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The Ideal Balanced Diet The Reality of Healthy Eating
The Ideal Balanced Diet The Reality of Healthy Eating
Dieting sounds like it should be so simple. Eat less, lose weight, right? Well, that's part of it, but it doesn't give you the whole picture regarding how to lose weight. On top of that, there is a right way to eat to be healthy. You can have the most perfectly slim body imaginable, but if you eat the wrong things, your body is still going to suffer. In this article, we're going to talk more about what it really means to eat healthy.
With all of the nutritional guidelines and recommendations out there, it can be really difficult to suss out the reality of eating healthy, because so many are influenced by old, debunked information, and others are trying to sell you on some new diet plan or weight loss regimen. It really is rather difficult to stay current and follow a scientifically proven diet plan.
Defining a Balanced Diet
Before we go further, we should define our terms. What exactly is a balanced diet anyway? A balanced diet is a diet which includes foods from all of the important food groups which is varied enough to provide you with all of the essential minerals and vitamins (micro nutrients) that you need, along with a healthy proportion of the three primary forms of energy: fat, carbohydrates, and protein (macro nutrients).
Carbohydrates Your Body's Immediate Source of Fuel
Carbohydrates get a bit of a bad wrap. This is largely because most Americans get their calories from processed carbohydrates and sugars, which are very bad for us in excess. On the other hand, carbohydrates, when sourced and prepared properly, are vital to maintaining a healthy body. In general, you should be getting around 40-45% of your calories each day from Carbohydrates. The problem is that, since Carbs are so inexpensive to process and load into your foods, and because sugars add so much cheap and easy flavor, too many of us eat way too much of the worst carbs.
In order to live healthier, you should minimize your exposure to foods containing wheat flour and white rice, along with biscuits and bread. There are lots of quality carb sources, such as oats, millets, and brown rice, which fill you up with fewer calories and provide more nutrients and more fiber. There are also lots of quality carbohydrate sources in fruits and vegetables. Beans are a great combination of Carbs and Protein, but you have to be careful with them, because they are calorie-dense.
Eat whole vegetables and fruits. Juices are too easy to break down and spike your blood sugar. Besides corn and potatoes, most other vegetables and fruits are safe for your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates are your body's main source of Now Fuel, so it's important not to forgo Carbohydrates during your diet, because this will likely leave you tired and exhausted.
Proteins Your Body's Primary Building Blocks
With regard to quantity, you should be getting between thirty and thirty-five percent of your calories from protein. Most people eat too many carbs and not enough protein, which has a negative impact on wellness. Among the many quality sources of protein are beans, veggie sprouts, white meat, eggs, leafy greens, and milk. The body uses protein to build and maintain the body in a myriad of ways, and protein is the primary building block of all human cells. Proteins are also great because they take more energy to break down than carbs, which means that your body burns more calories. Because males have more muscle mass than females, men have a slightly higher need for protein than their counterparts.
There are many people that don't get enough protein. In the United States, 20% of adults 20-70 don't get enough protein. It's suggested that every time you eat, you should be getting at least a small amount of protein from your meal or snack. It's also suggested that, if you crave a late-night snack, that you should opt for something rich in protein and low in carbs, so that your body and brain can use the protein calories to rebuild and restore.
Fats The Body's Energy and Nutrient Storage System
Fats have had it tough over the last fifty years. This is largely due to a mixture of how poorly we understood the science of nutrition in the 70s and 80s, and manipulation by the sugar lobby and other groups that wanted to protect the interests of Big Sugar. The human body thrives when around 20% of its calories are derived from fat.
There are three forms of fat that the body needs: Omega-3 Fatty Acids, MonoUnsaturated Fat, and Polyunsaturated Fat. Omega-3 Fatty Acids are highly beneficial to the heart and cardiovascular system, and a whole lot of people don't get enough of it. Good sources of these fatty acids are sunflowers, walnuts, flaxseed, trout, tuna, and salmon.
Trans-Fats should be entirely avoided if at all possible, and have been linked to a host of negative health effects. Saturated fat (obtained mostly from full-fat dairy, poultry, and red meat) does serve a necessary purpose but should be eaten rather sparingly.
There is still some debate regarding vegetable oils vs. animal fats, but as of today, the general consensus is that vegetable fats are healthier for you than animal fats. Beyond that, cold-pressed vegetable oils are preferable over hot-pressed oils. Cold-pressed oils have a higher nutrient content, and are generally better for you.
