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Let’s Grow Together!

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

“Except yourself as you are right now, an imperfect; changing, growing and worthy person.”

Denis Waitley



Eating Your Way To Health!

Now some of this may be a bit of a repeat from a few prior posts but sometimes certain aspects of the diet bears repeating for clarity. There is always room for small, positive changes in your diet and understanding some of the basics, such as what vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals (from January’s post) actually are can help to outline the smaller details and illuminate the bigger picture. I always like to at least have an overall idea of the “why” in broader topics...and nutrition is certainly a broad topic. Perhaps having some general idea of “why” dark leafy greens, lean protein and legumes are good for your health will steer you toward those small, healthy changes. Maybe more information might send you into overdrive and turn you off to reading more about nutrition and just knowing the facts that fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are good for your health is enough without the extra explanation. Either way is great and leaves you in control of your nutrition.


What Are Nutrients Anyway?

Nutrients are substances in the food we eat and are necessary in order for the body to perform its normal functions. Nutrients must be obtained by the diet, the body does make them on their own. Eating a diet that is high in sugar and processed foods will leave your body with inadequate levels of nutrients.


The role that nutrients play in your body include providing cellular energy which allows you to move, breath, excrete waste, grow and reproduce. The six classes of nutrients can be breakdown like this:


Macronutrients

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fats

  • Proteins

Micronutrients

  • Water

  • Vitamins

  • Minerals


Macronutrients

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are important because they break down into glucose molecules which is the body’s preferred source of energy. Glucose helps fuel your brain, heart, kidneys and central nervous system. Your body has the ability to store glucose in your muscles and liver in case there are times you are not able to get a sufficient amount of carbs into your diet.


Simple Carbohydrates:

Simple carbohydrates are refined sugar, similar to what you would find in table sugar. They are digested quickly in your bloodstream and may provide you with a sudden burst of energy due to the large amount of sugar in your system. You may be familiar with the term “sugar rush” which also defines the energy burst you may have experienced after you consume dessert or a sweet treat. Unfortunately this rush is followed by a “sugar crash” and may leave you feeling tired, grumpy and may sometimes cause confusion. This type of carb usually has a higher amount of calories (energy dense) but little to no nutritional value such as vitamins and minerals. If you included a lot of simple carbs into your diet, it can lead to weight gain. Additionally, adding too much sugar can also decrease your gut health and overall immunity strength.


Exception to Simple Carbs:

Simple sugars are also found in more nutritious foods, such as fruit. It's much healthier to reach for a piece of fruit (fresh is preferred but frozen and dried count too) rather than grabbing a cookie or pastry because fruit also contains vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants where as sugary treats contain little to no nutritious value.


Complex Carbohydrates:

Complex carbs are often referred to as starches and are digested at a slower pace in the body, resulting in steadier blood sugar (glucose) levels. A few examples of starchy foods are: potatoes (white/sweet), rice, grains, pasta, corn and beans.


A good goal is to try to stay away from “refined grains” such as white flour and sugar due to their lack of nutritional value. “Unrefined” grains have not been stripped of their nutrients by heavy processing, and contain quality nutrients including fiber. Fiber will help stabilize your blood sugar, lower your cholesterol and help you to feel fuller longer which can prevent overeating. Carbohydrates become an issue when you consume more than you expend. Make sure you move your body each day so you get some exercise. This can will help to minimize weight gain.


Fats

I have mentioned fats in several past posts but just to reiterate, you need fat in your diet and not all fat is created equal. There are three different types of fat: Trans Fat, Saturated Fat and Unsaturated fat.


  • Trans Fat

This type of fat should NOT be included in your diet. Most trans fat comes from hydrogenated oils (meaning hydrogen molecules are added to unsaturated fats). This produces a hydrogenated oil. This style of food processing allows foods to be “shelf stabilized” so that they can last for longer periods of time without spoiling. Examples of trans fats can be found in margarine, shortening, baked goods, doughs, and fried foods.


  • Saturated Fat

This type of fats is referred to as “saturated” because it is loaded with hydrogen molecules. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a chemistry lesson but they are usually solid at room temperature. A diet with a high saturated fat content can increase cholesterol levels and the incidence of developing heart disease. Some examples of foods that contain saturated fats are: Red meat including lamb, beef, poultry with skin, lard, full fat dairy (e.g. cheese, cream, butter), palm kernel oil and coconut oil. You may have heard that coconut oil is also good for you. It is important to note that this oil has been shown to increase cholesterol levels in several studies since it is still a saturated fat. Consuming unsaturated fats listed below are better for overall health.


