Updated: Jan 25
As we are all jumping on the Get Fit For January band wagon, there is a huge amount of nutrition information out there. This information has come from my book (BEE FIT Baby Enhanced Exercise Fitness) of which Nutrition is a whole Chapter. Everything is covered here in basic form. Feel free to contact me for more information.
Nutrition can be a minefield, so it’s a good idea to start with the basics. We need nutrition to keep healthy and stay alive. This means that our bodies do not produce any nutrition, so we need to source this from food and water. Nutrients are vital for disease prevention, growth and good health. These are then broken down into two categories: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Macronutrients come in the form of actual large quantities of food and help to provide your body with energy. These are protein, carbohydrates and fat. Micronutrients come in the form of vitamins and minerals which are only needed in small amounts.
Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are the energy blocks from your food. They contain good sugars which help to fuel your body for everyday activities. They help with brain function and the main central nervous system (sending nerves throughout your body). Carbohydrates can also help protect against diseases such as cancer.
Sources of Carbohydrates Not all carbohydrates are good ones. You are aiming to go for non-processed types with no refined sugars, for example, wholemeal bread, whole-wheat pasta, noodles, and rice. These are better than the white varieties as they will not lead to a spike in blood sugar concentration (insulin spike). Whole-wheat foods release this sugar (and, therefore, insulin) slowly, so your body has time to use it in the correct way. Also, aim to to eat beans and fibre rich vegetables, including carrots, beets, broccoli, artichokes, and sweet potatoes. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that the body can't digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, fibre cannot be broken down into sugar, and instead it passes through the body undigested. fibre helps regulate the body's use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Different fruits have high fibre content in them. For example, apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and some exotic fruits. All these are a great source of good fibre.
Sources of Fats Unsaturated fats are great for the body. They provide essential fatty acids that your body cannot synthesise itself. Saturated fats should be limited as these can have the reverse effect on the body by eating to much saturated fat can lead to high blood cholesterol. This can clog up our arteries and restrict the blood supply to our heart which in turn may cause a heart attack. The most commonly known unsaturated fats are omega 3s and omega 6s. These are mostly found in nuts, seeds, oily fish (e.g. salmon), oils such as avocado, flax seeds and olives. Another amazing oil is coconut oil as this is plant-based so has a faster uptake by the organs to use as fuel to the body. Saturated fats come in the form of animal-based sources, for example butter, cheese and red meat, processed meats including sausages, mincemeat, animal skin, bacon and fatty cuts of meat. Limit your intake of these to reduce heart disease. For example, a small matchbox size piece of cheese once a day.
Fats Fats usually get quite a bad rap, but they are an essential part of a healthy diet. Healthy fats help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, help to build cells, help with movement of muscles and are a great energy source. Healthy fats can also help with balancing blood sugar levels and improve brain function, helping to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. They also help in the production of Testosterone. Testosterone will not make you bulk out, it helps to regulate the hormones. But also a high fat and high sugar diet will be detrimental to your testosterone levels especially in men. In women testosterone plays a role in reproduction, growth and general health.
Protein Protein is amazing for muscle repair, not just for gym bunnies but in everyday life. It is part of every cell, every tissue and organ in the body. It also helps to produce hormones. Protein helps with the building of antibodies to help prevent and fight disease. Proteins come in the form of amino acids and the body needs 20 of them to stay healthy. They are then broken down into essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids which are not made in the body so need to be found in the form of food. There are 11 non-essential amino acids which are made by the body. Each protein is constantly being broken down. The body does not store proteins like it does other nutrients, so this needs to be given to the body in the form of food every day. Therefore, most of your portion control should be based around protein as the body needs it to repair and grow constantly. Most of the protein we need to fuel and repair our bodies comes in the form of high-quality protein. This mostly comes from animal or plant-based sources. It is hard to find the balance of obtaining protein sources that aren’t high in fats and carbs. For example, a handful of nuts contain a high fat content but also are very good for you. Plant based diets are harder to find protein in. Some examples are mentioned below.
Sources of Proteins Lean white meat is a good place to start, for example chicken or turkey. Fish, including salmon, haddock, and bass - any type of fish. Dairy products, for example eggs, milk, cheese, and yoghurt. Plant-based food such as tofu, nuts, beans, and pulses.
Vitamins and Minerals Vitamins Vitamins and minerals are needed to help keep the body functioning correctly. They help to fight off any diseases and repair bones and tissues. They heal wounds and help boost the immune system. They can also help to repair cells and convert food into energy. Vitamins can be split up into two groups. They are water soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water soluble vitamins are found in all types of foods. They are absorbed into the blood stream and help the body to release energy, to build energy, to help repair broken cells, and make collagen which helps to repair wounds and forms a base for teeth and bones to be built upon. Water soluble vitamins are Bs and C. Fat-soluble vitamins help to keep your eyes, skin and lungs all in good condition. They help to build bones and protect the body with antioxidants. Fat-soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. They can be found in fatty foods and oils. Fruit and vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals and should come from a wide range. You should try to eat over a third of your daily intake in food per day. It is recommended that you eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg per day. This can include fresh, frozen, juiced, canned or dried.
Minerals Minerals help with the daily function of the body. They help to build strong bones and teeth (calcium) as well as build hair, skin and cells. They also help with metabolism in the body. There are several major minerals the body needs to function daily. They are: calcium, zinc, iron, fluoride, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur. Some of these help keep the water balance right as most of our body is made up of water (around 60%). You will source most of these vitamins and minerals from a healthy balanced diet through eating five or more portions of fruit and veg per day.
Water Water is probably one of the most important nutrients you need for your body to function correctly. We are made up more of water more than anything else. Water will help ward off dehydration. It helps to improve your overall mood and helps with brain function. It helps to carry nutrients around in the bloodstream faster and carries more nutrients to all the cells. It also helps with the digestive system and keeps the intestines flowing by preventing constipation. We should aim to drink around two to three litres of water each day to keep the body functioning at its best. Water does not just have to come from a tap. It can be found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cucumber, or spinach. It is a good idea to drink around one pint of water when you first get up in the morning and then around one pint just before bed. This will kick-start the kidneys and urinary tract to wake up and function well. You can tell your hydration state by the colour of your urine. If it’s very yellow and has a strong smell, then you are dehydrated. If it is a faded yellow colour and not smelling, then you are perfectly hydrated. This is what you are aiming for.
Here is a list of a few foods to eat. These will give you all your nutrition for your daily requirements.
- Greek yoghurt, natural yoghurt
- Small matchbox size cheese
- Cottage cheese