Optimum Nutrition for a Well Balanced Diet?

  • 1 Apr 2009
  • Reading time 11 mins
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Your entire body is made from the food you eat and the water you drink.

The human body is roughly 63% water, 22% protein, 13% fat, 2% minerals and vitamins. Eating the highest quality food in the right quantity helps you to achieve your highest potential for health, weight control, vitality and freedom from disease. In short, a long and healthy life. Based on 12 years research at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition here’s how to eat yourself to better health.

Fat

There are two kinds: saturated (hard) fat, and unsaturated fat which comes from seed and nut oils or fish. It is neither essential to eat saturated fat, nor ideal to eat too much. The main sources are meat and dairy products. There are also two kinds of unsaturated fats: mono-unsaturated fats, rich in olive oil; and poly-unsaturated fats, found in other nuts and seeds. Certain poly-unsaturated fats are essential. These are called linoleic and linolenic acid and are vital for the brain and nervous system, immune system, cardiovascular system and skin. A common sign of deficiency is dry skin.

The optimal diet provides a balance of these two essential fats, also known as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Linoleic acid (Omega 6) is rich in sesame and sunflower seeds, while linolenic acid (Omega 3) is rich in pumpkin and flax seeds. Linolenic acid is converted in the body into DHA and EPA, which are also rich in mackerel, herring, salmon and tuna. These essential fats are easily destroyed by heating or exposure to oxygen, so having a fresh daily source is important. Processed foods often contain hardened or ‘hydrogenated’ poly-unsaturated fats. These are worse for you than saturated fat and are best avoided.

Eat 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed seed oil (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, flax seed etc.) or 1 heaped tablespoon of ground seeds a day.

Avoid fried food, burnt or browned fat, saturated and ‘hydrogenated’ fat.

Protein

Protein is made out of 22 amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body. , As well as being vital for growth and repair of body tissue they are used to make hormones, enzymes, antibodies, neurotransmitters and helps transport substances around the body. Both the quality of the protein you eat, determined by the balance of these amino acids, and the quantity you eat is important.

In terms of quantity the Government recommends that we obtain 15 per cent of our total calorie intake from protein, but gives little guidance as to the kind of protein. This is in sharp contrast to the average breast-fed baby who receives just 1 per cent of its total calories from protein and manages to double it’s birthweight in six months. This is because the protein from breast milk is very good quality and easily absorbed. Assuming good quality protein, 10 per cent of calorie intake, or around 35 grams of protein a day is an optimal intake for most people, unless pregnant, recovering from surgery or undertaking large amounts of exercise.

The best quality protein foods in terms of amino acid balance include eggs, quinoa, soya, meat, fish, beans and lentils. Animal protein sources tend to contain a lot of undesirable saturated fat. Vegetable protein sources tend to contain additional beneficial complex carbohydrates and are less acid-forming than meat. It is best to limit meat to three times a week. In real terms it is difficult not to achieve adequate protein from any diet that includes three meals a day, whether that be vegan, vegetarian or meat-eating. Many vegetables, especially ‘seed’ foods like runner beans, peas, corn or broccoli contain good levels of protein and help to neutralise excess acidity which can lead to mineral losses including calcium, hence the higher risk for osteoporosis among frequent meat-eaters.

Eat 2 servings of beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu (soya), ‘seed’ vegetables or other vegetable protein, or 1 small serving of meat, fish, cheese, or a free-range egg a day.

Avoid excess animal source protein.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate is the main fuel for the body. It comes in two forms: ‘fast-releasing’ as in sugar, honey, malt, sweets and most refined foods, and ‘slow releasing’ as in wholegrains, vegetables and fresh fruit. The latter foods contain more complex carbohydrate and/or more fibre, both of which help to slow down the release of sugar. Fast releasing carbohydrates tend to give a sudden burst in energy, followed by a slump, while slow-releasing carbohydrates provide more sustained energy and are therefore preferable. Refined foods like sugar or white flour lack the vitamins and minerals needed for the body to use them properly and are best avoided. The perpetual use of fast-releasing carbohydrates can give rise to complex symptoms and health problems. Some fruit, like bananas, dates and raisins, contain faster releasing sugars and are best kept to a minimum by people with glucose related health problems. Slow-releasing carbohydrate foods - fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrains - should make up two thirds of what you eat, or around 70 per cent of your total calorie intake.

Eat 3 or more servings of dark green, leafy and root vegetables such as watercress, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green beans, peppers, raw or lightly cooked.

Eat 3 or more servings of fresh fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, berries, melon or citrus fruit.

Eat 4 or more servings of whole grains such as rice, millet, rye, oats, wholewheat, corn, quinoa as cereal, breads or pasta.

Avoid any form of sugar, foods with added sugar, white or refined foods.

Fibre

Rural Africans eat about 55 grams of dietary fibre a day, compared to the UK average intake of 22 grams. The ideal intake is not less than 35 grams a day. It is easy to get this amount of fibre, which absorbs ......

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