What do we need to take into our bodies every day?
The right balance of these nutrients will help us to keep our body healthy for life.
Carbohydrates give us energy.
We need to keep our blood sugars at a steady level to maintain a good work rate through the day. If we eat a proper breakfast – cereal, porridge, toast or a cooked breakfast – we will be able to
concentrate and keep going until lunchtime without snacking. We should eat slow to moderate release carbohydrates and avoid quick release carbohydrates for every day living. (Quick release carbohydrates are useful for athletes.)
Slow Release Carbohydrates – apples, milk, figs, dates, baked beans, yoghurt
Moderate Release Carbohydrates – pasta, porridge, grapes, oranges, sweet potatoes
Quick Release Carbohydrates – bread, sweetcorn, potatoes, parsnips, cornflakes, muesli, raisins
We have not mentioned chocolate, chips, sweets, puddings, cakes, crisps, fizzy drinks, ice cream, all of which will give you a quick energy fix but will bring your blood sugars down equally quickly. It is fine to eat them in moderation.
Fat is also an energy giver. It contains vitamins A, D, E and K. It protects the body’s organs, gives us insulation and shapes our bodies. It protects the brain and coats the nerves.
We need fat, but not too much, especially the foods which contain saturated fat – biscuits, cake, ice cream, eggs, cooking fat, vegetable oil, some margarine, meat products and chocolate. Fat is high in calories and is the main cause of obesity, so here are some guidelines for eating less fat: -
- Read the labels
- Use lean cuts of meat
- Eat less meat and replace with vegetables
- Avoid burgers and sausages
- Do not use cooking fats
- Eat fewer chips
- Eat more fish, chicken and turkey
Protein is made up of 8 essential amino acids. These are the body builders in our diet. They are essential for growth and for healthy muscles, tissues, bones, organs, hair, nails and teeth.
Protein is found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter), pulses and soya food. We need 0.75 grams of protein for each kilogram we weigh. If we take in too much protein, we cannot store it. It passes to the liver where it is turned to ammonia. From here it is carried through the blood to the kidneys as urea. Too much urea can cause damage to the kidneys
Water is essential for us all, as we are made up of 70 – 80% fluid. We should never become dehydrated. If we are thirsty, we are already suffering from dehydration. We should drink 1 to 2 litres of water a day.
Water will help us to perform better at work and to keep up our concentration levels. It will also help to keep our skin clear and will give us a general sense of well-being. If you find it difficult to drink water on its own, add a small amount of ‘no added sugar’ cordial to taste.
Fibre is an indigestible plant material found in fruit and vegetables. It contains no nutrients and protects the digestive system, easing the way for food to move along the gut. It is satisfying bulk, needing a lot of chewing, so it helps the teeth and produces saliva. It stays in the gut for a long time, so it helps us to feel fuller for longer. As it leaves the gut, it pushes out waste in a moist, bulky stool. It helps prevent constipation, a condition which can lead to inflammation of the intestine and other serious problems.
Vitamins and minerals are very important to a healthy diet, but are often ignored as many of them are found in fruit and vegetables, food not always found on our plates! The table gives you a guide to these essential nutrients.
The best way to take in vitamins and minerals is in our daily food. However, if your diet is mainly convenience food, you may well not be getting enough nutrients from the food on your plate. There is a wide variety of supplements available. Always read the label to ensure the jars contain what you are looking for.
|Name||Where from?||What for?|
|Vitamin A (retinol)||Milk, eggs, liver, orange & yellow fruit & vegetable||Eyes (colour & night vision), immune system, growth & healthy skin.|
|Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)||Red berries, kiwifruit, peppers, tomatoes, oranges & juices.||Bones, teeth, gums & blood vessels.|
|Vitamin D (calciferol)||Sunshine, fish oils, egg yolks & fortified foods like milk.||Strength bones, helps absorb calcium.|
|Vitamin E (tocopheral)||Vegetable oils, nuts, leafy green vegetables.||Is an antioxidant – protects cell damage. Health red blood cells.|
|Vitamin B12||Fish, red meat, poultry, & dairy.||Builds DNA, make red blood cells & increases nerve function|
|Vitamin B6||Potatoes, bananas, beans, seeds, nuts, red meat, poultry & fish.||Brain & nerve function. Break down proteins & make red blood cells.|
|Vitamin B1 (thiamine)||Breads, cereals, pasta, meat & fish, soy food & peas.||Helps body convert carbohydrates into energy – heart, muscle & nervous system|
|Vitamin B9 (folate)||Dried beans & legumes, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits & poultry.||Makes red blood cells, break down proteins and keep heart healthy, needed to make DNA|
|Calcuim||Dairy, dark green leafy vegetables & juices.||Strong teeth & bones|
|Iron||Red meat, pork, fish, poultry, lentils beans & soy foods||Carry red blood cells to all parts of the body, reducing risks of anemia which includes fatigue and weakness|
|Magnesium||Wholegrains, nuts, seeds, leafy green veg., avocado & chocolate.||Muscle & nerve function, keeps bones strong, helps body create energy & make proteins.|
|Phosphorus||Most foods, but best sources are dairy, meat & fish.||Helps make energy & is needed by the whole body to function correctly.|
|Potassium||Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried fruits, legumes & lima beans.||Helps muscle & nervous system function. Helps maintain balanceof water in the blood & body tissues.|
|Zinc||Red meat, poultry, oysters & other seafood, dairy, nuts, dried beans, soy foods, fortified cereals.||Normal growth, sexual development, strong immunity & wound healing.|