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Healthy foods

Food and nutrition

Introduction

This website is dedicated to our physical, mental and spiritual development and obviously, food and nutrition is an important topic of our website. To stay physically fit it is obvious that food plays a vital role and actually beyond physical fitness, food plays a vital role in the way we think, we behave, we comprehend and react to situations. 

 

Our body needs to achieve essential nutrients from food, to continue it’s functions and  the machinery of life. So it is indispensable that we include a section “Food and Nutrition” where we will be covering very important topics related to food and nutrition. Being knowledgeable is being aware and we should be aware of the foods that are healthy for our body, foods that are harmful for the body. We should be aware of what we are eating and what would be the effect of the food that we eat on our body.

 

Food and nutrition

Nutrition and health

Our body needs nutrition to keep the machinery of life going. Our body needs nutrition for functioning, for growth and development, to nourish our immune system, for proper functioning of the brain, for our heart to pump and our lungs to oxygenate our blood… the list can continue endlessly. So actually it is not so necessary to highlight the need of nutrition for our body because we are all aware of it, what is necessary is to highlight the effect of different foods that we eat on our body. Which foods are more capable of nourishing our body, providing it with the needed nutrition and which foods are actually harmful for our body. 

 

As promised, I will avoid unnecessary lengthing of the topic and keep it short and informative.  So fundamentally our body gets its nutrition from the food we eat.The food we eat undergoes complex breakdown and digestion, and through it we derive the vital nutrients and energy that our body needs. So we need to rightly decide on what to eat and what not. First of all let’s understand the major nutrients that our body needs from food to continue functioning, there are 6 major nutrients that our body needs which we will discuss below.

 

 

 

6 Major nutrients

To understand the nutritional value of different foods, it is imperative to understand the 6 basic nutrients that our body needs.  

 

1. Proteins – Role of proteins in our body

Proteins are made of amino acids, which our body needs for growth and repair of it’s tissues. Our internal organs like heart and lungs, hairs and skin are primarily made of proteins. Hairs and nails are mostly made of proteins and so we need proteins for beautiful hairs and nails. We need proteins for muscle growth and that is the reason some body builders resort to artificial supplements of proteins. But these artificial supplements of protents comes with a price, they have lot of harmful effects,  natural sources of proteins are more advisable, we will discuss this separately. But here it is important to mention that Ashwagandha can be an excellent and healthy way to facilitate muscle growth.

Meat good source of protein but there is no lack of protein rich vegetarian foods. 

Egg, fish and meat are often considered prominent sources of proteins but that does not mean that there is scarcity of vegetarian foods that are rich in proteint. We humans are social and mentally developed animals, our body is not build to eat meat, however this is a different subject. Coming to vegetable foods, which we encourage more, there are huge variety of foods that can supply all the necessary amino acids that are needed for our body. Moong dal, Ashwagandha, Soybean and other soy products, nuts, milk, barley etc. Spirulina is also an excellent source of protein but daily consumption of spirulina can put pressure on liver and kidney, they need to be taken in monitored dose.

2. Carbohydrates –  Role of carbohydrates in our body

Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our body. Though our body needs carbohydrates, it’s overdose causes overweight and obesity. Carbohydrates can be of two types

A.) Simple carbohydrates – Have low nutritional value and high calories 

Simple Carbohydrates such as sugar and jaggery, have lower nutritional value and higher calorie content. Their excess intake can cause serious problems like obesity and overweight.

B.) Complex carbohydrates – Have higher nutritional value and lower calories

Complex carbohydrates which are starches found in Soybean, kidneybean, chickpeas, grains etc. Complex carbohydrates have higher nutritional value and lower calorie content. In addition to providing calories these starch-rich foods nourishes our body with proteins and minerals. For better healthy and active lifestyle we can increase the consumption of complex carbohydrates rich foods mentioned above and cut down on the intake of sugar, jaggery and oil. 

 

3. Fats – Role of fats in our body 

Fats also provides energy to our body and transports nutrients, in fact fats are more concentrated source of energy than carbohydrates. When it comes to health fats are often viewed as culprits of heart attack but over time low fat diets have lost their credibility, now certain fats have proven to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Fats also have a role in growth and healthy skin.

