Eat healthy and live a healthy life
By: Winnie Khosa
Finding the kinds of foods needed for round-the-clock energy is essential especially when juggling with everyday responsibility of work, life and family; you should never cut corners when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet that your body needs to function at its best while fighting everyday stresses and fatigue life brings.
The foods we eat together with water are our main source of energy, after being consumed they later get broken down into smaller components and the body absorbs the nutrients as fuel. There three types of nutrients used for energy, which are carbohydrates, protein and fats; with carbohydrates being the main source and the other two only come to play when carbohydrates have depleted. Carbohydrates come it two types, simple and complex; they both convert to sugar.
Complex carbohydrates such as high-fibre cereals, whole grain breads and dried beans are some of the best foods for sustained energy that lasts longer as they are digested at a slow, consistent rate while simple carbohydrates ranging from candy and cookies to sugary beverages and juices, on the other hand, it should be limited. Simple carbs (carbohydrates) are broken down and absorbed quickly by the body and they provide an initial burst of energy that lasts up to 30 to 60 minutes, they are digested so quickly that they can result in a slump afterward; alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided as alcohol is a depressant and can reduce your energy levels while caffeine like simple carbohydrates provides an initial 60 minutes energy burst, followed by a crash.
Fruit and Vegetables are also vital in a healthy diet and, stark contrast to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new guidelines states that we should be eating five to 13 servings of nature’s best, depending on the number of calories you need. Experts recommend Mother Nature’s bounty packs to nutrients supplements as nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables work together to maintain a healthy body. Kristine Wallerius Cuthrell, Master of Science in Public Health, registered dietician, a research nutritionist and senior project coordinator for Hawaii Foods at the Centre on the Family at University of Hawaii at Manoa, says that in the past five to 10 years, many large research studies have found that researchers also found that vitamin supplements don’t provide benefits that foods do. “In addition to the substances we are aware of, there are many present in fruits and vegetables that have yet to be discovered. Food and the nutrients they contain aren’t consumed singly, but with each other. As such, they may act in synergistic ways to promote health,” Cuthrell says. For instance, eating iron-rich plants, like spinach, with an iron-absorbing enhancer, like the vitamin C in orange juice, is great especially for young women as they typically don’t get enough iron.
Fruits and vegetables can also be great for watching your weight as they are low in fat and calories, they are loaded with fibre and water, which create a feeling of fullness. This is particularly helpful for dieters who want more filling calories. Plus, that fibre helps keep you “regular’’ and they are also important in a healthy, energy-producing diet like protein which preferably contain chicken, turkey, pork tenderloin and fish, legumes like lentils and beans and a moderate amount of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like avocados, seeds, nuts, and certain oils. “Adequate fluids are also essential for sustaining energy,” says Suzanne Lugerner, Registered Nurse, director of clinical nutrition at the Washington Hospital Centre in Washington, DC. “Water is necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients for energy. Dehydration can cause a lack of energy. The average person needs to drink six to eight ounce glasses of water each day.” Fruits and vegetables may prevent many illnesses and may reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, type two diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. The Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study examined nearly 110,000 people over the course of 14 years, part of their study revealed that the more fruits and vegetables people ate daily, the less chance they would develop cardiovascular diseases. The relationship between fruits and vegetables and cancer prevention has been more difficult to prove. However, recent studies show that some types of produce are associated with lower rates of some types of cancer. For example, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research suggest that mouth, stomach, and colorectal cancers are less likely with high intakes of non-starchy foods like leafy greens, broccoli, and cabbage. Though studies have been mixed, lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes.
Besides eating three meals, Tara Harward, (RD) recommends the inclusion of three snacks to avoid overeating, it is advisable to also try to include something from each food group at every meal, remember that foods high in fibre, protein, and fat take a longer time to digest. Even if life is hectic, it’s important to make wise food choices that provide energy throughout the day. Your body will thank you by not having to go through so many diets and quick weight-loss promises on the market today that makes it hard to remember what a healthy diet basically looks like. Diet pills, fad diets, foods to boycott and foods to eat exclusively together with all the crazy diet advice out there.
The USDA is responsible for publishing nutritional guidelines for healthy eating based on ongoing research. Although the basics haven’t really changed, recently, there have been a few adjustments. The major adjustment is the focus on filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Women need at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day, while men need at least nine. “We just know there’s so much good stuff in fruits and vegetables,” including essential nutrients and fibre, says Sandra Meyerowitz (MPH, RD) a nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky. Carbohydrates are also an important part of a healthy diet, contrary to many popular fad diets being touted today — the key is consuming fibre-rich complex carbs like beans, whole grains, and fruit.
Food Groups and Healthy Nutrition: USDA’s Recommended Nutritional tips for a healthy eating plan:
- Focus on fruits and vegetables: Fill have of your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal;
- Go for low-fat dairy: Consume at least three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk each day or the equivalent in cheese, yogurt, or other calcium-rich foods;
- Choose whole grains: Get at least six to eight servings of whole grains each day. Grains should fill a quarter of your plate at each meal;
- Steer clear of Trans and saturated fats, sodium (salt), sugars, and cholesterol: Limit fat to only about 20 to 35 percent of total calorie intake and avoid Trans and saturated fats;
- Choose lean proteins: Fill the remaining quarter of your plate with lean protein. About 15 percent of your total calories should come from proteins, such as skin, fish, beans, nuts and legumes.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, created jointly between HHS and USDA and reviewed every five years, say that foods are the best sources of nutrients because they contain naturally occurring ingredients like carotenoids and flavonoids. Here are some other tips to help you develop a healthy eating plan. If you keep these general nutrition rules in mind, you’ll be on the right track toward healthy eating for life:
- Pay attention to portion control; quantities depend on whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight. In most restaurants, an appetiser serving is often closer to an appropriate serving size than an entrée;
- Always drink plenty of water;
- Vary your food choices to make sure you get a wide variety of vitamins and other nutrients and to avoid boredom;
- Know the recommended daily calorie intake for your age, weight, height, activity level, and gender;
- Don’t deprive yourself of foods you love; just enjoy them in moderation.
Start thinking about the basics of diet and nutrition again, and make nutritional guidelines part of your everyday life. It won’t be a diet, it won’t be a fad, and it definitely won’t be temporary. It will be your new healthy lifestyle, and when you think, “What’s for dinner?” the answer will naturally be a healthy choice.