Nutrition – the science of food and its effect on our bodies – is relatively new, at least in comparison to other sciences. But at this point, the science has singled out about forty specific nutrients, each of which fulfills one of three functions in the body: gives energy, helps grow and repair tissue, or regulates metabolism. Nutrients include water, vitamins, and minerals (which grow and repair tissue) and carbohydrates, fat, and protein (which give energy by providing calories). All of the nutrients regulate your metabolism by helping your body function smoothly and in balance. Nutrition is about fueling the body for optimum function.
Make Nutrition a Priority
Nutrition, perhaps more than any other factor, plays an essential role in our overall health, how efficiently we metabolize our food, and how long we live. The foods we eat affect every cell, organ, and system within our bodies, so it is important to make good choices. According to nutrition experts, a healthy diet provides our body with everything it needs to operate efficiently to repair damage, for cells to reproduce, and for us to flush our toxins. Healthful foods provide us with fuel that burns for a long time and helps us have a healthy immune system. Healthful foods also give our bodies the right kind of fuel so that we have plenty of energy and a strong immune system, and they can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis as we age.
Nutrients are grouped into six different categories: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are called macronutrients because we need larger amounts of them in our diet. Some foods consist of one, two, or all three of these macronutrients. Even though each macronutrient has a particular function in the body, they work in partnership for good health. Our bodies need all three macronutrients to function properly, but we don’t need them in equal amounts. Some evidence suggests that a diet with macronutrients in the wrong proportions is a risk factor for diseases like coronary heart disease and certain cancers. Achieving the right balance, quantity, and quality of macronutrients will keep your body healthy and your metabolism functioning at its peak capacity.
A healthy diet consists not only of optimal portions of macronutrients (food) but also recommended levels of essential micronutrients. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are called “micro” nutrients because they are needed only in small amounts to do their jobs properly. Don’t let the “micro” fool you, though; good things come in small packages! The micronutrients are just as essential as the macronutrients in helping to keep your metabolism functioning at a high level.
Understand Simple Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, sometimes called carbs, fuel our brain and muscles and supply us with quick energy. Each gram contains 4 calories, and there are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars – including glucose, sucrose, lactose, galactose, maltose, and fructose – and are found in refined sugar, fruits, milk, and yogurt. Most of your simple carbohydrate choices should come from fruits and dairy products, which also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are guaranteed to help your metabolism soar!
Understand Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are long chains of molecules that are chemically more complex than simple carbohydrates. They are also considered to be more healthful because they are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates, provide the body with a deeper pool of energy, and may include fiber. Look for high-fiber complex carbohydrates in such food as beans, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.
Eat More Complex Carbohydrates
If you crave carbohydrates, you should reach for a complex carbohydrate instead of a simple one. This is because complex carbs take longer to break down into absorbable sugars. In addition, some complex carbohydrates have the benefit of being high in fiber which helps you stay full longer, and they are usually low in calories and fat. After being processed, complex carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen until they are needed. Good sources of complex carbs include nuts, vegetables, beans, whole grains, and whole-wheat or brown rice pasta. Stay away from unhealthier versions like white pasta and white bread.
With aging, the body’s stores of antioxidants diminish unless they are regularly replenished with an excellent diet or supplements. When free radicals build up in all part of the body, they can enter nerve cells, disrupt function, and cause cell death. They can also trigger a cascade of free radical formation. This chain reaction can cause widespread oxidative damage in the brain and body. To maintain optimum health and boost your metabolism, include plenty of antioxidants in your diet. Foods particularly high in antioxidants include:
- Berries: wild blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
- Apples: Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala
- Beans: small red beans, red kidney beans, pinto beans, dried black beans
- Other fruits: dried prunes, sweet cherries, black plum, plums
- Other foods: artichokes, almonds, russet potatoes, tea