Nutrition

Healthy Eating

Many of us do not exceed the minimal intake of nutrients we need daily. Some of us consume too much sugar and fats that our bodies actually require and that can lead to health problems. Many individuals tend to lean towards dieting in order to lose weight and some individuals continue to stay on their current diet and exercise at the gym instead. Both of these situations may cause harm to your body even if you do not notice the changes. We always hear people telling us to eat healthy or go on a healthy diet but what does it consist of?

Firstly, there is the Food guide we can refer to. Taking the recommended servings in each age group and food group is a great start to help your body get what it needs for energy.

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If you are not confident about the servings you are consuming daily, then why not learn to cook healthy meals at home? This way, it is easier to measure how many servings of each food group you are consuming and you tend to know more about the ingredients you are using while making a home-cooked meal. Cooking a meal at home also lets you head out to the grocery store and know the products you are buying and consuming. Some food products can be local while some are not. Some restaurants do not indicate where their source of food is coming from but some grocery stores indicate whether their source of food coming is locally or not.

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Some individuals like to go on a diet to help lose weight and become healthier but they also avoid carbohydrates. However, carbohydrates are good for your diet and some are healthier than others. There are 3 types of carbohydrates: sugar, starch, and fiber. Sugar has the highest glycemic index compared to all three carbohydrates, meaning it has the potential to raise your blood sugar level the easiest.

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How can we incorporate carbohydrates into our healthy diet?

Our body uses glucose for energy and we get glucose from carbohydrates. This is why it is important to consume carbohydrates in our diet and not eliminate them in order to lose weight. We need to know which carbohydrates are healthy and good for us and which ones that are bad for us. Consuming fresh fruits and vegetables are good for us. This is because there are not added sugar in these produce. When trying to take in starch, choose whole grains or legumes since they have a lower glycemic index and contain nutrients that your body requires such as B vitamins and fiber. Sugar is still important for your body to function but it only requires a small amount so limiting your sugar intake would be beneficial.

Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium plays an important role for your body. It is known as a mineral that makes your bones stronger however it works with Vitamin D for it to function at it’s optimal. The daily recommended intake for Calcium is 1,000 milligrams for adults. How does Calcium help the body?

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Calcium can greatly decrease the risk of developing Osteoporosis, which is the weakening of the bones. With Calcium alone, it is hard to build healthy and strong bones so it requires Vitamin D to help. There were studies that show taking calcium by itself does not reduce the risk of getting fractures. The question is, how does Vitamin D and Calcium work together to develop healthy bones?

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently, so it can do its job and build bones through osteoblasts. Bone is constantly being built and broken down so it is important to receive the recommended amount of Calcium and Vitamin D.

Not only does Calcium help with bone growth, it is used in many metabolic and physiological process occurring in the body. It is important for muscle contractions since you are always moving and using the muscles.

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You can get your daily dose of Calcium through dairy products, and you can get Vitamin D through absorbing some sunlight during a nice sunny day!

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Health Concerns for Sugar and Ways to Reduce Intake

Everyone likes to consume a little sugar from time to time but many of us might be exceeding our daily nutritional need for sugar and that can become a health risk overtime. Some food products naturally contain sugar such as fruits and vegetables while some food have sugar added into them such as desserts and pop. A reason why sugar is added in some food because it makes them more appetizing therefore it becomes easier to consume. Intake of sugar is easy to achieve but why is it a health concern and what can we do to reduce our intake?

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Potential Health Concerns

Consuming products with sugar can keep you full and prevent you from eating other foods with nutritional values such as vitamins and minerals. For example, many individuals drink sugary and carbonated beverages to replace drinking water or milk only because it has a better taste but your body relies on water for many physiological processes occurring inside. Without the adequate levels of minerals and vitamins, your body cannot do its proper functions resulting in malnutrition and other health risks.

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Sugar can also be a factor contributing to weight gain. When you intake large amounts of sugar, your body will not need to use all of it for energy during that period of time so it turns to fat which stays in your body. Higher levels of sugar in the body can increase triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat molecule in your body which is found in your bloodstream. Higher fat content in the blood can result in an increase for cardiovascular diseases.

How to Reduce our Sugar Intake?

