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Eating healthy is one of the founding blocks of a long quality life. Ironically, in the wealthiest and best supplied countries in the world, where food is easily accessible and -- for the most part -- affordable, eating healthy is not a common behavior for the majority of citizens. For example, in the last 50 years, America has become overweight and more than ever susceptible to heart diseases and various forms of cancer.
Roadblocks to Healthy Eating
A great deal of confusion exists about what to eat and what not to eat. We hear many voices saying "Lo here" and "Lo there" and claiming to have found the best way to achieve the ideal weight. An inventory of some current popular eating plans and diets shows they contradict each other so much that it is impossible for a layperson to know what to follow with a sufficient degree of confidence.
In addition, when it comes to food, our own personal choices get us in trouble. We frequently self-indulge at social occasions, stuffing ourselves with oversize portions; or we skip meals altogether as an attempt to regain control over our appetite. We confuse emotional hunger with true physiological hunger and we eat so fast that the body doesn't have time to let us know when we have had enough before reaching an uncomfortable stuffed feeling.
To make matters worse, students with low monetary funds may resort to eating unbalanced meals that make them feel full quickly but bring little nutritional benefits. Or, because time for them is a rare commodity, they may not take the time to prepare meals and instead buy processed foods that have been modified and lost a lot of their nutritional value.
A Balanced Diet
If you desire to maintain/develop healthy eating habits, use balance as your motto. Balance means eating food that provides all three types of nutrients plus fiber at every meal. As a reminder, nutrients comprise carbohydrates, protein, and healthy -- non man-made/damaged -- fats. Fiber is found in abundance in non starchy vegetables (other than potatoes). Your body absolutely needs all nutrient types on a daily basis to build and regulate itself harmoniously. Don't neglect any nutrient or largely favor one over the others. Imbalance will mess up your metabolism and make it harder for you to feel happy and capable of achieving in school. Aim to eat balanced meals every time you eat to facilitate digestion and assimilation, as nutrients act upon each other during digestion and absorption. Your body needs three meals a day. If you skip, you are more likely to overeat later on.
Carbohydrates give us energy. The best carbohydrates, those that will not cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to sky rocket, are found in whole grains such as whole wheat and brown rice. In the Word of Wisdom, the Lord tells us that grains are good for us. Avoid carbs that have been ultra processed, such as white bread; and avoid simple sugars that go through the blood stream fast, such as candy, chocolate bars, etc. Especially, don't have a candy bar alone for lunch!! An excess of carbs and insulin causes weight gain. Don't be a sugar junkie!
Proteins are very important in building muscles and keeping organs functioning properly. Proteins are found in beans, all meats, eggs, fish, and soy bean products like tofu. There are proteins in most dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Proteins are also found in all nuts. In addition to proteins, several of those foods also contain other nutrients in small or large quantities depending on the food. For example, beans and milk contain carbohydrates, and eggs and nuts contain fats. Protein increases satiety. This means that if you eat proteins during a meal, hunger will stay away longer than if you did not have proteins. The counsel of the Lord is that we eat meats (flesh of beasts and fowls) sparingly and in the winter.
Fat and cholesterol are necessary to life. Our hormones, for example, depend on fat. An added bonus to fats is that they make food tastier! Not all fats are healthy, however. For cooking, common sources of wholesome fats are oils such as canola and olive oils. Those have been found to be very beneficial to the human body. The current consensus among health experts is that saturated fats (fats that turn solid at room temperature, like butter or fat in meat) need to be eaten sparingly or, at least, in moderation. Avoid man-made and damaged fats. Examples are (partially) hydrogenated fats, trans fats, and fats that are brought to very high temperatures as during deep frying process. Unfortunately, a lot of store-bought foods such as crackers, cookies, etc., are made with damaged fats. This is a good reason to check the labels. Remember, fats are necessary to life, so don't eliminate foods that contain them in their natural state (e.g., nuts, eggs).
FIBER AND VITAMINS
Fiber and many vitamins are found in abundance in non-starchy vegetables and fruits. Fruits have a lot more carbohydrates due to the natural sugars in them; and vegetables contain more fiber, which promotes healthy intestinal function. In the Word of Wisdom, we are told that "fruit" and "herb" are good for us. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins necessary for a healthy body.
An easy way to remember to eat balanced meals is to divide your plate into three parts approximately equal in size: one for protein, one for carbohydrates, and one for non-starchy veggies. Add a piece of fruit and/or a dairy and you have a balanced meal. When snacking, avoid eating a sweet treat by itself, which would raise your blood sugar too fast. A better choice is to eat something with protein, like nuts, because proteins slows down digestion and curbs the appetite.
Another hint is to take a multivitamin, and calcium + vitamin D supplements daily to promote bone health.
Achieving the Balance
Nutritional advice is incomplete without the recommendation to exercise and drink plenty of water daily. A mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength and flexibility/balance training is ideal.
The Harvard School of Public Health Newsletter provides extremely useful information on health related topics, including nutrition. Consult current and past issues of the BYU-I Campus Wellness Newsletters for useful information on nutrition.