Carbohydrates II Proteins II Fats
The body converts all carbohydrates into glucose or blood sugar that provides the body with energy, or the body stores as fat. As the primary source of energy for all body functions, carbohydrates are particularly important for the working of our brain, heart, nervous, digestive and immune systems. We constantly need a supply of energy to function properly and a lack of carbohydrates in the diet can lead to tiredness, fatigue, poor mental function and lack of endurance and stamina.
Unfortunately, thanks to the influence of the food production industry, not all carbohydrates available to us are equal. The more processed or refined a carbohydrate is, the more it has been stripped of its naturally occurring nutrients and fibre, which results in a carbohydrate that can be detrimental to health. Refining often results in a simple sugar that takes very little digestion and so result in an instant rise in blood sugar (white sugar, white bread, pasta, sweets, fizzy drinks etc). Having this huge s urge of available energy is fine if you are about to run a marathon, but if you are sat eating your baguette or bagel at your desk at work, this energy has nowhere to go and is likely to be stored as fat.
Blood sugar imbalances are also precursory to metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes and the development of type 2 diabetes. A diet predominantly formed of refined carbohydrates has also been linked to health problems such as contributing to weight gain, interfering with weight loss and promoting heart disease to name a few.
The good news is that there are abundant sources of healthy food choices – namely whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans – that deliver vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytonutrients alongside carbohydrates. These whole foods help to protect against a range of illness and disease whilst fueling the body.
The key to good health is choosing high-quality, nutrient-dense, low-glycemic carbohydrates, while avoiding the non-nutritive, empty refined carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates to include
• Choose low-glycemic carbohydrates like raw green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, cabbage, beet leaves, swiss chard, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, watercress, rocket, coriander, basil etc), broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, courgettes and so on
• Choose whole grains like barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, whole oats, sprouted grain breads, quinoa, whole wheat and wheat germ
• Avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates like white pasta, white bread, commercially baked goods (biscuits, crackers, cakes), and processed snacks (crisps, chips, pretzels), refined sugar in any form (sweets, syrups)
• Drink purified water or herbal infusions instead of carton fruit juice, carbonated soda, and/or sugary drinks.
• Avoid caffeine as it inhibits healthy blood sugar control.
Carbohydrates according to your body type:
Vata: All vegetables must be consumed cooked. All fruit & grain are ok to consume.
Pitta: Can include all vegetables, fruits & grains.
Kapha: Can include all vegetables, but need to have less fruit & grain.
A protein is made up of numerous amino acids that are linked together. There are a total of 22 different types of amino acids and the body needs all of them to function. Amino acids are chemical compounds containing carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, which combine together into different structures to form various types of protein that the body requires.
Protein are mainly required by the body for growth, maintenance and repair of cells in the body. It is a vital component of muscles, tissues and organs and so vital to just about every process in the body including digestion, metabolism, the transportation of nutrients through the blood, to mention a few. It plays a key role in the immune system, as it is necessary for the production of antibodies which fight infection and illnesses.
There are many forms of protein that play different roles in the body. Collagen, for example, is a protein vital for the composition, strength and elasticity of our hair and skin. The body digests proteins we eat into amino acids and reforms them to create new proteins it can use. Out of the 22 types of amino acids, 14 can be manufactured by the body so do not have to be derived from food.
The remaining 8 are essential amino acids that must be obtained from your diet. There are some foods, termed complete proteins, which contain all 8 alongside other amino acids. These mainly come from animal sources like meat, eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish and poultry.
The proteins that are classed as incomplete are usually lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids. They are generally found in vegetable products like fruit, vegetables, pulses, grains and nuts. This does not mean that you have to be a meat-eater to get all the amino acids the body needs to function. Combining two or more incomplete proteins can supply the full range of amino acids required. For example, combining brown rice with pulses or whole grain bread with a nut butter, will form a complete protein.
Food sources of protein
As mentioned, the best sources of complete proteins are meat, fish, shellfish, poultry and dairy products. However, it is essential that if you are to consume these you must choose organically produced meats. These protein sources become hazardous to health if you are consuming products loaded with growth hormones, anti-biotics, pollutants and raised on poor quality feed.
Choose wild fish, over farmed and those from non-polluted waters. Use only organic milk, eggs, cheeses and yoghurts and only organic meat.
Processed meats and cheeses are also to be avoided. Ham, bacon, sausages, cured meats, chicken and turkey slices, cheese slices, cream cheeses etc etc should be eliminated as far as possible from the diet.