Good fats and bad fats

It is important to know which fats are good for your heart and which are bad. First thing to note is that not all fats are the same, some fats are good for you and some fats are bad.  Fats also known as fatty acids are of 4 types
 

A. Saturated fats – Should be eaten sparingly.

Saturated fats provides fuel to our body but they increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and hence they should be consumed sparingly. Mostly saturated fats are found in animal meat like fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb. Saturated fats are also found in dairy products like Pastries and ice cream, tropical oils like palm oil and coconut oil. 

B. Monounsaturated fats – Good for health but excess can increase weight

This type of fats helps to improve blood cholesterol and thereby reduces the risk of heart diseases. However since these fats also are rich in calories there excess intake can increase weight. Monounsaturated fats are largely found in dry fruits like almonds, cashews etc. There are also present in oils like olive oil and peanut oil, this is the reason olive oil is more advisable to be used for cooking.

C. Polyunsaturated fats – Good for health and a must in your diet.

The body needs polyunsaturated fats and depends on the food you eat to get it’s share of these fats. Like monounsaturated fats, these fats also helps to decrease the levels of cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Omega-3 fatty acid is also a type of polyunsaturated fats and is shown to reduce cholesterol and remove blockages from the arteries, it’s benefits are scientifically proven now. 

D. Trans fats – Must be avoided as far as possible : 

These are the worst fats, they raise harmful cholesterol and are very harmful for our body. Trans fats are found in foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Cakes, fast food, frozen pizzas, ready to use frostings contains trans fats.

Some fat facts

1. In general Saturated fats and trans fats increases the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases, they should be avoided by diabetes patients. On the other hand Monounsaturatd fats and polyunsaturated fats are good for your heart and lungs. 

2. Foods and oils often contains a mixture of fatty acids, the predominant type of fat they contain makes them good or bad for health.

 

4.Vitamins – Role of vitamins in our body

Vitamins are needed by our body in small quantities but they are very essential to maintain the health of tissues and proper functioning of organs. Vitamins are needed for normal growth and metabolism of proteins and fats. The commonly known vitamins are A, B1 – Thiamine, B2 – riboflavin, B3 –niacin, B4 – Pantothenic acid, B6 – pyridoxine, B7 – biotin, B9  –folic acid, B12 – cobalamin, C (ascorbic acid, D, E, and K.

 

 

A.) Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness. Further Vitamin A is essential for good vision, glowing skin and also plays an important role in keeping our body’s defensive system healthy, I. e. our immune system. Green vegetables, carrots, broccoli, spinach and certain fruits are excellent sources of Vitamin A. 

B.) B Vitamins

These vitamins are considered as the building blocks of a healthy body and have a direct impact on cell metabolism. They are essential for healthy functioning of our brain and also to prevent infections. B vitamins helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates into energy. Dark leafy vegetables like broccoli or spinach, dairy products like cheese, soy milk, sprouts, egg, barley, nuts are excellent sources of B Vitamins. 

C.) Vitamin C – Ascorbic acid.

Vitamin C regulates the blood pressure and prevents heart diseases. Other major benefit of Vitamin C is that it boosts our immune system and for this benefit many people take Vitamin C supplements also. Further Vitamin C is needed for healthy teeth and gums and facilitates body’s natural healing. Guava has high content of Vitamin C, and pinapple, mango, broccoli, papaya are also very rich in vitamin C.

D.) Vitamin D

The body needs Vitamin D in small quantities to perform some of it’s vital functions. Vitamin D is useful for regulating the absorption of Calcium and phosphorus for stronger bones and teeth. Further Vitamin D is useful for normal functioning of our immune system. Soy milk, cereals, cheese, Egg yolk are excellent sources of Vitamin D. With the help of sunlight body can manufacture it’s own vitamin D from cholestrol and thats the reason playing in sunlight is often encouraged, however early morning or evening is good time to be under the sun. 

E.) Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and protects our cells from damage. It supports our immune system, reduces the risk of heart diseases and also prevents cancer. Green vegetables, almonds, nuts, sunflower oil and soybean oil are excellent sources of Vitamin E, oils should always be consumed less due to their high callorie content

F.) Vitamin K

Vitamin K plays a very important role in blood clotting. It is useful for bone metabolism and regulates the level of calcium in the blood. Green vegetables, Broccoli, cereals, egg are excellent sources of Vitamin K

Vitamin facts

1. Vitamin B and C are soluble in water and their excess quantities are excreted through the urine. Vitamin A, D, E and K are soluble in fats and their excess is stored by the body in fats. Consumption of fat soluble vitamins in excess quantities can be harmful for our health. 

