Good and Bad Foods
By splitting foods into these two categories, you are likely to encounter feelings of panic and disappointment when you realize that the foods that you like fall under the heading of ‘bad’. Here at PURE we believe that it is unreasonable to categorise them for the general population; all foods have their pros and cons and whether they are good or bad for you can depend on your goals as well as your health. For example fruit juices, even if they are made of 100% fruit, may be more beneficial than other sugary drinks, but can be very dangerous for diabetics, as they cause a sudden spike in their blood sugar levels; what can be o.k for one person can be detrimental to another’s health, so let’s explain all and help you come to your own informed conclusions when it comes to your personal food choices.
Most of us know that the five main food groups are: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals; and each one of these groups are crucial to our health and wellbeing.
Proteins are essential nutrients that are used for many biological processes within the human body, for instance enzymes are antibodies that help us to fight infection and are produced by proteins. They also help to form the structural components of bodily tissues and make up a large percentage of muscular tissues, which is where most of our protein is stored. Therefore it is clear that our bodies are dependent on protein to function correctly, and those undergoing physical activity (using their muscles and expending more energy) will require larger amounts than sedentary people.
Protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and beans as well as in supplements such as protein shakes and bars. It is recommended that we consume a variety of these foods everyday, in moderation, to meet our daily requirements
Carbohydrates should be our bodies’ main source of fuel and are easily converted into glucose for use as energy in all cells and tissues, and can be stored in the liver and muscles until they are needed for energy.
‘Carbs’ are required in order for our internal organs to function correctly and are a vital part of the health of our intestines and waste removal. They are normally found in starchy foods such as potatoes, bread and grains as well as milk, yoghurt and fruits. Other foods contain carbohydrates in smaller amounts, like beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, cottage cheese etc.
Complex carbohydrates take time to break down into glucose and are therefore slow release; foods high in fibre and complex carbs are often referred to as ‘good carbs’, whereas simple carbohydrates, bad carbs, are exactly that – simple! These foods include sugars found in fruits, dairy products, and any processed foods with sugar added to them during production.
Bad carbs can also be refined grains such as white bread; during the refining process, the grains are actually stripped of Vitamins Bs. On top of this, ‘bad carbs’ are also likely to have a high glycemic index, which can have a negative impact on our blood sugar levels, and therefore cause a sudden spike in insulin, which can affect the part of our brains that control impulses; this can lead to a loss in self-control, resulting in a sudden desire for high-calorie, sugar rich foods. Many of these types of foods are relatively low in nutritional value, contain a large amount of calories and offer very few nutrients
Fibre refers to particular types of carbohydrate that our bodies cannot fully digest and passes through the intestinal tract to help remove waste from the body. Foods high in fibre include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.
Fats are a necessity for survival, as they are used for energy (the most concentrated source), growth and development; in addition, they’re used to absorb vitamins, maintain cell membranes and provide cushioning for our organs. Fat can be found in foods such as meat, fish, nuts, dairy, oils and grain products.
The three main types of fat are: saturated, present in foods like meat, butter, cream; unsaturated, found in foods such as olive oil, avocados and nuts; and trans fat, most common in snacks, fried foods, packet foods, processed foods and baked goods. Eliminating saturated and trans fats, from your diet and replacing them with unsaturated fats, has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease.
Vitamins are compounds that are essential for our necessary growth and function, but our bodies are not capable of producing them unlike most of the other compounds we require, so it is of great importance that we obtain the sufficient amount from the food that we eat. We only need a small amount of vitamins, yet it is still possible to become deficient in them, which can pose many health risks.
Minerals are non-living substances, which are naturally present in non-living things such as rocks, soil and water, but are also found in plants and animals. Our cells need these minerals to function correctly, as do the cells within plants and animals, which is why minerals are so actively absorbed by plants from the soil and water. For this reason, we are able to obtain them by eating plants and meat from animals, in addition to water.
Minerals are required in order to develop strong teeth and bones, blood, skin, hair, nerve function, metabolic processes and muscle – it is clear that we need them for maintaining normal health.
Although all minerals are essential, different types are required in different amounts. They are categorized dependent on how much they are needed daily. Those needed in larger amounts are known as macro-minerals or major-minerals; whereas those that are needed in smaller quantities are known as micro-minerals or ‘trace-elements’. As much as we need these minerals, you should also note that consuming them in excessive amounts could be toxic.
As important as our main food groups are, they are not the only things that we need to survive and function correctly. We also need water. We should aim to drink 8 glasses a day, if we are sedentary and more if we are engaging in physical activity and therefore losing more fluid.
In conclusion, apart from simple carbohydrates, no food group should be referred to as bad and should definitely not be avoided, as no single nutrient can change the way that our body works alone; it is balance and moderation of each group that creates equilibrium, so that our bodies cells are able to work in harmony with the nutrients consumed.