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Plugging the Nutrition Gap in all our Diets

Plugging the Nutrition Gap in all our Diets

Across the world, even including Western countries there has been a suggestion of a growing ‘nutrition gap’ due to the lack of specific minerals and vitamins in our bodies. The 2013 Institute of Food and Technology Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago presented the research to show how we could all be treating our bodies with more respect, especially when it comes to essential omega-3 fatty acids.

The research suggests that low intake of fish and seafood means children and adults across the world have developed this ‘nutritional gap’ of omega-3 acids with particularly low figures in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Previous research has shown that both DHA and EPA are instrumental in minimising or even preventing the effects of inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis. These precious acids also promote cardio health and can limit the long-term effects of heart disease.

For our children DHA is essential for the correct development of the brain and nervous system and shockingly the study suggested that not providing children with a full diet can result in genuine physical risks to their development.

The study looks closely at North American people rather than us Brits but is still telling. It found that the average American consumed 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids with only 200 milligrams of this being DHA and EPA. Experts recommend that 500 milligrams of DHA and EPA should be consumed each day for a healthy heart and 900 milligrams a day is essential for people living with coronary disease. Children should be aiming to get around 500 milligrams each day and a whole gram a day is essential for pregnant women. All this research shows that neglecting our fatty acid intake can be dangerous and we should treat our bodies with the respect they deserve.

What this study has also thrown up is the unhealthy attitude people have with their diets. The number of faddy diets on the market means many men, women and even children are conditioned to believe different types of food are ‘good’ and ‘bad’. This of course contravenes the basics of a healthy, varied diet as all types of food are necessary for good health.

Developing a healthy attitude to food is essential for living well and it’s also a sad fact that many people are unable to reconcile their feelings towards food once they being along their exercise journey. Exercise as we know is absolutely essential for a healthy lifestyle and can become a passion in your life. However, excessive exercise without the right diet leads you along a slippery slope. You need to look at your whole lifestyle, not just pick the bits that seem easiest and you need to understand the basics about food.

Basic Food Facts

The NHS provides simple guidelines to ensure everybody is eating a healthy, balanced diet. Below are there eight top tips:

Starch comes first

Starch-based foods should make up about a third of the foods you eat every day. This includes potatoes, cereals, pasta, bread and rice. Wholegrain varieties are best for you and will make you feel fuller for longer. Many fad diets will suggest limiting or cutting out starchy foods altogether but this doesn’t lead to a healthy lifestyle.

Bag your Five a Day at least

Five portions of fruit and veg a day is your minimum. If you can get more in then that’s great. There are plenty of simple ways of adding fruit and vegetables to your diet. Try a smoothie for one portion and don’t forget cooked vegetables count too. Add banana or apricots to your breakfast to get you off to a good start.

Don’t Forget Fish

As we’ve already discussed in this piece omega-3 fatty acids really are essential for protecting your heart and helping your children’s brain development. The NHS recommend a minimum of two portions a week, one of which should be oily fish high in omega-3s fats. Oily fish includes salmon, fresh tuna and sardines. As wide a variety of fish as possible is best.

Less Sat Fats

Our relationship with fats is dangerous. Just the word strikes fear into many but as we’ve discussed before you just need to get your fats straight. Fat is fine for your diet as long as it’s the right fat. You need to be avoiding saturated fats where possible. Vegetable oils, oily fish and avocados are examples of foods which are high in non-saturated fats and a great option for your diet. Meats should be lean cut and avoid any which have visible fat traces.

Lower your Salt

Never add salt to your meal after cooking. This is one of the key ways we’re consuming too much salt and too much salt results in circulatory problems and increased blood pressure. Keep your eye on food labels and check salt content. Adults and children 11+ shouldn’t consume more than 6g of salt each day.

Keep Hydrated

Adults need to consume 1.2 litres of fluid every day to avoid dehydration. All non-alcoholic drinks count towards your fluid intake and fluids in your food also count do. The healthiest drink options are water, milk and natural fruit juices. Avoiding sugary fizzy drinks is the best way of protecting your teeth from damage and avoiding excess calories.

Always Break your Fast

Skipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. It’s a myth that still seems to circulate and in fact could not be more wrong. Research shows that a healthy breakfast actually aids weight loss and can be integral in ensuring vitamin deficiencies are avoided and fibre intake is kept up. Try porridge or yoghurt and fruit for an easy and non-heavy start to the day.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight means following these diet tips but also keeping your exercise levels moderate and managing your lifestyle in a way which supports healthy principles. Avoiding saturated fats and high sugar foods is the start and then understanding that you do still need fats and fatty acids to thrive is the next step.