The Basics of Good Nutrition: Let’s Weigh Your Options
Nutrition has many goals. It’s designed to help your body function optimally. While your body does make some amino acids and vitamins, in general you need to consume the nutrients your body needs.
Good nutrition reduces inflammation. It provides your cells with what they need to create energy, to repair themselves, and to fight infection and disease. Good nutrition has many facets, including what you eat and how much of it you eat, as well as how your body responds to the food. Let’s start with the good old fashioned food pyramid.
The FDA and nutritionists recommend the following:
- 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice and pasta
- 3-5 servings of vegetables
- 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese
- 2-3 servings of meat, eggs, nuts, eggs, beans
- Fats, oils, and sweets – sparingly
Looking at the list it doesn’t look like a big deal. But take a second look. In fact, look at the first two items on the food pyramid. Six to eleven servings of grains? That’s a significant amount of starchy carbohydrates. And only three to five servings of vegetables? Seems like those numbers should be switched.
Additionally, the serving size for each of these items varies. A serving of vegetables is much different than a serving of meat. And what about fats and oils? Many fats and oils are excellent for your health. The oils found in cold water fish and vegetables like avocados have been shown to improve health.
More Whole Foods, Less Junk
The Paleo eating approach makes a lot of sense. The goal of Paleo is to eat vegetables, meat, some fruit, nuts and seeds. Strict Paleo eliminates sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains. The reason is that these foods have been shown to cause inflammation in people. Inflammation is the precursor to disease.
However, you don’t have to eat a Paleo diet to embrace good nutrition. The goal of eating whole foods and mostly vegetables is a good goal. If you can include two vegetables with every meal and as your snacks then you’re doing very well. Cancer nutritionists recommend eating 7-9 servings a day.
All Calories are Not created Equally – Portion Size Matters
A calorie is a measurement. It’s a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in your body. However, a calorie from a Twinkie isn’t the same as a calorie from a turnip. Your body manages the calories from various foods differently.
For example, you ate 500 calories of veggies your body would burn them quickly and you’d pull the nutrients from it. If you eat 500 calories of Twinkies your body stores those calories as fat.
Several studies have been conducted on this concept of “all calories are not created equally.” One of the most notable studies placed 1,600 people into three different diets; low fat, low carb, and low glycemic. They found that the low fat diet had the worst results. The high protein low carb diet had great weight loss results but some unpleasant side effects. The the low glycemic diet, which favors whole foods rather than processed foods, had the best long term results.
If you can eliminate processed foods from your body and eat whole foods, you’re taking huge strides toward giving your body what it needs to stay healthy and strong. Shift your focus from meat to vegetables by consuming 7-9 servings a day and pay attention to how your body responds to food.