Our last blog focused on Removing Food Intolerances and Eating Enough Calories as two of ten tips that can be incorporated to reduce stress in your life and on your body. (Click here to read this first if you missed it).
Today’s tips continue on the theme of how food can contribute to stress on the body. We often think about stress as something that creates an emotional response in our lives, but as important (and often overlooked) are the physical strains our body is experiencing.
Stress #3: Missing Food Groups.
We have three predominate food groups that we need to consider in our diet: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Missing a food group is like mailing a letter and missing the envelope. If you don’t have the components to be able to send the letter it is a lot more difficult to get the message. Missing some of the ingredients the body needs to repair means just that, it can’t repair. A body that is functioning with broken pieces is under constant stress, which affects our health from the inside out.
It is rare that someone comes into my office and eats too few carbohydrates, because carbohydrates are everywhere – not only in the obvious places such as breads and cereals, cakes and cookies but are also in vegetables and fruits. Carbohydrates are the easiest component of food for our body to burn as fuel and quickly convert to glucose (sugar) for our body to use to make energy and fuel our brain. The trouble with carbohydrates is if we have too many the unused glucose stores as fat, and carbohydrates burn quickly in the body meaning in just a few hours after we eat our body is ravished again.
So which food groups do people fall short on – Fats and Proteins. Proteins are a critical building block in our diet. Protein in the diet is broken down into its smallest component (amino acids), which are used to build nearly every structural component in the body from organs, to hair and skin. DNA (the instructions of our body) are repaired, read and assembled using proteins. Proteins help build and repair cells, make blood, and help us to grow. Proteins are involved in muscle contraction, fighting infections and in making hormone proteins that coordinate bodily functions.
How much protein do you need each day? Protein is broken down in the digestive system, so lets assume your digestive system is working optimally (however if it isn’t you may need more protein). The recommended dietary allowance for an average person (someone who does little or some exercise but isn’t training as an athlete or working a manual labour job) is 0.8 grams per kilogram. So a 150lb women is 68 kg, multiplied by 0.8g/kg is approximately 54.4 grams per day.
An average day with 55 grams of protein might look something like this: 3oz fillet of salmon (22g protein), 3oz chicken breast (16g protein), 2 eggs (12 grams) and ¼ cup of soy milk (3.5 g). There are lots of great online tools to help plan your protein click here for some ideas of protein rich foods.
The other food group that is often skipped is Fat. We spent most of the 1990’s cutting fat out of everything and ended up with a supermarket filled with fat free, sugar filled substitutes for fat. While not all fat is good fat (see our upcoming blog on Fat and Hormones), we do need an ample amount of unsaturated, healthy fat in our day. Fat is a critical component in our cell, and hormone health. Every cell in our body is made of two layers of fat, which hold all the good stuff inside the cell. If we have low amounts of healthy fat in our diet our cell membrane integrity is jeopardized meaning not only will we leak out the contents of our cells but our body is also unable to repair these damages. Additionally, healthy fat is essential for the production of hormones in our body, building our brain, making our skin healthy, helping our body use vitamins and providing us energy.
Foods high in healthy fat include: avocados, fish, chia seeds, nuts (pistachios, pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts), flaxseed oil, sunflower seeds, olives, nut butters, hemp oil, ghee, coconut and coconut oil, and extra virgin olive oil. Approximately 20 – 35% of your caloric intake should be from fats each day. The same 150lb women above would have approximately 30 – 60 grams of fat in a day.
Fats and proteins burn at a much slower rate then carbohydrates allowing our bodies to have fuel longer and ultimately feel full longer. Our body’s function better when we have all the needed ingredients together in our meals, this enables our body’s to efficiently repair and provide us with energy to keep us moving through life.
Here is a link to the first two tips, incase you missed it.
Watch for our next blog as our ten tips to reduce stress continues.
Note: This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed health care worker.