Nutrient smarts could lengthen life

Focus on eating a balanced diet of whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals to increase health, lifespan



Nabisco introduced Oreos to the United States in 1912. The beloved Girl Scout cookies sales began as early as 1917.

In the 1920s, America got Twizzlers and Velveeta cheese. In the ‘30s, Wonder Bread put sliced white bread on shelves, and kids found their love of Kraft mac and cheese.

The ‘50s brought Barbie Dolls and TV dinners and the first diet soft drink. The ‘60s introduced Pop-Tarts, high-fructose corn syrup, and the original diet shake; and the ‘70s arrived with Egg McMuffins and our favorite Ben and Jerry’s homemade ice cream.

The 1990s came with fat-free everything and stuffed-crust pizza and fad-diet after fad-diet.

Now, in an era where kale and quinoa meets mini cupcakes and cake pops, we’ve lost the purpose of food.

Right now in America, obesity is a scary trend in epidemic proportions.

Approximately one in three American adults are obese, and one in three kids are overweight or obese. This is the first generation of American kids whose life expectancy is actually shorter than that of their parents.

Obesity is threatening to shift life expectancy backward, meaning we are using food to kill ourselves. Food is meant to keep us alive and healthy, and instead we are basically eating ourselves to death.

Food is supposed to give us fuel, energy from the sun to help us power through our active days. Instead, we sit and eat endless breadsticks and binge eat on pints of ice cream or family size bags of chips without realizing what we’re doing to our bodies.

Our focus needs to be on nutrition. Quick lesson: there are three types of macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and protein – and two types of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. These macro and micronutrients, along with water, are essential to your body.

Carbohydrates can be broken down to be simple or complex, and carbs should provide about half (45-65 percent) of your total daily calories. Carbohydrates are good for you – at least complex carbs are. These include apples, kale and spinach, quinoa, oatmeal, many beans and whole-grain pasta.

Fat gets a bad rap, but fat is essential to your body. It boosts brainpower, provides you with fuel and helps your body absorb nutrients. Now it the time to re-friend the good unsaturated fats, such as nuts and seeds, olive, vegetable and canola oil, avocados and fish like salmon and tuna.

Protein provides essential amino acids that are the building blocks of our body. While protein needs vary, generally protein should make up one-third of your diet. There are many sources of good proteins, including lean red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese, and plants.

Vitamins and minerals should be incorporated into your diet by way of whole, healthy foods. There are energy vitamins, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals that help with blood and bone and rehydration. Popping a multi-vitamin will help ensure you’re not deficient in a necessary micronutrient, but it is not a substitute for the real deal.

Macro and micronutrients from complex carbs, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole sources of vitamins and minerals provide your body with essential nutrients, nourishing at a cellular level. By eating empty calories and unhealthy foods, you are essentially damaging your body.

In the 1950s, we saw the beginnings of the first diets: the cabbage soup diet and the grapefruit diet. Then in the ’60 came Weight Watchers. There was a cookie diet in the ’70s (I’m not sure how that worked), and we tried the low-carb and South Beach diets in the ‘90s. And today there are so many diets and fads and cleanses that we can’t keep up with the latest weight loss trends.

The secret to nutrition: Remember that it is nutrition and not a diet. You need to nourish your body, give it more of what it needs – the complex carbs, water, vitamins and minerals – and less of what it doesn’t need – unhealthy fats, sugar, and empty calories.

Food is necessary for survival. It keeps us alive, giving us the nutrients and energy we need every day to get up, walk and run and pay attention in class. We shouldn’t use food as abuse for our bodies.

Starting today, make nutrition important in your life. It is worth your attention and your time because it is your body and you need to fuel it properly so you can do the things you want to do. Chasing your dreams everyday starts with a good breakfast.