BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO EATING HEALTHY
Introduction to Food
How and what you eat have a HUGE effect on your health and fitness goals. Some people go as far as to say that 90% of your health is due to what fuel you put in your body. There are so many diets out there, and some work for one person yet they don’t work for others. Diets such as Keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, low carb, etc. (if not for intolerances) work because they aim to minimize your caloric intake by limiting one group of food. But calories in vs calories out is not the only thing that contributes to weight loss and overall health. Your body transfers food into fuel/energy by breaking it down through the digestive process. The way it is broken down, the timeframe it takes to break down, and the quality of nutrients in that food all play a role in your health and weight goals.
Take soda vs oats. Both are carbs and break down into glucose inside the body to be used as energy to fuel your muscles and bodily functions. HOWEVER, soda is broken down very quickly, releases glucose into your blood stream almost instantly, and has little to no vitamins and substantial nutrients. Oats, on the other hand, are packed with fiber and vitamins that help the body function more efficiently. Oats take longer to be broken down in your body because it is a complex carb and includes fiber, so glucose is released slowly into your blood. This won’t spike your blood sugar and it will keep you feeling full longer. Both are used as energy, both have about the same about of calories, but one (oats) has many more benefits. When you consider food, aim for food that is packed with nutrients or considered “nutrient-dense” to aid in your metabolic processes.
Roles of Food:
Food has many positive roles in your body:
Energy for bodily functions
Vitamins and minerals to fight diseases
Appropriate energy levels
Strength and endurance
Proper functioning of every organ of the body
All of these roles rely on getting enough essential nutrients from food and supplements.
Highly processed foods contain just the right amount of sugar, salt, and fat to light up pleasure centers in the brain. The foods tend to be extremely calorie-dense and low in essential nutrients. This means that they have very little positive effects on your body, and actually can have a lot of negative effects without you even realizing. Enriched flour, high fructose corn syrup and food dyes are types of processed ingredients. If you eat these until you’re “satisfied” you will likely run into many body composition and health issues. A diet high in processed foods can lead to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and high blood sugar. If you have low energy, poor skin, brittle hair and nails, and poor digestion, chances are you aren’t getting proper nutrients due to a processed food diet. Sadly enough, highly processed foods make up over 50% of the average American’s diet.*
The 3 Macronutrients:
When your diet consists of refined/processed carbs like cookies, white breads, pastas, processed cereals, etc. you receive very little vitamins and minerals from such foods. They do not support your body’s nutrient uptake. Worse yet, the carbs and added sugars enter the body very quickly causing temporary spikes in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This fast absorption can even cause inflammation.
Complex carbs are processed differently. These are the foods you should add to your diet to replace processed carbs. They are digested much slower than simple or processed carbs. They control hunger, blood sugar, and energy levels, increase insulin efficiency, help with muscle to fat ratio in the body, lower cholesterol, and boost gut health. For these reasons, minimally processed carbohydrates are preferred over processed/refined carbohydrates. The exact amount of carbs needed per day varies based on gender, activity levels, body type, genetics, and others.
Fat is used for energy in the body. Overall health is determined by the balance of fatty acids consumed. A diet high in saturated fat may lead to increased cholesterol levels, which research suggests may be correlated with increased risk of heart disease. It can also cause weight gain as these fats are not digested well. However, naturally occurring fats are needed in the body for proper functioning of your organs. Everyone actually NEEDS to eat fat. Healthy fats, such as avocado, fish, and nuts, are part of a healthy diet.
Contrary to popular belief - eating more protein won't make girls “bulk up”. Actually, most adults really lack protein in their normal diets. Research suggests that a diet higher in protein is crucial for immune function, metabolism, feeling full, weight management, and performance. Protein is needed for skin, hair, nails, muscle function, proper digestion, gut health, and more.
The recommended minimum protein intake for sedentary, generally healthy adults is 0.8 g of protein per kg of body mass. This is equal to about 55 g of protein per day for a 150 lb person. Note: this amount is simply to prevent protein DEFICIENCY - this only covers the basic daily requirements for protein use. Adding more lean protein to your diet will help your body function. When you are active and train, you should be eating much closer to 1.5-2 g of protein per kg of weight or 110 - 135 g of protein per day for a 150 lb individual. Therefore, many experts recommend higher intakes of protein that approach and/or exceed 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight (assuming the person is at a healthy bodyweight, or based on ideal bodyweight if the person is overweight/obese).
RULES TO FOLLOW:
Choose ingredients you can pronounce: if you can’t they're likely chemicals/additives
Follow healthy portion sizes: see below
Increase protein intake: about .8g+ per lb of bodyweight
Increase vegetable intake: eat the rainbow
Decrease refined/processed foods: minimal health benefits
Choose whole foods as much as possible: resemble soil and sea
Eat 4-5 meals a day: 3 meals + 2 snacks or 4-5 smaller meals
Increase water intake ~10+ glasses a day: the more the better
Foods to eat:
Chicken breast, lean ground turkey, salmon, tuna, tilapia, shrimp, chicken sausage, eggs, edamame, organic protein powder, plain greek yogurt
Avocado, natural (no added sugar) nut butters, nuts (especially almonds, pecans, and walnuts), tahini, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, almond flour, olives
Rolled oats, fruits (especially berries), brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, sprouted grain bread, lentils, black beans, sweet potatoes, oat flour, coconut flour, whole wheat flour
Spinach, kale, arugula, mixed greens, cucumbers, beets, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, celery
Foods to Avoid:
Food that might seem deceiving: they might not be as healthy as you think:
Corn, potatoes, wraps (spinach/corn/flour), dressings (usually have high sugar/high fructose corn syrup, loaded with calories), organic (can still be highly processed)
Things to avoid/limit:
Cookies, pastries, high fructose corn syrup, fried foods, breaded meats, white bread, white pasta, processed cereals, chips, crackers, candy, high sugar dressings, fat-free foods (typically have more chemicals).
Rule of thumb: Eat more foods rich in the vitamins and minerals
And for each meal, women might begin by eating:
1 palm of lean protein
1 - 2 fists of vegetables
1 cupped handful of carb-dense foods
1 thumb of healthy fats
I hope this guide helps you choose food wisely. Avoid processed foods and aim for ingredients high in vitamins and minerals. Eat a balanced diet with protein, healthy fat, complex carbs. Don’t overcomplicate things, but enjoy the benefits of better eating. For 32+ healthy recipe ideas, download Dumbbells And Devotions 2.0 today!