Scientific research has proved that the basic original diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, is still the most healthful. By eating foods in their natural state, unrefined and without additives, many diseases can be prevented and often even reversed. Akossa Mphepo shares what she learnt on nutrition at a health day held by College of Medicine earlier this year.
Eat with pleasure
Food should have eye appeal as well as be flavourful. Our diets should include a variety of foods every day. By combining different types of food we are assured that we are getting all the necessary nutrients needed for good health.
Protein can be obtained from many sources other than meat. Peas and beans are excellent sources, especially when eaten with a whole grain such as brown rice, whole wheat, oats or corn. Nuts are also rich in protein but should be used in smaller quantities due to their high fat content. Even vegetables such as broccoli and potatoes contain protein and high in vitamins and minerals. Many myths exist about protein need. Most people consume far more protein than needed, which can overwork the kidneys and produce kidney disease.
Carbohydrates are an important source of food energy. It is best, however, to limit the simple carbohydrates (table sugar) found in most desserts, candies, soft drinks and sweetened cereals. Complex carbohydrates are much better for us. Good sources include potatoes, brown rice, whole grain breads and whole grain cereals.
Limit fats in the diet. Lard, shortening, butter, meat, fish, poultry, margarine, fried foods, cream, mayonnaise and cheese contain unhealthy saturated fats. Plant fats such as avocado, olives, seeds and nuts, used in moderation, are healthier. If you use dairy products, choose fat free.
Fibre is like scrub brushes in our bodies to keep our digestive system clean and functioning well. High fibre foods are fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Meats, milk products and refined foods have no fibre and tend to clog the digestive system, leading to disease. Research has shown that a high fibre diet decreases the risk of many forms of cancer.
Sodium (salt) is hidden in many foods such as meat products, pickles, canned foods, baked goods with baking soda and even many breakfast cereals. It promotes high blood pressure and heart disease. Be aware of sodium and try to limit amounts in your diet.
What should you eat?
A balanced vegetarian diet is the best. Every day we should enjoy liberal portions of vegetables and fruit. Eat whole grains; they have all the fibre, vitamins and minerals that are lost by refining. They also help prevent overeating and obesity as they are much more satisfying. Be sure to include legumes and nuts in your diet.
Remember, breakfast is the most important meal of the day! A good breakfast should contain the most calories of any meal. Choose foods high in protein and complex carbohydrates. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the fruit. Try to eat a good lunch and a very light supper. This will give you energy for the day and a better night of rest.