A huge amount has been said about nutrition over the years. It’s a loaded subject and countless books have been written about it. We want to explain simply the effects good nutrition has on your health and how you can change your diet to live a healthier life.
Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine thy food
Hippocrates (founder of Western medicine)
Food gives you energy
Your body needs energy to function. The nutrients you ingest are made smaller during chewing and in your gastrointestinal tract, and are then transported to the body’s cells via the blood.
The nutrients are broken down further in the cells and processed so they can serve as fuel for the body. Your body uses energy to pump the blood around, to stay warm and, of course, to move. The brain always needs a lot of energy, even when you are not consciously thinking.
Micro- and macronutrients
Food consists of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, which we also call macronutrients. These are broken down in the body and serve as building blocks and fuel. In addition, food contains micronutrients.
These are not a source of energy but are essential for your body. Micronutrients include things such as vitamins, iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, phosphorus, iodine and selenium.
Proteins are the body’s building blocks. They are needed to build and nurture all the cells in the body. Not just muscle cells, but also the cells in your skin, hair, nails and immune system. Proteins are also needed to maintain a good hormonal balance and for the proper functioning of the brain.
You get protein from animal and plant foods, such as beans, peas, lentils, seaweed, nuts, eggs, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products.
Fats have, unfortunately, been given a bad name over the past 40 years but they play an important role in our body. We distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats.
Healthy fats strengthen your immune system and can be found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, fatty fish (such as salmon, herring and mackerel), full cream butter, cheese and eggs.
By eating enough healthy fats, you maintain a healthy weight (and prevent obesity) and your cholesterol* remains stable.
*You might think of cholesterol as ‘bad’. But your body needs cholesterol. The body uses it as a building block for cells and hormones and for the production of bile.
Unhealthy fats promote inflammation in the body. In addition, certain unhealthy fats (saturated fats) increase the risk of cardiovascular disease because they gradually clog your blood vessels.
Unhealthy fats can be found in fried foods, ready-made soup and sauces, margarine, crisps, ice cream, salty snacks, cakes and biscuits.
Fat is a source of energy and vitamins (A, D and E). These ensure the construction and protection of cells so that, for instance, your brain, eyes and muscles can function properly.
Fats can be seen as a gradual source of energy. Carbohydrates (sugars) as fast fuel. It is sugars that cause weight gain and higher cholesterol levels. It is simplynot true that the accumulation of fat around and/or in organs and blood vessels is caused by eating fat.
Carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the stomach and gut. Glucose is absorbed into your blood, from there it goes to your muscles and organs. Glucose is broken down in your cells, releasing energy that your body uses to function. It is important to eat carbohydrates rich in fibre (vegetables, fruit, wholemeal products) because they are absorbed slowly into the blood and therefore release energy gradually.
Good nutrition for long life
The right food helps you stay healthy, fit and lively for as long as possible. There are three ways in which you can influence your diet:
1. What you do or don’t eat
The bacteria in our gut (our microbiome) ensure, among other things, that our food is properly digested. A disturbance of our microbiome (for example by eating too many unhealthy fats or carbohydrates) increases the risk of inflammation in the body and can cause various health problems. Therefore our doctors recommend the following:
1) Eat as little sugar and as few ‘bad’ carbohydrates as possible, such as bread, pasta, pancakes, sweets, pizza, cakes, chocolate, pasta, crisps. Instead, eat nuts, vegetables, beans, peas and lentils as much as possible.
2) Make sure you eat food with plenty of fibre, such as vegetables, legumes, fruit, oats, whole grain products, nuts and seeds.
3) Eat healthy fats daily, such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, butter, eggs, cheese, fish, avocado and nuts. Stop eating low-fat, ‘light’ and semi-skimmed products.
Tip: experiment with your diet. Make small adjustments for a week or a month and experience the effect on your body. If you do this, you will gradually learn more about what the best food is for you.
2. The amount you eat
When you eat, your stomach stretches. This stretching releases hormones that signal you have eaten enough. This signal only lasts for a short time (15 to 20 minutes). Many people already have been overeating already before their body gives the signal that you have eaten enough This means you take in more than your body needs and is able to burn.
Chewing well (at least 30 times per mouthful) can be a solution. When you chew thoroughly, you make the surface of your food bigger and it mixes well with your saliva. This ensures good digestion, so your brain will more quickly send out the signal that you have eaten enough.
But you can also eat too little, which means you don’t get enough nutrients. Your body needs essential nutrients to function properly. Many people think malnutrition means being very thin, but normal-weight or overweight people can also be malnourished. They don’t eat a varied enough diet so do not get enough essential nutrients. It is also important to eat enough if you want to lose weight. We would like to help you discover the best way to nourish your body optimally.
3. When you do or don’t eat
This is something that people often think of as fasting: the total or partial abstinence from food or drink for a certain period of time. We prefer to talk about a window of a number of hours in which you do eat. There are three good reasons to reduce the number of hours in which you eat:
1) Your health improves by losing belly fat
2) You give your gut and microbiome a chance to rest
3) Your body cleans up damaged cells
A good start could be to not eat for at least sixteen hours a day. We can support you if you want to do this.
Our recommendations for good nutrition at a glance
1) Eat a varied diet, rich in fibre and as many fresh and unprocessed products as possible
2) Make sure you eat lots of vegetables, unsalted nuts, fruit and wholemeal products
3) Healthy fats are good for you (fish, avocado, olive oil)
4) Moderate your intake of sugars, red meat and processed foods
5) Drink at least 1.5 litres of water per day (no soft drinks, fruit juice or alcohol)
6) Eat less often and fast occasionally
7) Chew well, do not gorge yourself and eat mindfully (make meals a time to enjoy)
8) Listen to your body, learn to recognise what is good for you and what is not
Want to learn more about nutrition? Book a consult with one of our doctors!