Ultimate guide to nutrition

16 August 2017 by
First published: 14 August 2017

Ultimate guide to nutrition

We’ve stripped it back to basics in our Ultimate Guide to Nutrition, so you know everything you need to know about making healthy choices every day.

In this Ultimate Guide to Nutrition, we’ll explore everything that makes up good nutrition so you can start making healthier, informed choices around mealtimes.

This guide to nutrition covers:

    1. 1. The basics

 

    1. 2. Carbohydrates

 

    1. 3. Fats

 

    1. 4. Protein

 

    1. 5. Fibre

 

    1. 6. Water

 

    1. 7. A side note on sleep

 

      1. 8.Ultimate Guide to Nutritio – Hero ingredients

 

    9. Handy good-nutrition tips

Nutrition basics

What you eat affects pretty much everything – from your mood and energy levels to your skin and body shape. The secret to long-term health and awesomeness is good nutrition, which is all about healthy, balanced eating and not faddy diets that cut out entire food groups.
There are three key food groups: fats, proteins and carbohydrates – and they all play a key role in protecting our health and wellbeing. Cutting out or restricting one of them could result in health problems and symptoms such as low energy and fatigue as well as affecting how your body absorbs vital nutrients. And we wouldn’t want that!

 

The key to enjoying every food group is actually choosing from within them wisely. Selecting the right foods will keep you fuller for longer and provide you with heaps of nutrients, energy and vitality. For example, carbohydrates (which we need for energy, both physical and mental) come in many forms, and for sustained energy throughout the day it’s best to stick to carbs that release their sugars slowly (known as low-GI, or low-glycaemic-index carbs). This slower release will keep your energy and moods stable and help you avoid snacking on a box of doughnuts as your blood-sugar plummets. We’ve compiled a super-simple guide to choosing the best carbs, fats and proteins to incorporate into your diet to give you the best health.

 

Carbohydrates

Cutting out carbs has long been a popular way to lose weight quickly, but cutting out carbs is so last year. If you’ve ever tried it you may well have experienced low energy, tiredness and headaches as a result. This is because carbohydrates are our number-one source of energy and without them we can’t function properly; you should be embracing carbs! It’s about eating the right carbohydrates to ensure your energy levels remain constant and you achieve your weight-loss goals. Below are easy to follow lists of good and bad carbs.

 

Good carbs

All vegetables

All fruit

Oats

Brown rice

Nuts and seeds

Quinoa

Chia seeds

Lentils

Wholegrain breads, including pitta and rye bread

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Beans and pulses

 

Bad carbs

White rice

White pasta

White bread

Sugar

Instant oatmeal/porridge

Pre-made fruit juices

Cakes and muffins

Sweets

Processed breakfast cereals

 

Fats

Fats are one of the first food groups that people tend to cut out – or they at least make a beeline for low-fat options. But fats are essential. Your brain is made up of up to 60 per cent fat, and all of your major organs are surrounded by fat for both warmth and protection. We also need it to help absorb the all-important fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). And, because fat has nine calories per gram, you need far less of the stuff to satisfy your hunger. Below is a list of good fats and bad fats.

 

Good fats = unsaturated fats

Avocado

Nuts and seeds
Vegetable oils – olive oil, rapeseed oil

Oily fish – salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines

 

In moderation fats = saturated fats

Dairy products – butter, cream, yoghurt and cheese

Red meat

Shellfish

 

Bad fats = trans fats, hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated fats

Margarine

Ready-made cakes and biscuits

Processed foods

Junk food

 

Nutrition and Protein

Protein is king when it comes to working out, keeping your energy balanced and even helping you lose weight. It has fewer calories than fat, but is more complex than carbohydrate, which means our bodies take longer to break it down and absorb it into the blood stream for energy. In turn, this means no spikes and slumps in our energy levels, and we feel fuller for longer. We also need protein for the healthy growth of all our bodies’ tissues, which are constantly repairing and rebuilding muscles, nerves, organs and skin. Find out how much protein you need.

 

Good sources of protein
(GF=gluten-free, V=vegetarian):

Lean meat – chicken, turkey

Red meat – beef, lamb and pork

Fish

Green peas (V)

Eggs (V)

Nuts and nut butters (V)
Beans (black, white, butter, kidney) (V)

Chickpeas, inc. houmous (V)

Tempeh and tofu (V)

Edamame (V)

Leafy greens (spinach, kale, cabbage, etc.) (V)

Seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, poppy) (V)

Milk and non-dairy milks (V)

Oats (look for GF varieties) (V)

Brown rice (GF, V)

Wild rice (GF, V)

Buckwheat (GF, V)

Quinoa (GF, V)

Amaranth (GF, V)

Corn (GF, V)

Millet (GF, V)

Hemp seeds (GF, V)

Chia seeds (GF, V)

 

Fibre

Fibre is often overlooked but in fact could almost be classed as the fourth of the essential food groups. A lot of our health starts in our digestive system, as this is obviously where food gets digested and nutrients absorbed, but also where around 80 per cent of our immune system resides. Fibre plays a key role in the health of our digestive system as well as helping to prevent heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and weight gain. Fibre is only found in plant foods, and most of us don’t get enough. Try these 10 ways to boost your digestion.