Don’t just rely on animal products for your daily protein intake. Incorporate beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Soybean products like organic soy milk, tofu and soy mince/chunks are great low-fat sources of protein. Cholrella and Spirulina are superb vegetarian sources of protein that are also super nutritious. Densely packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, incorporating a teaspoon of one of these green powders daily will not only boost your protein intake but also your overall nutrient status.
Proteins according to your body type:
Vata: Can include all lean meat and fish with less intake of beans & pulses.
Pitta: Can include all lean meat, fish and beans & pulses.
Kapha: Can include all lean meat and fish with less intake of beans & pulses.
Fats have been given a bad reputation and the majority of diets or dietary guidelines will tell you to avoid them as much as possible. However, grouping all fats as bad is a huge mistake as many fats are actually essential for the body and avoidance can lead to many health issues that include weight gain and cardiovascular problems.
Good fats, also known as essential fatty acids, are important for brain development, blood clotting and controlling inflammation. Fats keep our skin and hair healthy and also help the body absorb certain vitamins and move them through the blood. Including essential fats in your diet can help maintain healthy cardiac function, mood stability, insulin balance, joint health and skin health.
Good “fats” to include in your diet
• Virgin Coconut Oil – though it’s 92% saturated fat it is an extremely health providing food. Composed largely of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) coconut oil is easily digested and used immediately by the body for energy rather than being stored as fat. Apart from a great source of energy, coconut oil is high in the MCT lauric acid which is an incredibly potent anti-microbial that helps support the immune system. Excellent for cooking especially stir-frying as saturated fats are much more stable when exposed to eat and light unlike polyunsaturated oils which create damaging free radicals.
• Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil – ‘extra virgin’ comes from the first pressing of the olives and no heat or harmful industrial solvents are used in the extraction. This means it retains the high quantities of antioxidants naturally present in the fruit. Use to dress salads and vegetables. It can be used to cook at low or medium temperatures but it will denature at high temperature.
• Fish and Fish Oils – fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and trout are great sources of essential fatty acid Omega-3. Try to include these in your diet at least 2-3 times a week.
• Nut and Seed Oils – Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy unprocessed fats as well as nutrients and minerals. Flaxseeds and Chia seeds are particular rich sources of omega 3 and can be freshly ground and added to cereals, smoothies, yogurt and salads. When choosing nuts and seeds, buy only natural unfried and unsalted. As they are particularly prone to oxidation, store away from heat and light and grind fresh before use. If using oils, make sure they are cold-pressed, stored in small dark glass bottles and kept away from heat and light. NEVER cook with nut and seed oils, use as dressings for salads or drizzle over cooked vegetables.
• Avocados – Creamy, rich avocadoes are one of the world’s healthiest fruits dense in nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, copper, folic acid, vitamin K and dietary fibre. Avocados contain Oleic Acid, a monounsaturated fat that is thought to help lower cholesterol, lower the risk of heart attack and aid in cancer prevention. Along with avocadoes’ protein and fibre content, their fat content also makes them filling and satisfying making you less likely to binge or over-eat.
• Grass-fed organic meat and dairy products – milk, butter, cheese and beef from organically raised grass-fed cows is known to have higher quantities of healthy fats like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega 3 fatty acids compared to grain fed cows. Butter and Ghee (clarified butter) made from organic milk can be used for cooking and are the only other fats to virgin coconut oil that should be used for cooking at high temperatures.
Recognizing the need for good fats in a balanced diet, it is important to get rid of the bad fats in our diet. Hydrogenated Oils (Trans fatty acids) and Refined Oils are dangerous to health. They are industrially produced, chemically altered oils subjected to high pressure and temperature and industrial solvents for extraction. Bleaching and deodorizing is also involved in production. This processing damages the natural structure of fats, destroys natural antioxidants, creates free radicals and produces a generally indigestible toxic product. A diet including these fats has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and more.
What to look for and avoid…
• Read food labels. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil will appear on ingredient labels. Commercially baked goods like biscuits, cookies, cakes, crackers, donuts, and fried foods like chicken, chips, crisps, tortilla chips, chicken nuggets etc (unless otherwise stated) are a major source of trans fats.
• Anything labelled vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil and even many canola (rapeseed) oils have been damaged by refining processes (unless labelled “virgin” or “cold-pressed”).
• All margarines and butter substitutes should be eliminated from the diet.
• Avoid homogenized milk fat. Pasteurizing and homogenizing milk fat makes it potentially toxic to the body. Unfortunately, raw, unpasteurized milk from organically raised cows is not so easily available in most western countries. If you cannot source fresh raw milk, go for skimmed or semi-skimmed organic milk.
Fats according to your body type:
Vata: Can have a high amounts of fats in the diet.
Pitta: Can have moderate amounts of fats in the diet.
Kapha: Can have small amounts of fats in the diet.