The Principles of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating is about having more energy, feeling great, avoid certain health problems, improving your health and your mod.
A typical diet contains process food, fast food, takeout, fried foods, sweets and liquid calories. Which are not good for your health! This approach to food affects your body by making you gain weight. And as you know weight gain is responsible for so many health problems. It affects your mind, depression, stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. Compare to this diet, healthy eating has a great effect on how you look, think and feel.
Your healthy food
A healthy diet provides your body with macronutrients and micronutrients. Let’s see what macronutrients are.
Protein – your body uses protein for building and maintaining tissues, cells and organs or as an energy source because protein has 4 Calories per gram. It also helps cognitive functions and the immune system.
Too much protein can be harmful to people with a health problem such as diabetes and kidney disease. But everything that is in excess has a side effect, not just the protein. Too much of anything is bad, right?
The healthiest sources of protein are: eggs, Greek yogurt, Cottage cheese, tuna, halibut, octopus, salmon, anchovies, sardines, steak, ground beef, pork chops, chicken breast, turkey breast, pepperoni, beans, peanut butter, mixed nuts, tofu, green peas, quinoa and many more.
Carbohydrates – They are your body’s main source of energy and it has 4 Calories per gram. Carbohydrates are of two kinds. Complex carbs like vegetables, whole grains and fruits also know as unrefined carbs. And simple carbs also know as refined. Like sugar, white flour, white rice basically all carbohydrates that were stripped off fibers and nutrients.
For a healthy eating, complex carbohydrates are better because it takes longer for your body to digest them. While simple carbs are digested fast, they quickly raise blood sugar levels. And your body will produce insulin to remove blood glucose. This means a rapid increase and decrease in blood glucose which will leave you hungry and craving for more food. This happens when a food has a high glycemic index.
In time this leads to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, overeating and weight gaining. While complex carbs are digested slowly, they slowly release glucose into your blood giving you energy for a longer time. And this means a low glycemic index.
The best sources of healthy carbohydrates are whole grains, quinoa, oats, bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges, grapefruits, yams, brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, apples, blueberries, peaches and many more.
Fat – Not all fats are the same because we have bad fats which can make you gain weight and increase the risk of certain disease. Like artificial fats and saturated fats that are responsible for weight gain, clogged arteries and so one.
But we also have good fat that protects your heart and brain. Like omega 3 that is important for your emotional and physical health. Fats can also be used as energy in your body, with 9 Calories per grams.
Best healthy fat sources: almonds, olive oil, avocado, walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, olives, salmon, tuna, dark chocolate, tofu, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, eggs and many more.
Fiber – They are a part of plant-based foods (fruits, legumes, vegetables, grains, nuts) that can’t be digested by your body. But fibers have health benefits for your digestive system, your hearth, your skin and it regulates your blood sugar.
They also have an effect on weight loss and weight gain because fibers bulk up food and it makes you full. And because it is not digested, fibers will stay for a longer time in your stomach making you eat less.
Fibers are off two kinds insoluble which don’t dissolve in water and soluble which dissolve in water. Our body can’t dissolve fibers but the fibers that are soluble provide 2 Calories per gram because in the intestine they are fermented by bacteria, providing energy.
Best healthy fibers sources: avocados, berries, coconut, figs, peas, Brussels sprouts, black beans, nuts, quinoa, chia seeds and many more.
Water – has 0 Calories. But it is important for a good function of the body. It regulates your body temperatures, it helps your digestion, it helps with nutrition absorption, it helps you lose weight, it helps your immunity system, it helps blood oxygen circulation, it helps cognitive function, it boosts energy, it improves mood and so many more effects on your body that it will take me a day to write everything.
A man should drink 13 cups (3 litres) and women should drink 9 cups (2,1 litres) of water per day.
Alcohol – has 7 Calories per gram. And drinking occasionally in small quantities, it is not a cause for concern. But if you are drinking too much it can have negative effects on your body. Like behaviour change, dependence, heart damage, liver damage, sexual dysfunctions, changes in coordination, fatigue, cancer and malnutrition because it prevents your body from absorbing vitamins and nutrients from food.
And let’s see what micronutrients are.
According to Wikipedia “Micronutrients are essential elements required by organisms in small quantities throughout life to orchestrate a range of physiological functions to maintain health. Micronutrient requirements differ between organisms; for example, humans and other animals require numerous vitamins and dietary minerals, whereas plants require specific minerals. For human nutrition, micronutrient requirements are in amounts generally less than 100 milligrams per day, whereas macronutrients are required in gram quantities daily.”
Basically, micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and their deficiency can lead to serious health problems.
The food pyramid
Because now you know what to eat, the next step will be to know in what quantities to eat. And for that, you have to use the food pyramid.
The food pyramid is created to make healthy eating easier. It takes into consideration the correct amount of macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs.
Foods that have the same nutrients are group together in the food pyramid, starting from the bottom up:
- vegetables, fruits and salads – 5-7 servings a day
- whole grains, cereals and bread, potatoes, pasta and rice -3-5 servings a day
- cheese, yogurt and milk – 3 servings a day
- meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and beans – 2 servings a day
- oils, fats and spreads – in a very small amount
- foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt – in very small amount and not every day
There is no good or bad macronutrient or micronutrient, what is bad is the amount that we consume. Because a deficit or surplus of something usually is bad for your body. That is why the food pyramid encourages you to eat a certain amount of each nutrient.
You may wonder why alcohol it is not in the food pyramid, because alcohol is not needed for health. But if you would like to have a drink it is better to have a maximum of 170 grams per week as a man and 110 grams per week as a woman. And it is recommended to have a minimum of 2-3 alcohol-free days a week.
At the bottom of the pyramid, you see foods that you should eat more, vegetables, salads and fruits. Which are rich in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. I recently read a book about healthy eating in which said that vegetables and fruits are the rock star of nutrition.
And as you go to the top of the pyramid you see foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. You should limit them, because these foods in big amount represent unhealthy eating.
Compare a typical diet with the food pyramid and you can see that the typical diet is made of the same nutrients which are from the top of the pyramid. This means that what we should eat less we eat the most.
Changing your eating habits
Switching to a healthy eating habit doesn’t mean you have to change all at once or you have to completely give up what you love.
Eliminate temptation, it is not hard to do, just don’t have in the house foods that are not healthy for you. Easy, right? When you are hungry you eat what you have, you have healthy foods in the house that is what you eat. This means that next time when you go to the supermarket don’t buy foods that are bad for you. But the secret is not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! Because then you will buy all the wrong foods.
Make small changes, rather than a big change that is not sustainable. It is important to slowly decrease unhealthy foods while you slowly increase healthy foods. As an example add a salad to your diet and as you get more accustomed whit this change make another one and so one. Change french fried with boiled potatoes and fried chicken with roasted chicken and sweets with fruits.
Read the label, it is important to know what ingredients contains each food. Because manufacturers add sugar, unhealthy fats and others additives in food.
Eat vegetables and fruits, they are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, fibers and antioxidants. Another advantage is that vegetables and fruits bulk up your food. As a result, you will feel full as you eat less.
Drink plenty of water, when thirsty don’t drink sodas or others beverages drink only water.
Be patient and consistent, changing your eating habits can take time. It can take up to a year or more. So think in terms of years.
Intermittent fasting, you can lose weight and improve your physical and mental health with intermittent fasting. Also, fasting can help you age better and live longer.
Dan is the founder of Brain Your Life. He is also a health and fitness lover who likes to coke and read. He is doing this as a passion while he works as a supervisor for an oil and gas company.