Juggling the responsibilities of work, life and family can lead to too little rest (sleep), too much stress and too little time for yourself. However, don’t skip your healthy diet when you’re extremely busy, because your body needs food to perform, fight against everyday stress and everyday fatigue. Sleep and exercise are very important, but so is a good diet for the body.
How the body turns food into fuel
Energy comes from the food we eat and the liquids we drink. The three main nutrients for energy are protein, fat (saturated), and complex carbohydrates (one of the most important sources). The body can also use protein and fat for energy when there are no more carbohydrate resources. When you eat, your body breaks down nutrients into small components, which it absorbs and uses as fuel. This process is known as metabolism.
There are two types of carbohydrates, both of which are converted into sugar (glucose). “The body breaks down sugar in the blood and the blood cells use the glucose to provide energy,” says Melissa Rifkin, RD, a dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center, NY.
The best foods for your healthy diet
Complex carbohydrates such as high-fiber cereals, whole grain bread, pasta, dry beans, and starchy vegetables are the best type of food to use for sustained energy because they are digested at a slow rate. “Complex carbohydrates contain fibers, which require a longer time to be digested in the body because the absorption time is slow. Complex carbohydrates also stabilize the body’s sugar levels, which in turn causes the pancreas to produce less insulin. This gives you a feeling of fullness and you will feel less hungry.”
Also, if you eat a healthy diet, a great source of energy is protein (preferably fish, turkey, pork tenderloin, and chicken), vegetables (lentils, beans, peas), and a moderate amount of monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocado, seeds, nuts, and certain oils).
“Adequate fluids are also essential for sustaining energy,” says director of clinical nutrition Suzanne Lugerner. “Water is necessary for digestion, absorption, and the transport of nutrients that in turn give energy. Dehydration can cause a great lack of energy. An average person needs to consume between six and eight glasses of water every day.
Foods to avoid
The consumption of simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, should be limited. From cakes, candies to sugary drinks, juices, simple carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly by the body. They initially provide a burst of energy from 30 to 60 minutes, but being digested extremely quickly, hunger sets in after a short time.
Alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided. Alcohol reduces energy levels, while caffeine provides an initial burst of energy that lasts a maximum of two hours, followed by fatigue.
Healthy diet supports energy
We recommend that you have three meals and three snacks a day, and not to exceed three, a maximum of four hours without eating something. If you end up hungry, you eat quite a lot in one serving, which is not good for the body. Also, try to include something from each food group in your daily meals. Remember foods that are high in fiber, protein, and (saturated) fat, and that take longer to digest.
It is therefore important to know how to choose healthy food for our bodies. Although life is hectic, it is important to make wise choices about your diet and those around you. Eat foods that provide energy throughout the day. Your body will thank you.