Food can be classified into three categories: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. A healthy diet includes food from all three categories, but it is important to understand that each of these categories contains both healthy and unhealthy foods.
Protein is fundamental to maintaining proper functioning of the body and building healthy muscle.
There is a vast body of research that has shown that plant-based proteins healthier than animal proteins. Examples of healthy plant-based proteins include tofu, lentils, beans, nutritional yeast, and green peas. These are also available as protein powders.
Most types of fish are healthy sources of protein. Eggs are an easy and healthy source of protein.
Most meats, especially when fried or barbecued, are unhealthy sources of protein and should be eaten rarely.
The distinction between healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates is the easiest to understand, and carbohydrates contain both the healthiest and the most dangerous foods we eat.
Both broccoli and chocolate chip cookies are carbohydrates, but why is one healthful, and the other not? The answer lies not only in the nutrients each contains, but in the insulin response it provokes. A strong insulin response occurs when the carbohydrate is quickly broken down into sugar. Simple carbohydrates, such as potatoes and white flour, break down quickly, while carbohydrates that contain high amounts of fiber, such as broccoli, break down more slowly, and are called complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, with their high insulin response, have been implicated in weight gain, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory disease, and even some forms of cancer.
Eating complex carbohydrates supplies the body with the minerals and antioxidants required for the body to fight disease and destroy damaged cells.
Simple carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes, cake and cookies, pasta, candy, and soda should be avoided.
Leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, and most other vegetables are packed with nutrients that support health. They also contain large amounts of phytonutrients and antioxidants which help strengthen our immune systems, allowing us to fight off disease.
Many fruits are also rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. However, certain fruits contain too much sugar to be considered healthy. These fruits should only be eaten occasionally. Other important rules include:
- Bananas, pineapples, and watermelons are all high in sugar, and have relatively low nutritional value. It is best to limit these.
- Berries are generally the fruits lowest in sugar and have the highest concentration of antioxidants and nutrients. Lemons, limes, melons, peaches, figs, grapes and apricots are also considered extremely healthful.
- Apples and pears are in an intermediate category; they are part of a healthy diet, but should be eaten in moderation.
- Dried fruits are high in sugar, particularly raisins, apricots, prunes, and figs. Some dried fruits, for example blueberries and cranberries, do not have a very high sugar content, but usually contain added sugar to balance the tart flavor they naturally have after being dried.
Omega-3 fats are generally considered to be the healthiest type of fat. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Trans fat and saturated fats, on the other hand, are associated with heart disease. It has long been established that eating healthy fats and avoiding unhealthy fats w and blood sugar levels.
Animal fats, such as butter, lard, and shortening are all known to be extremely unhealthy. These fats should be avoided or eaten only sparingly.
Nuts, especially almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, and peanuts, are extremely healthy sources of fat. Most seeds, such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are also known to be filled with healthy fats and nutrients. Avocados are another extremely delicious and healthy source of fat.
- Fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, are a good source of healthy fat, as well as protein.
In conclusion, it is easy to find healthy and delicious foods in each of the three fundamental food categories. By choosing the foods we eat with greater care, we can help avoid or control many food-related diseases.
At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, we know that one of the many ways to our residents’ hearts is through their stomachs. Our staff includes a master chef and a group of culinary experts who work with registered dietitians to prepare healthful, delicious meals. We even take care to serve our residents on fine china to ensure that our meals are as pleasing to the eye as they are tempting to the palate.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.
Contact us at 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.