Food to Fuel Your Systems


Health and wellness are not just about diet and exercise. They encompass many different aspects including our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. It’s important to achieve a balanced state so that when stress or health issues arise, we’re better prepared to deal with them.


There are some foods that actually resemble the body parts that they target. An example of a food that helps the brain is a walnut. If you notice, a walnut has a hard outer shell, much like a skull, and inside a small nut with two halves that resemble a brain. Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, which not only help with brain function, but also with cardiovascular health. Other key nutrients for the brain include fatty fish and eggs which are rich in DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The brain is made up of 60 percent fat, most of which is DHA. DHA promotes electrical activity in the brain at the cellular level and is also vital for brain development during pregnancy and infancy.


As mentioned with the brain, omega-3 also plays a role in cardiovascular function. Eating more nuts, seeds, and fish can actually help lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise the good cholesterol (HDL). Keeping your cholesterol within healthy limits can prevent artery-clogging heart disease. Fiber-rich foods like legumes, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables also work to clean up those arteries and soak up that extra cholesterol in your body, creating a much healthier environment for your heart. Spinach is another great food for the heart due to folate and potassium. Folate, along with the B vitamins, help reduce homocysteine in the blood , which in high amounts can damage coronary arteries and form clots. Potassium is important for fluid balance and muscle contraction, and a deficiency could result in cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal electrical activity in the heart).


There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both play different roles in the body, but the insoluble fiber is what the GI tract is looking for. Insoluble fiber acts like a straw boom in your gut, cleaning out the intestines and caring for the overall health of the GI tract. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent diverticulitis and polyps, as well as colon cancer. Adults need about 25-30 grams of fiber per day, with a balance of soluble and insoluble. Foods rich in insoluble fiber are whole grains, nuts and seeds, potato skin, flax seed, celery, and many more.


When protein is broken down into energy for our body to use, it becomes amino acids. Amino acids are called the “building blocks of protein.” They are involved in every cellular process in our body and are very important for all our different systems. Valine and glutamine are two amino acids that play a big role in muscle contractions as well as building and maintaining muscle tissue. Foods rich in these amino acids are beef, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. Calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone growth and strength, work together. We need vitamin D in order to absorb calcium. Dairy, soybeans, and foods fortified with calcium and vitamin D are the best way to increase intake. The sun is the main form of vitamin D for the body. In the northwest, this is something to be aware or during the darker fall and winter months.


Originally from PRO Pulse January-February 2010
By Ashley A. Harris. 


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