With the New Year quickly approaching, many people are making resolutions to “eat healthy” in 2018. There is a wealth of information out there about what “eating healthy” means but I think it is important to start with the basics so you can make informed decisions about what to put into your body. For the next three weeks, I will be focusing on the macro nutrients that make up a health diet.
All food is divided into three main categories referred to as macro nutrients. These are carbohydrates, fats or proteins. These categories are not mutually exclusive as some food qualifies as more than one category. All three categories are necessary for healthy bodily function. There is endless debate about how much of each category you should eat but in reality, every body is different so what is the right ratio for one person might not be right for the next. Trial and error and listening to your body are important to find the right combination for you.
Carbohydrates are the first macro nutrient necessary for optimal health. Carbs are the body’s main source of fuel and can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, legumes, pasta, crackers, cookies and natural sweeteners. In the body, carbohydrates are broken down into a molecule called glucose, which is either used immediately for energy or stored in the liver or muscles for later use. There are three main types of carbohydrates. Simple sugars are broken down quickly, producing a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. Simple sugars include foods such as table sugar, honey, maple syrup, candy and cakes. They can also be found in milk products, fruits and vegetables. In contrast, complex carbohydrates take longer to break down and process in the body because of their structure. Complex carbohydrates include such foods as brown rice, whole grains and beans. Fiber is another important component of carbohydrates. It is the indigestible part of plant foods that works it way through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements.
In general, simple carbohydrates like added sugar are to be avoided. Fruit, a source of simple carbohydrates, is usually best limited to 1-3 servings a day. People with a history of diabetes, blood sugar issues, yeast infections or other sugar related problems do best to limit their intake of fruits. Absorption of fruit sugar (fructose) can be slowed by consuming fruit with an added fat like nuts or added fiber. Your carbohydrate needs are best met through enjoying whole fruits, veggies, whole grains such as brown rice, amaranth, oatmeal, quinoa, sprouted whole grain breads, beans and legumes. Starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, squash and other root vegetables are also excellent choices but may need to be limited. Enjoy an unlimited amount of leafy and crunchy vegetables like spinach, kale, greens, broccoli, green beans and cauliflower. These are loaded with the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. Try to eat a minimum of 4 servings of vegetables a day. A serving size is ½ cup of cooked veggies and 1 cup of raw. See serving size chart for specific servings.
Try to reduce or eliminate all refined carbohydrates like cookies, juices, crackers, pasta, white bread, white rice, candy and soda.
Photo from flickr.