Eating and Feeling Good
What we choose to eat can provide a connection to how we feel each day. Summertime offers a chance for all of us to think about what we are eating in our diet, especially because of all the tasty produce in season. It can be convenient to eat food that isn’t great for your body, but having a healthy, balanced diet overall will be the best way to feel good, inside and out.
Calories, carbohydrates, fats (good and bad), protein, cholesterol – These words are on every nutrition label that we see, but what do they really mean? Vitamins and minerals are also essential to living a healthy life, so let’s brush up on what these terms mean and how they can help, or hinder, a healthy lifestyle and feeling good.
- Calories are a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of food. Calories are directly linked to weight – for the average adult, consuming between 2000 – 2500 calories is recommended each day. Calories are shown as “calories per serving” on nutrition labels, so be conscious of that when you are looking at the caloric content of a label.
- Carbohydrates are a source of energy that includes fiber, starches, and sugars
- Fiber – Found in plants
- Starch – Veggies, grains, and legumes
- Sugar – Those occurring naturally in food and beverages, and they can also be processed to add to certain drinks or foods
- Fat is a macronutrient, a substance that humans require large amounts of, and another source of energy. There are many different types of fat, some good and some bad.
- Monounsaturated / Polyunsaturated fats – Liquid at room temp, found in vegetable oils and nuts. These are the good fats that you want to eat in your diet!
- Saturated fats – Solid at room temp, found in meat / dairy products and tropical oils, such as coconut. Consume these in moderation – there are mixed reviews on whether these are “good” or “bad.”
- Trans fats – Different than the fats naturally found in plants, which includes partially hydrogenated (avoid this word on food labels!) vegetable oils found in popcorn, desserts, coffee creamer, and frozen pizza. They are also found naturally in cattle and sheep products. Trans fats are considered “bad fats,” and are fats you should avoid when possible!
- Protein is another macronutrient and a component of every animal cell. Composed of 9 amino acids, protein cannot be made by humans and must be consumed in their diet.
- Protein is a good mood booster, because it can release good chemicals in your brain. Foods like eggs, poultry, tofu, & Greek yogurt are all great sources of protein!
- Cholesterol is naturally present in animal tissues. When people consume animal products, they synthesize cholesterol from them.
- HDL cholesterol – Blood cholesterol that is “good,” carries it to liver and removes it from the body
- LDL cholesterol – Blood cholesterol that is “bad,” carries it to the arteries and can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in arteries
Foods that are High in Vitamins and Minerals
- Sweet potatoes and carrots are high in Vitamin A, which helps your eyes function properly.
- Chickpeas are a great source of Vitamin B6, which help with metabolizing foods, stabilizing blood sugar, and makes antibodies to fight disease. Put these in a food processor with some olive oil, lemon juice, and a couple other ingredients to make your own hummus, a great dip for chips or veggies!
- Easy hummus recipe: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/hummus-237832
- Animal products, such as cooked clams, salmon, or tuna are all high in Vitamin B12 – a vitamin that is vital for healthy nervous system function and helps protect against anemia, a conditions that causes fatigue.
- B-12 is known for giving you energy, while keeping your immune system healthy and your brain functioning. People who are B-12 deficient may feel similar to those who have depression, so making sure you are eating foods with B-12 in them is important!
- Red bell peppers and broccoli are both great sources of Vitamin C, an important antioxidant that assists with protein metabolism in your body.
- Protein metabolism happens when simple and complex proteins are broken down into amino acids, and from there they enter the bloodstream.
- Yogurt and kale both have high amounts of calcium, a mineral that is abundant in the human body. 99% of calcium is stored in the teeth and bones, helping to make them stronger.
- Red meat, poultry, lentils, and beans all provide good sources of iron, a metal in our body that’s found in hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen all around the body.
- Burrito bowl recipe (the chicken and black beans are a great source of iron!):
- Wheat bran, almonds, and cashews all have magnesium in them, a mineral that maintains muscle and nerve function and keeps bones strong. Eat unrefined grains to get the germ and the bran from the wheat (aka, no white bread)!
We need a good balance of these vitamins and minerals in our diet in order to function properly and to feel good. While many people choose to take a multivitamin each day, getting these nutrients from your diet is the best way to go. This also allows you to try new foods you maybe haven’t before and to incorporate them into your favorite meals!
Eating healthy will always be a choice, and the best way to start is substituting healthier and tasty options for your go-to snacks that are “empty calories.” Try cooking at home a couple times a week in place of eating out – this way you can control exactly what you are eating. Remember, what you are eating every day will affect how you feel!