 

There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble fibre.

 

Soluble fibre can be digested by the body and turns into a gel-like substance, soaking up water as it passes through your system and can therefore help with issues like diarrhoea. It may help lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood and makes stools easier to pass, reducing problems such as constipation.

 

Foods that contain soluble fibre include:

Oats, barley and rye

Fruits such as bananas and apples

Root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and parsnips

Ground flaxseeds/golden linseeds

 

Insoluble fibre by contrast cannot be digested and therefore passes through the gut without being broken down, thereby adding bulk to the stool and helping other food move more easily through the digestive system. This in turn can help prevent constipation.

Insoluble fibre helps to keep the digestive system healthy and can be found in:

Wholemeal breads

Bran

Nuts and seeds (except ground flaxseeds)

Beans

 

Fruits and vegetables are also a great source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, try the following:

Pears

Blueberries

Plums

Fresh and dried apricots

Raisins

Carrots

Parsnips

Sweet potatoes

Broccoli

Kale

Spinach

Courgettes

 

Water

Water is vital! Our bodies are 60 per cent water, and pretty much all of our organs and systems need it in order to function. Therefore, the minute we don’t drink enough, our body will start to be affected in some shape or form.

 

We need water to help our moods and memory, and for our muscles to perform effectively. And did you know that thirst and hunger have the same brain signal? Plus, water keeps our joints lubricated, flushes out toxins, hydrates every single cell in our body and makes our skin glow – what’s not to love?

 

Want to know if you’re getting enough? Take your body weight in pounds, divide by two and multiply
by 0.028 to get your required litres of water a day. For example:

 

Someone who weighs 140lb needs to drink 1.96 litres of water a day. (140/2) x 0.028 = 1.96

 

Increase this figure when exercising and on hot days. Standard tea and coffee do not count as part of your water intake, but herbal teas do. If you want to up your intake then always have a bottle to hand, here are 5 of the best reusable water bottles.

 

A side note on sleep

Sleep is another important part of our health, as this is the part of the day where our bodies regenerate and restore themselves. Better sleep can change your life – when we don’t get enough sleep this affects our performance, both physically and mentally, but it can also affect our food intake. A lack of sleep makes us feel tired and then we want more energy during the day, which nine times out of 10 comes in the form of food cravings. We are more likely to overeat and make bad food choices, too, when we’re hungry.

 

  1. Make sure you create the best environment you can in your bedroom to sleep.
    2. Make the room as dark and quiet as possible.
    3. Turn off any lights including electronic equipment, and put your phone on silent.
    4. Walk away from all phones, tablets and computers 60 minutes before bed – taking Facebook to bed with you stimulates the brain as these devices emit a blue light that affects the brain’s sleep patterns.
    5. Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold.
    6. If you struggle to sleep, start creating a routine and go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning for a week to start re-setting your body clock.

 

Ultimate Guide to Nutrition – Hero ingredients 

Stock up on these store-cupboard and fridge must-haves to make whipping up delicious and healthy meals a breeze

 

LEMONS Lemon aids digestion and detoxification when drunk with water, but is also the perfect way to flavour food! The zest, which is a powerful antioxidant, can help to protect your cells from damage.

 

APPLES & BANANAS Apples contain soluble fibre, which helps reduce gut disorders and controls insulin by releasing sugar slowly. Bananas contain potassium, magnesium and vitamins C and B6; great for energy and stress levels.

 

EGGS These are a great source of protein, especially if you are vegetarian, and contain all nine of our essential amino acids. They also contain B vitamins, selenium, vitamin D, iron, zinc and vitamins A and E – they’re a hard-working bite.

 

NUTS A great snack and source of protein, nuts also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that converts into serotonin. The right balance of this hormone is essential for good mood.

 

GREEN LEAFY VEG This is packed full of fibre and key nutrients such as magnesium. So, whether it’s spinach, kale or rocket, this should be on your plate at least once a day.

 

DARK CHOCOLATE Yes, we did say chocolate! But it must contain a minimum of 70% cocoa. It’s great for the heart and circulation, is anti-inflammatory and will also make you feel happy as it contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which encourages the brain to release feel-good endorphins.

