A blast from the past for some of you, the kind of thing we learned in Biology lessons at school. We can break food down into the following groups: protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins and minerals and water.
These are the building blocks of life and are essential for growth and repair. It can be found in animal and animal (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products) and plant form (legumes, nuts, beans, seeds, soya, pulses, grains and cereals). A combination of the two will ensure the correct balance of amino acids and keep animal fats, which are linked to health problems such as heart disease, to a healthy level.
These are a good source of energy, preventing tiredness and balancing mood. They can be split into two types: complex and simple. The complex carbs provide a slow release energy, preventing the sudden drop in sugar levels, resulting in a slump, both physically and mentally. These are the ones we should be including in our diet for health and weight control. Because they are slow release, our appetite stays at a constant level. This group include wholewheat bread, wholegrain cereal, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, oats, bananas, beans, lentils and root vegetables.
Simple carbs are the sugary foods, which should be kept to a minimum: sugar, fizzy drinks, cakes biscuits, sweets, white bread/pasta/rice.
Fats are an essential part of our diet. They too provide energy, protect our internal organs, keep us warm, help keep our hair and skin in good condition, transport the fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) around the body and are required for hormone metabolism. There are two types: saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are the more solid ones – butter, fat on meat, cheese, eggs, full fat milk and yoghurts. These should be kept to a minimum due to their links to heart disease, strokes and certain cancers. On the other hand, unsaturated fats – olive oil (and other oils), those contained in avocados, nuts and seeds, the omegas found in oily fish – have been found to have a very positive effect on our health.
Vitamins and Minerals
The body cannot survive without these. Vitamins can be found vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, meat and fish. The water-soluble vitamins (B, C and folic acid) are transported around the body in water and cannot be stored, so a daily dose is essential.
The fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) can be stored in the liver and fatty tissues. They can be found in meat, fish, dairy and vegetable oils. Minerals help the vitamins work and are necessary for strong bones and teeth.
A lack of water can impair physical and mental function. From the biochemical reactions in cells to the removal of toxins and waste products, water is the essential component. We can drink water, but we also ingest it via fruit and vegetable.
A good mix of the right foods provides all the nutrients we need for a healthy body. The general rules are:-
1 A balance of animal and vegetable protein
2 Keep simple carbohydrates to a minimum
3 Make complex carbs and vegetables the main part of your meal
4 Five generous portions of fruit and vegetables a day
5 Water and more water
6 Overcooking food will destroy the benefits
7 Stick to unsaturated fats whenever possible
8 Variety: as wide and varied a diet as you can manage
9 Too much food makes you fat: remember this simple equation:
In other words, if you eat too much and do too little you will put on weight and the reverse is true: if you need to lose some weight eat less and move around more!