General nutrition

General nutrition

A visit to any supermarket reveals a massive range of foods to choose from: Making the best choice and eating foods that you enjoy as well as boosting your health can be a daunting exercise. This article will help guide you through the minefield. Find out; why you eat what you eat, how food affects your mood and which fats are best for you.

Why do you eat? You may think the answer seems pretty obvious. Surely the point of eating is to keep healthy and to provide energy - to fuel those days spent chasing up or over mountains? That's true, but there is more to it than just that. In fact the answer is simple, you eat to change the way you feel.


However, there are other feelings (tiredness, lethargy, tension, headache ... even boredom and loneliness), that we can change by eating!

One blatant feeling when you're out in the hills is hunger - so you reach for a banana, a packet of crisps or a slab of cake. This alters your blood sugar levels, triggers stretch receptors in your stomach and floods your body with hormones which all send signals back to your brain to say that you are no longer hungry. Bingo, on that level, you're sorted!

However, there are other feelings (tiredness, lethargy, tension, headache ... even boredom and loneliness), that we can change by eating. The bad news is that many people choose the wrong foods! Food can affect the way you think, your energy levels and your mood. You may be eating some foods, which, far from giving you energy and boosting your overall health, are actually draining it. 

Fats

Take fatty foods for example. Most people eat too much fat (though you'd have to be a hermit to have missed the constant health message of recent years to cut down on fat). Active men need about 95 grams of fat a day; active women need slightly less - around 75 grams. It is not only the amount of fat that you eat which is important, it is the type of fat as well. Look at the typical snacks below. They all contain a significant amount of fat. Which one would you choose?

Individual pork pie: provides 40g grams of fat and 560 calories.
Mexican wrap soft savoury fajitas filled with guacamole (mashed avocado, tomato and onion): provides 25g fat and 470 calories.
Double cheeseburger: provides 37g fat and 595 calories.
Thick cut tuna fish sandwich: provides 25g fat and 450 calories.

The tuna fish sandwich or the Mexican wraps are by far the better choices. The fat they contain is mainly the unsaturated type.

Although you probably could benefit from cutting down on the total amount of fat that you eat, chances are that you don't eat enough of the unsaturated type. Foods bursting with un-saturated fats are avocados, oily fish (like tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring), walnuts, peanuts, olives, almonds, Brazil nuts, olive oil, sunflower seeds, houmus and peanut butter. 

Notice that these foods are mainly vegetable based

Feel the difference

Notice that these foods are mainly vegetable based. Foods with an animal origin tend to be loaded with the less healthy saturated fats. So if you eat a lot of cream, butter, margarine, meat pies, burgers, biscuits, ice cream, cheeses (especially blue cheese, Cheddar types, and French cream cheeses) you are likely to feel different if you make, even a small, change in your diet.

For example, if you enjoy sandwiches - switch from cheese or meat or pâté, to avocado and salad, or tuna fish and cucumber filling, instead. These unsaturated fats are used by your body to make a range of hormones and become incorporated into the structure of your brain. In contrast, the saturated fats can affect your blood cholesterol levels, which may clog your arteries and slow you down. When saturated fats are used by the brain they can affect nerve cell function - no wonder you feel lethargic and below par. The type of fats in your arteries and brain, reflect the fats in the food that you swallow. Make a change - swap one saturated fatty food for an unsaturated one .. and feel the difference!

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