 

OATS These are a great source of protein, which helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and will keep you
fuller for longer. They’re also high in fibre, which helps keep your cholesterol in check.

QUINOA & LENTILS These staples are fantastic slow-releasing carbs that also contain protein, which helps to sustain energy and fill you up for longer. They are also rich in fibre, which is good for your gut.

 

BROWN RICE Packed full of fibre, iron and B vitamins, brown rice also contains selenium, which is an antioxidant that helps boost immunity and looks after your thyroid.

 

COCONUT OIL FOR COOKING Coconut oil is a good fat, even though it is a saturated fat. It remains non-toxic when heated and, because it is a MCFA (medium-chain fatty acid), it is not readily stored as fat by the body, but metabolised by the liver and used as energy.

 

OLIVE OIL FOR DRIZZLING Not as stable as coconut oil when heated, olive oil is best left for drizzling. It has heaps of heart-protecting benefits and can help reduce inflammation in the body.

 

DATES These are little nuggets of nutrients. They are high in fibre, which is great for your gut and helps to keep blood sugars steady, as well as being packed full of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, which look after our nervous system.

 

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR ACV is a must in your kitchen. It helps to support your immune system, alkalises the body, promotes good digestion and can relieve acid indigestion or reflux (which is often a sign of low acid in the stomach).

 

NATURAL YOGHURT A good source of protein and calcium, natural yoghurt also contains vitamin B12, which is essential for our nervous system and also looks after the DNA of our cells. Look for ‘live’ natural yoghurt, which contains natural probiotics that boost its many benefits even further.

 

OILY FISH Salmon, mackerel, sardines… all are rich in omega-3, which is an essential part of a healthy diet that helps to look after your heart and your brain, and plays an active role in keeping our moods positive.
If you’re vegetarian, swap for ground flaxseeds or walnuts.

 

Handy good-nutrition tips
Just a few simple changes to your day-to-day can make the world of difference to your wellbeing and body shape. Below are some easy ways to boost your nutrition or you can raise your nutrition game with these great tips.

 

Start your day with a glass of water
Your body needs rehydrating after a night’s sleep. Take a glass of water to bed with you and then drink it the minute you wake up, before you even get out of bed, so that you can start to get your brain and digestive system prepped for the day.

 

Ditch your first tea or coffee for hot water with lemon and/or ginger
This is a brilliant way to kickstart the day, slowly waking up the digestive system, detoxing the liver and hydrating the body. For an extra boost, add 1 teaspoon of cider vinegar.

 

Always have breakfast
It doesn’t have to be a big meal, it can just be something small if you don’t feel hungry. But your body does need fuelling within the first two hours of waking up, so eat something. You’ll be less likely to snack throughout the day too, helping you make healthy choices.

 

Be mindful
Ideally for 10 minutes a day but even two minutes a day will set a calmer tone. Make the time to stop and set your intentions for the day. And be mindful when you eat – all too often we eat in a rush, at our desks or while using our phones. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, take time to eat your food and be aware of what you are eating. This gives your brain the time it needs to recognise you’ve eaten and will stop you from feeling unsatisfied and reaching for more food.

 

Avoid caffeine after 2pm
Caffeine can disrupt your sleep, unless you are going to the gym after work in which case a cup of black coffee can boost your performance and mental focus. Figure out what works for you but try to hit the herbal teas after 2pm!

 

Have a good protein-based snack mid-afternoon
Around 4pm is usually the time when that full feeling from lunch has worn off and we start to feel tired and in need of energy, usually in the form of sugar or caffeine. Ty our broccoli and quinoa bites on page 45 or even the moreish but healthy no-bake date and walnut brownies on page 44.

 

Get more sleep
Even if you’re a bad sleeper, it’s vital you create a relaxing, phone-free environment at night. Sleep is when our body regenerates, so going to bed and checking your phone keeps the brain stimulated and will, more often than not, create a restless night. Walk away from all electronic devices at least an hour before bed, start to prepare your body for sleep with a cup of herbal tea and ensure that your bedroom has as little noise and light as possible.

 

Don’t be afraid of fat
The good fats that is, such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish and coconut oil. Your brain runs on fat, and without it your memory and moods are affected, so eat up and ensure that there is good fat in your diet every day.

 

Have a balanced approach
It can be hard to eat and exercise well when you’re busy – and that’s totally normal. If you have a bad day, or feel like you haven’t hit your workout goals, don’t worry about it! As soon as you realise it, just pick up where you left off and carry on, because it’s all about balance. Life’s too short to be creating more stress because you had a blowout in the afternoon or didn’t fit a workout in! There’s always tomorrow.