  • Unsaturated Fat

These fats are usually found in a liquid state at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are typically known as the “healthy fat” since they have shown to decrease the risk for heart disease. They come from plant based sources such as avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olives, and oils (olive, canola, safflower etc.). Good sources of this “healthy fat” can also be found in fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring.


Proteins

Proteins are an important part of the diet because they aid in the repair and building of muscles, tissue, cells, help maintain organ function and improve immunity. Protein consists of 20 amino acids and some are “non-essential” meaning the body makes them on its own. There are 9 “essential” amino acids which you must obtain from dietary sources because the body will not produce them otherwise. Have you ever heard the term “complete protein” before? This means that all the 9 “essential” amino acids are present and that it’s a great protein source.


  • Animal-Based Proteins

Most animal-based proteins contain all the 9 essential amino acids that make it a complete protein. A few examples of animal-based proteins include: red meat, pork, poultry, and fish. Dairy products and eggs are a good source of vegetarian protein but still fall under this category since they are from animal sources.


  • Plant-Based Proteins

Some plant-based protein examples are grains, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Some examples of complete plant-based protein sources are: Quinoa, buckwheat, hemp, chia and amaranth.


For plant proteins, perhaps you are familiar with the term “complementary proteins” which means that each source of food on its own may offer a few essential amino acids but not all of them. Adding in another source of plant protein will provide all the essential amino acids and it will then become a complete protein. An example of this would be rice and beans. Having just rice (hopefully brown rice, it contains more nutrients) is great and has health benefits but putting it together with beans….you now have a complete protein! You can mix and match the plant-based proteins so you stay healthy but don’t get bored of your diet.


Micronutrients

Water

Drinking enough water everyday can be a difficult task and it’s hard to remember how much you should drink. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) recommends consuming 3.7 liters of total water a day and 2.7 liters for women a day. Total water includes foods that have a high water content such as vegetables, fruits and dishes with broths like soups and stews. Water keeps you hydrated, lubricates joints, regulates body temperature and flushes out sweat and excrement from your system.


Vitamins

Vitamins are divided into two categories: Fat-soluble and Water-soluble.

  • Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A,D,E and K are fat-soluble. This means that these vitamins can be stored in your fatty tissue and liver as a reserve and used at a later time. These vitamins aid in normal vision, and support healthy functioning of the immune and central nervous systems. Some examples for good dietary sources for fat-soluble vitamins are: dark leafy greens, nuts/seeds, dairy, fortified grains, sweet potatoes and carrots.

  • Water-Soluble Vitamins

Vitamin C and all the B vitamins dissolve in water. That means they are not stored in the body and move through and out of the system in urine output (with the exception of Vitamin B12 which can be stored in the liver). Because of this, they need to be taken on a regular basis (daily multivitamin) to ensure you have maintained adequate levels. Vitamins help facilitate many processes in the body including producing energy and creating and protecting red blood cells. Some examples for good dietary sources for water-soluble vitamins are: Fish and lean meats, eggs, fruit and leafy green vegetables.

Minerals

Minerals keep muscles, bones and your blood pressure functioning and under control. They also aid in supporting the central nervous system and healing wounds. Important minerals are: Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, copper and selenium. Some examples for good dietary sources for water-soluble vitamins are: Nuts, oysters and spinach.


Macro/Micro Wrap Up

In closing, these sources are all suggestions for different places to start or pick back up, wherever it is you find yourself on your nutrition path. I’m sure reading through several of last year’s posts you may have discovered you already include many of these foods in your diet routine. Perhaps you have added some new foods along the way? I hope you find this information is helpful as you continue on your journey of health in 2021. And Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!


To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at cathleen@wellnesswithincw.com


A Little About Me

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I am set to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I would like to concentrate on patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


Sources

Carbohydrates 101: The benefits of carbohydrates. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.reidhealth.org/blog/carbohydrates-101-the-benefits-of-carbohydrates#:~:text=Carbohydrates%20are%20your%20body's%20main,blood%20cholesterol%20levels%20in%20check.

Macronutrients: A Simple Guide to Macros. (2020, September 01). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://avitahealth.org/health-library/macronutrients-a-simple-guide-to-macros/

Micronutrient Facts. (2020, December 03). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/micronutrient-malnutrition/micronutrients/index.html

Publishing, H. (n.d.). The larger role of micronutrients. Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-larger-role-of-micronutrients

Saturated Fat. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats

Water and Healthier Drinks. (2021, January 12). Retrieved January 25, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/water-and-healthier-drinks.html#:~:text=Getting%20enough%20water%20every%20day,Keep%20a%20normal%20temperature







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