Everybody loves food, or at least some types of food. But most people don't know the connection between food and wellbeing. Wrong food is more of an injurer than you realize. People are falling on themselves to become computer literate. But what about being food literate? Food literacy or food intelligence is the ability to forge an alliance between food and good health. Other than genetics and environment, what determines the way you look and feel, more than what you eat? Your body is like a car. It requires maintenance. But it has little or no spare parts. If you feed it the wrong fuel and cause damage, you can't simply install a new engine. You are stuck with only one body given you at birth. Proper fuel (the right food) and good maintenance (general care) are essential to high performance and long-term use of your body.
Good feeding entails combining the science of food with the art of food (that is, nutritional knowledge with actual preparation and utilization).
People may be classified into three by their eating habits and appetites. There are those who eat until they are belly full â€“ they eat simply because living things must eat; in other words, 'man must wack.' What they 'wack' is not important. Then there are those who aim to eat the so-called balanced diet by looking at what they perceive as quality and quantity. Many times they are wrong because they only concentrate on mere combination for 'balance' instead of looking at inherent value of each food. Finally we have those who are food literate who combine nutrition and gastronomy â€“ variety, value, form and delivery. Even animals demonstrate food 'literacy' by discriminating in what they eat? How much more should humans be food 'literate'? Good feeding is not exactly about enough money to afford quality and quantity. One can be rich and still spend the money on the 'wrong' food. Both rich and poor suffer heart disease, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lack of blood, excess gas, stomach rumble, heartburn, ulcer, constipation, allergy, fatigue, and general sickly feeling. Food literacy is about smart eating, the ABCs of which are able to make you eat well, feel well, look well and remain well. You need to know which foods are the best for you and which ones are potentially detrimental to your health and looks.
You Are What You Eat.
Our body runs on the fuel of food. But it is essential to learn the best possible fueling strategy for best performance. God the Creator has given us a wide variety of food fuels but man can excessively 'tamper' with these foods through processing, cooking, and myopic selection. Food intelligence is not about 'dieting' and self-denial. It is about versatility with sensible discrimination. Balanced diet simply expresses the need to feed from the various categories of food. But intelligent feeding is about a discriminating assessment of the potential values and dangers of various foods with respect to actual effects on general well-being, vigour, weight, and physical looks. If a 'balanced' diet ends up giving you obesity or heart disease, then you have been eating the wrong 'balance'. You must know what each type of food would do to you, not just the taste in the mouth or the feeling of being filled or satisfied.
Food Intelligence is Simple.
There are only three kinds of food, and there are only four sources of calories. Yes, we shall be using some technical terms and concepts. Let's go! Various foods produce varying levels of energy and the measuring unit for food energy is known as calorie. First, let us look at the three food types and their characteristics. They are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates: These are our best sources of energy because they burn faster and more efficiently than either protein or fat. There are two groups of carbohydrates: complex carbohydrates, often described as starches, and simple carbohydrates, usually known as sugars. The former include all grain products and vegetables, such as bread, cereals, pastas, corn, rice, yam, cassava, carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes, and all leafy greens such as lettuce, cabbage and spinach. These complex carbohydrates have their varying levels of vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Simple carbohydrates (or sugars for short) include refined sugars, such as cane, beet and brown sugars, and syrups, such as honey, maple syrup, and molasses. Also included in this category are foods high in these concentrated sweets, such as candies, jams, jellies, and sweetened carbonated beverages (soft drinks, etc). Naturally occurring simple carbohydrates include both fresh and dried fruits and fruit juices, such as banana, apricot, pineapple, apple, and orange. Also included is milk, which is naturally high in lactose or milk sugar. Any ingredient ending in â€œ-oseâ€ such as sucrose (ordinary table sugar), lactose, fructose, glucose, dextrose and maltose are all sugars or simple carbohydrates. Now, we haven't said anything against carbohydrates (or sugars for that matter). We have only mentioned their sources. The blog on the Good and Bad Side of Sugar will tackle that (check this edition).
Proteins: Yes, we need protein. It helps build, maintain, and repair just about every part of our bodies. For good hair, nails, skin , cartilage and tendons, get yourself some protein! Protein is primarily a body builder and the building blocks are known as amino acids. Protein-rich foods don't provide energy as quickly as carbohydrate-rich foods. Their main work is the growth, maintenance, and repair of body cells. There are two sources of food protein: animal and plant protein. Animal protein, which is any protein of animal origin, including fish [don't forget shellfish, salmon, tuna, shrimp, lobster]; poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, guinea fowl, etc); meat (beef, pork, mutton, goat, bush meat, etc); dairy products (milk, cream, cheese, and yogurt), and eggs of all types.
Fish is very good because it is lower in fat than poultry or meat. But poultry when eaten without the skin is lower in fat than most meat. In fact, avoid that outer skin of poultry!
Meat (such as beef) is in three grades â€“ prime, choice, and select â€“ determined by its marbling, that is, that streak of fat running through the red muscle of the meat. Prime grade contains the most marbling, followed by choice, and then select. Select contains the least amount of fat and is the best.
Dairy products [milk and co] are categorized by the amount of butterfat they contain.
Milk has three categories: non-fat or skim milk, low fat milk and whole milk. Whole milk has the highest butterfat. Non-fat or skim milk has more calcium and vitamins per volume than low-fat and whole milk because the fat in the latter displace other nutrients. Skim milk is also lower in cholesterol and calories than these. When buying dairy products, always look for reduced-fat-content on labels.
Egg whites are pure protein, even though the taste is not as good as the yolk. Egg yolks contain both cholesterol and saturated fat. Heart health authorities [e.g. American Heart Association] say you shouldn't consume more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day and one egg contains two-thirds of it! Now, that's probably for the USA, where they have more than enough of these. In Africa, nutrition experts recommend an egg a day, especially for children. In any case, note that foods rich in animal protein contain varying amounts of fat and cholesterol.
Plant protein is found in all unrefined plant foods, of which the good sources include legumes (all dried beans and peas), beans, soybeans, black-eyed beans, kidney beans, peanuts, etc and products made from them. There is no cholesterol in any food of plant origin. Animal protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids which the body needs and cannot manufacture but must get from food. These essential amino acids are also found in plants, but not all in the same plant; this necessitates the combination of variety of plants to take advantage of the varying amino acids. This is why legumes and grains complement each other so well. Together they give the full range of amino acids. Examples of this combination are beans and rice, beans and pap, beans soup and tuwo (swallow), peas and cornbread, peanut butter and whole wheat bread, etc.
Nuts and seeds are also good sources of plant protein; however, they contain too much fat to be used as a regular source of vegetable protein. They are in fact classified as fats and should be used mainly for flavour and texture.
Fats are greasy substances (solid or liquid) found in foods from both plants and animals. Fats enable us to absorb vitamins that are not water soluble (Vitamins A, D, E, and K: Vitamins B and C dissolve in water). But you don't need to eat fats to get fat. Your body manufactures fat from the protein and carbohydrate-rich foods you eat whenever you consume more than you need. This 'extra' fat is stored to be used for energy whenever carbohydrates are not available, but it does not offer the same quick energy as 'normal' energy from carbohydrates because of slow digestion and release. There are three classes of fats, identified by the predominant type of fatty acid they contain: saturated fats, poly-saturated fats, and mono-unsaturated fats. All fats are in fact a mix of these three acids but their proportions vary, therefore they are classified by the predominant fatty acid.
To be continued...