What does your body need?
The simple answer: fuel. Each cell relies on a perfectly regulated balance of vitamins, minerals, fibers, proteins, sugars, and fats to keep your body healthy.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question: “What should I eat in a day?” We each have unique body compositions, metabolisms, and varying degrees of physical exertion to take into account. Years of research, however, have helped define the core components of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Let’s break them down one by one, starting with macronutrients, or “macros”: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Carbohydrate-rich foods are an important staple in any healthy diet. Carbohydrates (carbs) are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and your body needs carbs to survive. Once ingested, carbs are broken down into glucose, a form of sugar molecule that your body converts into energy. There are three forms of carbs: sugars, starches, and fiber. Interestingly, our bodies do not actually digest fiber—yet by eating fiber we feed our gut bacteria, our microbiome, which is responsible for keeping our digestive system healthy.
Research has shown that a diet consisting of fiber-rich carbs—vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains—is linked to a lower risk of disease. These complex carbs are full of fiber and vital nutrients, and your body breaks them down differently than simple carbs, such as a soda or candy. Healthy foods that are high in complex carbs include: fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, potatoes, whole grain bread, wild rice and oatmeal.
Protein is a building block of tissues and muscles, and also provides energy for your daily life. Protein is digested slowly and is used to help your body maintain muscle mass, while fueling your metabolism and immune system. Healthy foods that are high in protein include: whole eggs, chicken, oats, soy, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, milk, broccoli, beans, peas, whey, hemp and fish.
Healthy fats are essential—they support numerous bodily functions and can help your body metabolize vital nutrients and vitamins. However, there are also potentially harmful dietary fats that should be consumed in moderation. Trans fats, for example, are highly processed and are linked to higher levels of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides—all of which can increase cardiovascular disease risk. Foods that are high in trans fat include fried foods, cakes, frozen pizzas, tortilla chips, crackers, vegetable oil, coffee creamer, and margarine. Other forms of fat, however, are incredibly healthy and nutritious. Healthy sources of fat include avocados, cheese, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, peanut butter, tofu, and soymilk.
Putting Macros Into Context
Not all sources of carbs, fats, and protein are alike. For example, fast food fried chicken is high in protein, but also typically contains high amounts of salt, fat, and cholesterol, so it isn’t the healthiest source of protein overall. That’s why it’s important to look at nutritional labels to understand the molecular makeup of your food and make informed decisions about what to eat.
A healthy, balanced diet is composed of unprocessed foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and healthy fats.
Hydration and Exercise
Drinking lots of water is also essential for proper nutrition, as it helps improve digestion, lubricate your joints, and hydrate your cells. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should drink 91 ounces of water, 9.5 cups, and men should drink 125 ounces of water, roughly 15.5 cups, daily.
Staying physically active is also vital to your overall health, as it helps your body stay fit, fight disease, and promote an efficient use of the energy and nutrients you consume on a daily basis. Your workouts don’t need to be intense—the important thing is to get moving. Going on a 30-minute walk or doing a low-impact workout, like yoga, can be enough to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy.
Developing a Healthy Relationship With Food
Remember that you should listen to your body and respect natural cues for hunger and fullness. Give yourself permission to eat foods that you enjoy in moderation, and try to consistently choose foods that make you feel your best. Over time, you may find that more wholesome foods—fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein, and fats—may make you feel more energized, but it’s important to listen to your body.
Keep your body and mind fueled. Community Access Network can help.
Everyone’s nutritional needs are unique and influenced by factors like genetics, activity levels, and body composition. It’s important to meet with a doctor to talk about your dietary needs. We are here to help you gain access to nutritious food and healthy ingredients that will keep your body and mind feeling rejuvenated and fueled. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!