Our most basic nutritional requirements aside from the elements of air and water are comprised of three nutrient groups in the category known as macronutrients.
After digesting what we eat, our metabolic system carries these nutrients to our cells.
These nutrients comprise the structure of the cells in our bodies, and define our state of health. If we eat unhealthy and toxic foods, our cells become unhealthy and toxic, as do we.
Proteins are necessary for maintaining the structure of our cells and are necessary for the growth, repair, and maintenance of cells, muscles, blood, organs, skin, hair and nails.
Through the digestive process, proteins are broken into smaller components known as amino acids, and then rebuilt when needed.
Excess meat protein may also overwork the liver, which can have other unwanted side effects that affect cell reproduction, leading to disease and premature aging.
Meat may also contain excess amounts of animal fat, which is more commonly saturated, while also accompanied with greater environmental contamination than plant foods.
Meat is not the only source of protein, and as a matter of fact, too much meat can lead to too an overabundance of purines, which leads to excess uric acid, which can lead to gout and kidney stones.
Vegetable sources of proteins include soy and other legumes. These sources of protein are no less nutritious than meat protein.
Fish is an excellent source of protein, and is highly recommended in favor of meat for its omega-3 fatty acids, but it is desirable to avoid some fish, such as tuna or shark, for their levels of mercury and PCBs.
Good choices are wild Alaskan salmon, Alaskan black code (sablefish or butterfish), and sardines.
Yes, fat is an essential part of our diet. It is an energy source, is a carrier of certain nutrients, and insulates our nerves and bones.
Most people have heard that there are good fats and there are bad fats.
While the reputation of saturated fats has been associated with cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol, we now know that coconuts contain a VERY healthy saturated fat.
Additionally, processing has much to do with the healthy properties of saturated fats, and that meat that comes from grain fed animals and fish is lacking in the important Omega-6 levels which are healthy.
In fact, grass fed and grass finished (not fed corn in the last weeks of life) beef is much healthier to consume than grain fed beef. By the same token, farm raised fish fed with grains do not produce Omega-3s at nearly the levels required for our health!
The good fats are known to lower cholesterol and aid in other bodily functions. These are the monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, found in olive oil, vegetable and fish oils. They are better for you and even have health benefits.
Balancing essential fatty acids are critical in maintaining the body’s ability to temper the inflammatory response.
In general, the hormones synthesized from omega-6 fatty acids, which are abundant in our SAD (Standard American Diet) increase inflammatory reaction, while the hormones we create from omega-3 fatty acids have the dampening effect on this response.
In the distant past our diets consisted of a more equivalent amount of these fats, but are now heavily weighted in the omega-6 fats.
Unfortunately, omega-3s are much harder to come by than omega-6s. They are found in low concentrations in leafy greens, a few seeds and nuts (walnuts, flax, hemp) and a few vegetable oils (soy, canola), sea vegetables, and oily fish from cold waters (salmon, sardines herring, mackerel, black cod, and bluefish).
Animals that are allowed to graze on grass rather than being fattened on grains accumulate omega-3s in their fat.
Some fats are extremely pro-inflammatory. These are the artificially hardened fats: margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. These products include oxidized fatty acids and trans fats.
Oxidized fatty acids occur when oils are exposed to air, light and heat. Rancidity is a sign of oxidation; if your oil smells at all funny, toss it! This includes nuts and seeds, which do not have a long shelf life. The Omega-3s in these foods break down with oxidation, and as with oils, dispose of them when they begin to smell the least bit rancid. Refrigeration can extend their shelf life.
These nutrients have a plant based origin, and are our primary source of energy.
There are two basic types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars (having a high glycemic index or GI), and the complex are starch and fiber found in whole grains and vegetables (having a lower GI).
As with the fats, our sources of carbohydrates can be pro-inflammatory. The glycemic index and glycemic load are indicators of the oxidative stress that will occur as a result of ingesting certain foods.
Simple carbohydrates provide calories and short-term energy, but no nutrition.
As you eat more high-GI foods, such as bread, white potatoes, white pasta, sugars, chips, crackers and snack foods, your body processes these foods as simple sugars.
These sugars are digested very rapidly, causing excessive oxidation which results in an inflammatory response, leading to obesity, premature aging, and a weakened immune system.
Natural sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables however are part of a nutritional package, have a lower GI, and so are much more healthy to eat.
Eat foods with a low-GI such as whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, winter squashes and other vegetables, temperate fruits (berries, cherries, apples and pears) and less refined or processed food.
Eating these foods will avoid inflammation, as the body will process these foods in a more regulated manner.
Keeping these things in mind will help you to enjoy everything in moderation, and a healthier life!