Research confirms the role of food in keeping you (and I) mentally healthy is important.
In this post, I explore what I view as the essential insights to be aware of in this area.
The basics: You are what you eat
If you have listened, watched to or read anything I have written, you know I will oft repeat, you are what you eat.
This is because:
- Food comprises nutrients
- The body extracts these nutrients from the food during digestion.
- The body uses these nutrients to make, repair and maintain you; your 11 core body systems (think cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, respiratory, digestive etc).
- In making, repairing and maintaining these systems you are able to function; to do, think, relate and be self-directed.
- At the highest level, nutrients fall into three key categories;
- 1. macro-nutrients, think quality carbs, proteins, fats and water
- 2. micro-nutrients, think vitamins, minerals and
- 3. other nutrients, think fibre and antioxidants.
- All nutrients play an essential role.
- Your body systems are interconnected and interdependent, they operate as a combined whole system, not in isolation.
The key take outs
- If the food you eat contains poor quality nutrients, then you are inadvertently making it more challenging for your body to make, repair and maintain you.
- If you make it more challenging for them to do this, you inadvertently make it more challenging for yourself to do, think, relate and be self-directed.
- To be the best version of you, consistently eat a nutrient dense and where possible fresh whole food based eating plan.
- No, you did not need to do the right thing 100% of the time, rather aim to do it most of the time.
Other nutrients (substances) are also important
It is essential to highlight there are other nutrients/substances that are important.
One of these is fibre.
Fibre has many roles. These include:
- Keeping you regular (yes toilet going regular)
- Trapping pathogens and wastes to remove them from the body
- Supporting blood sugar levels
- Helping you sustain healthy cholesterol levels
- Ensuring you feel satiated (satisfied) with what you eat, and
- Supporting/promoting your immunity.
It is estimated the average person falls well short of their daily average fibre needs. The average adult male needs approx. 30-35g fibre daily and an adult women 20-25g.
But wait there is more; a closer look at fibre
We need to take a closer look at fibre, specifically to look at its ability to shape how you feel and think.
The essentials of fibre
- Fibre is categorised in “Other Substances” essential to good health.
- Fibre does not (is not meant to be) digested by the body.
- Fibre makes its way to large intestine (bowel/colon) where it ferments.
- Fermentation produces substances that feed the microbes living there.
- In doing so, it facilitates the presence of the microbe species, numbers and ratio of microbes living in your gut.
- These microbes form part of your body’s microbiota.
- The body’s microbiota plays an essential role in promoting and maintaining immunity.
There is a growing body of research indicating:
- The gut microbiota is linked with the brain in a bi-directional relationship, it is generally referred to as the microbiome–gut–brain axis.
- It suggests this axis has an important role in regulating brain function and behavior.
- The link to food is because what you eat, is one of the most significant factors shaping human gut microbiota structure and function.
Yes, research is still going on and yes we still do not understand all that goes on. However, we do understand the role of food, in particular fibre in large intestine microbiota health.
To keep things simple, the phrase you are what you eat takes a different meaning. You think and feel what you eat.
Why an important insight?
Your ability to think and feel is core to your ability to function and perform in day to day life; personally and professionally.
- 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health crisis in their lifetime.
- Negative stress is experienced by many, both in and out of work.
- Your aim is to be agile, focused and relevant in thinking, so you can make quality decisions.
- Your aim is to effectively manage and regulate your emotions, so you can engage, motivate and collaborate.
Key take outs:
- What you eat, is one of the most significant factors shaping human gut microbiota structure and function
- What you eat, including the amount of fibre you include in your diet, will help shape how you think and feel.
- What you eat, including how much fibre you include, is a factor you can have within your control.
So what do you do now?
- Know how much fibre to include in your eating plan; the average healthy adult women approx. 20-25g daily and man 30-35g daily.
- Understand how much fibre you eat: Keep a food diary for 5-7 days, track food and the fibre it contains?
- If you are not eating enough fibre, takes steps to add fibre to your diet, both soluble an insoluble fibre.
- To learn more about fibre and what foods contain fibre, read my blog article Are you eating enough fibre.
What more information?
I encourage you to make contact.
Take care, stay safe.
Fats are one of the three main macronutrients along with carbohydrates and protein. They are an essential part of a healthy eating plan.
However in recent times the role of fats and their health benefits have been the subject of debate. In fact in some instances the reputation of fats have been maligned.
Are fats bad for you? Are all fats equal in the health benefits they offer?
And if all fats are not equal, how do you know which fats to include, limit or avoid?
For answers to these questions, read on.
Role of fats in body?
