardines, trout, mackerel, carp, hake, fresh tuna, kipper, eel, sprats and so on.
Non-oily fish includes:cod, flounder, haddock, lemon sole, plaice, sea bass, shark, tinned tuna, turbot, red snapper, mullet and so on.
While oily fish will give you those Omega 3 fatty acids, a lean fish has fewer calories but more protein. So, by eating one of each kind each week, you get a great amount of protein and a great amount of those necessary Omega 3 fatty acids too!
It is well-worth it!
Get On Board With Good Fats
We view fat with such a negative eye. We see fat as just this bad thing that hurts us, but not all fats are bad. Sure, the fats in junk food are bad, but there are plenty of fats that are not, such as the aforementioned Omega 3.
You should get on board with the good boards. Be cautious when you approach saturated fats like you could find in hard cheeses, butters, creams and pastries.
But, when you come across unsaturated fats such as those found in: seeds, olive oil, nuts, and avocados, go for it. Unsaturated fats will have benefits nutritionally, but they can also improve your cholesterol.
They can also reduce the risk of some cancers, and will keep you more trim.
Foods that are high in fat will contain 20 grams per 100 grams of food, or more.
When you face saturated fats, you should avoid them if they are any higher than 5 grams of fat per 100 grams of food product.
Kick The Sugar Habit
You can replace full fat for diet, a bar of chocolate for a cereal bar, and use a sweetener instead of sugar in your coffee, but you are probably still taking in too much sugar,
You should always check the labels on sugar based foods before you ingest. See if: sucrose, maltose, fructose, sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, or hydrolyzed starch are too high.
If they are, you should avoid them. They may all sound fancy, but they all mean the same thing… sugar.
Sugar will often be added into foods with low fat, to make them more tasty, this will be put into everything from yogurt, to cereals, baked beans, and cereal bars.
They are all jam packed with sugars.
You should consider being a bit more mindful about sugar in your diet, and be more savvy about how you ingest it, as you do not want to risk your health. Taking in too much sugar is often the cause of type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and high blood pressure.
So, always consider sugar, and note, it’s not only in the things we expect. It can be found anywhere.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods might be quick, easy, and simple… and delicious. However, they are not good for you. If the list of ingredients looks like it was probably made inside a chemistry lab rather than on the menu at a restaurant, it’s best to avoid buying it.
You should not buy meat that has a non-stop ingredients list, and it shouldn’t include MRM – which means mechanically recovered meat. Meat should be easily recognizable, and it should be paired with herbs, spices, and maybe breadcrumbs, but that’s about it.
Processed foods will often dominate aisles in supermarkets, and they annoyingly make up a huge amount of the food we have available to us.
You should search your local stores for natural and fresh foods.
It is even better if you live near a farmers market, or even a local farm which sells their own produce. Not only is it fresh and untainted, but it will also be organic too. Which is better for the environment as well as your body!
Get Enough Fiber
Only around 5% of us actually get the right amount of fiber. No wonder Google Search is riddled with people asking questions about why they are constipated.
Lacking fiber is actually one of the number of nutritional health concerns of the USDA. You should be eating around 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day from your food, although 25 to 38 grams is also recommended, as it depends on gender as well.
But, most Americans are only eating 15 grams!
Sure you can get supplements as pills and powders, and some dietitians will recommend these, but they are not actually enough to meet your requirements’ day to day.
You need to include vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains, pastas, and cereals to make up all that you need. If you like a sandwich, switch to whole grain bread, add a few more vegetables into your stir-fry.
Mix it up and your gut will thank you for it!
Drink Lots Of Water
It may sound like we are teaching grandma to suck eggs here, but you need to drink enough water.
You need to drink around 2 Liters or 8 glasses of water per day. This does not only help you to avoid headaches and fatigue, but sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, and we end up eating an absolute ton more than we should just because we were thirsting for hydration.
If you are thirsty you might want to go for a fizzy beverage, or a cup of coffee, but these things are more likely to dehydrate you than they are to hydrate you, and you need hydration, which you get from water.
Tea and coffee are fine in moderation, and you can have as many cups as you want realistically, as long as you are also drinking enough water. Coffee can do your heart, eyes, and bones some good, but you should never overdo it, and you should always drink water.
Never try to replace water with something else, because it simply doesn’t do the same thing!
Wait! Don’t go yet! There’s more.
People are forever asking questions about health and diets, but we never pay enough mind to nutrition, so before you leave to go and reassess what’s lurking in your fridge, stick around a moment longer.
We want to ask all your important questions about nutrition, because there are plenty, and we want to ensure every question you have is covered.
What Are Calories And How Many Should You Eat?
Calories are basically just a system of measuring how much energy is in a food or drink. The amount you require depends on your lifestyle, your age, your size, and your gender. Some factors such as hormones, medicines, and sickness can also affect how much energy you burn, and therefore how much energy you need.
An example of this would be the differences between men and women and lifestyles.
