Nutrition

 “You can’t out run a bad diet”

 

All vehicles require fuel, and our bodies are no different.

What we eat is important not just in providing fuel for exercise, but for our general health and well being. Much like exercise, consistency and balance are key.

Our diet can be broken down into macro nutrients - the bulk of what we eat and micro nutrients. The latter is essential for keeping our bodies healthy, but required in much smaller quantities .

 

Macro nutrients

 

Complete Protein

Contain all the amino acids your body requires

  • Meat

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Soya

Incomplete proteins

Does not contain all amino acids but by eating a wide variety, you can obtain all.

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Pulses

  • Grains

Carbohydrates

The main function of carbohydrate is to provide energy. We tend to think of carbohydrates as starchy potatoes, pasta and bread. But they are also found in fruits, vegetables and milk. There are two main types of carbohydrates:

 

Simple carbohydrates(Sugar)

Naturally occurring as glucose, fructose and galactose, found in fruit vegetables and milk.

 

Complex carbohydrates(starchy carbohydrates)

Found in grains and grain products, such as rice, pasta and bread.

These can again be categorized into refined carbohydrates and un-refined carbohydrates.

 

Refined carbohydrates have been processed, removing the nutrients and the fiber,

which allows them to be digested more quickly but removes a lot of the goodness.

Unrefined carbohydrates still contain vitamins and minerals. They are also rich in fiber, which helps your digestive system to work well. Eating fiber will aid in feeling full or satisfied, ensuring that you are less likely to over eat.  As the main source of fuel, carbohydrates are an integral part of our daily diet. By selecting the “right” carbohydrates you can keep your diet nutrient-rich and help curtail hunger.

Protein

Protein is essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of our body tissue.

It does this by providing us with amino acids; these are like the building blocks for protein. There are 20 different amino acids which we use regularly.  Eight of these are what we call essential amino acids. These must be provided in our diet, as our body is not able to manufacture them. The other twelve non-essential amino acids the body can make if they are in short supply. Protein can be categorized in to complete and incomplete protein.

FACT

Most people find it easy to consume enough omega 6 as it is in many day to day items. However, although omega 6 is essential to the body the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is also very important. Omega 3 and omega 6 have opposite inflammatory responses in the body. A greater proportion of omega 6 to 3 can have a detrimental effect on the body. The bottom line is to eat more oily fish!

Fats

Fat has a bad reputation, but it plays an important role, from maintaining the integrity of the body’s cells, to transporting vitamins around the body. Fats can be categorized into saturated and unsaturated.

 

Saturated fats

Solid at room temperature, found in butter, lard, fats found in meat, cheese and cream. Saturated fat should be eaten in small quantities, less than 30g per day.

 

Unsaturated fats, are liquid at room temperature. These can be further categorized as monosaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These are the good fats, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. They must be included in the diet as they cannot be manufactured by the body.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in Fish, particularly oily fish, certain dark green leafy vegetables, including kale and spinach.

 

Omega 6 fatty acids are found in seeds and nuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, most vegetable oils, cereals, eggs, poultry.

Hydrogenated fats - the bad fats - are unnatural fats that are detrimental to your health. Found in cakes, biscuits and most processed foods these should be kept to a minimum.

Micro nutrients

These are the vitamins and minerals, which our bodies need in order to function properly. The good news is that, so long as you eat a varied and balanced diet these are available from the food we eat.

Vitamins

 

Below are the main vitamins and minerals our bodies need and just some of their many important functions.

Vitamins

 

Vitamin A

  • Helps the body fight infection and illness

  • Helps with our vision in dim light.

Vitamin B There are a number of B vitamins their jobs include

  • The breakdown of food and release of energy.

  • Maintaining skin and eyes and nervous system

  • Formation of hemoglobin in red blood cells for transporting oxygen.

  • Healthy red blood cells

  • Helps reduce the risk of central neural tube defects in pregnancy (specifically folic acid)

Vitamin C

  • Protects cells keeping them healthy

  • Maintains cells, skin blood vessels and bones.

  • Helps healing wounds

  • Helps the body absorb iron

Vitamin D

  • Healthy bones and teeth, helps the body absorb calcium.

Vitamin E

  • Antioxidant

  • Protects fat soluble vitamins and red blood cells

Vitamin K

  • Aids blood clotting.

 

Minerals

 

Iron An important component of haemoglobin, the oxygen transporting protein in our blood.

 

Zinc Helps various important enzymes to do their jobs, these include growth and development of the nervous system.

 

Sodium Many functions including the regulation of water balance in our body.

 

Calcium Main component of healthy bones. Has many functions in the body including muscle contraction.

 

Potassium Helps maintain water and electrolyte balance.

 

Selenium Acts as anti oxidant and protects cells from free radicals.

Photography by Annie MacDonald

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anniemacd