Health – Food: we are tomorrow, what we eat today
Health – Food: we are tomorrow, what we eat today
As mentioned in the health introduction, I’m going to examine the fuel we put into our bodies in the form of food, drinks, vitamins and supplements. Food is simple yet complex, and can help and hinder us. Many of us can probably benefit from making some adjustments, especially if we want to be in optimal health and slow down the ageing process.
Winter is typically a time when we eat more. Partly because food helps to keep us warm and well during the colder months, and partly because there is often so much more available as we approach the seasons merriments of Christmas fayres, lunches and parties.
This article is not a list of dos and don’ts to survive the festive period, but instead aims to increase general awareness to help us make informed decisions for the longer term. It’s less a case for “We are what we eat”, but more “We are tomorrow, what we eat today.”
The importance of good food
They say that laughter is the best medicine, but I’d actually argue that food is up there too. Eating the right foods can play a major part in maintaining good health with both short term and longer-term benefits. At its very essence food provides nutritional value and vitamins. The more we can get directly from food, the easier our bodies will be able to absorb, and it will save the effort and cost of taking additional supplements.
Eating the right foods can help us build good immune systems and strong constitutions and could help us ward off more serious health issues too.
Food can keep our bodies insulated and provide us with the appropriate physical and mental energy to go about our daily lives.
As you can probably tell, I’m a great fan of food – but the right types are important! It’s been a long-term goal of mine to provide healthy balanced meals for me and my family.
When food is on our side
There are a number of signs that food is working well for us:
– We eat a balanced diet with a range of different food types and colours
– We are generally healthy, with a good immune system
– We eat enough to fill us up and give us the energy to do what we need to
– We don’t eat more than we need
– We are attracted to and eat things that are generally good for us
– We have a healthy relationship with food
– We can enjoy some naughty food now and again, without beating ourselves up too much!
It seems so simple – and indeed can be – yet, often this is easier said than done….
Pitfalls of food
Getting a balanced diet isn’t always easy
There is so much choice and availability these days that we are often spoilt for choice. As we’re only human, we (sadly) often go for the easiest option, but this isn’t always the best one for us.
Not all food is created equal
Food can be measured in different ways, but its basic energy value is measured in calories. Unfortunately, not all calories are the same, with some having much more nutritional value than others. Some foods may have moderate calorific value, but high nutritional value – often sensationalised these days as superfoods. Conversely, some foods have high calorific value but may be poor in nutrients. Worse still, these are often padded out with sugars, salts and bad fats, which don’t even give us the basic nutritional value to keep us healthy.
Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging. These labels include information on calories, as well as on fat, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. All nutritional information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.
Although it’s not yet a requirement for UK restaurants to show nutritional information, this will be a legal requirement in the US next year.
Food has become more processed over time, compared to what our grandparents ate. Additionally, the food we eat has become less ‘local’ and cooking skills aren’t always passed down through generations. We’re now seeing the come-back of things like home-made bone-stock and the popularity of grow-your-own produce seems to be increasing (often with waiting lists for allotments).
It’s not always easy to gauge the right amount
We don’t always know when to stop. bogging us down short-term and leading to us carry excessive weight. Many of us eat with our eyes (not our stomachs or our heads) and carry on eating more than we actually need. This can also happen when we eat quickly: food is digested less efficiently (usually when chewed slowly the enzymes in saliva have chance to start breaking food molecules down). It takes time for our stomach to signal via hormones to the brain that we are no longer hungry and in need of more food.
In all honesty, not eating enough probably affects fewer of us than overeating in this day and age. With the media’s portrayal of what is beautiful, including photo editing of already slim beautiful models, some people deprive themselves of food in order to lose weight or stay slim. At the extreme, this can trigger various eating disorders. These aren’t restricted to the young, eating disorders can also affect older adults.
Some food is bad for us
Whilst some food isn’t great, some can actually do us harm. If you do a basic google search, there are various articles listing foods we should stop eating, including some seemingly harmless things. One shift over time worth noting is the demonisation of fat in previous years (by government and weight-loss groups/books) leading to increased consumption of low-fat products with no consideration for the effects of sugars in these products.
Some food types tend to have an adverse impact on certain people e.g. due to allergies, intolerances, high sugar content, additives etc. The source of the problem isn’t always easy to detect, especially when processed foods often contain some really random ingredients. Who knew that yoghurts, chocolate and soy sauce sometimes contain gluten?!
It can therefore take a while to detect and identify foods that don’t agree with us. We can do this the slow way via eliminating certain foods, or we could take a blood test e.g. Yorktest laboratories to speed up the process. Elimination is still seen as ‘gold standard’ as the food intolerance (IgG) tests are still somewhat controversial. It’s often not sensible for people to start doing long-term eliminations without professional guidance as need to ensure they’re not missing out on important nutrients whilst doing this.
Missing out on certain food types
The other risk is that people cut out or limit their intake of certain food types. We should also be getting a balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, and many of us probably aren’t getting this quite right. It does make me laugh (or rather cry) sometimes, when people shun bread or pasta (complex sugars) as they’re “not doing carbs” and then later snaffle biscuits or cake (simple sugars) as they’re hungry. I believe many people could benefit from basic nutritional education!
Key tips for ageing
Eating the right food is obviously important at any age, but even more so when we consider ageing. While none of us can prevent the ageing process, there are ways to slow its pace, with the first step toward good health in our senior years is by eating well.
Eating the right foods in combination can have a positive impact on the following areas:
– Keeping mind & memory sharp
– Maintaining strong bones & flexible joints
– Maintaining a healthy weight
– Reducing stress and enhancing sleep
– Keeping skin youthful
– Protecting ourselves against disease
I’ve also read a couple of great books in this area that I’d love to share with you:
The Ageless Body by Peta Bee
10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing by Patrick Holford
Although many of the tips are specific to the ageing process (which we’re all on whether we like it or not), much of this is good common sense. And while much of it is directed to older people, the earlier we adopt some of these habits, the better.
Food is both simple and complex and can both help and hinder us. Many of us can probably benefit from making some adjustments, especially if we want to be in optimal health and slow down the ageing process. I’ll look to share some more age-related tips and topics in future Health articles.
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.