“We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” And it’s still true. If you stick to a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals, your body reflects it. You feel healthy, energized, and just all-around great. However, people who limit their diet to junk foods will undoubtedly suffer the consequences of not giving their bodies what they need to thrive. The result is not only fatigue and low energy, but poor health as well. Understanding this clear connection between your health and your diet may spur you to make better dietary choices.” - Diana Rodriguez
Eating right isn’t just about looking good — it’s about staying healthy and providing your body with the fuel it needs to function at its best. Incorporating certain vitamins and nutrients into your diet.
If you’re interested in nutrition or weight loss, you no doubt pay a lot of attention to calories. But do you know what exactly calories are, and how many you really need?
Calories: The Good, the Bad, and the Empty
There is really no such thing as “good” or “bad” calories. “Your body processes each calorie the same. While calories get a negative rap when it comes to weight control, calories are actually an important source of fuel you cannot live without. Your body needs calories for energy.
Calories are the force behind everything we do, including eating, sleeping, and breathing.
Calories are how much energy your body gets from the food and beverages that it consumes. Most food sources are composed of some combination of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and each of these nutrients contains calories. Yet it’s important to stay away from “empty” calories in foods like sweets and soda.
Carbohydrates in the Diet: The Detail on Simple Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are composed of simple-to-digest, basic sugars with little real value for your body. The higher in sugar and lower in fiber, the worse the carbohydrate is for you — remember those leading indicators when trying to figure out if a carbohydrate is good or bad.
Fruits and vegetables are actually simple carbohydrates — still composed of basic sugars, although they are drastically different from other foods in the category, like cookies and cakes. The fiber in fruits and vegetables changes the way that the body processes their sugars and slows down their digestion, making them a bit more like complex carbohydrates.
The most important simple carbohydrates to limit in your diet include:
Carbohydrates in the Diet: The Detail on Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are considered “good” because of the longer series of sugars that make them up and take the body more time to break down. They generally have a lower glycemic load, which means that you will get lower amounts of sugars released at a more consistent rate — instead of peaks and valleys —to keep you going throughout the day.
Picking complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates is a matter of making some simple substitutions when it comes to your meals. Have brown rice instead of white rice, have whole-wheat pasta instead of plain white pasta. -
To know if a packaged food is made of simple or complex carbohydrates, look at the label. Read the box so you know what exactly you’re getting. If the first ingredient is whole-wheat flour or whole-oat flower, it’s likely going to be a complex carbohydrate. And if there’s fiber there, it’s probably more complex in nature. - Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, a nutritionist
The bottom line: Just be sensible about the carbs you choose. Skip low-nutrient dessert, consider the levels of sugar and fiber in carbs, and focus on healthy whole grains, fruits, and veggies to get the energy your body needs every day.
Your body has more calcium than any other dietary mineral. You need calcium for normal blood clotting; contraction and dilation of blood vessels; muscle and nerve function; hormonal activity; and signaling between cells. Your body stores extra calcium in your bones and teeth, which keeps them strong. Calcium is in dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, bony fish like salmon and fortified foods.
Protein is one of three primary macronutrients — along with fat and carbohydrates — that provide your body with energy and keep you healthy. Your skin, muscles, glands, organs, tissues and cells all contain protein. When you eat protein, it digests into amino acids that your body uses as building blocks to build and preserve cells and tissues. Protein sources include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, grains, and some fruit and vegetables.
Boost Your Energy Levels With Protein
When planning your healthy meals, keep in mind that 10 to 35 percent of your daily food intake should be lean protein. For women, that’s 46 grams a day; for men, 56 grams. If you make the right choices throughout the day, you can easily hit your protein targets.
One large egg contains 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, many egg substitutes on the market offer lower-cholesterol alternatives that still pack a protein punch.
It doesn’t matter which nut you go nuts for — they all have health benefits — but research consistently indicates that almonds might be the best of the bunch.
If you’re concerned about calories, limit your nut intake to a handful or two, and remember that though nuts are high in fat, it’s healthy monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t clog arteries and is an essential part of a healthy diet.
Greek yogurt contains 15 to 20 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving versus 9 grams in regular yogurt.
When you’re going for lean protein, nothing beats low-calorie turkey — 3 ounces of turkey provides a whopping 25 grams of protein for only 140 calories. But they can be high in sodium!
Adding whey protein to your blender because it’s a high-quality, complete protein. This means it contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build and maintain muscle, and it provides a feeling of fullness.
Simply combine whey protein with nonfat milk, frozen fruit, all-natural nut butter, or whatever other healthful ingredients sound good to you
A half-cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein for only 81 calories. Paired with fruit or plain, it makes a terrific snack when you want to stay full between meals.
Lentils pack a powerful punch of protein, fiber, and minerals while containing comparatively few calories and almost no fat. A cup of cooked lentils offers 22 grams of protein, about 300 calories, and less than 1 gram of fat.
Tofu or soy bean curd is another excellent high-protein meal base and source of healthy fats and nutrients.
Peanut, almond, cashew and other nut butters are high-protein foods, with about two tablespoons providing 7 grams of protein. And though nut butter does contain fat and saturated fat, it can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in small amounts.
With 8 grams of protein in just one ounce, pumpkin seeds or pepitas are also very rich in minerals, including potassium, manganese, and iron. Just take heed: Pumpkin seeds are calorie-dense, so do your healthy snacking in moderation.
The human body needs sodium in order to function, making it one of the essential minerals. Sodium supports muscle contraction and nerve function, keeps the heart beating rhythmically and helps balance the amount of fluid in the body. The most common source of sodium, table salt, contains 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. Although sodium does not specifically function to make you stay awake, the negative effects of sodium may affect your ability to sleep.
Consuming large amounts of sodium increases your risk for developing high blood pressure, known as hypertension. Salt attracts water, so increasing the amount of salt in your body increases the amount of water. The increase in water increases the volume of blood and your body must increase the blood pressure in order to propel the increased volume of blood through the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that one in every three adults in the United States suffers from high blood pressure. Hypertension can affect your sleep and your sleep patterns can affect your blood pressure. A study published in the 2005 issue of “Circulation” confirms that sleep deprivation can contribute to high blood pressure.
So although consuming sodium does not make you stay awake, consuming too much sodium and staying awake for too long can both cause an increase in blood pressure.
As discussed in the previous section, consuming too much salt causes your body to retain fluid. The increased amount of fluid in your body can contribute to sleep disturbances that leave you feeling tired and not well rested in the morning. When you lie down to sleep, the excess fluid in the body can settle in the upper airway. This fluid in and around the airway can obstruct the pharynx and cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by shallow breathing or pauses in breath during sleep. Patients with sleep apnea experience multiple interruptions in their sleep, making the quality of their sleep poor and leaving them as tired as if they had stayed awake.
Because sodium can affect your body in so many ways, including increasing your blood pressure and affecting your sleep, take steps to reduce your intake. Removing the salt shaker from your table may not be enough. The majority of sodium in your diet likely comes from processed and prepared foods, so reducing your intake requires you to read food labels carefully and become aware of ingredients that contain sodium. Eat more fresh foods, use herbs and spices for flavor and use fewer condiments like ketchup, mustard and soy sauce.