2. Vitamin C has a major role in boosting our immune system but for a strong immune system other vitamins are also required. 

  

5. Fiber – Role of Fiber in our body

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down into sugar and it passer undigested. Fibers naturally detoxifies our body, they promote bowel health and eases bowel movement. Proper intake of dietry fiber have shown to reduce the risk of heart attack, diebetes and certain lung diseases. Consumption of food rich in fiber helps to prevent both constipation and diarrhea. High fiber-foods include fruits like bananas, apples, mangoes and dark vegetables(The darker the vegetable the higher is usually the fiber content in it). Beans, grains, bread and nuts are also rich in fiber.

some tips for better fiber intake and better health

1. Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.

2. Rice is low in nutritional value and so eat less of rice and include more wheat and whole grain products in your diet.

3. If you eat rice regularly then brown rice can be a better option than white rice.  

 

6. Minerals

Minerals are very important for our body to maintain, repair and grow. Minerals are needed for healthy tissues, bonues and organs. Below we will discuss in short some of the minerals that are vital for a healthy body.

A.) Calcium

Calcium as we know is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Further calcium is needed for normal functioning of heart and nervous system. Foods rich in calcium are milk, cheese, green vegetable, soy milk, nuts etc.

B.) Iron

Iron is needed for producing hemoglobin, so if you have less hemoglobin then basically you need to eat more iron rich foods. Iron is needed for carrying our vital functions in the body like maintenance of body temperature, fighting infections, gastrointestinal functions etc. Iron is essential to keep the body strong and active, deficiency of iron can lead to  low energy, fatigue and decreased efficiency for working. Low iron intake can lead to anemia and other health problems. Wheat, cereals, grains, tomato, egg, brown rice, oats etc are rich in iron. 

C.) Chromium

Chromium aids the action of insulin and helps to control blood sugar levels. Apple, grapes, wholegrain, milk, broccoli, green beans have needful chromium. 

D.) Magnesium

Along with calcium, magnesium is also needed for healthy bones and teeth. Regular blood sugar levels and thereby prevents diabetes, also keeps cardiovascular diseases away. Green vegetables, peas, bananas, apple, nuts contains enough magnesium. 

E.) Manganese

Manganese also helps to regulate blood sugar levels and is a strong anti oxidant. Along with other nutrients, manganese helps keep bones strong. Green vegetables, beans, nuts, brown rice, oats etc contains enough manganese. 

F.) Potassium

Potassium is one of the most important minerals and it reduces blood pressure thereby protecting us from heart attack and strokes. It regulates the level of body fluids and muscle contractions. Bananas, orange, potatoes, peas, mushroom are good sources of potassium.

G.) Zinc

Zinc helps in blood clot and facilitates wound healing. Zinc regulates our immune system and some scientists claim zinc improves memory. Egg, milk, nuts, seeds are good sources of zinc.

H.) Sodium

Sodium helps to regulate blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes. Helps to prevent kidney damage and also protects our vision. But our body needs only a little of sodium and often excess salt intake leads to high blood pressure and complications. Nuts, beans and chilli contains sodium, remember to cut down on salt as much as possible as little Sodium is enough for our body. 

Recommended further reading

Importance of water

Water is extremely important for life to form, life to exist and life to continue. Without water, evolution would not have happened and intelligent life had not come into existence. So we need to be grateful to God for providing the right conditions on our planet for liquid water to exist. About 60% of our body weight is water, water is an invaluable gift of God. About the importance of water, what I can say more, without water all the functions in our body will cease one by one and all the systems will fail one by one. Water is needed in all cells, tissues and organs to regulate temperature and also to supply nutrients to different parts of our body.

Some water facts

  • The first thing to enter into your body everyday should be water. This cleanses your body and naturally strengthens it's immune system. So a glass of water every morning, it also helps bring glow on your face and keeps you mentally sharp and active throughout the day.
  • Since your body loses water throughout the day through breathing, sweating and urination, it is important to keep your body hydrated by drinking water, fruit juices or foods containing water.