Work, sports, hobbies, helping people, going out, family or friends? Whatever it is, there’s also a biochemical factor that helps to fuel your life? Whether mental of physical fuel it can start from food.
If we think about the complexities of the body and its interaction with all the different types of nutrients that exist, it becomes too complicated so let’s make it simple: Carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
From pain and stress management to all the functions of the different tissues and organs, the body has an incredible ability to maintain balance in all body systems and biochemical pathways. Every cell has hundreds of biochemical reactions occurring all the time (1), which assists in the mechanics of your body from the way you walk to the way you feel. To create these reactions, cells need nutrients from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Those are the physical building blocks that make you... you.
Busting the myths about carbs, proteins and fats
Myth 1: Carbohydrates are just sugar!
This myth is based on simple carbohydrates, which are the unhealthy ones like sugar and processed flour that are stripped of nutrients. The healthy carbohydrates are actually the main source of energy for your cells and found in whole grains, legumes and vegetables. They are also:
- An important source of fibre
- Help healthy digestion
- And form an important part of cells
There are many types of carbohydrates: complex, monosaccharides, polysaccharides, and resistant starch to name a few. The key is to know what type of carbohydrate is right for you and that is the work of a qualified nutritional therapist. For example, an athlete may need certain types of carbohydrates at certain points of his or her training before a race or someone recovering from a certain health condition may also require certain types of carbohydrates to recover optimally along with the guidance of their GP.
Myth 2: Fat Leads to Flab!
70% of the brain is fat, and every cell has a cell wall made of fat but that doesn’t mean we can eat those deliciously fried chips everyday. They contain the not so beneficial trans fats, which are fats found in cakes, biscuits, crisps and many processed foods. As with carbohydrates, it’s the right type of fat that is important. Healthy fats come from foods such as nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados and we don’t need a huge amount in our daily diet to keep healthy. Having adequate healthy fats in the diet for most people can assist important functions such as:
- Providing another form of energy for the body
- Healthy hormones (eg. Hormones for sleeping, stress, controlling appetite etc.)
- Protecting your organs
Myth 3: Protein Once a Day is Sufficient
Of course, this depends on the person and their health condition but generally protein is important for every meal. Protein is used for all your major functions in the body that uses hormones, neurotransmitter, skin health, sugar regulation, immune system, digestion, energy, tissue repair and DNA synthesis to name a few. The building blocks of protein are called amino acids and there are some our body can make but some we need from food called essential amino acids. There are 9 of them and all 9 can be found in animal products like eggs, dairy, meat and fish. You can find all 9 in plant products like quinoa and soya beans otherwise there are plants and grains that contain some of the 9 so you can mix and match a few.
How do I make a start?
The British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy have developed a comprehensive diagram called the Wellness Plate to show ideal portions of food groups for an average meal (2). This is a good guide generally but “generally” cannot apply to the individual biochemical make up and experiences that make each one of us a unique and individual person. For this, it is important to consult a qualified nutritional therapist who can develop a programme suited to a client’s needs (3).
The final article will focus on stress and health correlation.