Updated: Oct 5, 2020
What Defines Health? Being healthy is more than just looking good! It’s about feeling good, sleeping good, moving your body daily, eating wholesome nutritious foods. So many people get so caught up in looking good that they neglect important nutrients from their body. Low carbohydrate and low fat diets are being proven not to work for long term health. You cannot start a crash diet and expect long term results. The best approach to living a healthy lifestyle is to make small, manageable changes daily. Sure, we've all been there. We think we need to count calories and/or macro nutrients, we need to spend hours in the gym on the cross trainer or treadmill but these are not sustainable and will cause more issues down the line. For women this is especially important and chronic stress and fatigue can wreak havoc on our hormones and therefore of menstrual cycles. Our bodies need to receive all the nutrients to function optimally. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells and they all need water, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre and amino acids to function at their best. Our body is a complex machine that needs nutrition from foods to function at its optimal level. Let's break down what the three macronutrients are and why our bodies need them: Carbohydrates: When it comes to carbohydrates, we need to understand that they are not bad and they are not created equally. A carbohydrate is a combination of starch, sugars and fibre, these are broken down in the body to provide energy. There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates are made up of sugar molecules that are strung together in long, complex chains. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to be used as energy. Simple carbohydrates are found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk, and milk products. They are also found in processed and refined sugars such as breads, pastas, pastries, sweets, sugar, syrups, and soft drinks Both simple and complex carbohydrates are turned to glucose (blood sugar) in the body and are used as energy. Complex carbohydrates are released into the body at a slower rate allowing for more stable energy whereas simple carbohydrates are broken down much quicker and can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. Fats Fat has been unfairly treated in the diet culture but fat is very important to the body. Dietary fats are essential to give your body energy and to support cell growth. They also help protect your organs and help keep your body warm. Fats help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones, too. Your body definitely needs fat. That being said, we need to ensure that we are eating good quality fats. To make matters more confusing, there are three types of fats: Saturated fats - These fats tend to be a solid at room temperature and are mainly found in animal products such as milk, eggs, butter Trans fats - Most trans fats are artificially made and are added to processed food to extend their shelf life. Unsaturated fats - these fats are derived from vegetables and plants, they are comprised of unsaturated fats (including avocados, oils and nuts) and polyunsaturated fats (such as sesame oil).
Proteins Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. So where can we get protein from? So we all know that animal products contain a lot of protein but more and more people are eating less meat. Protein can also be found in many other foods such as beans, legumes, chia and hemp seeds, nuts, greek yogurt and cottage cheese. The biggest take away from the above macro nutrients is that our body needs ALL OF THEM to function at its optimal level. You cannot expect to feel full of energy if you are not eating carbohydrates, you cannot expect to have balanced hormones if you are excluding fats and you cannot repair muscle and tissue without adequate protein. Now we have looked at nutrients from foods, what else can we do to improve our health?
Sleep Sleep is something that is massively underrated when it comes to health. I think so many people feel as though there are more important things to be doing, binging Netflix for example. However if we neglect our sleep, this has detrimental impacts on our health.
I have writting a whole blog here on how to sleep if you are someone who struggles! Repair works - When we sleep essential maintenance takes place. During sleep we release the human growth hormone which enables our bodies to go into repair mode, this is responsible for repairing muscles and tissue. Memories are stored - when we sleep our brains sort through the day's tasks and then decides where to store them as memories, this can help you with problem solving and creativity. (If you have seen the Film Inside Out then you know!) When we sleep our bodies are able to regulate our hormones that create appetite; ghrelin. When you get a bad night's sleep it puts a lot of stress on your body and you will often find that you are hungrier the day after, this is due to your hormones being out of sync. When we are stressed it increases our cortisol which can increase weight around our middle.
Water The last thing I want to discuss in this article is the importance of water. Our bodies are 45-60% water. Dehydration can cause a slump in energy and a rise in fatigue. Staying hydrated can keep your mind focused. Drinking plenty keeps your metabolism healthy and working better. Drinking water can also cause you to feel fuller for longer. A Lot of the time dehydration is felt as hunger, so next time you feel hungry, drink some water first. Drinking plenty of water can help flush excess toxins out of the body including hormones which in turn will lead to a better hormonal balance and clearer skin. Water is needed in the body to help transport cells and nutrients, it also keeps your organs functioning. Staying hydrated also helps your body to regulate temperature. We don’t just have to drink to hydrate our bodies, many fruits and vegetables contain water so remember that you can keep hydrated with a well balanced colourful diet. The Takeaway: Being healthy isn’t just about the way you look, it’s about how we feel in our bodies and this comes from what we put in them and how we treat it. Ensure that you are eating a well balanced diet, avoid toxic overloads of sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Make sure you move your body, eat the right foods, rest adequately and take on enough fluids. By living a healthy lifestyle your body will work as it should and you will reduce your risk of illness and injury.