Fats play a number of key roles, including being:
- A key source of energy
- A structural material for our DNA
- Essential for hormone production
- Vital for nervous system signaling
- Required for brain development
- Important to supporting vitamin absorption
- Essential for insulation, to keep you warm
- Important to skin and hair health
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that fats should represent 20-35% of your total energy intake.
Why a bad reputation?
Research confirms fats have potential to play a contributory role in a number of health issues and diseases including obesity and heart disease. High level of fat intake has also been traditionally seen as a key contributor to raising blood cholesterol.
However, the role of fats and health issues or diseases is not black and white. Put simply not all fats are equal in their nutrient profile and hence their health benefits.
It means your choice of which fats to include in your daily diet, as well as the amount you include, will shape and influence the health outcomes you get from including fats.
What you need to know is there are fats to include, fats to limit and fats to avoid.
Fats to avoid: trans-fats
Trans-fats are created when unsaturated fats are solidified through a process called “hydrogenation”. This process is employed to increase the shelf life of foods, as well as allow for repeated reheating of oils during the manufacturing process.
You want to avoid trans-fats because they:
- Raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- Lower HDL (“good” cholesterol)
- Increase cholesterol build up in arteries
- Increase inflammation
- Increase risk of stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes and other health complications
You generally find trans-fats in processed/refined/manufactured foods. Sources include:
- Supermarket baked goods
- Cookies and biscuits
- Take-away/fast foods
Fats to limit: saturated fat
Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature. Including small, limited amounts of saturated fats in your eating plan will help minimize potential health risks that arise when you include excessive amounts.
Excessive intake of saturated fat over time has potential to:
- Raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol)
- Increase cholesterol build up in arteries
- Increase risk of heart attack and stroke
Saturated fats can be found in foods and in processed food. Sources include:
- Dairy: butter, milk & ice-cream
- Fatty meats
- Coconut oil
- Palm oil
Fats to include: unsaturated fat
Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats offer key health benefits. They have the potential to:
- Improve blood cholesterol
- Provide essential fatty acids (your body cannot make these)
- Lower risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes type 2
There are two types of unsaturated fat:
Monounsaturated fats found in plant foods including:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin & sesame seeds)
Polyunsaturated fats, most commonly known as omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. They are found in plant and animal foods including:
- Sunflower oil
- Fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines)
How to include fats?
The key is to adopt some key principles:
- The ‘include/limit’ fats discussed above should make up 20-35% of your dietary intake
- Source the majority of your fats from unsaturated fats sources
- Keep intake of saturated fats limited, ensure you avoid excessive intake
- Where possible avoid trans-fats and
- Aim to include fats through eating foods that contain them (not from vitamin supplements).
Examples of foods rich in healthy fats are:
- First-pressed extra virgin olive oil
- Nuts, e.g. walnuts
- Seeds, e.g. pumpkin seeds
- Cold water oily fish (preferably wild), e.g. salmon, snapper, barramundi
I hope this has provided you with the fundamentals of what you need to know about including, limiting or avoiding fats.
If you would like to find out more about fats or other key nutrients or discuss healthy eating and building sustainable health and wellbeing, please click here to make contact .
Harvard Health Publishing. (2017). The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-fats-bad-and-good
Eat for Health. (2015). Fat. Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/fat
Stress is now part of our common day language, it almost seems like we are all stressed all of the time. Is this correct?
Are you stressed all of the time? Is stress always negative?
And what is the cortisol, what is its links to adrenal overload? How do I know if stress is a potential issue for me? How do I know if it is impacting my health and wellbeing?
What is SIBO? A relatively new GUT (gastrointestinal) issue that many more appear to be experiencing?
What are the symptoms, how do you know you are at risk, and how do you redress.
For answers to these and other key questions you need answers to, read on.
Is there is a link between BMI and cancer?
We know obesity has a link to high blood pressure, blood sugar issues and heart problems.
We know obesity has the potential to undermine our health.
A recent study has highlighted the link between cancer and BMI.
To understand more read on.
Nourish your health … or should it be nourish your genes.
I am sure you know nutrition and lifestyle choices impact the quality of health.
However did you know that nutrition and lifestyle choices can influence your health through your genes?
Enter stage left a new term, nutrigenomics. An important new area of study that will be instrumental in helping us uncover new strategies for preventing or treating disease.
Want to know more? Read on.
What is nutritional medicine?
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of healthy eating and living.
Your body runs 24hrs a day, 365 days a year.
Even when you are asleep, your body is hard at work repairing, maintaining and growing.
Its objective is to achieve, maintain or re-establish balance, what the science of nutrition refers to as homeostasis.