Feed Your Inner Ms. Pacman Well
I've often thought of the living cells that make up my body and that sustain my life as little Ms. Pacmans. Whether you're old enough to remember the games, Pacman and Ms. Pacman, it's beneficial for your health if you think of your cells in the same way. They're the smallest you there is. Imagine millions of them running around inside your body devouring all the nutrients from your food. While your food may be tasty on your tongue, is the food you eat also yummy for your cells?
Whether you're striving for weight loss or health, this is an important question to ponder because, as the saying goes, you are what you eat. Is your food alive and sustaining or processed and draining your energy? Here are a few facts about what your body needs regularly to keep it healthy. As you read through and consider whether you're winning at the game of life, consider paying attention to one nutrient or category of health at a time. Focus on incorporating it into your life in a healthy way for three to four weeks before you move onto the next category. Slow measured progress is what your body needs. Slow measured progress will feed your Inner Ms. Pacman well and help you adopt healthful habits that you'll be able to continue for the rest of your life.
Water is involved in every bodily function. It makes up almost 2/3 of our total weight and is our most important nutrient. It:
- helps maintain body temperature
- metabolizes body fat
- digests food
- lubricates and cushion organs
- transports nutrients
- flushes toxins
Your blood is approximately 90% water. If you are not getting enough water, your body will react by pulling it from other places, including your blood.
Fiber found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes is needed to move chyme through the digestive tract. Chyme is what our stomach produces after chemical digestion occurs and contains all the nutrients that are absorbed in the small intestine.
Foods such as fish, meat, nuts, eggs, and legumes consist of protein that is broken down into amino acids, building blocks used to build and repair all our body tissues.
Vitamins are small organic molecules essential to life and are absorbed through the small intestine. Excess amounts are either flushed out in the urine, water soluble, or stored in the liver and fatty tissue of the body, fat soluble.
Naturally occurring fat in foods such as nuts and avocadoes and vegetable oils such as olive and canola are a rich source of energy for the body. While these oils contain saturated as well as unsaturated fats they’re more healthful for the body than the manufactured cottonseed and palm kernel oils. A few benefits of fat are:
- helps food stay in the stomach longer
- gives a greater sense of satisfaction and helps you feel full longer
- may help your body produce endorphins in the brain (pleasurable feelings)
- provides back-up energy if blood sugar supplies run out (after 4-6 hours)
- provides insulation under the skin from cold and heat
- protects organs and bones from shock and provides support for organs
- surrounds and insulates nerve fibers to help transmit nerve impulses
- helps transport nutrients and metabolites across cell membranes (fat is part of every cell membrane in the body)
- building blocks for everything from hormones to immune function
The right kind of sodium is essential because it is:
- a component of extracellular fluid that bathes every living cell
- required for the proper functioning of our nerves and the contraction of our muscles
- necessary to maintain fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and pH (acid/alkaline) balance.
The body’s best sodium is unrefined sea salt.
Our body’s primary source of energy for daily activities is glucose. We get most of our glucose from digesting the sugar and starch in carbohydrates. Foods like rice, pasta, grain, potatoes, fruits, a few vegetables, and processed sweets qualify as carbohydrates. Our digestive system breaks down the starch and sugar in these foods into glucose which then gets absorbed through the small intestine into the bloodstream where it enters cells or goes to the liver to be stored. But glucose cannot go into the cells by itself. The pancreas releases insulin into the blood, which serves as the helper or, "key," that lets glucose into the cells for use as energy. Too much glucose in the blood upsets the body fluid balance, too little starves the brain of energy.
The glycemic index, GI, is a ranking of carbohydrates according to the effect on our blood glucose levels. The best sugars are listed with a low rating because they’re let into the blood stream at a slow absorption rate. An apple, for example, contains fiber, vitamins and minerals, and lots of carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are the fuel. But the carbohydrates are bound up in the fiber of the apple so that it takes your body a fair amount of time and effort to release those carbohydrates and convert them into fuel. The apple is a medium-burning carbohydrate, in other words it has a lower glycemic index than straight sugar. Eating mainly low GI carbs that slowly trickle glucose into your blood stream keeps your energy levels balanced and means you will feel fuller for longer between meals.
There is a lot of controversy around dairy, but it is proven that as people age their bodies produce fewer lactase enzymes so many people have symptoms of being unable to digest natural sugar found in dairy products. As an experiment you could try eliminating dairy and then reintroducing it to see if it affects you in any way.
Caffeine is a fat-soluble substance that enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine. Its effects are felt as soon as 15 minutes after consumption and will continue to influence your state for 6-8 hours afterwards. Only about ½ is eliminated in the urine within 6 hours. It increases the release of substances like adrenaline, producing an effect similar to the stress response;
- your heart beats faster
- more blood is sent to your muscles
- your liver releases glucose into the bloodstream for energy
In women, high caffeine consumption is linked to greater bone loss. Excessive caffeine is thought to cause adrenaline fatigue.
If you need more information, to reset your game, or want to share your experience with any body-nutrient stories, please send me a mail. It's been my experience that Ms. Pacman eats well and lives longest when in coordination with others.