Rowden January 2015
Over the last 50 years or so people’s attitude and approach to food has changed. Aspects such as speed of preparation, presentation and taste have replaced nutritional value as the primary criteria and now override the fundamental considerations of health.
Although we live in a society where we have a great abundance and variety of food the sad thing is that many are not only malnourished, but actually suffer from nutrient deficiencies which impact on their health. Yet by improving the quality and balance of what we eat, we can keep our bodies and minds in the best possible shape!
A century ago people consumed three times more vegetal protein than meat, today the proportions are reversed. The average intake of sugars has increased dramatically over the same period. In the early 1900’s this was around 0.6 kilograms per person per year, now it has risen to 35 kilograms per year per person!
The chemical elements which make up all foods can be classified into 6 distinct groups:
• Proteins which should comprise 10 – 15% of your total daily calorie intake
• Lipids (oils and fats) should make up 30 —35% of your intake
• Carbohydrates, sugars, starch and cellulose should account for 50 – 55% of your intake
Proteins are one of the basic building blocks of your organism, but they are constantly being used up and have to be replaced regularly. Eating foods that contain protein is therefore a vital necessity. If we don’t then our cells will not be able to grow or regenerate. So just where do we get our protein?
Large amounts of protein are contained in:
• Fish, seafood and shellfish
• Dairy products
Substantial amounts are also found in:
• Seeds and nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds etc.)
• Beans and lentils
Other foods contain protein but only in small amounts:
• Green vegetables
• Grains and their derivatives (bread, pasta. rice)
During digestion proteins are broken down into simple substances called amino acids, a chemical process which enables them to pass through the walls of the intestines, to be absorbed by blood and lymph, which transports them to our cells. The food we eat must provide us with 9 essential amino acids because our bodies are not capable of synthesizing these on its own. It is doubly important that we get all 9, if only one is missing, the others may be assimilated badly or not at all! (One amino acid, histidine is particularly important for young people, as adults can synthesise most of their needs through the liver, children and young people can’t.) Nearly all foods, except eggs, do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. This means that the only way to provide our bodies with all essential nutrients and in precisely the right amounts, is to eat a BALANCED and varied diet.
Proteins should constitute around 15% of your daily food intake, in the region of one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. How does this translate into actual food? Between 15 and 20 grams of protein will be present in:
• 100 grams of meat
• 100 grams of fish
• 2 eggs
• One half litre of milk
• 60 grams of hard cheese
Vegetables, grains, nuts and algae also contain protein, which although easy to assimilate, often does not have the same biological value as protein obtained from non-vegetal sources. However pure and vegetal proteins can be combined together. The most recent studies have shown that the ideal ratio is 50% animal protein and 50% vegetal protein.
Sources of vegetal protein per 100 grams:
Peanuts 25 Cocoa 17 Whole Wheat 12 Rye 13
Almonds 19 Oats 14 Soya Beans 35 Whole Pasta 9 Walnuts 10 Dark Choc 6 Lentils 8 Whole Rice 2.5
As people get older their ability to synthesize proteins diminishes. Elderly persons should in fact double the average daily intake, as they need to absorb more proteins in order to prevent a deficiency.