Whatever you eat influences so many aspects of your life. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat!” Therefore it is very important, especially for those of us suffering from digestive problems to know the basics of nutrition.
Nutrients can be divided into two basic categories; namely, “macro nutrients” and “micro nutrients”. Let’s take a look at macro nutrients first, because macro nutrition is actually the bulk of nutrition that we eat to stay alive.
There are 4 macro nutrients
Building-blocks of all living cells; when digested, protein breaks into amino acid molecules. These amino acids are needed for the development of new tissues, repair of old ones and the production of hormones and the execution of many other metabolic functions.
Proteins from animal sources, such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy are considered to be complete proteins as they contain all of the essential amino acids (there are nine essential amino acid which cannot be manufactured by the human body as a by-product of carbs; therefore required by the body through dietary intake). Proteins from vegetable sources like bean, peas, soy and lentils are considered incomplete proteins, as they do not contain all the essential amino acids. You can increase the quality of these proteins by combining two different protein foods at a time. A single gram of protein breaks down to give 4 Kilo calories.
Carbohydrates (carbs) give us instant and long-lasting energy. Carbohydrate molecules are made up of carbon and water and are the primary fuel source for the body. There are 3 types of carbs; monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. They can be divided further into two categories, simple carbs (mono and disaccharides) and complex carbs (polysaccharides). Simple carbs are sugars commonly found in foods like cakes, biscuits, candies and soft drinks (since these foods contain sucrose (table sugar), honey and fruits (both fresh and dried). Simple carbohydrates should not be the main part of our diet. Preferable sources are fruits and honey. Complex carbohydrates are starchy foods like wheat, cereals, rice, potatoes, yams etc. Carbs don’t make your muscles grow, but they do have a “muscle sparing effect” as they prevent the body from breaking down proteins to make energy. When protein gets broken down, it puts the body in a state of ketosis (a condition in which ketone bodies are produced in the blood). For those of us following the SCD diet simple carbs are the only allowed type. This is because complx carbs are more difficult to digest. 1 gram of carbohydrates breaks down to provide 4 Kilo.calories.
Compared to proteins and carbs, our body needs less fat. One gram of fat breaks down to give 9 Kilo calories, which is more than double the amount obtained from protein and carbs. If we consume an excess amount of fat we will eventually get fat, out of shape and potential candidates for heart diseases. Fats provide us with energy, which, unlike carbs, is not in “ready to use” form. Although fats are feared by models and fitness freaks like a plague, good quality fats are necessary for important metabolic functions such as keeping our skin healthy, formation of cell wall, maintaining body’s core temperature and production of bile and hormones.
When it comes to the quality of fats we should consume, polyunsaturated fats are definitely the better and healthier choice as they increase HDL (high density lipoproteins or, “good cholesterol”) and lower LDL (low density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol). Consumption of foods high in saturated fat deposits bad cholesterol in the blood vessels and eventually leads to heart problems. Polyunsaturated fats are found in sources like almonds, walnuts, olive oil, fish oil, sun flower oils. Fat sources like butter, ghee and animal fat should be kept at minimal.
Water is the only macro nutrient that does not contain any energy, in other words it has “no calories”. But the fact remains that it is the basic content of every living cell in this world. Our body consists of more than 70% water. Minimum water intake is around eight glasses a day. Keeping well hydrated will also help wash out the toxic nitrogenous matter. As for the fitness buff, who would love to pack on some hard muscles, water is one factor that can’t be overlooked (you may/may not know that 90-95% of skeletal muscle content is water!).
Since we ingest vitamins and minerals in very small quantities (as they are taken in micro grams and milligrams), they are categorized as micro nutrients. They do not provide us energy in terms of calories, but they are vital for sustaining health. Micronutrients are only a tiny amount of our overall dietary intake and all of the minerals and vitamins go directly into our blood stream without undergoing the process of digestion. Each micronutrient has some important function to perform in order to keep us healthy, for example, vitamin A and D are required for fat synthesis and they also protect us from certain diseases. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant and is vital for immunity. Vitamin B3, B6 and B12 are all important for regulating protein synthesis, secretion of hormones and for the proper function of the nervous system. Potassium works as a catalyst in the process of burning carbs and maintains proper heart function. Calcium and phosphorus are vital for healthy teeth and bones. Calcium is also necessary for muscle contraction. Iron is required for the production of red blood cells. Similarly, there are other trace elements and vitamins necessary for proper body functions. A good SCD compliant multi vitamin/mineral tab a day is recommended for those of us with digestive problems.
Now that you know a little bit about how your body uses foods you can structure your intake and ensure you are eating healthy. Remember eating healthy for a person with digestive problems is not necessarily the same as it is for a person who has no problems!