There’s so much debate these days about what is “key” to being healthy. There are numerous diets out there all claiming to be the best and most beneficial.
But what is scientifically “essential” to an ideal diet? This post covers the five essentials to a healthy diet.
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1. Lean Protein
Protein is without a doubt, KEY to a healthy diet. It supports your body’s process of rebuilding damaged muscle cells and is essential to growth in children and teens.
Protein helps build EVERY biological structure in the body. Muscle cells, fat cells, immune cells, bone cells, sex cells, blood cells. Every biological structure.
Two well-known proteins are collagen and keratin, mainly for their beautifying effects. Collagen contributes to skin elasticity, and keratin is responsible for creating strong hair & nails. I’ve actually written a full post on collagen that goes more in-depth on this specific protein’s benefits.
The Truth About Collagen Supplements
Protein is also the building blocks of our muscles. So, the right protein intake for you will not only depend on your height, weight, and gender, but also your fitness routine.
The daily recommended amount of protein: .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or .08 grams per kg.
Can You Have Too Much of a Good Thing?
Getting enough protein is always a must. However, between protein bars & protein shakes/smoothies it can be overconsumed.
When I first began my health & fitness journey, I began gradually increasing my protein intake. I followed the “normal” amounts of protein intake. But looking back (after now consuming a moderate amount for months), my body was holding onto body-fat due to my overconsumption of this macro.
Protein is made of amino acids, which, in excess, are stored as body fat. Too much protein can also cause acne, so, it’s crucial to find the right amount for you.
I hate to tell you this, but sometimes it takes trial and error. You can/should start at the “recommended” amount of protein, but don’t assume it’s the exact amount you should be consuming.
Sources of Lean Protein:
- Shrimp & Prawns
- Hemp Seeds
2. Healthy Fats
Healthy Fats are another essential to your daily diet. Emphasis on the word healthy.
Fat does not make you gain body fat (an excess of calories does). Fats are great for you and your health.
In fact, 60% of your brain is fat. Your diet should be at least 15-25% healthy fats (depending on your gender, weight, height, goals, hormones, and body type), but there are people who thrive off living a Keto lifestyle.
The problem is there are plenty sources of unhealthy fats that are toxic for your health and longevity. And these fats are giving the term “fat” a bad rap.
A diet high in unhealthy fats is very damaging to your overall body, but primarily your brain.
However, healthy fats serve many purposes in the body. Fats provide long-lasting energy because they take longer for the body to break-down. They also help protect your organs.
A diet higher in fats with more moderate carbs can also be beneficial to those with hormone imbalances.
So, what foods are “healthy fats?” Here’s a general rule to follow:
Eat natural fats. Avoid processed ones.
Another note: if you’re purchasing roasted nuts, ensure they haven’t been coated in vegetable oils!
Examples of Natural Fats:
- Raw or Roasted Nuts
- Raw or Roasted Seeds
- Egg Yolks
- Avocado Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Macadamia Nut Oil
Examples of Processed Fats:
- Canola Oil
- Corn Oil
- Sunflower Oil (all vegetable oils)
- Salad Dressings
- French Fries
- Most store-bought breads and pastries
Click here to read a full post on The Keto Diet
3. Complex Carbs
Carbs. Another controversial food group that still carries false claims. So many people still believe carbs are the devil. And that is so, so false.
Carbs are your body’s go-to source of energy. Your body uses them first. Just think of how much energy your brain needs on a daily basis.
And because your body uses them first, it spares protein and fats for other uses.
However, just like fats, there are different types of carbohydrates. Complex Carbs and Simple Carbs.
What’s the Difference?
Simple Carbs are a lot easier for the body to break down. Therefore, it does so very quickly, providing you with a spike in blood sugar levels, which means an energy spike. But, once this spike comes down (rapidly), you are typically left hungry again, with low energy levels.
Complex Carbs take longer for the body to break down do to their complex molecule structure. So, after consuming them, you are fuller for longer, spared from a blood sugar spike, and providing with longer-lasting energy.
Examples of Simple Carbs:
- White Breads
- Most Store-bought pastries, muffin, and breads
- All Refined Sugars
- Most Cereals
Examples of Complex Carbs:
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Breads and Pastas
- Sweet Potato
Fiber is another key to a balanced diet. There are so many health benefits to a high-fiber diet, yet so many people lack enough of it in their daily diet.
Again, there are two different types. However, not one of them (unlike fat & carbs) is necessarily better than the other.
We have Soluble Fiber and Insoluble Fiber.
Soluble fiber is dissolved into water to become more of a gel-like consistency (examples include oats, beans, psyllium husk).
Insoluble fiber’s job is to move material through your digestive system (examples include nuts, potatoes, green beans).
Again, unlike carbs & fats, you shouldn’t avoid one or the other. The best thing to do is eat a variety of fiber-rich foods to ensure your getting the proper amount of not only fiber, but micronutrients.
What Does Fiber Do?
Fiber’s main role is to normalize and maintain bowel health. Studies also show that soluble fiber may help lower high cholesterol, reduce inflammation and blood pressure.
Eating a Fiber-rich diet also helps maintain good gut health, maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of cancer, and assists your body in its natural detox process.
Sources of Fiber:
- Citrus Fruits
5. Prebiotics & Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that preserve and detoxify the food you eat. They are good gut- bacteria that work with our immune system, by protecting the intestines from pathogens. They normally help restore the gut flora.
Probiotics also assist with metabolism and strengthening the immune system.
Examples of Probiotics:
- Kombucha (my favourite)
Prebiotics feed probiotics. They help produce nutrients and create a healthy gut microbiome.
“Typically, Prebiotics are dietary fibers which are metabolized by the microbiota to form a number of beneficial metabolites…”
- William W. Li, MD. Eat to Beat Disease
Pre & Probiotic foods are essential to a healthy gut. And your gut health is essential to your overall health.
Examples of Prebiotics:
- Brassica (broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, rutabaga, kale, ect.)
- Red Wine