How to Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
Micro nutrients are incredibly important, and we are best served by eating a wide variety of foods to meet our nutritional needs. Minerals don't break down easily, and can be absorbed easily through the consumption of animal products, as well as fully-cooked vegetables and fruits. Vitamins are a bit more finicky, however.
Vitamins are organic compounds, which means that they are much more sensitive to temperature and processing. Vegetables, fruits, and nuts are excellent sources of Vitamins, and you should include raw or lightly-cooked vegetables into your diet regime in order to get the highest nutrient-volume. There are many foods which will provide greater nutritional variety when fully cooked, such as onions and tomatoes. There's no exact science here, just mix fresh and cooked fruits and vegetables to provide yourself with the largest bouquet of nutrients. It's generally recommended to eat four servings of fruit daily, and 3-4 servings of vegetables daily.
One Last Note, Drink Lots of Water!
The human body thrives when it has access to adequate amounts of water. Our bodies are comprised of mostly water, and bad things happen when the body has to hoard the water that it has, rather than use it for filtration, circulation, and other necessary functions. If you don't drink enough water, this contributes (perhaps ironically) to fluid retention, along with increased acidity. Six to eight full glasses of water per day is still a great rule of thumb, though you can expect to absorb some water through your diet. Drink more water if you drink alcohol or sodas, because both of these beverages reduce your hydration.
The Role of Magnesium for Good Health
The Role of Magnesium for Good Health
Magnesium is one of the many essential nutrients that the body needs to function. Magnesium Deficiency has a major impact on wellness, and is one of the most common forms of mineral deficiency among men and women. It is estimated that four out of every five people don't get enough Magnesium in their diet. For this reason, unless you have a diet rich in sources of magnesium, you may see major benefits from eating more foods that contain magnesium or purchasing a reliable magnesium supplement.
Researchers have been studying the benefits of Magnesium and the risks associated with Magnesium Deficiency for generations, and all of this information is available to you. Significant Magnesium Deficiency is associated with a myriad of symptoms, including poor sleep, anxiety, impaired digestion, muscle spasms, and muscle aches. If you've been experiencing these symptoms, it would benefit you to consider supplemental magnesium for your health.
The body doesn't need a large quantity of Magnesium, as compared to other minerals and vitamins, but, because it can sometimes be difficult to get enough Magnesium in the diet, it is a common form of Mineral Deficiency. Scientists have associated Magnesium with over three hundred biochemical processes. For example, Magnesium plays a role in both neurotransmitter function and the normal sinus rhythm of the heart. Magnesium also helps control Nitric Oxide synthesis, metabolism, and the normal function of many enzymes.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
As we mentioned, Magnesium is associated with a host of functions necessary for maintaining normal human function. The following are just a few issues that can occur as a result of abnormally low Magnesium Levels:
Muscle Cramps and Weakness
Increased Incidence and Risk of Cavities
Suppressed Immune System and Increased Incidence and Severity of Fungal and Bacterial Infections
Loss of Bone Mineral Density
Sleeping Issues, including Insomnia
Mood Instability and Behavioral Complications
Exacerbation of PMS
Restless Leg Syndrome
Reduced Uptake of Other Vital Vitamins and Minerals, such as Potassium, Calcium, Vitamin B1, and Vitamin K
Peroxynitrite Buildup, which can contribute to Alzheimer's, Glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, and Migraines
Liver and Kidney Damage
Cardiovascular Disease and High Blood Pressure
Why Do So Many People Experience Magnesium Deficiency?
There are a number of different reasons why people don't get enough Magnesium in their diet. For one, the amount of Magnesium in the food that we eat depends on the amount in the soil of the crops that we raise. If Magnesium Levels in the soil become depleted, this leads to foods with less Magnesium Content. Many people also take medications that can inhibit the body's ability to absorb magnesium, including heavy use of antibiotics. There are also some digestive conditions which reduce the ability of the body to take in Magnesium efficiently.
How Does the Body Lose Magnesium?
There are many processes associated with Magnesium that use up our built-in stores of the mineral, including Hormone Synthesis and muscle contractions (including the heart). As the body uses Magnesium, it must intake more to maintain optimal function.
