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Food: Basics of What We Need to Eat

Something that we all do every day is eat. But eating can get complicated – there is a lot of variety and choice, and a lot of contradictory advice on what’s best for us. Dr Joe Kosterich explains the basics of what we need to eat.

Something that we all do every day is eat. It’s pretty basic stuff, and yet surprisingly it’s become quite difficult for a lot of people. In some respects there is a lot of choice, and there is a lot of contradictory and confusing information out there as to what is the best to eat. One week they tell you to eat these foods because they are really good for you, and the next week somebody tells you that these foods have been linked with cancer. Alright, so in this video let’s make it really, really simple.

The three main food groups

Firstly, there are the three main food groups: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. You need all of them, and you need them in the right proportions. The simplest way to think about protein is that it moves around. That means things like meat, fish, and chicken. There are also vegetable sources of protein; obviously they don’t move around, things like lentils, chick peas, legumes, quinoa, and soy are vegetable sources of protein. But, the simplest way to think about protein is that it moves around, and proteins are the building blocks of the body. Carbohydrates give you energy; they basically grow in the ground. So, obviously, your fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are carbohydrates. There are good and bad carbohydrates, and we’ll touch on that briefly. Your good carbohydrates are your unprocessed carbohydrates, things like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Your bad carbohydrates are the very refined sugars, a lot of processed food, white sugars, and some of the white flour-based products. Your fats are good and bad. The good fats are the omega-3s and the omega-6s, and these are essential, you do actually need them, the body can’t make them. Flaxseed oil and olive oil are reasonable sources, and of course oily fish, things like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are excellent sources of your omega-3s. Now, your bad fats are your saturated fats, and in particular the trans fats.  Always read the labels because the worst sorts of fats are, in fact, the trans fats, and these are brought about often through manufacturing-type processes. Always have a quick look at the label as to what sorts of fats are in the foods that you’re buying.

The right proportions

How much of each should we have? Again, it’s going to depend a little bit on individuals and circumstances. Protein, generally somewhere between 10% and 35%, so about a quarter of your calories per day; your fats, somewhere between 15% and 25% of your total calories; carbohydrates roughly make up the rest.

Buying the right foods

So, in thinking about your shopping, there are a couple of simple things to keep in mind. When you’re going out and buying food for the week, buy food that if you don’t eat it this week, might have to be thrown out next week. Now, that immediately knocks out a lot of things in boxes and packages that have a use by date of one or two years down the track. Buy foods that until fairly recently were either moving around, or growing in the ground somewhere. So again, that’s your fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. For those who are non-vegetarian, obviously animal sources such as your meat, fish, and poultry. Again, all of these foods are going to need to be thrown out fairly quickly, unless you eat them by next week, where as you can keep processed and packaged foods for a year, maybe two years. Again, don’t get too fancy as to whether you buy beef or pork, or chicken or turkey; that is all going to be personal taste and preference. So, focus on the big picture.

To summarize, you want the three main food groups in your diet: proteins, good carbohydrates, and good fats. You want foods that are fairly fresh, foods that until fairly recently were moving around, or growing somewhere. You want foods that, by and large, if you don’t eat them fairly quickly, are going to go off, and you’re going to have to throw them out, that you can’t put on the shelf till next year or the year after. Follow these broad, brushstroke guidelines (nutritional), and you’ll do pretty well with your diet.

Dates

Posted On: 7 July, 2009
Modified On: 27 August, 2014

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