There are many different aspects of nutrition that can be discussed, depending on what level of specificity you are pursuing. On the very deep level, one can talk about each and every vitamin and mineral and go through the various benefits that each of these compounds provide. While we may eventually include this, we realize that others may have never heard of these concepts. Either way, this information will help you in your pursuit of good health.
What is the purpose of eating? Contrary to all of our desires, it is not for pleasure. That’s it, pure and simple.
There are various ideas on how to eat. Should I eat three squares a day? Should I have multiple small meals throughout the day? Unfortunately, while each of these methods has their pros and cons, in reality, the way one eats is determined by lifestyle. For example, if you work at a job that precludes the notion of eating many smaller meals during the day, you will, out of necessity, have to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is probably the way most Americans eat their meals.
The first meal of the day, breakfast is a very important meal. Your body has not taken in any form of nutrients in approximately 6-8 hours. It is important to have a solid meal because you are breaking the fast (break-fast). The size of the meal should be enough to carry you to your lunch hour, if you don’t have the opportunity to eat a piece of fruit before lunch hour. Attempt to keep within the standard common sense nutritional ideas. Stay away from frying your foods, stay away from high levels of refined sugars in your meals, and stay away from drinking high levels of liquids with your meals as this interferes with digestion by diluting the acids of your stomach.
Regarding liquids, remember that coffee with caffeine tends to increase one’s metabolism and can create nervous reactions at times. Think about how you feel if you DON’T have your coffee in the morning. Regarding milk, it is important to remember that milk is a mucous producer. It tends to clog the absorption sites in your small intestines making it harder for your body to absorb the high quality nutrients you may be eating. Another fallacy about milk is that calcium is attached to a protein complex in milk. After the age of three or four, we do not have the enzyme in our bodies necessary to break down this protein complex. Therefore, please don’t drink milk for calcium; it’s just not going to happen. Forms of calcium that are useable, (short of calcium supplements), would include any of the green leafy vegetables. Tomatoes are also a good source of calcium. Sesame seeds have a very high level of calcium as well. You would want raw sesame seed for the best level of useable calcium.
In general, lunch should be the biggest meal of the day from the following point of view. Your body will need the calories you eat for use in creating the energy you need to finish out the day. If you eat your biggest meal of the day at night, many of the foods that need to be digested are not digested prior to going to sleep. When this occurs, there is a greater tendency for your body to put on weight. While it may be very small amounts each night, it would be easy to see that this can add up over time.
How about portion sizes. While I am not going to give you specific amounts of ounces per portion, I will give you some common sense generalities. Obviously, a larger man will need more good calories in his diet than a smaller would be to have the protein portion to be one-third of the vegetable portion. In many cases if you are still hungry, have extra salad rather than more protein. Our bodies have very specific limits on how much protein can be used efficiently. Why eat so much that your body converts the high-priced protein into lower priced carbohydrates? Simply eat more vegetables to start.
A comment about the four food groups is necessary at this time. The four food groups were an early television marketing concept, not having much value when it comes to nutrition. It was an attempt to create equal market share for the producers of the different types of foods available. In other words, don’t look to balance the four food groups. The following reasons will be given as to how to proportion the types of foods that are available to us.
First let me give you a basic description of how the different categories of foods are digested, as this will help you understand the recommendations that follow. The enzyme used is called salivary amylase. Starches would include breads, pastas, potatoes, etc. Proteins are digested in the stomach. Usually proteins take the longest amount of time to digest because of their makeup. The third major category of foods is fruit. Their nature is to have high levels of sugar (fructose-the good kind of sugar), and in many cases, higher levels of water. Fruits are normally digested in the small intestines.
The proper order of eating should be to eat fruits on an empty stomach. Why? Because if the stomach is full of food when you eat fruit, the fruit stimulates the stomach contents to be released into the small intestines. Whatever was in the stomach would therefore, NOT be digested properly. Since it was not digested properly when it entered the small intestines, the normal absorption of nutrients of the stomach content would not take place. One school of thought is to eat a high level of fruit for breakfast. It is easily digested and absorbed well in that scenario. The energy you receive from the fructose would be highly beneficial for your body. Also, there would really be no limit as to how much fruit you would eat at breakfast. Your limit would be when you became full or at whatever level you chose. Of course, as with all recommendations, if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic please ask your doctor before changing your nutritional habits. If you decide to eat fruit throughout the day, just be sure it is not eaten shortly after a meal was eaten.
Starches such as potatoes, pastas, and breads can be eaten with all types of vegetables, but really should not be eaten with proteins, as this interferes with complete digestion. This is probably the most difficult concept to follow because we have been trained to eat rice with fish, meatballs with pasta, etc. However, if you have pasta with salads you will find that you are not bloated at the end of the meal, and digestion can occur much more easily. The same is true when you have a big protein meal. For example, a nice steak dinner is digested much easier if you eat it with your heart’s content of salad rather than bread. Experiment with this and you will find this to be true.
Let’s go over the basic concepts of food and quality of food. Due to tremendous advertising, it is very common for people to utilize every sort of diet out there. From low carbohydrate meals to high carbohydrate meals, from low protein meals to high protein meals; the list goes on and on. That is it! Without this formula no one can lose weight. If a person, under the supervision of a physician begins a moderate exercise program and also starts to eat smarter, they have a good chance, over time, to lose weight, or at least stabilize their weight. We must be careful in this age of marketing to avoid many of the claims that are touted. Some are based on reality, while some based on fantasy.
The last concept that will be discussed in this brief forum about nutrition is MODERATION. Please don’t attempt to do it all at once. While this is not perfect,it will give you the chance to see how the extra vegetables satisfy your appetite. When eating baked potatoes, if you normally use a great deal of butter and sour cream, perhaps the next time you eat the potatoes, the amount of butter is cut in half. Maybe you have gotten into the habit of eating cookies and ice cream late at night. Not only is this bad from a refined sugar point of view, but eating high-fat and high sugar foods late at night is a sure way of putting on weight. Well, perhaps you should eat it every other night to start so that you can wean yourself off of this type of snack. Eventually, you may reward yourself with this snack once per week instead of nightly.
Using this approach will assist you in your journey to better health through nutrition. While there are many more issues regarding nutrition that were not reviewed, it is hopeful that this information will give you a starting point in your quest for better nutrition. If you have any questions about these concepts, feel free to ask for more information.