Magnesium Levels are controlled mainly by the kidneys. When mineral levels are too high, the body evacuates Magnesium through the kidneys to the urine. When mineral levels are too low, the body holds back urination to maintain appropriate mineral levels. Out of all of the Electrolytes, there is less Magnesium available than any other, and this is normal. Of course, that means that the body is particularly susceptible to Magnesium Deficiency.
How Does Magnesium Help Us Stay Healthy?
Magnesium is associated with so many critical physiological operations. The following are nine ways that Magnesium keeps us healthy:
Magnesium Maintains Energy Levels
Magnesium is integral to the process by which the human body makes energy. Magnesium triggers ATP activation. ATP can best be characterized as the base unit of energy in the human body. If you don't get enough Magnesium, this slows down the process of ATP activation and utilization, which drains energy and causes fatigue.
Magnesium Controls Anxiety
Low Levels of Magnesium are directly correlated with increased feelings of anxiety and restlessness. This is because Magnesium promotes normalized GABA function. GABA encourages the production of Serotonin and other hormones associated with happiness and positivity, by inhibiting neurotransmitters which suppress the release of these hormones, such as Cortisol. If you aren't getting enough magnesium, this means that you'll likely be more on edge than normal.
Magnesium Promotes Healthy Sleep
Because Magnesium Deficiency leads to anxiety, this directly impacts your ability to get restful sleep. People with Low Magnesium Levels are more likely to experience insomnia, along with other forms of sleep disruption.
Magnesium Encourages Digestive Motility
There is a reason that Milk of Magnesia has long been used as a treatment for constipation. Magnesium stimulates the intestines to relax, which helps digestive material flow more easily. This helps you go to the bathroom more easily. Magnesium also reduces stomach acid activity, meaning that it can help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and other issues related to stomach acids. For individuals that suffer from constipation, Magnesium is one of the best options available without a prescription! Be careful, however, because if you take too much Magnesium, you'll likely have to go too soon and too often!
Magnesium Inhibits Muscle Spasms and Pain
As was mentioned earlier, Magnesium plays a vital role in Neurotransmitter function. Just like when you don't get enough Potassium in your diet, Magnesium Deficiency increases the incidence of cramps and spasms. Magnesium helps your muscle tissue flex and relax. Not only will you experience fewer painful muscle contortions, but you will also experience greater fluidity of movement in general.
Magnesium Helps Control Electrolyte Balance
Magnesium helps transport Potassium and Calcium into your cells. Without Magnesium, there is no way for these minerals to enter your cells and perform their necessary duties. Magnesium's function as a gateway modulator affects heart rhythm, muscle contraction, nervous system impulses, and more.
Magnesium Preserves Normal Heart Function
Per volume, there is more Magnesium in the heart than any other part of the body. The highest concentration of Magnesium in the human body in in the left ventrical of the heart. Magnesium and Calcium work in sync in order to maintain healthy blood pressure. Magnesium and Calcium Balance are integral to heart health, and severe magnesium imbalance can even induce a heart attack!
Have Fewer Migraines By Taking Magnesium Supplements
For people that experience migraines, Magnesium can help reduce the incidence and severity of these potentially debilitating headaches. This is because Magnesium both encourages vasodilation and the release of Hormones which reduce pain and increase our resilience to pain. Magnesium has been proven to benefit many people that suffer from migraines.
Magnesium Promotes Bone Health
Along with Calcium, Magnesium is a vital mineral with regard to the body's ability to preserve Bone Mineral Density. Magnesium activates Osteoblasts, which are responsible for building and fortifying bone mass. Magnesium Deficiency directly contributes to Osteoporosis. Magnesium also encourages healthy Bone Mineral Density by helping to maintain proper Vitamin D Levels.
How Safe is MSG?
How Safe is MSG?
Monosodium Glutamate, commonly abbreviated MSG, is one of the most controversial food-additives around today. Most people know MSG as the chemical that has historically been added to Chinese Restaurants to improve flavor, but it is also found in a variety of other foods. One of the ironies regarding MSG is that its use in Chinese food has declined significantly as a result of bad press, but other restaurants, especially fast food restaurants, have frequently begun to make use of the additive.
What is MSG?
