General NutritionBaseline for dietary requirements
A general guideline for a properly balanced diet, regarding distribution of macronutrients, is as follows:
• 45-65% of diet consisting of carbohydrates
• 10-35% of diet consisting of proteins
• 20-35% of diet consisting of healthy fats
Types of carbohydrates
• Glucose: A form of simple sugar that is the main source of energy in the body.
• Fructose: A form of simple sugar found in foods such as fruits and honey.
• Saccharose: A simple sugar composed of both glucose and fructose chemically bonded to one another. Also known as sucrose, or common ‘table’ sugar.
• Lactose: A sugar present in milk that is composed of both glucose and galactose.
• Saccharides: The structure of a carbohydrate. Made of ‘simple’ sugars arranged in a ring formation, or ‘complex’, in which sugar strands are arranged in a short chain formation.
• Fibre: Plant-based carbohydrates that are not readily digested in the small intestine.
*Soluble: Contains pectin and glucans and provides minimal energy to the body.
*Insoluble: Includes cellulose and does not break down in the digestive tract.
The role of fibre
Fibre has several important dietary roles, including the regulation of blood sugar. Fibre accomplishes this by slowing the rate at which sugar is absorbed, helping to regulate spikes in blood sugar levels. Fibre also acts as a bulking agent in the digestive tract, which helps to maintain proper digestive function. Soluble fibre offers some energy as it breaks down very slowly in the large intestine, which helps to maintain consistent levels of energy.
Types of fats
• Saturated fatty acids: Fatty acids that elevate LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol concentration when consumed. Sources such as butter, animal fats, palm oil, and coconut oil are common contributors in most diets.
• Monounsaturated fatty acids: Fatty acids that provide HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol which are beneficial in moderation. Sources include olive oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, peanut oil, and canola oil.
• Polyunsaturated fatty acids (n3, n6): Fatty acids found in the oil of certain types of fish. N3 and n6 (also known as omega 3 and omega 6) have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system.
• Trans fatty acids: Considered the most dangerous fatty acid one can consume, trans fatty acid raises LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol. Trans fatty acids are primarily created through an industrial process that adds hydrogen molecules to vegetable oil, which increases the shelf life of food items. Terms such as ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oil’ on the packaging of food items denotes trans fatty acids have been added.
• Cholesterol: An organic, fat-like substance found in the blood that is necessary for building healthy cells in the body. Cholesterol is measured in both LDL and HDL values, which should be in proper balance to ensure optimal health and avoid cardiovascular conditions from developing.
Proteins are comprised of amino acids which are a necessary component of every cell in the body. There are nine essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce and must acquire through diet. These essential amino acids are available in animal products such as meat, cheese and yogurt, as well as soy and quinoa.
Breakdown: The nine essential amino acids
Leucine helps to stimulate muscle strength and growth and aids in the retention of lean muscle when dieting. Leucine is directly responsible for activating an essential compound in muscle called mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin). mTOR which is necessary for regulating protein synthesis. Additionally, leucine serves as the basic building blocks for muscle development and regulates blood sugar levels by controlling insulin into the body during and after exercise.
Sources include: cheese, soybeans, beef, pork, chicken, pumpkin, seeds, nuts, peas, tuna, seafood, beans, whey protein, and plant proteins, among others.
Isoleucine is a separate form of leucine that helps the body produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is needed to carry iron in the blood and regulate blood sugar which is used for energy during exercise. Moreover, Isoleucine aids the nitrogen growth of muscle cells which is an important part of structural and DNA makeup.
Sources include: soy, meat, fish, dairy and eggs, cashews, almonds, oats, lentils, beans, brown rice, legumes, and chia seeds.
Lysine boosts the immune system and is responsible for muscle growth and repair. Lysine also assists in the absorption of other minerals and is necessary for the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is the main element required for the development of connective tissue and bones in the body.
Sources include: eggs, meat, poultry, beans, peas, cheese, chia seeds, spirulina, parsley, avocados, almonds, cashews, and whey protein.
