Article by Erin Bell, RNCP, Nutritionist
Congratulations! You’ve joined the gym, signed up for Latin dance lessons or you’re just waiting for the end of the ice age we just called “winter” to pass so you can get back on that bike! Well done! (insert “flying chest bumps here”). Now all you have to do is eat healthy. But what does that entail? Nutrition is as individual as humans themselves, and despite being the main form of energy for us all, it is still very poorly understood.
The mass marketing and media hype of “diets” provide more confusion and often set people up for nutritional failure, usually resulting in yo-yo dieting and malnutrition. In Western Nations, we are not underfed,
we are undernourished.
That being said, how is that possible when we live in a society that is full of food and food choices? We throw out more food every day than some impoverished countries actually eat! Simply, we have either forgotten or misunderstood the importance of our main sources of fuel; protein, carbohydrates and fats.
- Protein is absolutely necessary for muscle growth and support as well as wound healing. It is also necessary for tissue repair.
- Proteins are like building blocks – (think ‘Lego”), they provide the substances the body needs to build muscle.
- Protein is essential for the development and defense of the immune system, contributing to its ability to fight off pathogens, viruses, and bacteria.
- Essential for the development of antibodies that are literally made of protein.
- Provides the body with slow burning energy without rapid blood sugar increases.
- Needed for the manufacture of hormones and enzymes.
- Protein maintains acid/alkaline balance in the body. Acid/alkaline balance is very important in the inflammatory response. An acidic body is a sick body!
Some fats are good for you
Fat gets a bad rap most of the time, but not all fat is bad. Although all fats are, well… fat, it’s not only the quantity, but also the type of fats you consume that are important. Trans-fats are very harmful for your body while mono/polyunsaturated fats can be beneficial:
- Many of our organs are actually composed of fatty tissues such as the pancreas and thyroid and adrenal glands.
- Flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, walnut oil, coconut oil and fish oil are great sources of one of the key essential fatty acids called Omega-3.
- For cooking, choose extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
- Good fats provide the body with essential fatty acids good for brain development, decreased inflammation and are used by the liver to provide good cholesterol for the cells. Carbohydrates for high energy
- Carbohydrates are the primary source of glucose for the body and used as fuel both for your body and your brain. Yes, your brain wants sugar, but not processed, refined white sugar. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed much slower into the blood stream. Simple carbs are refined, sugary foods and white flour based products. These are absorbed quickly and spike blood sugar levels.
- The difference between good carbs and bad carbs is not based solely on a simple and complex carbohydrates list. It’s based on how much fiber is in the food and how fast the food’s sugars are absorbed into your blood stream.
- Oatmeal, whole grains, brown rice, whole grain pasta, and beans are all good sources of complex carbs and fiber.
- Fruits and vegetables of all kinds are excellent sources of complex carbs.
Make sure you include protein with every meal, especially if you are physically active in any type of exercise. Understanding your body and and the foods that fuel it can help avoid costly, agonizing “diets” and promote optimum nutrition.
Snacking without guilt
For those times in the middle of it all, packing some healthy snacks with you eliminates the need and the desire to grab for something screaming at you from the vending machine. Consider these options below and take the worry out of what to nibble on throughout the day.
Healthy Snacks: Choose 2 per day as snacks between meals – one in the mid-morning and one in the mid-afternoon or enjoy during a break between games!
• 1/2 cup raw veggie sticks with
1 tbsp hummus
• 1 cup popcorn – no butter, just sprinkle
with a bit of olive oil and dash of salt
• 1 cup low-fat yogurt (preferably organic)
• 1 apple dipped in 2 tbsp nut butter
• 1 pear, or 1 peach, or 1/2 banana
• 1 oz. (small square) dark chocolate
(70% and above cocoa solids – very dark
chocolate). Feel free to dip into nut
butter for a “natural peanut butter cup”
• 6 baked tortilla chips with 2 tbsp salsa
• 1 cup mixed fruit (fresh, not canned)
• 1/4 cup guacamole with 4 baked
tortilla/lentil or bean chips
• 20 pistachios, 12 almonds or 10 walnuts.
And remember to hydrate. Water, water and more water. Now go play!
Erin Bell is a Registered Nutritionist and Holistic Allergist at BIOS Natural Health, located with Adaptive Health Care Solutions in Peterborough.