Understand what your body is made of and you will surely understand how to eat healthy. It was this rather simple idea that has continually propelled me along my nutrition path. Yes, I deviate; yes, I see the impending food-lapses that lie like land mines along the tracks ahead (thanksgiving…) and yes, I go through tunnels of nutritional darkness, where I come out from within wondering what I have just done to my body. However, there is a important idea that remains constant. When I find myself off-track, I think back to this concept that I want to share with you. The idea is really simple. We have all heard it before, “we are what we eat”. Well, I just want to add a bit to the idiom. “We are what we eat. So think about it!” Let’s get into more detail.
According to the review of Physiological Chemistry: Our body is composed of:
Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorus, , Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Magnesium and trace amounts of other minerals.
Food is composed of:
Water. Consisting of hydrogen and oxygen.
Carbohydrates. “Carbo” meaning carbon, “hydra” meaning hydrogen and “ate” meaning oxygen.
Lipids. Lipids are fats, oils and waxes. Most lipids are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They contain a glycerol molecule with three fatty acids called a triglyceride.
Protein. Carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur and trace amounts of iron, copper, phosphorus and zinc (trace minerals).
Enzymes. Enzymes are large proteins that are bio-catalysts which means they help create and speed up chemical reactions within the body. They are composed of the same compounds that make up any protein.
Vitamins & Minerals. Vitamins are organic substances while minerals are inorganic. This means that vitamins are created by animals and plants while minerals are in the earth or water, absorbed by plants and animals. Vitamins include A, D, E & K and minerals include calcium, chromium, copper etc.
It is rather obvious how food makes up the building blocks of our bodies. Sure there are many other factors that make up the mortar, like the air we breath etc, but look at the overlap between the compounds in our bodies and food. Although this is a simplification, the concept is what’s important.
So you might be reading this and thinking, “of course”, all this stuff seems fairly intuitive and then I ask you, why do so many people know this yet do not think twice about what they put into their body? Well the answer to that is also really simple. Whether eating an apple or Cheetos, if you break it down, these foods provide the same micro-compounds that make up our diet. Yes, that is correct. But there is a difference. An apple contains these compounds in a purely natural composition while Cheetos do not. Take Cheetos first ingredient, enriched corn meal. “Why is it enriched?” you might ask. Through the refining process of making corn meal, the manufacturer actually removes essential nutrients by removing the bran and germ of the grain. This way, the grain is completely stripped of all nutrients so they have to then “enrich” the corn meal by adding , ferrous sulfate, naicin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid. Why do they do this? Your answer is as good as mine but the end result is a mixture of grain that is unnatural and literally stuffed with chemicals. Lets take another example found later in the ingredients maltodextrin. This ingredients is a synthesized form of starch, again stripped of all it’s nutrients but this time not replaced. Why they do this? The answer is a little more apparent; to create a substance that tastes good but doesn’t contain calories. If you still don’t believe me lets take yellow six also included in the ingredients of cheetos. Yellow six is a synthetic dye. It is a straight up chemical created by man. If there is one thing that we can take from this article is that our body is composed of natural occurring compounds. So why would we fill our body with all these man made, highly processed and dangerous ones? There is no reason.
I encourage you to just think about it more. Everything we do, say, feel and think is a result of what we have eaten. We have full control over this. Our mouth is a gateway into our whole being and our mind is the gatekeeper. You have full control over what goes in and many people don’t even care or think about it. It’s like seeing enemies on the horizon and drawing the castle bridge to let them right in. So next time you are eating, think about just exactly what you are putting into your body, what you are allowing to physically make up who you are. Is it composed of natural ingredients or not? If we can all be more cognizant, eating healthily will be that much more attainable.