What You Eat Matters: Fueling Your Body For The Best Results
The food we eat becomes our cells, our blood, our organs, our bones - every single part of us.
So, why do we fuel our body with junk food? Because it’s everywhere. It’s convenient, easy and we’re bombarded with advertising!
When I look back at how I ate for years and years, I just cringe. Even when I thought I was eating "healthy", I really wasn't. But, I didn’t really know any better at the time.
It seems easy enough now to understand that we can’t eat junk and expect to feel energized, perform well, thrive and avoid disease. I wish I knew this years ago! Perhaps you might feel the same way.
What We Eat Absolutely Matters
We have been told to eat low-fat, nutrient-deficient foods. And we wonder why we’re always hungry and can’t lose weight! We think it’s because we aren't doing something right. Or that we need to exercise more and eat less. This is bad advice that we've been following for way too long.
What if we changed our focus to eating healthier with WHOLE foods?
What if we changed our focus to getting healthier INSTEAD of being focused on losing weight? These are two very distinct things.
What if we focused on NOURISHING our body and giving it what it needs to thrive?
I truly believe the biggest difference would be that you will lose the weight as part of a lifestyle shift, not just because you went on yet another diet that you can’t maintain indefinitely.
The end result will be better because you will have improved your health in the process!
Fueling Your Body for the Best Results
The foods you eat can have a DRAMATIC impact on how you look and feel (your mood, energy levels, skin, hair, etc.), as well as how YOU age.
Food is also FUEL for your body; it’s what gives us energy. Think about your car - when it is out of fuel it no longer works. Your body works the same way.
Instead of focusing on counting calories, focus on the types of foods that fuel you and give you what you need for optimum health. When you do this, you begin to shift your mindset and lifestyle. The results can be achieving and maintaining an ideal weight range and having a healthier relationship with food.
“While calories do count for something, good health depends on far more complex factors – and simply reducing calories (or fat) isn’t the answer. The foods you eat exert a powerful psychological influence, stronger than any act of willpower: They influence your hormones, silently directing your metabolism. They affect your digestive tract, your body’s first line of defense. And they impact your immune system and your risk for any number of diseases and conditions. Your good health starts with the foods you eat.” - Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, authors of ‘It Starts with Food’
Quality Over Quantity
In addition vitamins and minerals (also known as micronutrients), fuel for your body also comes in the form of macronutrients.
Whole food (think real food) macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. They contain the highest levels of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). They are critical for our health and well-being.
Diets that include a lot of process foods lack micronutrients. This is why focusing on the quality of food to maximize your intake of nutrients is so important. This is why your focus should not be only on counting calories.
When you eat processed foods you are getting very few vitamins and minerals.
Counting calories can be helpful, but it’s important to remember to always choose quality over just the number of calories a food contains.
For example, chips worth 200 calories will not provide you even close to the amount of what your body needs in nutrition as 200 calories from fruits, vegetables or other whole foods would.
“Macronutrients are nutrients that contain calories. There are only three macronutrients - fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Macronutrients give us the calories we need for energy and growth. All natural foods contain a mixture of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, although some (primarily animal products) contain only two of the three.” -Joel Fuhrman. M.D.
What Are The Macronutrients?
“Protein is an important essential nutrient because your body uses it to build new cells, maintain tissues, and synthesize new proteins that make it possible for you to perform basic bodily functions.
Proteins are nutrients that are essential to the building, maintenance and repair of your body tissues such as your skin, internal organs, and muscles. They are also the major components of your immune system and hormones.
Proteins are made up of substances called amino acids -- 22 of which are considered vital for your health. Your body can make 14 of these amino acids, but the other eight, known as essential amino acids, must be obtained from what you eat.” - mercola.com
Where Do You Get Protein From?
Protein is found in both animal and plant foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products, legumes, grains and some vegetables.
Protein helps you feel satiated (feeling full and satisfied). Protein also helps stabilize blood sugar levels and minimize mindless munching. So be sure to incorporate it into every meal.
Each person has different protein needs based on their weight, age, fitness level, and other factors.
By incorporating different types of protein into your diet, you can learn which proteins works best for your individual requirements. Tracking what you eat and noting how you feel and how your body responds will give you a clear picture of what you are consuming and what makes you feel the best.
Carbohydrates are important for our bodies for many reasons including providing energy to our cells. It also aids in recovery from physical activity. Carbohydrates can also be a good source of fiber.
Where Do You Get Carbohydrates From?
Carbohydrates can be categorized as refined or unrefined. They are also called processed or unprocessed, simple or complex.
Unrefined carbohydrates are full of nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which are all necessary for the production of energy in the human body.
