A Journey to Functional Nutrition, Part 1

Food is important in our lives and critical to our overall well-being. Consider healthy eating as a journey, one that has been shaped by many situations in your life. These factors include your stages of life, preferences, access to food, culture, family traditions, and the personal decisions you’ve made over time.The important thing to remember is that all of your food and beverage choices count. That being said, don’t beat yourself up if you have been less than stellar in your food choices because you can always improve.

And that brings us to the meat of this blog. 🙂

When it comes to nutrition, focus on your diet quality. That means enhancing your functional foods intake, which are foods that have a potentially positive effect on your health beyond just basic nutrition. Functional foods promote optimal health and help reduce your risk of disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. One example of a functional food would be oatmeal because it has soluble fiber that can help lower your cholesterol levels. Begin to think more about what you eat each day and avoid eating on the run, which is when we’re more likely to make poor choices. Try to plan ahead and provide the quality of the nutrients your body needs: protein, good carbs, good fats, vitamins, and minerals.

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You should try to get about 40 to 60 percent of calories from good carbs, 25 to 40 percent from fat, and 15 to 30 percent from protein. Of course,  no single diet is perfect for everyone, foods that are low in saturated fat with a moderate amount of protein is good, as you probably already know. Include plant-based foods such as nuts, soybeans, and legumes into your daily diet, as they are super important sources of protein, according to nutrition experts at Food Matters.

A nutritionally balanced diet may have moderate amounts of fish, and poultry. You may want to explore some of the benefits of reducing if not eliminating red meat and reducing or eliminating poultry and sugar. Most vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which is associated with a reduced risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer. If you decide to go the vegetarian route, however, make sure that you don’t become deficient in vitamin B12, which is essential for healthy brain function. Eggs, wild caught salmon, nutritional yeast, and sardines are all good examples of foods that contain B12.

I will definitely get into more functional foods at a later date because there are so many more to explore.

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Importance of Protein

Protein is very important in our diet since it’s is the main building block of our body. It is used to build muscles, tendons, organs, and skin. Proteins help build enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various molecules that serve important functions in our bodies. Proteins are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids, and they link together to form long protein chains. Some can be produced by the body, while we have to get others from our diet. The ones we can’t produce and have to get from the food we eat are called the “essential amino acids.”Soybeans, baked beans, lima beans, lentils, brown rice, whole wheat, corn and nuts such as almonds and cashews are good sources of branched-chain amino acids. Of all the plant-based foods, beans have the highest amount of total protein, so they’re the best choice. One cup of vegetarian baked beans has about 1 gram of each of the BCAAs.  According to nutrition experts,  Protein has 4 calories per gram. The optimal amount of protein in the diet is up for debate, but most experts suggest that adults get a minimum of 7-8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.

The recommended daily allowance of protein for women is 46grams and 56 grams for men. Your specific protein needs can vary, especially if you are exercising intensely on a regular basis. In that case, your protein intake needs to be higher. Eggs are one of the least expensive forms of protein and a huge staple in my diet. You’ll notice I have eggs in a lot of my recipes. Recent studies show eggs do not affect Cholesterol. So feel free to eat them.

Not to much Dairy

Where milk, cheese, and plain yogurt are good sources of protein. I prefer to stay away from the white stuff and get a lot of my protein from plants. Try to be creative and consider other ways to get additional calcium, including broccoli, spinach, swiss chard and any dark leafy greens.

Carbs for fuel

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Carbohydrates are your body’s main fuel source, and they help make an overall healthy diet. They provide energy, protect against disease, and can help you control your weight. Again, quality matters. The type of carbs in your diet is more important than the amount of carbs in your diet. Some sources of carbs, like vegetables (not potatoes), fruits, whole grains, and beans, are healthier than others. You should be shooting for 200 and 325 grams of carbs a day.

As we all know eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains can help you control your weight. The bulk and fiber content helps weight control by helping you feel full on fewer calories. Choose whole grains such as steel cut oats rather than refined grams. Eat more legumes, which include beans, peas, and lentils. They are low in fat and high in folate, potassium, iron, and magnesium, plus they have beneficial fats and fiber. Legumes are a good source of protein and can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more saturated fat and cholesterol.

I can’t cover all nutrition facts in one blog ( or we will be here all day) but you can enhance your health by making sure you are focusing on quality nutrients.  Even if you haven’t had good nutritional habits in your past, your body can adjust quickly to new healthy habits. So don’t’ beat yourself up….Just move forward. Tomorrow is a new day!!

 

 I am going to leave you with a few tips! Don’t do them all at once. Crowd out the bad and add in the good at your own pace.

1.Choose healthier protein sources such as fish, broccoli, nuts, and legumes

2. Eat foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fats) such as Salmon, flax seed oil and spinach
3. Avoid sugary beverages and get rid of all sodas, including diet ones
4. Shoot for quality ingredients, locally grown and organic when possible

5. Crowd out processed plant foods (eat raw when possible)

6. Drink plenty of clean and safe water, ( I like to add lemon to mine for taste and vitamin C) and be mindful of proper hydration when you are working out
#9: Use healthy oils and grass fed butter.

WISHING YOU A HEALTHY JOURNEY!

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