You are what you eat. We’ve all heard this expression before but what does it mean? Is it true? Does it matter? Well, yes!
Everything you eat, or drink, becomes a part of you. Think about that for a moment. This means everything you ingest has a relationship to your health. A healthy diet gives your body nutrients to produce neurotransmitters for a healthy nervous system, supports immunity, and regulates energy levels. There are a huge number of ways that what you eat matters, and how what you eat affects your body, for better or worse.
There are macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat), and micronutrients. These are the vitamins and minerals that are contained in tiny amounts in all nutritious foods and are also essential to health and wellbeing. In this article we dig a little into what the macronutrients do.
When you eat food containing protein, for example meat, eggs, or nuts, these break down into amino acids, which are literally the building blocks of life. Things your body uses amino acids for include cell growth and repair, transporting nutrients, and making neurotransmitters and hormones.
There are 20 amino acids, some your body can make and some that can only be obtained directly from food. The more wear and tear, growth and repair, the more protein we need, meaning protein is especially important for children, teenagers, athletes, and the elderly. And you are better off, for a vast number of reasons, getting your protein from a boiled egg or a handful of nuts than from a greasy fast-food cheeseburger.
Most carbohydrates are broken down into glucose for energy, and anything in excess of what your body needs immediately will be stored in the liver and muscle. If it’s not needed there it can be converted into fat. Many people eat too many carbohydrates for the level of exercise they do, which can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. We do however need sufficient carbs to fuel our brains, otherwise we can feel dizzy, depressed, and lethargic. The type of carbohydrate is important, so think wholegrain breads, brown rice, sweet potato, or oats, which are rich in nutrients and fibre, rather than processed carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, white pasta, supermarket-brought biscuits or cake, which are essentially a nutritional wasteland.
Fat became a bad word in the 80’s when it was linked to a number of health issues, including obesity and cardiovascular disease. Now we know that sugar is a significant factor in these conditions. However, fat still gets a bad rap when in fact it’s actually (again) about the type of fats we consume. There are “good” and “bad” fats, and the “good” ones are essential for health, including vitamin absorption, and production and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters. Good fats can be found in oils such as olive and flaxseed; nuts and seeds; and tuna and salmon.
So, in a nutshell, yes, you are what you eat. The food you consume becomes a part of you and can either promote health or actively damage it. Consider then how you would like to feel. How do you want to function? And what changes can you make to ensure that you are made up of the most nourishing nutrients possible?