Diet is one of, if not the most important components to optimum health along with good digestion, exercise and a balanced lifestyle. In order for our bodies to function properly, age gracefully and be free of illness and disease, we must look to optimising our diets to ensure that what we eat provides our bodies with the nutrients it needs whilst simultaneously avoiding those foods that case us harm.
A few myths that need busting include:
1 – thinking you can exercise your way out of a bad diet.
2 – thinking you can survive on fruit and salad during the week so you can binge on alcohol / chocolate / doughnuts / whatever-your-vice-is over the weekend.
3 – thinking a whole grain, low fat diet is healthy.
In these instances you are starving your body of the building blocks it needs to function optimally. You literally are what you eat. The food is not just energy, it is the very thing that makes you you! It is the building blocks of every cell in your body (including your brain!). Starve your body of the nutrients it needs and it will begin to malfunction.
Below is a summary of the six classes of nutrients and their role in the body. A good diet will ensure these nutrients are consumed in balance and with good digestion will ensure our body receives the building blocks it needs to maintain energy, repair and sustain us for many years to come!
MACRONUTRIENTS (Water, Proteins, Fats and Carbohydrates)
55-60% of our total body mass is water. It’s present in al our tissues and makes up the majority volume of our cells and bodily fluids. Water has many roles in the body including:
1 – improves oxygen delivery to cells
2 – transports nutrients
3 – enables cellular hydration
4 – moistens oxygen for easier breathing
5 – cushions bones and joints
6 – absorbs shocks to joints and organs
7 – regulates body temperature
8 – removes wastes and flushes toxins
9 – lubricates joints
10 – aids the body’s natural healing process
A rule of thumb for water consumption:
Take your body weight in pounds. Divide by 2. ADD 1.5 x the volume of coffee/tea/juices/diuretics consumed during the day = Daily water intake.
EG I weigh 140 pounds. Divide by 2 = 70 oz. I drink one diuretic a day. An 8 oz coffee. So I add 12oz + 70oz = 82oz which is my minimum water intake.
If I exercise or I am exposed to heat/dry Air conditioned air then I need to drink more. If you get stomach ache, headache, feel drowsy, always try drinking a glass of water before reaching for medicine.
▪ Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Some proteins are essential (we need to consume them through food) and others are non-essential (we can manufacture them in our body through the proteins we consume).
▪ 30% of our daily calorie consumption ought to be from good quality proteins
Some roles of proteins include:
1 – They are used to manufacture enzymes which are the managers and catalysts for all biochemical processes
2 – They are used to manufacture anti-bodies to help fight infection
3 – They are used to manufacture haemoglobin which are specialised proteins in the form of red blood cells to carry oxygen
4 – They are used to manufacture hormones that regulate our metabolism and almost every other function in the body.
Good sources of protein include free range pasture raised eggs, pasture raised (grass fed) animal meat, Whole raw dairy and deep sea wild caught fish and shellfish.
▪ 15% of our body weight is fat and this is required for optimal health. There are animal and vegetable based sources of fat that provide a concentrated source of energy in our diet. Think of fat as the slow burning log on the fire. At least 30-40% of our daily calories should come from good quality fat sources. Some fats are called essential fatty acids because we have to consume them in our diet and cannot manufacture them from other fats we eat. These are typically found in good quality fish oil, hemp oil and flax seed oil.
The roles of fats include:
1 – A source of energy
2 – Fats are the building blocks for cell membranes and hormones
3 – Required for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins A,D,E,K
4 – Required for the adequate use of proteins
5 – They serve as a protective lining for the organs of the body
6 – They play a role in slowing the absorption of carbohydrates during digestion to regulate energy
7 – They make food taste good!
Fats can be saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Some good sources of healthy fats include:
Saturated: Animal fat from organic pasture raised animals (beef tallow, pork lard, duck and goose fat) and Tropical oils such as cold pressed organic coconut oil and sustainably sourced organic cold pressed red palm oil.
Monounsaturated: extra virgin Olive oil, almonds, pecans, macadamias, avocados
Polyunsaturated: Flax oil, nut oil, fish oil and sesame seed oil from a cold pressed source
Polyunsaturated oils are highly unstable and need to be kept at low temperatures through processing and storage to avoid them turning rancid. Most vegetable oils found on the market are rancid and as such act like a toxin in our bodies. Vegetable oils such as sunflower, canola, margarine are highly processed and cause oxidative damage leading to things like cardiovascular disease.
Carbohydrates provide a quick source of fuel, think kindling on a fire. They provide a source of fibre, vitamins, minerals when unrefined and from a good quality source.
Carbohydrates are the ONLY macronutrient that is not essential. Essential proteins, essential fatty acids and water are all necessary to survive.
Only 2% of our body composition is carbs. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex, refined or unrefined. Whole vegetables are a good source of unrefined complex carbohydrates. Fruit is a good example of an unrefined simple carbohydrate.
White bread and pasta are examples of refined complex carbs to be avoided along with simple refined carbs such as sweets and processed sugars.
All fruits and vegetables should come from an organic local source to ensure optimum vitamins and minerals content whilst minimising pollutants (pesticides etc).
30-40% of our daily calories should come from carbohydrates, majority should be complex and unrefined.
MICRONUTRIENTS (Vitamins and Minerals)
Vitamins account for 1% of our body composition.Vitamins function as co-enzymes or helpers in metabolism. They are essential for growth, vitality and health. They are helpful in digestion, elimination, and resistance to disease.
Vitamin depletion can lead to a variety of specific nutritional disorders and general health problems.
Some Vitamins are FAT SOLUBLE (A,D,E,K) and others are WATER SOLUBLE (B vitamins, C, Folic Acid, Biotin, Inositol, Choline). Fat soluble vitamins can only be consumed through dietary fats whilst water soluble vitamins are consumed through carbohydrates.
Most vitamins cannot be manufactured in the body so we must consume them. Good sources include good sources of eggs, meat, fish, dairy, fruit and vegetables. Properly prepared organic grains can also be a good source. Vitamins need cofactors (such as enzymes, minerals and other vitamins) for best results.
Minerals account for around 4% of our body composition. They are not produced by the body so must be consumed. Minerals come from ash (plant and animal remains). There are 103 known minerals and at least 18 are known to be required for optimum health.
Role of minerals include:
- They act as cofactors for enzyme reactions
- They maintain the pH balance in the body
- They maintain the osmotic pressure
- They facilitate the transport of nutrients across cell membranes
- They maintain proper nerve function
- they contract and relax muscles (including those in the heart)
- They regulate tissue growth
- They provide structural and functional support
There are seven macro-minerals (Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Sodium, Chloride) and many micro-minerals all necessary for optimum health.
- Mineral rich water (can be natural or filtered water that has been remineralised)
- Mineral rich bone broth (made from the bones of organic pasture raised animals)
- Unrefined salt such as sea salt and pink Himalayan salt.
- Fruit and Vegetables grown in mineral rich soils. Also sea vegetables
- Nutrient dense foods such as egg yolks, shellfish, liver, gelatin, cheese, organic red wine.