Part 5 - Cell Environment | Part 6 - Cell Protection / The Immune System
Part 2 - Cell FoodLast month, we introduced the Healthy Cell Concept. This month, we would like to continue our examination by looking at cell food.
Cell FoodCell food is the food we eat. Our bodies take this food, digest it, capture its nutrients, and transport these nutrients to our cells. Our cells use these nutrients to perform all the functions that they do in our bodies. What we eat becomes the cell structure of our bodies, and the cell structure determines our physical—healthy or unhealthy—nature. This is why we should be aware of what we eat. If we eat unhealthy foods, we generate unhealthy and toxic cells, which means that we become unhealthy and toxic.
Our cells need certain nutrients, all of which are found in the foods we eat. These are proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, and enzymes. Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are known as macronutrients because we need a lot of them (“macro” means “large”) to stay healthy.
ProteinsProteins are essential to maintaining the structure and function of all life—the word itself is derived from the Greek word protos, meaning “primary” or “first.” Proteins are vital for the growth, repair, and maintenance of muscles, blood, internal organs, skin, hair, and nails. Proteins work by being broken down into smaller components called amino acids and then being rebuilt again where and when they are needed. (For information on amino acids, see p. 24 in the Healthy Cell Concept softcover book.)
Most people think only of meat when considering protein sources, and meat is an excellent source of protein. Unfortunately, depending solely on meat is problematic. Eating too much meat may result in too many purines, which results in too much uric acid, which can result in gout and kidney stones. Meat can also overwork the liver and result in too much ammonia, which can affect DNA and RNA, which affect cell reproduction. Meat contains too much fat, which leads to problems associated with fat: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and other problems.
So, if you cut back on meat, where can you get protein? Tuna is an excellent source, as are soybean products. Chick peas and kidney, red, and pinto beans provide protein, as well as whole wheat grains. Studies now show that vegetarians easily get enough protein.
Of course, for many of us, giving up meat completely is not a viable option. We should, however, make every effort to not make it the center of our diets. Try to eat only two to three servings of lean meat a week; this will help avoid a catalog of health problems. But too much meat—meaning meat everyday—hurts your cells, and thus your health.
CarbohydratesCarbohydrate-rich foods come from plants and are the main source of energy for all body functions. This makes sense, as carbohydrates contain the sun’s radiant energy, as captured in plant life. They are the best energy source we have and keep the digestive system fit and provide nutrients for the brain and nervous system.
There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars and are found in foods such as carbonated soft drinks, most desserts, candy, jelly and jam, and similar foods. Simple carbohydrates are also a big part of many of the processed foods we eat. Complex carbohydrates (starch and fiber) are found in whole grain breads, spaghetti, noodles, barley, potatoes, and other such foods.
Simple carbohydrates—sugars—are often unhealthy. They provide calories and short-term energy, but no nutrients. They can contribute to obesity and high blood pressure and result in tooth decay. More dangerously, simple sugars can affect our immune systems by decreasing the body’s ability to destroy bacteria and fight infection. Eating too much sugar thus results in a weakened immune system, meaning we cannot fight off disease as effectively as we should be able to.
We should differentiate between the sugar found naturally in fruits and the refined sugar found in snacks. The sugars in fruits are part of a total package; not only do you get sugar, but also water, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Refined sugars (even honey!) contain only sugar. They provide us with nothing more.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide us with benefits. They are the best energy source we have. Fiber, which is a complex carbohydrate, provides additional benefits, including prevention of constipation and hemorrhoids, improved handling of diabetes, and many gastrointestinal benefits.
Recent research points to new benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Plants contain flavonoids, which are being studied for their possible effects on health. Studies indicate that flavonoids may be integral in helping the body fight different types of degenerative diseases.
This all goes to show that nature knows best. Complex carbohydrates capture the sun’s energy and transfer it to our cells. They are truly a healthy cell food.
FatsAlthough many North Americans strive to eat a no-fat diet, fat is important to our cells. It is an energy source, makes foods taste good, carries certain nutrients, and insulates our nerves and bones. As is often the case in North America, it is not fat itself that is bad, it is the amount and types of fat we eat that are the problems.
High intake of certain fats increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer. These unhealthy fats are known as saturated fats. Saturated fats include fats found in animal foods and the coconut plant. You should avoid eating large quantities of foods that contain saturated fats.
Other types of fat are better for you, and some have health benefits. These are monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, and polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable and fish oils.
An easy way to know which type of fat you are eating is simply to observe its form. The more liquid it is, the more unsaturated it is and the healthier it is; the more solid it is, the more saturated it is and the unhealthier it is. Thus, fats derived from plants (such as vegetable oils), which are liquid, are largely unsaturated and healthier, while fats derived from animals (such as lard), which are solid, are largely saturated. To determine how saturated and unsaturated a liquid oil is, put it in the refrigerator in a clear bottle. Oils with saturated fats become cloudy; the less cloudy the oil becomes, the more unsaturated it is.
Over consumption is the bigger problem in fats. One of the reasons we do over consume is because so much of our food is high in “hidden fat” or is prepared with fat. Meat, for example, a major part of the North American diet, contains a lot of saturated fat. A typical fast-food hamburger can have as many as 60 g of fat, with half of this being saturated. Much of our food is prepared with fat. A baked potato with skin, for example, contains less than 1 g of fat. However, if you take this potato and make it into fast-food French fries, the fat zooms to about 15 grams.
Finally, there is margarine and hydrogenated fats. In order to prevent spoilage of unsaturated fats and make them harder, the unsaturated fats can be “saturated” by adding hydrogen to them. Thus, margarine becomes more of a saturated fat, even if the original fat was unsaturated and derived from plants. When hydrogen is added, some of the unsaturated fat, instead of becoming saturated, changes its shape. This creates unusual fats that, because they are not made by the body or in nature, the body does not know what to do with. This could result in a number of health problems. This type of fat is termed a trans-fatty acid (they have been transformed).
North Americans are correct in trying to eat less fat. They should also be aware of the different types of fat, and eat unsaturated fat when fat is eaten. Our cells do need fat, but a little goes a long way. A little fat in your diet is necessary; too much kills. <
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