At a basic level, we use food for energy—it nourishes our bodies and gives us the physical strength to live each day. But this truth often gets lost or diluted, and we end up eating somewhat mindlessly, without regard for what the contents of each meal is actually providing for us.
What I mean is not simply trying to “eat healthy,” a vague notion that more or less means simply cutting down on junk food and eating more salad. More specifically, it’s important not only to “eat healthy,” but to explicitly know what your body requires to function well, and what it does not, so that you not only eat healthy, but eat specifically for what your body needs at the time. Doing so can maximize the nourishment and energy you get from each meal, and minimize the consumption of unnecessary calories that only serve to speed the aging process, slow you down, and add excess weight.
Each person needs macro- and micro-nutrient to survive. Macro-nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Micro-nutrients are vitamins and minerals. Without enough protein, you’ll feel weak, and over time it can lead to degeneration of the body, much more quickly than a lack of dietary carbohydrates or fat. Without enough healthy forms of fat like omega-3s and monounsaturated fat, you’ll notice your mood affected, your skin begin to dull in color, eventually develop a host of conditions ranging from cholesterol issues to liver problems. Carbohydrates need to be divided into two groups—simple carbohydrates in form of fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates in form of grains and starchy foods like potatoes. As a very broad generality, simple carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables are much better for you than complex carbohydrates. Many leading health experts have argued that grains in the diet are responsible for a host of modern diseases, though if you choose to consume them, it’s important to know which are healthier than others (brown rice is more beneficial than wheat).
For the majority of people, protein is the most important macro-nutrient—you’ll most quickly notice a lack of energy and a general state of weakness from lack of protein than from the other two macro-nutrients. Following that are healthy forms of fat, and last are carbohydrates, though that comes with a caveat, which is explained further below.
If you’re out with coworkers to lunch, you might consider not only what’s on the menu, but which macro-nutrients, notably protein, you might not have had enough of, to ensure you’re not only at your best for the day and the next, but to avoid eating food that does little but force your body to process calories it doesn’t need and thus gain excess weight.
After macronutrients, it’s important to consider micro-nutrients. The majority of natural micro-nutrient sources are in the form of simple carbohydrates (the caveat mentioned above) and protein, including superfoods like spirulina, wheatgrass, and bee pollen. If you’ve had sufficient protein and healthy fat, and still feel not quite at your best, you may be lacking in micro-nutrients. You can eat a salad, of course, but unfortunately, due to over-farming and soil demineralization, food today, even if organic, has only a fraction of the nutrients it did even just 50 years ago. A more substantial way to meet your micronutrient needs would be to drink a smoothie composed of one or more superfoods, with a fuller list of them and an explanation of what they are found here. For minerals, make sure you salt your foods with a full-spectrum sea salt like Himalayan sea salt or Celtic sea salt, and you can even add some into your smoothie. If you do, you’ll notice your cravings every so often for potato chips and the like will dissipate, as they tends to be a symptomatic response to the body’s need for proper salt.
In at least being aware of what we physically need vs. just looking at what’s on the menu, we can not only get the most out of the time we spend at each meal, but we can feel even more physically satisfied than we otherwise would because our bodies will have received the specific nourishment it needs to function at optimal levels. The additional energy and better physique won’t hurt, either.