Food is fuel for your body. This is the most important idea to remember when it comes to nutrition. It is also the healthiest way to think about food. If you look at how food is treated in popular culture, you might think about food as a reward, an obsession or a temptation. Fundamentally, food is the fuel your body uses to think, work and play. In order for your body to function at its best, there are some basic nutrients that are part of a balanced diet.
Carbohydrates have been looked at with suspicion for the past few years with the advent of low-carb diets. Yet carbs are the basic source of energy for everyone. When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose and fructose for immediate energy needs. Unused glucose is then converted into glycogen for short-term storage. Beyond those needs, unused carbs will be turned into fat for long-term energy storage. To maintain a healthy bodyweight, you want enough carbohydrates to fuel your daily activity, but not so much that you are storing excess fat.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. They are the building blocks of your muscles, organs and every other cell in your body. Having enough protein is especially important after a workout for muscle repair and recovery. Your body can only get the necessary amino acids for health from food. The nine essential amino acids can be found in animal protein sources. For vegetarians, it can be a little more challenging. Often vegetarian foods need to eaten in combination to fulfil protein needs. For example, a plate of rice and beans is considered a complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids.
Fats are another nutrient that has received a bad reputation in recent years, yet the body requires fat for proper functioning. Fats play an important role in long-term energy storage. They also offer insulation and protection for vital organs. The goal for a balanced diet should not be the elimination of fats but consuming the right fats. You want to eat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats such as those found in fish, nuts, olive oil and peanut butter. You want to limit the amount from saturated fats such those found in dairy products and red meats. You should stay from trans fatty foods such as many baked goods, fried fast foods and vegetable shortening.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are substances in foods that the body uses as part of many important processes like cell repair and energy conversion. Although you can find many bottles of vitamin supplements in the store, your body is designed to get vitamins from the foods you eat. When you walk in the produce section, notice the vast array of natural color. The more colorful your diet, the more vitamins you are getting. Eat your greens, but be sure to get your reds, yellows and a few purples as well.
You can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy, balanced diet. Focus on minimally processed foods with an emphasis on fruits and vegetables. The food you eat is a delicious fuel.