You Are What You Eat

Evolved Foods
6 min readNov 19, 2021

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“You are what you eat.” The numerous times that we have heard this saying.

This notion is indeed creeping up on people, taking account of their daily lifestyles, the current food system, as well as the effects of the pandemic. A lot of re-evaluating of food choices for consumers is certainly taking place, more towards the means of incorporating a balanced diet.

When we were young, the idea of a balanced diet would probably be a burger in one hand and a diet coke in the other.

The massive rise in the interest of plant-based options has been taking over the world over the last two/three years. More and more are leaning towards healthier options and paying attention to what they eat. Whenever one would transition to a plant-based lifestyle, a lot of the people around them would be concerned that they would immediately become malnourished, because they wouldn’t be eating a ‘balanced diet’.

A plant-based diet consists of exclusively plant foods, including fruit, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and avoids meat, dairy, and eggs. Plant-based foods are full of fiber, rich in vitamins and minerals, free of cholesterol, and low in saturated fats unlike their animal counterparts. Eating a variety of these foods provides all the protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients your body needs.

Those who eat a plant-based diet lower their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. Research also shows that a plant-based diet can be less expensive than an omnivorous diet.

In a world where plant-based diets and plant-based lifestyles are entering the mainstream, it seems like a good idea to re-examine the idea of a balanced diet.

What it means for those of us who deliberately exclude certain products for ethical or health reasons, and how we can make sure that we are doing right by our bodies as well as for the growing concerns of climate change or for a more long-lasting planet for us all or for our own future existence on this planet.

What is a balanced diet?

The important thing to remember is that the human body needs certain nutrients to be healthy and continue its function. To get these, you’ve got to eat from a wide variety of food groups, and sometimes take supplements or multi-nutrients as an aide for better nutrition.

The body requires a number of different types of food to function:

Carbohydrates: These are the body’s main energy source. Carbohydrates are found in whole grains, starches, fibers and sugars, such as potatoes, rice and whole grains. When carbs aren’t available to the body for energy, fat becomes the preferred source of energy.

Fat: The body needs small amounts of healthy fats as a source of essential fatty acids, which we cannot make ourselves. Some of the vitamins we need are also fat-soluble, and without it we wouldn’t be able to get enough of these vitamins. Flax seeds, sesame seeds, and dark chocolate (dark chocolate that includes at least 70 percent cacao solids) are good sources of healthy fats.

Protein: Our body needs protein to build and repair muscles, and to make sure that children and adolescents grow and develop correctly. Nuts, beans, lentils and seeds are all excellent sources of healthy protein.

Vitamins & Minerals: These are needed to ensure that our body can repair itself and continue to function. Whilst the majority of vitamins and minerals are abundant in a plant-based diet, some like Vitamin B12 are harder to come by, and may require supplementation to prevent deficiency.

Why having a balanced diet is important?

  1. A balanced diet is important because your body needs the correct levels of nutrition in order to function effectively.
  2. ‘Empty calories’ just don’t provide us with the right nutrients or leave us feeling full, which eventually leads to more snacking and to poor eating habits over time.
  3. A healthy diet prevents infections and boosts immunity, helps you to control your weight and improve your mental health.
  4. In child development, a balanced diet is full of healthy fats can help to make sure that cells are built in the right way, and that the pace of growth is maintained into adulthood.
  5. Significantly lowers the risk of heart diseases.

What happens if you don’t have a balanced diet?

  1. Bad eating habits can contribute to stress, tiredness and the onset of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes.
  2. It can also be a factor of tooth decay, so those checkups at the dentist can often tell you something about your nutrition as well as your flossing technique!
  3. Poor nutrition can lead to serious illnesses, especially if undetected or untreated for a longer period of time. With that in mind, there are some common symptoms of malnutrition which, if caught early, can prevent a worsening condition.
  4. Signs of poor nutrition can include fatigue, poor concentration and a lack of motivation.
  5. The lack of certain nutrients will eventually be apparent in our hair, which can become dry and brittle over time, and in our nails which may develop ridges or start to become spoon shaped. This is often linked with an iron deficiency, so try eating more of those leafy greens.
  6. It’s not just your physicality that can suffer as a result of a poor diet, it can often have a negative effect on mental health.
  7. Bruising, a lack of appetite and persistent dry skin are all linked to poor diet or a deficiency in certain key nutrients. It might be that you need to speak with a doctor to determine if any symptoms you are experiencing are diet-related.

How do you eat a balanced plant-based diet?

In the same way as any other diet, a poorly planned and executed plant-based diet may be lacking in certain key nutrients. However, a plant-based diet containing fortified foods and perhaps a multi-nutrient should give you everything you need to stay healthy and well rounded.

As plant-based advocates, you’ll need to make sure that you are getting enough protein, B12 and Omega 3, since these are typically sourced from animal products. There are alternatives available, however. Plant-based protein, seitan, tofu and lentils are all good sources of protein, whilst yeast extracts and fortified plant milks provide a good source of B12. Omega 3 is actually produced by algae, not fish, so plant-based omega 3 supplements are readily available.

Since a plant-based diet involves the complete elimination of animal products as a source of nutrition, there is a heavier reliance on whole foods, such as grains, nuts, seeds and the ubiquitous fruits and vegetables. This can lead to a surplus of certain vitamins and minerals in a plant-based diet, which are harder to get hold of for people who eat a lot of animal products. Plant-based diets may also be higher in iron, coming from leafy greens like spinach.

You might also need to look at fortified cereals and plant-based milks for vitamins, such as B12 and iodine, which do not come easily with a plant based diet. You can also try taking a plant-based multivitamin to support your diet, providing essential nutrients.

It seems as though the saying ‘you are what you eat’ isn’t just something your mum said when you wanted a fourth helping of ice cream, it’s a good reminder that what we put in our bodies is what it has to work with to keep us healthy. Healthy food helps in creating a healthier you.

Sources:

https://innovativehealthandwellness.net/5-reasons-why-it-is-important-to-have-a-balanced-diet/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vegan-diet-benefits

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/

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Evolved Foods

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