There are a few things we need to review before discussing specific diet options. One of these is – what is food and nutrition? It might surprise you to hear that many people I see have never been properly educated about this.
So let’s go right back to basics.
All food is basically composed of one or more of the following things.
- Proteins – which can come from plants like beans, nuts and grains or animals and are essential for our bodies. When eaten, protein is broken down into amino acids that are used for almost every metabolic process in the body
- Carbohydrates or “carbs” – which are a form of energy in food, and can range from simple carbohydrates like sugar to complex carbohydrates like starch and indigestible forms like fibre. And these all act very differently in the body.
- Fats – which is another form of stored energy in food from plants and animals, and it can be artificially altered. Again there are many types of fats, and they are not all equal
- Vitamins – like vitamin C and B which do specific and very important jobs in our body
- Minerals – like iron and zinc which are the building blocks for vital functions
- And a wide range of other phytonutrients like antioxidants which are very good for us
There is a spectrum of carbohydrates from simple to complex there are many types of proteins and many types of fats. So it is a bit silly to say all carbs are bad or all fats are bad because there are good fats, like olive oil and nuts, and bad fats like trans-fat in biscuits and processed food.
Often foods are thrown into one of these groups, like potatoes are “carbs”. But most foods are actually a combination of all of these. For example, potatoes do have complex carbohydrates and fibre, but also protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and a tiny bit of fat. But because they are mainly carbohydrates, people often simplify it. But don’t be fooled.
So each food has its own unique mix of these. Vegetables are often high in nutrients and minerals and antioxidants, but low in fat and carbohydrates so they are low calorie. That is why they are so good for us as they provide all the building blocks we need for health, but without the added calorie burden. Sure, sometimes we need a good bit of fat and carbohydrates, we need the energy to stay alive. So it is a balance.
It is really easy to google a food and find out what it is made of if you are interested but I wouldn’t stress about it too much. If you eat a balanced diet then most people will get what they need. There are exceptions of course, and some people need more of certain foods which are where health professionals come in to tailor to your needs.