Methionine is a vital amino acid rich in sulphur and is necessary for the formation of new blood vessels, muscle development, and tissue and muscle health. A lack of sulphur in the body corresponds to a higher susceptibility to arthritis, tissue damage, and a prolonged healing process. Methionine also helps in the formation of creatine which serves as the energy currency of the cell. Methionine also dissolves fat within the body and reduces fat deposits in the liver.
Sources include: meat, fish, cheese, dairy, beans, seeds, chia seeds, brazil nuts, oats, wheat, figs, whole grain rice, beans, legumes, onions, and cacao.
Phenylalanine is converted into the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine is necessary for the production of proteins and chemicals in the brain including epinephrine, L-dopa, norepinephrine, and thyroid hormones. Therefore, phenylalanine has considerable impact on both mood and mental health.
Sources include: milk and dairy, meat, fish, chicken, eggs, spirulina, seaweed, pumpkin, beans, rice, avocado, almonds, peanuts, quinoa, figs, raisins, leafy greens, most berries, olives, and seeds.
Threonine is vital for the regular and healthy function of the heart, liver, immune system, and central nervous system. It also aids in the creation of other necessary amino acids including glycine and serine, both which are needed to produce elastin, collagen, and muscle tissue. Threonine is essential for strong bones and can assist in the healing of wounds and tissue injuries.
Sources include: lean meat, cheese, nuts, seeds, lentils, watercress and spirulina, pumpkin, leafy greens, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, almonds, avocados, figs, raisins, and quinoa.
Tryptophan is used by the body to create serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for feelings of happiness, lower levels of stress, and fending off depression. Tryptophan is also responsible for promoting healthy sleep patterns, supporting brain and nervous system function as well as having relaxing effect on the body.
Sources include: chocolate, milk, cheese, turkey, red meat, yogurt, eggs, fish, poultry, chickpeas, almonds, sunflower seed, pepitas, spirulina, bananas, and peanuts.
Valine is essential for muscle growth and repair. It supplies muscles with glucose necessary for energy production during physical activity. Additionally, valine aids the functionality of the nervous system, promotes cognitive function, and treats metabolic and liver diseases.
Sources include: cheese, red meat, chicken, pork, nuts, beans, spinach, legumes, broccoli, seeds, chia seeds, whole grains, figs, avocado, apples, blueberries, cranberries, oranges, and apricots.
Histidine supports brain health and neurotransmitters (in particular, the neurotransmitter histamine). It also helps to detoxify the body by producing red and white blood cells, which are needed for overall health and immunity. Histidine can even help protect tissues from damage caused by radiation or heavy metals.
Sources include: red meat, cheese, white meat and poultry, seafood, soybeans, beans, legumes, chia seeds, buckwheat, and potatoes.
Types of diet
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or DASH) diet Is intended to reduce and eliminate hypertension. It focuses on increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy foods. The DASH diet is particularly concerned with limiting sodium, sweets/sugary drinks, and red meat.
Ketogenic (or Keto) diet
The Keto diet focuses on consuming fat, which makes up as much as 90% of this diet, and reducing sugars consumed from carbohydrates. This results in the body relying almost solely on the ketones produced by the liver as it breaks down stored fat for energy. This diet was originally developed to treat children who suffer from epileptic seizures. It remains unclear if the diet works in the long term and if it is safe for the average person.
High Carb Diet
A high carb diet focuses on consuming about 70-85% of calories from whole grains, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, and milk. The program also calls on a significant reduction of protein and fat consumption. It is thought that the increased amounts of dietary fibre and low fat in this diet can aid in reducing heart and blood vessel diseases. It is important to know that the significant increase in carbohydrate consumption can dramatically increase blood sugar levels.
The Paleo diet plan includes foods that were available before farming became a widely-used practice, about 10,000 years ago and earlier. This diet includes fish, meats, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and restricts foods such as dairy and grains. The idea behind this diet is that humans are not adapted to eat the type of modern diet that farming has become prevalent and that a diet more closely resembling that of the Palaeolithic era is more appropriate.