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Be in good health

More than 5 reasons why you should eat protein

by Hannah Ng’uni

Today, we take a closer look at another food group essential for a healthy balanced diet. Fun fact, the word ‘protein’ is derived from the Greek word “proteios” and was invented by a Dutch chemist Mulder in 1838, it means ‘of prime importance.

The Eatwell guide (2016)

Proteins – the basics

Protein is present is in plant and animal cells; these large, complex molecules are made up of building blocks called amino acids which are linked together to form long chains. The body links the amino acids in different sequences to form a variety of proteins, the function of a specific protein is determined by the type and sequence of the amino acids in that protein. There are 20 amino acids, some of these are produced by the body and others must be obtained from our diet.

When we eat protein foods, digestion begins in the stomach were the acid starts to break down the structure of the protein then through to the small intestine, these are further broken down by enzymes into individual amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream were there are transported to our cells and tissues. Once here, the amino acids are assembled again to form new proteins for specific functions. It is more complex than this but that’s the general overview.

Why eat proteins?

Protein plays several roles in the body, there are thousands of different proteins in the body, each one has a specific function. Some of the main functions are summarised below.

  • Repair and maintenance of body tissue. Hair, skin, eyes, muscles and organs are all made from protein.
  • A source of energy if consumed in excess of what is required for body tissue maintenance.
  • Creation of protein hormones such as insulin which controls blood sugar levels.
  • The enzymes that increase the rate of chemical reactions in the body are proteins. There are thousands of enzymes, some help in digestion of food and creation of DNA etc.
  • Involved in the transportation of the protein haemoglobin which carries oxygen around the body. Other proteins carry certain vitamins and minerals.
  • Forms antibodies that help prevent infections, illness and disease by identifying and attacking bacteria and viruses. When your daily diet is low in protein, the body cannot make enough antibodies which can lead to a weakened immune response.

It is important to include a variety of protein foods in your healthy balanced diet to maintain body functions and stay in good health. But as with the other food groups, portion sizes, the quality or source of protein and method of preparation or what it is served with all contribute to the overall nutritional quality of the diet as these foods will contain other nutrients as well.

Sources include meat, fish, chicken, dairy foods, and soya alternatives e.g., milk and yoghurt, eggs, beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu.

Note that protein needs also vary through the life stages i.e., infants, adults, pregnant and breastfeeding, older adults, athletes, or when critically unwell.

Top tips from the Eatwell Guide (2016) and British Nutrition Foundation:

  • Aim for 2 – 3 portions of protein foods (pink section) and 2-3 portions from dairy and alternative group (blue section)
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and mince, and eat less red and processed meat like bacon, ham and sausages.
  • Aim for at least 2 portions of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel.
  • Plant based sources are good alternatives to meat because they’re lower in fat and higher in fibre and protein.

In conclusion

Protein is an essential nutrient in a healthy balanced diet and helps our body’s organs and systems to function optimally. Protein is found in both animal and plant food sources therefore it is beneficial to include a variety of sources in the diet. It is advisable to consult your GP if you have any medical conditions before making changes to your diet.

Additional information:

British Nutrition Foundation (2021) Protein. https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-sustainable-diets/protein/

Categories
Be in good health

General healthy eating guidelines – Carbohydrates

By Hannah Ng’uni

 In today’s post and subsequent posts, we will take a closer look at what healthy eating is and what makes up a balanced diet one food group at a time. The Eatwell Guide (Gov.uk, 2016) will be just that, our guide to achieving that balance daily. The focus is on the nutrients we get from these food groups and their role in the body.

 If you have any medical conditions, please seek advice from your GP before making any dietary changes.

The Eatwell guide (2016)

Carbohydrates – the basics

Unfortunately, there are so many myths about carbohydrates, some have led to people cutting out the whole food group from the diet however it is important to understand that it is a combination of the portion size, frequency, type of carbohydrate and the food you combine your carbohydrate with that makes a difference. It would take more than one post to explain carbohydrates in great detail so here are basics.

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple sugars and complex carbohydrates (starch and dietary fibre).

Simple carbohydrates consist of single ‘sugar’ molecules like those naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables and double ‘sugar’ molecules i.e. table sugar, honey, milk and dairy products. Products such as syrup, jams, sweets, fruit juices, fizzy drinks, biscuits, chocolate, cake are classed as ‘free sugars’ (added sugars) within this group.

In 2015 the Government’s guidelines on sugar changed significantly to push a reduction in intake of ‘free sugars’ due to health risks associated with high levels of consumption.

