Healthy eating is not about unrealistic limitations or depriving ourselves of certain foods we love and can’t live without. Rather, it’s about being healthy, having more energy and feeling great. And with so many conflicting nutrition advices out there and thousands of different diets, it’s no wonder you are still confused about the foods you should eat on a daily basis.
So we’ve decided to simplify everything and just go from the beginning to help you better understand what healthy eating really means.
All nutrients in food are broken down into 3 types of macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats. They are called macronutrients as our body needs them in large amounts. Micro-nutrients, on the other hand, include vitamin and minerals, and our body needs them in small amounts. They all perform a specific function in our body, and simply put, we can’t live without them.
After water, our bodies are largely made up of protein. Their main function is to maintain, build and repair muscle tissues. Therefore, they are essential for the repair of broken down tissue, but for growth and building of new tissue as well. Protein consists of about 20 amino acids, also known as the building blocks of protein. 9 of them are called essential as our body can’t make them and we need to get them from foods.
The lack of protein can have significant consequences – our body will begin to break down tissue (muscles) to meet the daily protein needs. Luckily for us, protein deficiency is really rare as we need a remarkably low protein in our diet to meet protein requirements. Foods rich in protein include fish, eggs, turkey, chicken and lean beef, but we can also get plenty of protein through the use of protein shakes. Whey protein still remains the number one due to its quality, but it seems that milk-based protein is making a comeback as it has a longer lasting effect in our body.
Carbohydrates have such a bad reputation that some people avoid eating them. However, that’s a big mistake. First of all, our body needs all 3 macronutrients, but most importantly, the myth that carbohydrates make us fat doesn’t stand. You have to understand that eating too many calories of any macronutrient will lead to weight gain. The problem with carbohydrates is the lack of knowledge — people eat the wrong type and consume more than they should, and as they have no physical activity to burn excess calories, they gain weight. And of course, they blame carbohydrates, but whose fault is it?
Carbohydrates are the primary and preferred source of fuel in our body. There are 2 types – simple or sugary carbohydrates and complex, slower burning carbohydrates. You should avoid or limit the intake of sugary carbohydrates like fruit juice and all sugars and concentrate on eating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
Out of these 3 macronutrients, fats are the most energy dense. Also known as lipids, fat is composed of fatty acids which fall into 3 main categories. There are many different types of fat and our body even makes them from the excess calories. Fat is essential for our health and supports numerous body’s function, and therefore we need to consume it.
Although they have different classifications, we’ll divide them into two categories: bad fats and good fats.
Found in dairy and animal products such as ham, pork, lamb, beef, cheese, veal and milk, but also in vegetable shortening, palm kernel and coconut oil, saturated fats are considered as “bad“ fats and raise total blood cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. They also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. So it would be wise to reduce the consumtion of regular cheese, pizza, dairy desserts, hydrogenated oils, butter, cream and processed meats.
2. Trans Fat
Although this type of fat naturally occurs in certain foods in really small amounts, most trans fats are made in a process called hydrogenation. They lower healthy cholesterol called HDL and increase the level of unhealthy cholesterol known as LDL, which ultimately increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, you should avoid eating commercially-baked goods (cakes, cookies, pizza dough, hamburger buns), solid fats (vegetable shortening, stick margarine), packaged snack foods (candy, chips, popcorn), pre-mixed products (chocolate milk, pancake, cake mix), fried foods (fried chicken, French fries, breaded fish, chicken nuggets) and basically anything with “partially hydrogenated“ oil listed in the ingredients.
Monounsaturated fat is found in vegetables and nut oils like canola, peanut and olive and helps lower the bad cholesterol. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, nuts (cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, peanuts and almonds) and olives.
Found in some fish oils, sunflower and safflower oils, soybeans and corn, polyunsaturated fat helps lower total cholesterol. And since there are two types of cholesterol – good and bad – it affects both and we need to limit its intake to save the good cholesterol. Foods rich in polyunsaturated fats include flaxseed, soybean, sunflower and corn oil, and fish like herring, salmon and mackerel.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fat that is made up of mainly omega-3 fatty acids. They have many health benefits, but most importantly, these fatty acids decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, reduce triglycerides, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, etc. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon (wild is better), sardines, tuna, herring, anchovies, mackerel, bluefish and sturgeon.
Eating healthy means consuming an adequate amount of all 3 macronutrients. How you’ll modify your diet greatly depends on your goals. If you want to lose weight, you should eat more protein and healthy fats, but less carbohydrates. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should completely cut them off, but just limit their intake to speed up your weight loss. If you are looking for a weight loss supplement but are unsure which one works for you, click here.
In the next blog you’ll be able to learn more about the proper ratio of macronutrients for weight loss and some “not so famous” tips that will help you lose weight.