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Nutrition - The Basics

Instead of thinking too much about foods being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, let us think more about a balance of needed nutrients, about getting the healthier nutrients the body needs, and the other things to be left to have in moderation. Of course, there are foods that are not so good for us, like refined sugars, and saturated fats. This does not mean you cannot indulge in a pastry now and then or some sweets…balance and moderation are key. You can also live healthily without these foods. The choice is yours on that one.

Think of food as a type of maintenance medicine and a strengthening medicine. Getting the right nutrients gives you energy and health to accomplish what you need, and to your better ability. Nutritional deficiency can affect mood and brain function, and can make you tired and lose focus.

Here are the six main groups of nutrients, of which we need all six in order to be healthy:

  • Protein

  • Carbohydrates

  • Fats

  • Minerals

  • Vitamins

  • Water

Sometimes in literature, we see a seventh added – fibre. Getting enough fruit and vegetables and complex carbohydrates should meet fibre requirements.

Fats are divided into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are not good for us and so need to be eaten in moderation. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients and must not be avoided – we need some fat for healthy functioning, and fat is not the enemy! It is about focusing on the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat over the trans fats. Trans fats are found in things like pastries and commercially friend foods. Trans fats can cause clogging of the arteries if you eat too much of it. Look out for the term ‘hydrogenated vegetable oil’, as this is the source of trans fats.

The average adult needs between 2000 and 2500 calories a day. We need around 1200 just to maintain organs and baseline functioning without any walking, moving, studying and so on. The brain alone needs around 500 calories a day to maintain itself. Make sure you don’t go more than a few hours without food (unless sleeping). Some people are OK on three meals a day, some are better with 5-6 smaller meals, or three meals and two snacks. Don’t skip meals.

Here is a succinct write – up of foods in the six main groups, how much we need, and why we need them: healthyeating.sfgate.com

Using this information and these guidelines, you should be able to create meals that are balanced, or at least get all food groups in a day.