The rules of good nutritional education should be followed by everyone: paradoxically, in industrialized countries a good portion of the population has an insufficient intake of some indispensable micro-nutrients, as they have a tendency to “eat too much and badly”.
In this article we will address some very sensitive issues and illustrate some essential rules for correct nutritional education .
Nutritional Value of Foods
The body’s needs must always be satisfied: consequently foods should be consumed with awareness of their nutritional value and the relative supply of nutrients and functional substances , in order to take advantage of their intrinsic properties.
To follow a correct nutritional education some very important basic rules should be treasured:
The food pyramid represents an ideal composition of the Mediterranean diet, in which all the foods that should be eaten are included in the various transversal sectors: the frequency of intake of the foods represented in the figure should decrease as one approaches the top.
The base of the pyramid is made up of physical exercise and sport, which are essential for the body. Then follow the cereals, their derivatives and potatoes; going up you will find fruit and vegetables, then beans, legumes and nuts.
Cheeses, yoghurts and dairy products appear in the next level, preceded by olive oil and olives. According to proper nutritional education, the foods listed so far should be consumed every day.
Moving up the pyramid we encounter fish, eggs and poultry, which should be eaten only a few times during the week, followed by lean meats, sweets and red meats, which should be eaten a few times a month.
RESPECT THE RIGHT PROPORTIONS OF NUTRIENTS
According to the rules of a correct nutritional education, carbohydrates should cover 45-65% of the daily calorie requirement, proteins 10-30% and lipids 20-35%.
The caloric intake deriving from the consumption of 1 gram of carbohydrates or proteins is equivalent to approximately 4kcal, while 1 gram of lipids supplies 9 kcal to the body: the daily energy requirement is estimated at approximately 2500 kcal, with the distinction between man (2000 -3000 kcal) and women (1500-2500 kcal).
EAT LOTS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
The daily intake of an abundant ration of fruit and vegetables (4-5 portions) should become a habit for a correct diet: in addition to containing a large amount of mineral salts and vitamins, fresh vegetables are rich in phenols, indoles, coumarins, flavonoids and other phytochemicals, which contribute to maintaining the health of the body and prevent the formation of some cancer cells.
LIMIT EMPTY CALORIES
Sugars, alcohol, refined grains and fats fall into a group of foods whose calories are defined as “empty”; this is because they bring a lot of energy but very little nutritional quality: according to the rules of food education, the intake of these calories should be reduced to a minimum.
As for sugar, many foods hide it in large quantities: carbonated drinks and ketchup are two examples. To give you an idea, a can of soda hides behind its bubbles a quantity of sugar equivalent to seven teaspoons.
It is also necessary to dispel a myth: whole sugar should be limited because, despite containing more mineral salts than refined sugar, it still provides an excess of calories.
By “lipids that provide empty calories” we mean those animal fats, hydrogenated and rich in additives, typical of industrial processes. Instead, it is a good rule to use extra-virgin olive oil, which provides a good amount of vitamin E and oleic and linoleic acid.
Flours and non-brown rice bring little protein, salts and vitamins, but a lot of starch: the refining process to which they are subjected in fact deprives them of their original properties.
Mineral salts, vitamins and fibers are instead well represented in whole foods; consequently it is a good habit to prefer them to refined ones in one or two daily meals.
NO TO PRESERVED AND PRE-COOKED FOODS
The preserves and pre-cooked foods offered on the market are excluded from the list of foods required by good nutritional education: in fact, they often contain harmful additives for the body, are poor in micronutrients and have a higher glycemic index than fresh food.
YES TO WHOLE CEREALS
It is a good habit to consume whole grains: they have a high satiating power, consequently they provide energy for many hours. Indeed, those who eat a lot of whole foods tend to slowly lose the habit of eating sweets, sugars and refined foods.
LIMIT THE CONSUMPTION OF MEAT
Colon cancer, arthritis, kidney stones and cardiovascular diseases are examples of pathologies attributable also (and not only) to the amount of meat eaten, which, according to nutritional education, should be consumed no more than three times a week. Cereals and legumes, fish or eggs can replace meat very well.
SHORT COOKING OF FOOD
To avoid protein denaturation and loss of vitamins, vegetables should not be cooked for very long times.
EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
Foods should not be taken in larger quantities than the real need of the organism; in this regard, techniques can be adopted to reduce the feeling of hunger. The intake of whole foods and vegetables represents a simple but valid aid, as it leads to the ingestion of very voluminous and low-calorie foods. Furthermore, it is good to eat often during the day, but in small doses to avoid the so-called “stomach hunger cramps”.
CHEW FOR A VERY LONG TIME
You can help the digestive processes with chewing: in fact, based on food education, chewing food for a long time means already preparing the food, facilitating its digestion. In addition, eating slowly avoids having more snacks between the various meals of the day, but not only: it has been shown that those who eat faster swallow large quantities of food compared to those who eat calmly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BREAKFAST
Among the principles of food education, breakfast certainly cannot be missing, the most important meal of the day. At night, the body is forced to fast for a long time: after 10 hours, to satisfy the production of glucose, the metabolism no longer draws glycogen from the liver, but from muscle proteins. The body is in a limit condition of reserves: this mechanism leads to the formation of ketone bodies, with consumption of muscle proteins and loss of electrolytes to buffer the increase in blood acidity.
Precisely to avoid the formation of these substances, a regular breakfast is absolutely necessary.
Indeed, some studies have shown that obese people tend to skip breakfast: thus, at lunch, we witness a real binge, because it is the body itself that requires nutrients. A good breakfast must provide about 15 or 20% of the day’s caloric intake and according to the rules for good food education it is a good way to maintain weight control.