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What Should I Eat?

Marilyn D'Andrea

Taking classes at Sana Vita is very important but it's equally important to make sure that what you are eating is not ruining all of your hard work.  What exactly should I do? Avoid fats. Eat fats, but avoid carbohydrates. Make sure you eat enough protein! Take Vitamin B-12, C and D, but be careful of A and E! Oh wait, do you really need to take Vitamin D, and is E really a concern? Okay fine just a multi-vitamin will do...or is it necessary?

With all this information being thrown at us in our information-overload society, it’s no wonder we’re all confused! The first step to being able to decipher your way through it is to understand some of the basics of macro- and micro-nutrients, and what roles they play within the body.

Whole carbohydrate food rich in vitamins and minerals should be the primary source in one’s diet: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans/legumes and dairy (which also contain protein). These wholesome, complex carbohydrate foods have the highest nutritional value and contain only naturally occurring sugars along with the vitamins, minerals and fiber. They contain longer, complex sugar chains that take longer to digest, are not always fully digested, and generally elicit a lower glycemic response.

Simple, more refined carbohydrates can help improve palatability of foods, are usually easier to digest, provide a quick energy source and help in hastening recovery from intense activity. The key is not to allow them to replace wholesome carbohydrates in the everyday diet. There are a variety of factors that affect carbohydrate needs in particular, including genetics, body size/composition, gender, specific activity demands, overall activity level and personal goals.

Proteins play many key roles within the body, including as enzymes, hormones, antibodies, transporters and structural components; for fluid/electrolyte balance, acid-base balance, blood clotting, and they even provide some of the fuel for the body’s energy needs. One of the most well-known and talked about functions of protein is in providing muscles with the amino acids they need to re-synthesize and rebuild new cells. Protein can be found in a variety of foods, although most abundantly in meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and soy products; and to a lesser extent in beans/legumes, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables.

Whey, casein, egg (whites), and animal protein in general tend to be considered higher quality and “complete” protein sources since they are comprised of all the essential amino acids. Soy protein is considered the highest quality plant source, although other plant sources of protein (i.e., pea, rice, hemp, etc.) can add to an overall varied, balanced, healthy diet.

However, contrary to popular belief, more protein is not better! In fact, moderation is the key, and there aren’t any credible recommendations that go above 0.8-1.0 g per pound for active individuals. If building muscle is the goal, adequate overall calories and exercise stimulus, especially resistance training, are the most important factors.

Fat increases satiety, helps one feel full longer, helps with hormone production and improves micronutrient and antioxidant absorption. Above all, fat is integral to the structure of the cells within the body.

So if “fat-phobia” creeps in and one cuts back too much, fatigue, chronic hunger, irritability, inability to feel full, depression, weakened immune system and increased injury risk can result. Don’t be afraid of adding healthy fats to the diet, from cooking with a variety of oils to adding nuts, seeds, or avocados as a snack, topping, or in a smoothie or recipe. Just remember they are calorically dense, so a little goes a long way!

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, while the B-Vitamins, and Vitamin C are water soluble. They are catalysts that are needed for metabolic processes, but do not themselves provide direct energy. Minerals are divided into macro-minerals and trace elements; the body needs about 20 different minerals in order to function properly.

A general multi-vitamin ( is a good source) on a daily basis is also a good “insurance” consideration for most people. Ideally, however, it is a good idea to first build a solid food foundation; trying to get vitamins and minerals from real food first, through a highly balanced diet full of a variety of nutrient-dense, whole foods.


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