Wholesome nutrition. Let’s start with the basics.

Aug 20, 2020

In the Daily Spoon blog, we will often talk about protein, good fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Therefore, I wanted our first discussion to be about the basics of nutrition that will be useful in our daily food diet decisions.

I think it’s important to mention that I’m not a certified nutritionist (although sometimes I feel this way due to plenty of advice I share with my close ones). I rely on information from professionals and sources I trust. I will provide them at the end if you are looking for more detailed information.

So, let’s get started?

Carbohydrates

What are carbohydrates and what are their types?

  • Simple sugars are white or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup. They are quickly digested and are usually quite high in calories. These are what we call “empty calories” because of low nutrition, high-calorie count.
  • White complex carbohydrates are bread, pasta, rice, and flour products. 
  • Complex carbohydrates of whole grains and whole flour – whole grain bread and pasta, as well as brown rice, quinoa.
  • Vegetables and fruits – especially root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, turnips. 

You probably know that simple sugars should be avoided as much as possible. After consuming them, we feel a sugar rush, which quickly calms down and we suddenly feel sleepy. Our body absorbs white complex carbohydrates longer, so the energy is distributed more evenly. The best option is to choose whole-grain products, as they are richer in fiber and nutritional value, which not only benefits our body but also gives a longer feeling of satiety.

Why do we need carbohydrates? 

  • One of the main sources of energy in sports.
  • Support liver, muscle, and nervous system functions. 
  • Carbohydrates contain fiber that is important for our gut and digestion functions.
  • Maintain a healthy brain function. 

Fiber

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps maintain the health of our digestive system and is vital to our gut. More about fiber properties: 

  • Insoluble fiber. Its function is to help food and unabsorbed substances move through the intestines and maintain good digestion. They are mainly found in whole grain and wholemeal flour products. 
  • Soluble fiber  is found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and beans. These fibers nourish the good bacteria in our gut. 

Protein 

Protein is a building material of our body cells and I will certainly not be the first to emphasize its importance. Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids. Many of them are formed in our body, but other amino acids need to be absorbed along with food. 

Protein sources: 

  • Complete proteins: meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese. 
  • Incomplete protein: beans, nuts, lentils, quinoa, peas. 

Complete proteins are not superior to incomplete ones, they are just different. To get enough protein, nutritionists advise to include both in our diet. 

Why do we need protein? 

  • It is necessary for strengthening muscles, maintaining hormone levels, palaikymui and immune antibodies.
  • Protein is an important factor in how our body feels, divides and absorbs substances, overcomes diseases, and infections. 
  • Helps regulate our metabolism and weight.

Fats

A very important but often unnecessarily underestimated food group. Perhaps this is because of labels used by the food industry as “Low Fat” or because of the foods that are associated with this group. People tend to be skeptical about foods with higher fat content. At first, it is important to understand what types of fats exist and what properties they differ from.

  • Unsaturated fats are healthy fats. They contain monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fat products: extra virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds. 

Polyunsaturated fat products: fatter fish like salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, sunflower oil. 

  • Saturated fats are animal fats that we find in butter, fat, or lard. These fats raise cholesterol levels, so their consumption should be reduced as much as possible. 

Why do we need unsaturated fats? 

  • Although carbohydrates are most often associated with energy supply to the body, fats are the most energy-giving food group. By comparison, protein and carbohydrates give the body 4 kcal of energy per gram, but fat gives 9 kcal. 
  • Fat is important for the absorption of nutrients
  • Along with them, we get fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6. 
  • Fat is needed for the protection and regeneration of body cells.
  • Helps to maintain skin, nails and hair health.

What should my plate look like? 

There are different opinions about the proportions of food groups on the plate. I think a daily diet is a very individual and habit-based decision. Therefore, when people are confronted with information that encourages them to change their habits, it usually leads to rejection. I believe the path to a nutritious diet for everyone comes at their time, and the only thing we can do on that journey is to support each other and share the information we have. 

That’s why I want to share an example I liked about the food proportions on a plate to receive the various substances our body needs. I chose an example from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of public health publication (Source). In the link you will see an illustration that advises: 

  • Half a plate should consist of vegetables and fruits – the more diverse, the better. 
  • ¼ should consist of whole-grain products – whole grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, etc. 
  • – ¼ should go to healthy proteins – fish, poultry, beans, chickpeas, etc.
  • Also, don’t forget to include unsaturated fatsin your diet – olive oil, avocados, nuts, and so on.

So, I hope with this first article we have taken a solid step towards an informative and practical information blog. Your views and experiences are very important to me, so I would like you to share where you are looking for information about comprehensive nutrition practices and what the following topics would be of interest to you? Write to me at radvile@dailyspoon.lt.

Smiling behind the screen, 

Radvilė 

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