 

Complex carbohydrates structurally are made of many ‘sugar’ molecules some linked in straight chains and others branch off, this affects how they are digested and absorbed in the body. Starch is a complex carbohydrate stored in plants, sources include grains (wheat, rice, corn, oats, millet, barley), legumes (peas, beans lentils), potatoes, yams, cassava etc. Most starches are easily digested in the body.

Dietary fibre, however, does not get digested but can be partially broken down in the large intestine then absorbed to provide energy to the body. There are various types of dietary fibres defined by how they present in plant cells walls and the structure of the sugar’ (glucose) units – like starches. Food sources include wholegrains, rolled oats, legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables.

Why eat carbohydrates?

During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which is a body’s source of fuel for energy. Most cells in the body, the brain, red blood cells and nervous system rely on glucose for fuel. Some glucose is stored in the liver to regular blood levels, some is stored in the muscle and used to fuel muscle activity. If the body is not getting carbohydrates, fats and/or proteins will be converted to glucose to supply energy and meet the demands of the brain cells and red bloods cells that need a constant supply of energy.

Fibre remains undigested until it reaches the large intestine where it is partially broken down (fermented) by resident bacteria and is still used for energy. Fibre is seen to be beneficial for promoting a healthy gut and immune system. Fibre also helps to reduce constipation, lower cholesterol levels and help regulate blood glucose levels.

It Is important to include a variety of fibre foods in your diet to benefit from the different roles in the body. Should you wish to increase your fibre intake, be sure to also increase your fluid intake.

The current recommendation for fibre intake in adults is 30g and this can be achieved daily by having 5 a day (mixture of fruits and vegetables), including wholegrain foods or starchy options to meals and choosing high fibre snacks instead of high fat/sugar foods. Aim for 3-4 portions of carbohydrate-containing foods a day.

In conclusion

Carbohydrates are not the enemy and remain a key component of a healthy balanced diet. Remember, it is the portion size, type of carbohydrate, frequency of intake and the type of food you mix your carbohydrate with that will have the biggest impact on your nutritional intake. It is advisable to consult your GP if you have a medical condition before making changes to your diet.

 

Additional information:

British Dietetic Association (2021) Carbohydrates: Food Fact Sheet. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/carbohydrates.html

British Dietetic Association (2021) Fibre: Food Fact Sheet. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fibre.html

 

Categories
Be in good health

Be in good health

By Hannah Ng’uni

Nutrition is a broad topic, can be complex, sensitive and at times controversial depending on who you are speaking to. But want stands true across the board is that we all want to be well and live healthy lives and good nutrition is key to maintaining good health. Food is fuel for the body but in the same way that putting the wrong fuel in a car damages the engine with costly implications, putting the wrong food in our body can cause ill health with effects on quality-of-life overtime. Exercise is also an essential part of good health.

A recurring thought crosses my mind as I reflect on my Christian journey thus far and the different churches I have followed in recent years, ‘how come we do not talk much about nutrition?’. We are quick to pray away the conditions linked to diet e.g., high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes etc but not address what we eat. This is not a criticism at all, just an observation and I am sure there are many reasons for this that would make for an interesting discussion another day.

The Lord wants me well.

What has become apparent on this journey is that the Lord cares about every aspect of our lives and desires for us to be well in spirit, soul, and body. It is not the Lord’s will for us to be unwell, in the Gospels we read how Jesus went about healing all sicknesses and diseases (Matthew 4:23, 9:35). Some people believe Jesus put sickness on them, if that were the case, why would He go around healing? How can you want someone sick and well at the same time? That belief is not in line with the person of Jesus. Because He is faithful and remains the same (Hebrews 13:8), we can conclude that sickness if not from Him and He heals even today because He wants us well. Amen somebody!

Spiritual and physical health.

Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health [physically], just as [I know] your soul prospers [spiritually]. 3 John 1:2 AMP

This was John’s prayer for Gaius, one commentary suggests John “affirms that Gaius is indeed well off spiritually, and he prays that Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health”(W. Hall Harris III, 2004)

So, is it possible to be spiritually healthy but physically (nutritionally) unhealthy? Yes, I believe so. Somehow, we separate the two or not pay as much attention to our physical health, I have been convicted of this during prayer. Another commentary interestingly stated that “many Christians would be desperately ill if their physical health was instantly in the same state as their spiritual health” (David Guzik, 2018), wow! A ‘selah’ moment right there. Let us prosper in our spiritual and physical health.

My desire is for us as believers to have an awareness of what we are putting in our body and how it would affect us short term or long term. To make healthy eating a lifestyle not just a ‘once-in-a-while’ option. My desire is for us to experience all round wellness – spirit, soul and body.

 In the next post, we will discuss health and purpose. God bless