Eating Healthy: Essential for Life
Written by Dr. Lucas Szczepanik B.Sc., D.C.
Everyone understands the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet. This can be a challenge for people. Whether you are trying to lose 10-15 lbs. or simply trying to eat healthier, there are a few things you need to remember.
Always eat breakfast. It really is the most important meal of the day. It gets the body’s metabolism running and helps to control your cravings throughout the day. Equally important is to consume small, nutrient-dense meals 3 to 4 hours apart during the day. This will help to keep your metabolism stable, maintain a full feeling, and avoid wide swings in blood sugar which can lead to cravings during the day. Your meals should consist of a variety of foods with balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and some fat.
Carbohydrates consist of simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are those found in fresh fruit such as apples, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, and kiwifruit. Complex carbohydrates consist of fiber and starches found in vegetables, whole grains, peas and beans.
Protein, made up of amino acids, is essential for growth and development, even into old age. It provides the body with energy and is needed for the manufacturing of hormones, antibodies (found in the immune system), enzymes, and tissue growth. Meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, yogurt, and milk are excellent sources of protein. You want to be cautious about consuming too much red meat like pork and beef because of the negative effects on the heart, vessels, and cholesterol levels of the body. Vegetarians can get protein into their diet with a variety of foods such as grains, legumes, and leafy green vegetables. It is important to note that these sources of protein may not meet the body’s full requirement of amino acids. Amino acids are either essential or non-essential. They are both beneficial to the body, but essential amino acids are needed consistently everyday, something that may not be found in grains, legumes, and vegetables. Therefore it will be more of a challenge for the vegetarian to get their essential amino acids.
Fats are also an essential part of any balanced diet. There are bad fats such as “trans-fat” and “saturated fat” commonly found in fried foods, junk food, and processed foods. Good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats commonly found in avocados, olives, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, and wheat and corn germ. They are good for you, but they are fat therefore no more than 10-15% of the body’s total caloric intake (the number of calories you eat) should be from fat.
The last thing to make mention of is what form the food comes in. Raw is always best when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Frozen is second and canned is a distant third place. Many times manufacturers will add sugar, salt or preservatives to canned goods, something to be avoided. The same idea applies when it comes to meat, poultry, and fish. The meat isle at the grocery store is where you want to go, not the frozen food isle. You also want to try to avoid processed foods, refined sugars (in junk food), fast food restaurants, and all junk food (pastries, cakes, doughnuts, pop, candy etc…)
Eating healthy is not an easy task. It is something that takes persistence and consistency over time. This does not mean that a burger or some chicken wings will harm you. It is the pattern of dietary habits that leads to health problems. One set-back is exactly that…only a setback. Focus on the next meal and try to make it as healthy as possible. Healthy eating is a healthy life.