A really regular query asked of personal trainers and fitness professionals these days is ‘what should I be eating?’. This is not an easy question to answer as the human body needs many and varied nutrients to facilitate good health, but I wanted to share with you the FCF top 10 nutrients you need and should have as part of your nutritional program.
Nutrient #1: Omega 3s
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids and include ALA, DHA and EPA which help the body to create new cells, strengthen the cardiovascular system, control the nervous system, support the absorption of nutrients and build immunity. Now I suspect you would want to achieve these positive health effects so you can find Omega-3s in foods such as fish, nuts, flaxseed oil and seeds, vegetable oils and leafy vegetables.
Nutrient #2: Protein
This one is a big point of interest these days. There is a lot of talk about what it does for the body and there seems to be some misconception around its actual benefits. Most people have been misled into thinking protein is only necessary of you are a body builder, however, this could not be further from the truth. The truth is that protein assists the codybody to create a strong immune system and sustains healthy skin, muscle, hair and nails. This nutrient is extremely important and can be described as ‘the building block of life’ because without it the body cannot repair and maintain itself. Some of the best sources are chicken, red meat, fish, tofu, legumes, eggs, milk, yogurt and cheese.
Nutrient #3: Fibre
Fibre is often overlooked. We often talk about carbohydrates, fat and protein but fibre sometimes fails to receive the appropriate attention it should. We should be known by all is that fibre is crucially important to proper gut function and is even associated with reducing the risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. No doubt this all sounds really good so I am sure you want to know the best sources of fibre. Excellent sources of soluble fibre are nuts, seeds, beans, psyllium, barley, lentils, peas, some fruits such as berries, apples and banana, and vegetables such as broccoli and carrot. Insoluble fibre can be found in foods such as cabbage, salads, wholegrains and wheat bran. Finally, the academic research suggests we should aim for around 35g of fibre per day.
Nutrient #4: Water
Now this one might well be the most important nutrient of all. Water is primarily responsible for absorption and transfer of nutrients, digestion, temperature regulation and elimination of waste products from the body. Research suggests that the human body is composed of around 50-80% water, depending on the amount of muscle mass we have, so be sure to drink plenty to ensure good health.
Nutrient #5: Iron
Similar to fibre, iron is another nutrient that doesn’t get the attention it should. Iron is essential for producing blood in your body with around 70% of the body’s iron being located in the red blood cells called haemoglobin and in muscle cells called myoglobin. Iron assists these cells to transfer oxygen from your lungs to the tissues, so it plays an important role. The best sources of iron include red meat, eggs, tofu, salmon, tuna and cereal.
Nutrient #6: Carbohydrates
OK, so this nutrient needs no introduction. By now most of us are aware that carbohydrates are required to provide energy to cells, which predominantly includes the skeletal muscle and the brain, which requires glucose for its metabolism. I personally like to source my carbohydrates from brown rice, sweet potato, fruit, wholegrain bread, cereals and a variety of vegetables.
Nutrient #7: B Group Vitamins (B Complex)
The main role of the eight different B vitamins that make up the B-Complex vitamin group, including folic acid and B12, is to assist in the production of energy provided by fat, carbohydrate and protein. B vitamins are found in leafy vegetables, dairy, wholegrains and some cereals.
Nutrient #8: Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant and is necessary for repair and growth of bodily tissue. This antioxidant is vital for the production of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, collagen and blood vessels and also assists in healing wounds and enhancing the absorption of non-haem iron found in plant proteins. Now we are all familiar with the gold old vitamin C tablet, but I much prefer to source my vitamin C from whole foods such as tomatoes, broccoli, citrus and fruits and berries.
Nutrient #9: Calcium
It is commonly known that calcium is crucial for bones and teeth health but did you know that calcium is also important for nerves and muscle too? The best sources include dairy and calcium fortified alternatives such as soy and rice milk. However, if you are looking for some variation from the old favourites, try getting your calcium from sardines, salmon, figs and mussels.
Nutrient #10: B12
Last but not least is vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for producing healthy red blood cells and is key in the formation of DNA, which is genetic material in all bodily cells. B12 is naturally present in animal-derived foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products.
So as you can see, these Top 10 Nutrients you should include in your diet are varied and many, meaning a number of different foods should be consumed in order to get everything you need for good health. My personal recommendation is to be mindful of these nutrients, by knowing which foods offer which nutrients, and find ways to work these recommended foods into your diet where possible for a happy, healthy body that can do it all! Should you need further advice on this topic, you can also contact F1rst Class Fitness for help in getting the mix just right.