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nutrition

Healthy Diet: The Missing Ingredient

21/2/2015

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 A good diet covers all nutrients and energy that the organism needs to work correctly.

Surely, this is a definition we more or less know. The question is how do we translate diet into specific food we need to intake in our daily life? Fortunately, the answer is wide and varied.

Let’s see:

Two servings of dairy (milk, yogurt): minimum

Varied and colourful vegetables: lunch and dinner (plenty of them)

Two different fruits a day: minimum

Varied bread (breakfast and afternoon snack) and one serving cereal, pasta (preferably wheat) and/or legume.

Varied lean meat (red, chicken, fish or pork): But be careful! Cook the with no visible fat or skin.

Three eggs a week

Vegetable oils of good quality: olive, sunflower, corn. You can add a variety of seeds and/or dried fruit.

Drink between a 1 ½ litres or 2 of water a day.

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All this food contains different nutrients, which are categorized by composition into carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals, water and fiber. And each of them play a different role in our body.

Carbohydrates provide the necessary energy to carry out any function of our body.

There is a misconception that carbohydrates are the bad guys, that they are fattening and that to lose weight we need to remove them from our daily diet. On the contrary: it is recommended that 50 or 60 percent of total calories in our diet be carbohydrates. Cereals and similar, legume, potato, sweet potato, corn cob, fruit… they are the souce food.

Proteins, especially, are part of our body’s structure (bone, muscle, tissue, etc.) and they have to be renewed constantly so that the organism works well. Food proteins renew old, used proteins for new ones.

At the same time, they have other functions relative to transporting substances for the organism (hemoglobin which carries oxygen through the body and are added to fat – which are insoluble in water – to circulate through blood). They also function as secondary energy. You can find them in meat, eggs, dairy and legume.

Fat. There are different types of fat, and each has a different function in the organism. Saturated fat are part of the cell membrane and are the main energy reservoir of the body. Butter, cream, whole dairy, meat, egg yolk, among other have this type of nutrient.

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 Monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) that you find in olive oil, almonds, hazelnut, and semi lean pork meat decrease bad cholesterol (LDL), increase good cholesterol (HDL) and have a vasodilatation action.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6) also reduce bad cholesterol and have vasodilatating and antiplatelet effect. You can find it in blue fish, corn, soy, sunflower and nuts.

Cholesterol also has essential functions for the body, both structural by being part of the plasmatic membrane and as the precursor of vitamin D in sexual hormones (progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) and corticosterone (cortisol and aldosterone). It also generates biliary salts. You can find it in food rich in saturated fat.

Vitamins are mainly divided into two groups: liposoluble, which dissolve in fat and hydrosoluble, which dissolve in water.

Liposoluble: vitamin A is essential for the functioning of different organs such as our eyes. They have an antioxidant action and are necessary for the development and maturing of bones. It participates in the good functioning of skin and mucus. Its absence favors infections in respiratory tract and dries the skin on arms and legs. You can find it in live, butter and carrot. The main function of Vitamin D is to favor absorption of calcium and its deposit in bones. It is synthesized in the skin by the sun. You can find it in fish, milk, egg and butter. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant found in food of vegetable nature such as soy oil, corn and olive, whole wheat cereal and green leaf vegetables. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting. If there is lack of this vitamin, there will be hemorrhage in the smallest wound. You can find it in broccoli, asparagus, green leaf vegetables and potato.

Hydrosoluble: vitamin c is part of collagen, a substance which fixes cells in their place (as concrete does with bricks) without it wounds would heal improperly and there would be skin and mucus bleeding. It helps develop teeth, gums, bones and cartilage, and grow and repair connective tissue. Other functions are: antioxidant and facilitating iron absorption. You can find it in citrics, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon, lettuce, etc. Vitamins belonging to B group (B1, B2, B6 and B12) are coenzymes which intervene in all metabolic processes, so they are essential for the well functioning of the organism. Moreover, each fulfills a specific function in different organs. Its lack generates tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite, and can stop growth.

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Minerals: they are important for the normal functioning of the organism because they intervene in multiple functions. We can highlight iron, calcium and iodine, which participate in the generation of hemoglobin and red corpuscles, formation of bones and generation of hormones respectively. Other minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and sodium are simple to incorporate in necessary amounts given that they are widely distributed in food.

Water: we should drink two litres of water a day. It is part of many body functions. We must bear in mind that we are made by 50% water.

Dietary fiber is a component of vegetables that is not absorbed because the organism is not capable of digesting it. There are two types of fiber: theinsoluble, why combats constipation, avoids the formation of diverticula in the bowel. Diets rich in fiber have also been associated with low colon cancer rate. Soluble ones act as a mesh in the bowel and filters carbohydrates to the blood, thus benefiting the functioning of the pancreas. It also decreases the absorption of fat and cholesterol. It is important to consume at least 30 grams of fiber a day. You can find the in legume, corn cob grains, varied fruit and vegetables and whole wheat cereal.

Consuming all the nutrients of our diet is a job that requires knowledge and dedication. But if we want to do it, and have a good predisposition, we can have a healthier, more comfortable and fast body to enjoy our life to the fullest, and for longer time! It is worth it!

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