Most of us want to lose some weight, look younger, feel better and stay well in order to enhance our vitality and health in general. We read endless articles and news on what is the new super food and why we need it. But do you really ever get it? Do you ever really understand what a vitamin is, or a mineral, or an antioxidant, or a free radical, why we need them all (or not), and what effects that can be caused if we do not have them?
As a human being, like it or not, you will change with age, stress, environment and circumstance, meaning that what you need nutritionally needs to change too! On top of that, holding onto unwanted toxins throughout stressful situations and life itself build up to make a difference to how we feel and how we look.
So what is this article about? Within this article I want to explain, as simply as possible, why health nutrition is vital to your life, wellbeing, energy, looks, children and future; what vitamins and minerals actually are and why we need them; how the environment has an effect upon us (like it or not) and what you can do to enhance your health and wellbeing on an individual level.
What is health nutrition?
Health nutrition is seeing what you eat as a way to enhance your health. It is understanding that you are what you eat, therefore making total sense to optimize your diet to get the most from your true health potential!
Taking this a step further, we therefore see that poor nutrition could damage our health and prevent us from reaching our true possibilities both emotionally and physically! As intelligent humans (really!), we have vital choices about our own health by what we consume? We are becoming fast more and more aware that diet and nutrition really is the key to true health potential and wellness.
What is a Vitamin?
Vitamins are micronutrients that are essential to human health nutrition. Most of the vitamins cannot be made by the human body and therefore need to be obtained via foods and supplements. Some vitamins are fat soluble and some are water soluble.
Fat soluble vitamins are found mainly in fatty foods such as animal fats, vegetable oils, dairy foods, liver and oily fish. These fats are stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use and there for when you need them. These vitamins are vitamin A, D, E & K. Too many fat soluble vitamins could be harmful.
Water soluble vitamins are found in fruit, vegetables and grains. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins, they can be destroyed by heat or by being exposed to the air; they can also be lost in the water used for cooking (this is why some raw foods daily can really enhance your vitamin intake and therefore health potential). This means that cooked food, especially boiled, will lose lots of these vitamins, the best way to keep as much of the vitamins as possible inside the food is to eat raw, lightly stir fry or steam, gently grill, or heat on a very low temperature for a longer period of time, any of these will help to contain the water soluble vitamins much more.
Water soluble vitamins are: vitamin B6, B12, C, Biotin, Folic Acid, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, and Riboflavin & Thiamin.
What are minerals?
Minerals are essential nutrients that our bodies needs, in varying amounts, to work optimally. Mineral nutrients consist of two categories: the major essential elements which are: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, iodine, and potassium; and the trace elements such as: copper, cobalt, manganese, fluorine, iodine, Chromium, selenium and zinc. All of these must be supplied in our diet because the body is unable to manufacture its own and can only maintain its mineral balance for short periods of time.
Minerals can be found in varying amounts in a variety of foods such as meat, cereals (i.e. bread), fish, dairy foods, vegetables, fruit (especially dried fruit) and nuts.
Minerals are necessary for three main reasons, a) to build strong bones and teeth, b) to control body fluids inside and outside cells and c) to turn food we eat into energy.
The trace elements are also essential nutrients that your body needs to work properly, but these are needed in much smaller amounts. Trace elements are found in small amounts in a variety of foods such as meat, fish, cereals, milk and dairy foods, vegetables and nuts.
What is a free radical?
Free radicals are produced, like it or not, as the result of normal life and body functions such as breathing in and it is usual for the body natural defense system to neutralize the free radicals that are produced. With this processes of making them and removing them means that most of the time the free radicals are unable to cause lots of damage as the body is always dealing with them, but there are times when free radicals can overwhelm our bodies defence mechanisms, and can therefore cause damage to cells which can lead to illness and dis-ease.
Times when this may happen can be due to high levels of stress, excessive use of alcohol, shock and injury, UV radiation exposure, death, divorce, travelling (especially long haul) and exposure to pollutants.
But all is not lost! It is increasingly believed, researched and proven, that health nutrition can and does play an important part in helping protect against such free radical damage as we deal with free radicals with antioxidants.
What is an antioxidant?
An antioxidant is the body’s natural defense against free radical damage, in other words, what we need to stop free radicals damaging our cells!
If you looked simply at good and bad, antioxidants are goodies and free radicals are baddies. Antioxidants are our friends and are obtained through our diets! This of course is why we need to be more and more aware of what we eat and what we need to get from our diets. Some of the the antioxidants that we need are Vitamins C & E, selenium and beta carotene, these can help prevent damage to our body cells and also repair damage that has already been done!
So antioxidants are knights in shining armor are not they! They battle and conquer the attack of free radicals and therefore keep us from ageing too fast or from unnecessary dis-ease!
Though antioxidants are produced naturally in the body this can become depleted through circumstance, diet, stress and unfortunately with age, so there is an increasing need to be more aware of where you get them and keep yourself topped up! Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts can supply all the antioxidants your body needs.
So you see – nutrition and health are closely linked are not they – even if you only want to slow down your ageing process. Surely avoiding unnecessary disease and illness must be near the top of the list too and trigger some need to want to enhance your health and life through your diet!
I don’t think you need to become anal or boring believe me, but with below I am listing top foods that can enhance your life for you! BUT – remember that you need to use your own instinct and intuition to feel and know what works right for you! What is right for the goose is not right for the gander!
A carrots, spinach, greens, dried apricots, watercress, tomatoes, mango, red & yellow peppers
B’s Grains, currants, green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, mushrooms, avocado, banana, nuts, greens, yeast & soya for B12 (or a supplement for B12)
C Green leafy Vegetables, Broccoli, Cabbage, Green peppers, Parsley, Potatoes, Frozen Peas, Oranges, Blackcurrants
D SUNLIGHT ON YOUR SKIN – fortified cereals or soya milk, non hydronagted margarine
E Olive oil, peppers, tomatoes, wheatgerm, tahini, nuts and seeds, avocados
K Green leafy Vegetables, Seaweeds, Kelp, Blackstrap molasses, Lentils, Peas
IRON Tofu, beans & pulses, spinach, cabbage, wheat germ, whole grains, parsley, prunes and dates, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, millet, blackstrap molasses
CALCIUM Tofu, tahini, green leafy vegetables, parsley, watercress, broccoli, swede, almonds, brazils, figs, soya milk (fortified)
ZINC Whole grains, Wholegrain rice, lentils, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, wheat germ, tofu
IODINE Seaweeds, Kelp, green leafy vegetables
MAGNESIUM Green leafy Vegetables, soya beans, cashew nuts, almonds, broccoli, whole grains, wheat germ, bananas, prunes
PHOSPHORUS, Whole grains, wheat germ, pinto beans, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds
SELENIUM & potatoes, yeast extract, brazil nuts, strawberries, tomatoes and many
POTASSIUM fruits and vegetables…
Others can include Fluorine, copper, cobalt, chromium & manganese – all of which would be abundant in a healthy balanced diet!