Monodium Glutamate is a food-additive which is popularly used in high-volume meal production in order to boost the flavor profile of many foods. MSG activates the parts of the tongue associated with Umami, which makes foods taste meatier and more savory. Some foods contain some MSG naturally, including cheese and tomatoes. Natural MSG is what gives meats and stews a lot of their mouth feel and flavor. MSG was first isolated in 1908 by a Japanese researcher, and was first used in Eastern cuisine, which is why there is such a strong association between MSG and Chinese food.
Specifically, Monosodium Glutamate is a combination of L-glutamate, an amino acid, and a salt molecule. MSG acts as a preservative as well as a flavor-enhancer, because it stabilizes the Glutamate molecule, preserving its effect on the flavor of the food. MSG can extend the “freshness” of a soup or other food product by a year or more, which makes it very popular in packaged foods.
Unfortunately, as with any additive, MSG is often abused, as it classically has in Chinese Restaurants and other places where food is sold to the public. There is some concern that high levels of Monosodium Glutamate can have unfortunate side-effects.
Of course, much of the concern regarding MSG is anecdotal, and there is a lot of research that needs to be done in order to entirely assess the health impact of Monosodium Glutamate. There have been enough reports to the Food and Drug Administration regarding MSG that the organization recognizes a condition known as MSG Symptom Complex. The following are the symptoms of the condition:
It's important to note that, although MSG Symptom Complex is recognized, there has been no definitive connection made between the condition and the consumption of MSG itself. To date, the FDA considers Monosodium Glutamate as Generally Recognized as Safe, though many health specialists believe that there is sufficient evidence regarding the downside of MSG to warrant patients to minimize their consumption of foods known to contain MSG.
What Potentially Makes MSG Harmful?
Nutrition scientists hypothesize that if MSG does cause health issues, it could be because it leads to an increase in Glutamate in the blood stream. Glutamate, like other Amino Acids, has the ability to pass through the blood-brain barrier and influence neurological activity. It is thought that excess consumption of MSG causes Glutamate levels to increase in the brain. When levels of a particular neurotransmitter elevate to a high level, those normally productive neurotransmitters become Excitotoxins.
Neurotransmitter levels can get so high that they overstimulate neurons designed to interact with the excitotoxin, which can damage or even kill the cells. There is evidence that when Glutamate levels are too high in the brain this impacts the normal function of neurons in such a way that it can lead to the death of neurons. Of course, the main question with regard to MSG's impact on Glutamate Levels and neurological function is: How much MSG is too much? It is possible that most people never consume enough MSG for it to have a major negative impact. It's also possible that certain individuals are more sensitive to the potential negative effects of MSG.
These are factors that we simply don't have enough information to understand, but for patients concerned for their health, it would be a wise choice to limit sources of MSG in the diet. Even if MSG turns out to be relatively benign, MSG tends to be in foods that we should eat sparingly or rarely in the first place.
How to Avoid MSG
Avoiding fast food restaurants will reduce your exposure to MSG. Many casual, family, and fine dining restaurants also have foods that contain MSG. Almost all chain and franchise restaurants have online menus which can show you MSG Levels in their food. Use this data to your advantage. The two types of restaurant that commonly abuse MSG are Fast Food Restaurants and All You Can Eat Buffets.
You can also limit your intake of MSG through conscientious shopping and by avoiding certain processed foods such as canned soup without checking the label first. Other foods that commonly contain Monosodium Glutamate as an ingredient are salad dressings, pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, crunchy snacks, commercial stock, and canned foods.
MSG is often used to create a sensation that the food that you are eating is more filling and more satisfying, in order to mask the fact the food is of lesser quality. These foods are also frequently loaded with high levels of sodium or sugar as well. It's a good idea in general to opt for fresh food over processed food whenever possible, although there are healthy packaged food options increasingly available in grocery stores and supermarkets across the country.
Other Names for MSG
Most restaurants that post their nutrition information online will list MSG honestly as a primary ingredient. Unfortunately, MSG goes by other names that can be misleading, especially in the grocery store. Naturally sourced MSG is often found under the names Sodium Caseinate, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, or Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein.
Should I Avoid MSG?
The current medical literature shows little evidence that MSG is particularly harmful, but it is frequently an ingredient in foods you should limit your consumption of in the first place, due to high sodium, high sugar levels, or food that is highly processed. The rule of thumb is, if you feel that MSG is impacting your health and wellness, you should limit your exposure, and set up an appointment with a doctor to discuss your symptoms, in order to get to the root of your problem, and to preserve your well-being.
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