Building a Healthy Meal
Protein: Eating protein is essential for muscle and organ growth and maintenance, production of enzymes to keep the body functioning and communicating well, making up the “skeleton” of cells, aiding in liver detoxification, and helping to transport substances through the body. Certain amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, are essential to humans, meaning they must be taken in through the diet.
Below are Some Key Terms to Look Out for When Purchasing Proteins:
- Beef: Grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture-raised, organic
- Chicken: Pasture-raised, organic
- Pork: Pasture-raised
- Seafood: Wild-caught
- Eggs: Pasture-raised, organic
Carbohydrates: Transition your focus on starchy vegetables and fruits helps to improve the nutrient density of your carbohydrate selection. These include natural starches, like sweet potatoes, rutabaga, plantains, taro, potatoes, and squashes as well as grains and beans/legumes in their whole food form like black beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, quinoa, and amaranth.
Try to avoid over-processed carbohydrates like breads, pastas, pastries, and desserts as these are often highly refined and eventually cooked at high heat, which removes much of the nutrient composition and vitality.
Fats: There is no other food is as villainized as fat, however, fat is vitally important at all stages of development and must obtained from the diet as it is a structural part of each human cell. The human body is designed to crave and enjoy the flavor of fatty foods because it is vital to our health.
Types of Fat:
Saturated Fats and Cholesterol
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and are better options to cook with as they withstand higher heat than do vegetable oils. Although saturated fats used to be thought of as promoters of heart disease, recent research has debunked those unsupported theories.
Sources to include: grass-fed beef, grass-fed lamb, pasture raised pork, pasture raised chicken and eggs, wild game, wild birds, grass-fed dairy products (including milk, yogurt, butter, cheeses), coconut products, red palm oil, grass-fed and pasture-raised animal byproducts (tallow, lard, etc.)
PUFA’s (polyunsaturated fatty acids) are essential to humans and are best used without heat such as in salad dressings. Similarly to the role of saturated fats in the integrity of the cell membrane, polyunsaturated fats contribute as well. A delicate combination of saturated and unsaturated fats allows for cells to be fluid as well as strong.
Types of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to humans, meaning that we must obtain the majority through the diet as we do not produce these in our bodies on our own. Omega-3 fatty
acids include wild-caught fish and fish oils (mackerel, sardines, salmon, herring, halibut, trout, anchovies, and tuna), walnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products. Plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids must be converted from a less utilized form of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) to the more utilized form of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Omega-6 fatty acids are another essential fatty acid that must be obtained through the diet. These fatty acids play a role in brain function, growth, development, and triggering necessary inflammatory responses in the body. They also help to regulate metabolism, support hair, skin, bone, and nail growth, and are essential to the reproductive system. Omega-6 fatty acids play a role in the inflammatory response, which is natural and necessary, but when ratios of a pro-inflammatory chemical outweigh the anti-inflammatory counterpart (as in omega-3 fatty acids), problems can arise.
Omega-6’s are found in nuts, seeds, meats, and fish, but have become over-consumed in diet through refined vegetable and seed oils. The typical Western diet is very high in omega-6 and too low in omega-3.
Monounsaturated fats are another class of fatty acids and a little more heat stable than polyunsaturated fats. They are a good option for both salad dressings as well as light sautés. These fats are liquid at room temperature and turn solid when refrigerated. Health benefits of monounsaturated fats include heart protection, battling inflammation, improve your mood, are anti-cancer, and can help you better manage your weight. Monounsaturated fats include avocados, avocado oil, olives and olive oils, macadamia nuts, cashews, eggs, and grass-fed red meats.
Sulfur Rich Vegetables
Sulfur plays an integral role in the body’s natural detoxification process. Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral in the body and makes up amino acids, the building blocks to proteins that create hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. Sulfur is found in animal proteins, such as beef, chicken, pork, and eggs, but is encouraged through the incorporation of brightly colored vegetables because of the high antioxidant and organosulfur compounds naturally present.
Organosulfur compounds from foods such as garlic, onions, shallots, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage have several studies that show positive health impacts from ailments such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Probiotic Rich Foods
Probiotics, or good gut bacteria, also need to be replaced if levels are not optimal. The gastrointestinal tracts houses bacteria, yeast, and viruses that are both good and bad. These microorganisms make up the “microbiome” and are important for immunity, digestion, and keeping us healthy in general. In today’s society, we are bombarded with antibiotics through medications and the food supply. Exposure to antibiotics can alter the delicate balance of good versus bad bacteria which can set the stage for opportunistic organisms to overpopulate the “healthy” bacteria. When this happens, the integrity of our gastrointestinal tract is compromised.
Therefore, it is wise to repopulate good bacteria through routine consumption of probiotic rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, kombucha, whole-milk kefir and yogurts, and other fermented foods.
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