Eating Well

Written by Do I Editorial

It never ceases to amaze me how many of us take our bodies for granted. We all have one life to live and only one body to live it in and yet we are so careless about keeping our bodies in their optimum shape. The consequences of the poor upkeep of our bodies do not become apparent when we are young but the negative outcomes catch up fairly quickly.

The human body is a well synchronized and intelligent masterpiece of a machine. All it takes to make it run well is a proper lifestyle and healthy eating habits. If any one of two is missing, the machine malfunctions and eventually collapses.

As far as the fuel for this machine of ours is concerned, these questions arise: Am I eating well? Is it the right quantity? Does my food have all the nutrients that my body needs? The answers are often negative and that isn’t good for us. Food is what keeps us going. If it is improper or less in quantity, we will fall sick – if not today, eventually.

Healthy eating is very necessary, not just for the body but also for the mind. Remember, staying mentally fit and cheerful is directly linked to our bodies; the state of our bodies rule every aspect of our life, our confidence, our emotions, our looks, our progress, our attitude and, last but not the least, our relationship with people.

Common Notions about Food
Here are some erroneous notions about food that many people hold:

* Eating too much can give more strength
* The lesser one eats, the better
* Food makes us fat
* Eating less can make us thin and make us look better

Well, having such antiquated beliefs can harm us. Eating the proper amount of food is very necessary. Starving oneself in order to stay fit will never make us look good. It will only make us look pale and sick. It is not food that makes us fat. It is the intake of unhealthy food, overeating and lack of exercise that fattens us. Every food has an optimum range of intake. Lesser or more makes it inadequate. So be aware and eat well.

Eating well doesn’t necessarily mean eating more. It means having a diet which is balanced, covering a wide spectrum of nutrients and minerals in their required amounts.

Problems Associated With Improper Eating
Eating disorders or abnormal eating habits is detrimental to the body and mind. Eating less can make us anaemic or anorexic. Overeating causes obesity. Such eating disorders often cause anxiety and personality disorders. Deficiencies and deficiency diseases are another major consequence of improper eating.

The reason behind all the problems is a lack of a scientific approach towards our diet. Often, cultural and geographical barriers cause such problems. Laziness, job pressures and lifestyles also compel us to follow diet patterns which are not necessarily good for us.

Regularize your meal patterns; the quantity of food taken at each meal should never be excessive but just adequate enough to satisfy the hunger.  A good way to take care of overeating is to drink enough water before meals; many a times, the body mistakes thirst for hunger. The one exception is breakfast, which should be large (but not huge). The time gap between each meal should never exceed three hours. This optimises the metabolic rate; as a result, food gets digested more efficiently, energy levels in the body increase and useless and harmful fat deposition in the bodily tissues and muscles decrease. Have a balance diet, curb on junk food intake, have the proper amount, neither too much, nor too less.

Balanced Diet
A balanced diet covers all the required nutrients, minerals and fibres in their appropriate amounts in the food that you eat. It includes foods from all the food groups.

* Eat fresh fruits. They are packed with minerals and metabolites. Fruits are the best sources of vitamins and antioxidants. The fruit itself and the peels are important sources of fibre, which also prevents constipation.
* Have fruits as snacks or with meals.
* If you love fruit juices, have them freshly made and do not strain away the fibres. Ideally, cut down your intake of fruit juices, if not stopping it altogether. Contrary to what we have been taught, fruit juices are harmful – they are devoid of fibre and are laden with sugar (fructose).
* Eat lots of vegetables. They are important sources of fibre, minerals and good carbohydrates.
* Do not overcook the food you eat and try steaming over boiling. That keeps in the nutrients in the veggies better.
* Have lots of salads. Wash your raw vegetables very well to remove all traces of pesticides and worms.  Ideally, first dip the vegetables in a weak solution of potassium permanganate; while a bit tedious, it will be worth your while.
* Have cereals with fruits for breakfast.
* Have lots of proteins; incorporate them in your diet by having eggs for breakfast and smoked, steamed or lightly cooked fish and meat.
* Proteins should never be deep fried or cooked in any other high heat cooking processes; proteins are formed by peptide bonds between amino acids which are very sensitive to heat. Once the peptide bonds break due to overheating, the proteins are of little use to us. If you fry them, do so in a low flame and for a lesser duration.
* Never ignore the benefits of plant proteins – edible seeds and pulses are rich sources. Some examples are beans, kidney beans, soya beans and many others.
* Dairy products carry the benefits of calcium and essential proteins, and some vitamins. Have milk or milk products such as cheese. If you cannot digest milk, have yogurt or cottage cheese. Milk products help to strengthen your tooth and bones, the blood clotting mechanism and many other functions.
* Carbohydrates are also important – they are the primary source of energy. Have rice or whole wheat bread in adequate amounts. But if you are a diabetic or have a family history of diabetes, cut back on carbohydrates. Similarly, if you are overweight, go easy on carbs. Also, do ensure that you cut out refined carbohydrates altogether. Use aspartame as a sweetener instead of cane sugar. Sugar is the most useless food that one consumes on a regular basis.
* Fats are harmful in excess. But they are also required in our body in small amounts. Several vitamins (A, D, E and K) as well as other metabolites are digested only in the presence of fats as they are fat soluble and not water soluble.
* There are good fats and bad ones. Saturated fats can be harmful, but unsaturated fats are necessary for proper metabolism. But here again, unsaturated fats get easily destroyed in high temperatures. So avoid deep fried foods. Vegetable oils are good for us in small quantities. Fish oils are also beneficial.
* Nuts and seeds, in small quantities, are also very important.

Food in the right amount
Having food in the right amount and at the right time is also important.

Have a good breakfast. It is the first meal that we have after as long gap and it provides the body with the fuel that we need at the start of the day.  A good breakfast also helps in controlling our body weight. Eat often and in small quantities. Almost all dieticians and doctors now maintain that a normal human being should eat about five to six times a day.  Eat dinner early; by, say, six pm.  I know this may be difficult for a lot of people but do try and finish as early as possible. Dinner should be light and healthy.

Eating healthy, eating frequently but never overeating will help your body and mind immensely. You will have a healthier heart, stronger bones, a sense of well being and harmony, a longer and happier life, a better social life as well as better and healthier looks.  And don’t forget to add regular exercise to the mix.

Visual Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/80502454@N00/