  1. Instead of consuming products with added sugar, you can try to eat fruits which is sweet and also has vitamins your body requires
  2. Drink plain or carbonated (sparkling) water rather than going straight for pop and juices
  3. Reduce the amount of sweetening ingredients when you are baking at home
  4. Read food labels and avoid food products with high sugar content

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You may be considering to eliminate sugar and replace it with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda but what are the benefits and of using those instead? A benefit that can happen from using artificial sweeteners is that they do not contribute to tooth decay and cavities. Another benefit is that they normally contain zero calories so weight gain is less likely to occur than using processed sugar. Because they are not made of carbohydrates, it is beneficial for diabetic individuals to consume artificial sugars as their blood sugar levels will not rise significantly.

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Whether you decide to consume sugar or artificial sugar on a daily basis, always keep in mind that too much of everything is not good for your body so finding alternatives can help maintain a good balance that your body will appreciate!

 

Caffeine – How Much Should You Consume?

Many of us always say we need coffee or caffeine in order to start our day. Some may even require more than a cup of coffee in a day. We do not normally see caffeine as something dangerous because it is so commonly used but consuming a lot of it can be quite harmful. Exactly how much caffeine is considered as too much then?

Caffeine is found in many consumable products. They are most commonly found in coffee, cola, and energy drinks. Consuming up to 400 mg of caffeine is considered a safe amount and will not cause potential health dangers. 400 mg of caffeine is equivalent to 4 cups of coffee or 10 cans of coca-cola, which is a lot in a day! Although the maximum for a healthy dose of caffeine is that high, some individuals are sensitive to caffeine and experience side effects such as faster heart beats, headaches, insomnia, and becoming a little jittery. A moderate amount of caffeine to consume in a day would be 300 mg.

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We drink caffeinated beverages because we have to stay focus and awake enough to perform our daily activities, whether it is heading to work or school. However, as we continue to rely on caffeine, a cycle will form and our new routine will be having caffeinated drinks in the morning to start our day. There could be an underlying reason as to why so many individuals have caffeinated beverages. One most known reason is the fact adults do not receive the recommended hours of sleep every night due to work and this can highly affect a person’s performance during the day. Most adults need seven hours of sleep to fully function during daytime without the consumption of caffeine. Drinking caffeinated drinks can cause people to stay awake longer than required and this can shorten their sleep time which can affect the body and its health.

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Overall, consuming moderate amounts of caffeine is safe and most likely would not be a health problem but there are always the exceptional cases.

Eating Organically

Eating organically is a hot topic in discussions of food and healthy eating. How much do we actually know about organic foods, and how does it affect our body and our health?

Defining organic foods concerns the way that crops are grown and how livestock are raised. Livestock are given organic feed with no growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. For organic produce, farmers avoid using synthetic pesticides, genetic engineering (GMOs), and turn to natural pesticides and fertilizers, with methods reducing pollution and water usage [1]. The food must follow the Canadian Organic Standards in order to have the organic label.

It is debatable whether the levels of pesticides and GMOs in non-organic foods are harmful. It was suggested to cause headaches, nausea, allergen problems and even cancer [2]. However, the studies are still unclear on the effects of pesticides. Apples are generally seen as having one of the highest levels of pesticides compared to other produce. Yet, according to one study, even when buying non-organic apples, “a woman would need to eat 529 servings of apples in a day to reach an unsafe level [3].” As for nutritional levels, many studies have shown no difference between organic and non-organic, and even when studies do find changes in nutritional levels, the small differences are unlikely to impact our health.

Many opt to go organic for ethical and environmental purposes. It helps support the local farmers that deliver fresher produce to your grocery. The use of natural fertilizers that do not contaminate the soil and water, the less transportation required, and its friendliness to the local ecosystem also make it a viable choice for the environmentally-friendly folk. Additionally, since organic produce do not have the waxy covering to protect them from spoiling, they are usually fresher than non-organic counterparts.

The costs of growing organic food does mean that their prices are usually higher. If you want to start eating organic while balancing costs, buy produce in-season, or attend local farmers’ markets, which usually has organic foods at a discounted price. If you decide to buy non-organic produce, it is recommended to wash it with water to remove traces of pesticides, soil, or residue. The Environmental Working Groups develops a yearly list of produce that contain the least and the most amount of pesticides. It is most helpful to buy apples, strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, etc., organically, as they have comparatively high amounts of pesticides, while buying non-organic corn, avocados, and onions would be fine if you want to save on cost. If you can afford it, consider buying organic meats, dairy, and eggs, as the unnatural diet of livestock raised non-organically can include growth hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and even some drugs.

Possibly the most important thing is to stay knowledgeable about the process of organic foods. Organic does not always mean healthier, so pay attention to the labels. And whether or not you buy organically or non-organically, stick with a healthy diet and your body will thank you!