Balanced Diet, Fabulous Health

ProteinCarbsFats2ProteinCarbsFatsA few months ago I wrote an article on carbohydrates, what they are, the different types of carbohydrates and why we need them (see article here). I wrote that article because in one week, I’d heard at least three people say they were going on a carb-free diet. I seem to hear quite a few people say that, as well as saying they are going on the Atkins’ diet, fat-free diet etc. There are so many different types of diets out there, and I’m not knocking them. It’s just that some work and some don’t – here’s why. We are all individuals and we all metabolise differently, so what works for one person, might not work for the next – brings to mind the phrase “one man’s foods is another man’s poison”.

What we need to do is pay attention to having a diet balanced in carbohydrates, protein and good fats that work for us as individuals. As I have previously talked about carbs, I’m going to drill down a little into proteins and good fats.

Protein is a component of food made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for major parts of a human body. Protein is the building block of cells and tissues that are needed to keep us strong. It is crucial for vital functions, regulation and maintenance of our bodies. Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential amino acids.

Almost all foods contain some amount of protein which come in two forms – animal and plant protein. Animal protein provides B vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium but has no fibre and is often high in fat and cholesterol. Plant protein provides fibre, zinc, calcium, phytochemicals and unsaturated fats but does not provide B vitamins (vegetables, seaweed and legumes).

Why do we need protein?

• Build and repair muscles, tissues and organs
• They should make up about 10 to 15 percent of daily calories
• As collagen, it holds cells together and forms the framework for bones and teeth
• Protein are also enzymes which are needed for digestion and other functions
• Regulate hormones
• Regulate fluid and PH balance
• To move nutrients around the body

Excess protein cannot be stored so they are used for energy if the body does not provide enough carbohydrates and fats; they are converted to fatty acids and contribute to weight gain. Some other symptoms of too much protein include low energy, constipation, dehydration, sweet cravings, decline in kidney function and stiff joints. Here are a few symptoms of inadequate protein: fatigue, weight loss, anaemia, skin inflammation (in severe cases), change in hair colour and texture. The idea here is to find a balance that works for you.

Fats – There are different types of fats; saturated, unsaturated and Trans fats.

Saturated fats are found mostly in animal foods (meat, dairy). They are solid at room temperature and high intake leads to high cholesterol. Unsaturated fats on the other hand are the healthy fats and tend to be liquid at room temperature. There are two types; monounsaturated fats – olive oil, peanut oil; polyunsaturated fats – corn, safflower and soy bean oils. Now Trans-fats are the fats we need to stay well away from. They are unsaturated fats that have been saturated with hydrogen molecules (hydrogenated) and are found in most processed foods. Read the labels of foods you pick up at the store before you purchase them. Look out for trans-fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and avoid them.

There are also essential fatty acids; essential because our body cannot produce them so we have to take them ourselves which are Omegas 3 and 6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids (linolenic) are anti-inflammatory fats and can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and fish. Omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic) can be found in nuts, corn, safflower and sunflower oils but we need to take less of this as they can be pro-inflammatory.

So why do we need fats in our body? Fats are stored as adipose tissue under the skin and around the organs, and provide structure, regulation and energy. They insulate the body and protect from shock, are an important part of cells, lubricate the body surfaces and are also used to make hormones.

We also need to include fibre as an important part of a healthy balanced diet. The benefits of fibre include:

• Promote healthy gut function and flora
• Increase transit time
• Reduce cholesterol
• Reduce the risk of colon cancer
• Helps maintain weight

Examples of fibre include oats, fruits, beans, seaweed (soluble fibre) and wheat, rye, vegetables (insoluble fibre).

Here’s the thing folks, we are all individuals and it’s up to us to try things out and figure out what works for us incorporating a balanced amount of carbs, protein, good fats and fibre as part of our daily diet. Our bodies are such intelligent bio-computers that they know exactly what they need to function and let us know about it through cravings and some form of discomfort. We just need to take the time to listen, understand and feed it what it needs which will in turn return peace and balance. What you put in is what you get out of it – feed your body with a good, balanced, nutritional diet, exercise, fun and de-stress, and it will totally love you back.

Peace and Fabulous Health!


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