You are what you eat....or should we say what you eat you will become?
When was the last time you turned on the television or pull up a web page without some commercial or ad telling you to change the way you eat or buy supplements that will make you healthier but what does your body really need? Are the supplements, shakes or meal plans helping or hurting your waistline and more importantly your health? Obesity is at an all-time high in the United States. We are consuming higher calorie food with less nutritional value. This means that our stomachs feel full but our bodies are starving. Although caloric intake is an individualized number based on age, weight, and activity level on average the typical 18-30 year old woman only needs about 1300-2400 calories a day, for a man of the same age range it is about 2800-3100 and as we get older this number decreases. There are a lot of us that can take in 1/3 of these calories just from our morning coffee which is also loaded in sugar. For those of us that do cook at home we tend to fall victim to prepackaged process foods out of convenience that are loaded in oils, sodium, sugar and refined carbohydrates.
What we are discovering now is that it wasn't how much that was on those plates but what was on those plates that mattered. Our bodies are many complex systems all working together to keep us healthy and disease free. The food that we are putting into these well-oiled machines is being linked to many chronic diseases. Looking at nutrition on a cellular level we are able to see the basics of our nutritional needs. Besides oxygen, carbohydrates, and fiber we also need amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. All of these can be found in the lean meats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables that we eat. It is when we load up on processed, high fat and high sugar foods with no nutritional value that start to accumulate excess body weight and nutrient depleted bodies.
Excess body weight has been linked to type 2 diabetes; cancers of the breast, endometrium, ovaries, colon, rectum and kidney; hypertension; coronary artery disease; stroke; asthma; gall bladder disease; and osteoarthritis (Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). I know we all hear eat your fruits and vegetables but in doing so we can take a proactive stance on preventing chronic diseases later in life. Just one cup of blueberries can provide carbohydrates -- 21.5 grams per cup, of which 3.6 grams are dietary fiber. Carbohydrates provide energy to fuel your active lifestyle and support the function of several organs, including your kidneys and brain. Fiber keeps your digestive system functioning properly, increases your sense of being sated after a meal and promotes cardiovascular health. The fiber in a cup of blueberries makes up 10 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 14 percent for women (livestrong.com). Blueberries are also a source of vitamin C and K. So if one little fruit can provide you with so many health benefits think of what else is out there.
Harvard University has developed an info-graphic to help guide you through what your plate should look like.
The next time you go to pull into that convenient fast food drive thru or load you plate up with food remember; you can load up on that now and pay your doctor later or grab a healthy snack and spend that money on living your life. Your future is in your hands whether it is good or bad starts with your choices.