If ever there was a time to focus on eating well, this month is it. The National Department of Health has proclaimed March as National Nutrition Month.
So let’s talk about how to eat well for optimum physical and mental functioning. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are jointly issued and updated every five years by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. They provide authoritative advice about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.
Our bodies are amazing at being able to repair themselves if they are given the right nutrients, amounts of sleep, glasses of water, etc. Any car mechanic will tell you that good maintenance keeps a car running at top efficiency and for a longer period of time. Our bodies are our vehicles while we’re on earth, and good nutrition is a big part of good maintenance.
Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells, and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues.
So next time you start dragging, instead of reaching for a Red Bull, coffee, tea, or caffeinated sugary drink, try water first. Dehydration can also slow your thinking down.
We can’t get all of our nutrition from just one food. We need fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins.
The Mayo Clinic recommends we eat mostly fruits and veggies. We can have an unlimited amount of them, but should have a minimum of four servings of veggies and three of fruits. If you don’t like to eat them, drink them! These days people are juicing veggies and feeling a lot better. You can also purchase V-8 or other veggie products. A minimum of three servings of fruit are recommended. Fresh fruits are always best. It is in fruits and veggies that we get many vitamins and minerals. The advantage to eating the whole fruit is that it has fiber in it. Just juice without fiber is actually high in sugar content.
You should also aim for four to eight servings of carbohydrates such as rice, wheat, grains and breads, potatoes, cereals, etc.
Three to seven servings of protein and dairy are recommended. Dairy products have protein, but it is also found in seeds, nuts, legumes, fish, eggs, tofu and meats. Grains also have it to a lesser degree. Proteins are made of amino acids. There are eight essential ones that we need. While meats, fish, eggs, tofu and dairy have all of the essential amino acids, nuts, seeds, and grains might not have all of them, but can be eaten in combinations to include them all. Rice and beans is an example. Quinoa has all eight.
We are allowed to have three to five servings of fats, but not trans fats. These increase the bad cholesterol in our bodies. They are often found in solid shortenings, and margarine, where oils have been hydrogenated.
Fish oil is important for healthy nerves and hearts. Unsaturated fats such as olive oil are best to use. If we have butter on toast, mayo on a sandwich, and salad dressing on a salad at night, that’s three servings. It adds up quickly.
The treat at the top of the pyramid is up to 75 calories of sweets a day. Twelve ounces of Coke has 143 calories … twice that amount! A Milky Way bar has 97. A teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories. An Oreo cookie has 55. A Hershey’s Kiss has 22.
Help your body get the goodness out of the food it eats by chewing well. It’s recommended to chew food until almost a pudding consistency. There are no teeth in the tummy. Also, saliva helps your body break down starches into sugars. A relaxed environment is another helpful digestion aid. So enjoy eating. It really is good medicine.