Some examples of unrefined carbohydrates are vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Refined carbohydrates are stripped of nutrients. Additives and chemicals have been added to replace what was removed. Many additives are addictive and harmful to our health. These are the kinds of foods that cause us to have energy crashes and put us on the sugar roller coaster ride.
Refined carbohydrates include foods like packaged cereals, white bread, flour, chips, most pasta, cakes, candy, etc. These foods that are best to limit in your diet. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a ‘treat’ now and then, but be conscious of how much you consume each day.
Awareness is the first important step and this is where keeping a food journal can be very helpful.
One thing I truly believe in is to not feel guilty about food. Food is meant to be enjoyed. The healthier choices you make each day, the better you will feel. And eventually, you won't even want the processed, refined and less nutritious options. Your body will start to crave healthy foods! I know this is true because I have experienced it!
Consuming sufficient amounts of fat in the right forms and proper proportions has been shown to offer significant health benefits.
Among many things, it can strengthen your immune system, enhance brain and nervous system functions such as mood, intelligence and behavior. It can also reduce cardiovascular disease, increase energy and performance, give you healthy skin, hair, and nails, regulate body weight, and improve organ and gland function.
Fat is also critical for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, as well as optimal hormone function.
“But, wait, isn't fat was bad for me?!”
This belief is due mostly to the low-fat diet craze that caused many people to run scared from all dietary sources of fat. This craze led many food companies replaced fat with sugar and other chemicals to make foods taste good. This was and is not good for your health or your waistlines.
The time period of the low-fat diet craze is when the obesity epidemic in the US really started to skyrocket. In fact, some medical sources now refer to the low-fat diet fad as “the great American experiment in obesity.”
"Consuming dietary fats does not mean that you will get fat; in fact, fats and oils are essential to optimal health. Your body needs fats to build cells and manufacture key hormones. Just as with all foods, however, you must consume high-quality fats and oils for your body to effectively use them—remember, You are what you eat." - Paul Chek, Eat Move and Be Healthy
Where Do Fats You Get From?
Healthy fats are found in foods like meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, and oily fish, like salmon. Purchase the highest quality that your budget allows.
Other good fat sources include olive oil, coconut oil and avocado (i.e. olive oil as part of salad dressing; coconut oil for cooking, baking and more; and avocado in smoothies or on your sandwich or salad).
Remember, you only need to eat a little of these foods to get all the benefits from fat.
A good fat source should generally come from an organically grown, plant-based source with minimal processing to preserve its “raw” nutrient state.
Look for oils that are virgin and cold pressed and have not undergone a distillation or purification process.
In addition to olive oil, there are many other oils you can include in your diet: hemp seed oil, flax seed oil, etc. They each have a different taste so try some and see what you think.
Not all fats and oils are stable at higher heat points. Oil for cooking at high temperatures above 350º include clarified butter (also known as ghee) and coconut oil. Olive oil is reported to be fine for low to medium temperatures up to 325º.
When you add healthy fats and oils to your diet, you may also notice an improvement in your skin texture, including a reduction or elimination of dry skin patches.
Unhealthy fats are found in fast foods, processed foods, chips, crackers, cookies and many other processed snack foods. Most processed foods contain hydrogenated oils, which are highly processed oils that we want to avoid. They cause inflammation in the body and inflammation is the leading cause of chronic diseases.
Just like adding protein to your meal will help keep you full longer, adding some healthy fat will do the same.
Ideally, you want to have some protein, carbohydrates and a little healthy fat at each meal. This is what makes a healthy, balanced diet.
Tip: A great way to track your macronutrients, as well as some micronutrients, is to use an app like MyFitnessPal.
Begin Your Day Right
The way you start your day can set you up for success.
Traditional breakfast foods are carb-heavy. Be sure to include some protein in your breakfast. You’ll likely discover that you will feel full longer and not experience a mid to late morning crash.
If you have an important work meeting in the morning you will definitely want to include protein in your breakfast (and you should be having breakfast!) to keep you alert and focused.
Experiment by trying a different breakfast each day for a few days and see what gives you sustained energy, keep you full longer and have you feeling better.
Be open to trying new foods. Start with one meal at a time. This way it won't feel so overwhelming.
Your Homework For The Week
1. Try different foods for breakfast – notice how you feel with different foods.
2. Start a food journal. You can use the free download below, a notebook or an app like MyFitnessPal.
The focus is not to count calories, but rather to get an idea of how much protein, carbohydrates and fats you are consuming every day.
Be sure to also note how you feel before, during and after each meal and any factors that you can attribute to those feelings.
3. Then come back and let me you know what you've found. Leave a comment on this post below, drop me an email or on social media. I'd love to hear any a-ha's or discoveries you make!
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.