Women between age 21 and 25 need 2,000 calories if they live a sedentary lifestyle, 2,200 calories if they are moderately active, or 2,400 if they are active. Women between 26 and 50 need 1,800 if sedentary, 2,000 if moderately active, and 2,200-2,400 if active per day. And so on.
Alternatively men from 21-25 need 2,400 if sedentary, 2,800 if moderately active, and 3,000 if active. From ages 26 to 60 sedentary men need 2,200- 2,400, moderately active men need 2,400 – 2,600, and active men need 2,600 to 3,000 per day.
Why Does Eating Healthy Matter?
Food fuels you and will give you the nutrition and calories that your body needs to work. If your body is deficient in one or more nutrients or in calories, your overall health can suffer for it.
However, it can go the other way too. If you eat too many calories you may gain weight, and if you have obesity you can be at risk of heart, liver, and kidney diseases, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Your diet will affect the overall risk of disease, mental health and the length of your life.
Diets which are rich in processed food types are often linked to a higher mortality rate, and more likelihood of conditions such as heart diseases and cancers. Those who have a diet which is made up of mainly whole foods, dense in nutrients will often be found to have a longer life and a lower risk of disease.
So, as you can see, eating healthy is not just about being fit and healthy in the short term, but about your overall health and your life!
Do You Have To Follow A Certain Diet To Eat Healthy?
Never buy into the things that say you need to follow any particular diet to be eating healthy. You may need to avoid some foods or adopt a particular diet type for some reason but most do not need to.
You can benefit from particular eating patterns for sure, some people may feel their best on a low carb diet, some may feel the opposite. However, eating healthy is totally unrelated to diets. It is all about personal choice and what you choose to eat yourself.
Eating healthy just means that you are prioritizing your wellness by filling your body with fuel in the form of nutrient rich foods.
The specifics of what will be best for every person will differ, depending on location, culture, financial situation, society, and their own personal tastes as well.
Human biology differs too. Some people may be allergic to some healthy foods, so they may need to find alternatives. It differs from person to person.
What Is The Relationship Between Eating Healthily And Calories?
Calories are the fuel source of our body. We need to refuel our energy by eating foods much like a car needs to resupply with petrol, diesel, or electric in order to run.
Sadly, many diets out there actually brand calories as the bad guy, but they aren’t actually bad. Getting too many or too few calories is bad, but they are not bad themselves, it’s actually our eating habits that are usually bad.
For example, you could eat 2,000 calories of junk food and your body will pay for it, or you could eat 2,000 calories of high fiber and high protein foods and benefit from it, it depends on what you’re putting in your body.
A typical man should have around 2,500 calories per day, and a typical woman should aim for around 2,000 calories per day.
Typically, foods which are high in calories can indicate high salt, sugars, or fats, but some may be naturally calorific, such as corn, avocados, nuts, olive oil and such, but these foods are beneficial and help to fill you up.
Are Carbs Unhealthy?
A majority of popular diets will say carbs are bad, but this is untrue, overindulging and not getting enough exercise will make them turn to fat, but this could be true for anything. If you eat too much of anything and do not counter it with exercise to properly use the fuel, it can lead to gaining weight and other issues.
But, carbs are essential to our diets, and many foods contain carbs, such as fruit and veg, pastas, breads and so on.
These are carb rich foods, but are also filled with other nutrients as well. The biggest danger is processed carbs. These can affect your health negatively.
If you are trying to lose weight, then restricting your carb intake can be useful, however, carbs are important, and you should not cut them out completely, or you will likely start to feel very unwell.
How Can A Healthy Diet Affect Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance inside the body that is made up of fat. It is needed to help the body function, yet, when it is present in excess it can cause very severe health issues.
Low density cholesterol can block arteries which increases the chances of heart disease, however, you can reduce this issue by controlling what you eat.
If you do not ingest enough protective fats like seeds and nuts as well as eating high saturated foods then it is likely that you will find cholesterol increases in the blood.
Simply ingest more vegetables, fruits, and fat-free or lean animal products with foods that are high in fiber. Doing so will reduce the risk of you suffering from cardiovascular diseases and other complications.
When we see our cholesterol getting high we may think there is nothing we can do about it, but a simple change in diet can have a much bigger effect than we may think. It is actually entirely possible to reduce complications like this by better health management and a healthier diet.
Healthy eating has a weird stigma around it that makes it sound really restrictive to people. However, it is not restrictive, if anything it gives you a chance to get creative.
Healthy eating is not about counting calories, or abandoning the things you love altogether, it is about making nutritionally mindful choices that will lead to better health.
Our bodies need certain nutrients to function properly, nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fats, fibers, minerals and vitamins. All are needed for a perfectly functioning human body.
You would be surprised just how much of a difference a healthy diet can make you feel within yourself. You do not need to change a lot about your diet, simply cut out the bad things that do not offer you any nutritional value, and invite in the heavily nutritious foods.
Remember, it doesn’t have to taste bad to do you good!