How much does eating right mean to your cardiovascular health? Well according to many experts, it means a lot. Everything you put into your body does something. It either provides nutrients that are used as fuel, provides value in terms of health, or is detrimental to your health if it contains the wrong ingredients.
A fast food hamburger does have some nutrients. There is protein of course, which is an essential component for muscle health. However, it comes at a cost. There is also a fair amount of fat in hamburger, and of course these days it is all about grass-fed beef and free range chicken. What we eat, eats, is important too, as we are learning. Hormones, chemicals, insecticides are all ingested by the animals that we call food.
We like to say “eat clean”. That means monitoring the fats, sugars, and carbohydrates. Making sure the food you are eating is pure from the bad things mentioned in the last paragraph. It takes time and education to know how to read a product label, but it is very important. Know what you are putting into your mouth and understand how it fuels your body and what nutrients it provides.
Drink plenty of water. If you are an active male, it is recommended to drink 125 ounces of water a day. An active female should drink 91 ounces a day. That seems like a lot, and it is, so start early. Drink a large glass of water when you first get up in the morning. Your body is in dehydration mode after going 8 hours without water.
In terms of being heart smart, moderation and portion size are important, maybe as important as what you are eating. There is so much more that we can discuss. You can get more specific information relative to your own personal goals from Mike Doehla at StrongerUFit.com. He does nutrition counselling and is highly recommended.
Personally, I try to make sure that I get 2-3 servings of fresh fruit each day (blueberries are my favorite), 2-3 servings of fresh vegetables each day, a serving or two of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), and then make sure I eat lean protein every day. When I eat breads or pasta I make sure it is whole grain (there is an old saying, the whiter the bread the quicker you’re dead), and try to steer clear of simple carbs (table sugar, candy, etc).
Complex carbohydrates come from plant-based foods, and we know that those foods also contain a plethora of beneficial nutrients in addition to their carbs, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Carbs in general, are important in providing fuel for your body (energy) in the form of calories. Calories are simply a unit of energy.
Protein can also be a fuel source after carbs are depleted (thus the need for carbs). However, protein plays a more important role in that it builds and repairs muscle and tissue, promotes immune health by forming antibodies and white blood cells, creates hormones and enzymes and manufactures red blood cells. In addition, it contributes to the structure of your organs, skeleton, skin, hair and nails.
The general rule of thumb, especially for an active person is to 45-65% of their total calories from carbs (primarily complex carbs), 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fats. Fats are not all bad and some actually are quite beneficial. There has been a lot of back and forth on whether or not fats are the main culprit regarding heart disease. Recent studies suggest that they are not, however I am still a bit of a skeptic, and am mindful of the types of fats I ingest. Without getting to deep into the subject, the fact is that some fats raise your cholesterol and increase your risk for heart disease, while others lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and provide other health benefits. The good fats are typically the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and are high in omega-3. They can be found in salmon, nuts, olive oil, avocados, and my favorite, natural peanut butter.
There is a lot to know about nutrition in order to eat healthy. Some people think they are eating healthy but really aren’t for many different reasons. My recommendation is to eat natural foods. Those are foods that don’t typically come in a box, can, or package of some type. Organic is important and meats that are minimally processed where the animals were fed properly makes a huge difference.
Eat a balanced diet including some of the foods mentioned above, and if you really want to get serious, do your research or contact Mike at StrongerUFit.