Anatomy of a Healthy Plate- Guest Blogger Rebecca Gray

Take a moment to review the above plate. Then take a moment to reflect on your unique plate. How closely does your current diet and lifestyle reflect the above plate? What similarities do you notice? What differences do you see?

Industry standards and busy lifestyles have shifted the modern-day plate to incorporate larger portions, fewer vegetables, and increased amounts of fat and sodium. All which all are considerable contributors to weight gain, obesity, and disease. Food Changes Everything!

Food affects your whole being. The saying is true; you are what you eat. Let me explain why food enters the bloodstream, and blood is what creates your cells, tissues, and organs. Food has the power to regenerate the new you!

The world of diets and dietary theories is complicated and can be overwhelming. However, people need to understand what works best for them individually. Eating a diet made of whole foods, and no, not just anything you purchase from the Whole Foods grocery store. I mean more fruits and vegetables, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and drinking more water.

Now, forget about how your plate compared and let’s re-learn how to build your plate the healthy way!

Your plate should be made up of mostly vegetables! Specifically, green veggies! Those are the foods most commonly missing in modern diets. Learning to incorporate dark, leafy greens into your diet is essential to establishing a healthy body and immune system. When you nourish yourself with greens, you may naturally crowd out the foods that make you sick. Greens help strengthen the blood and respiratory system. Leafy green vegetables are also high-alkaline foods, which may be beneficial to people exposed to higher amounts of pollution in urban areas.

Nutritionally, greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll, and many other micro-nutrients and phytochemicals. Although choosing organic is recommended, eating non-organic greens is still preferable to not eating any greens at all!

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming dark, leafy greens are:

  • Blood purification
  • Cancer prevention
  • Improved circulation
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Promotion of healthy intestinal flora • Improved liver, gall bladder, also, kidney function
  • Clears congestion, especially in lungs by reducing mucus.

Eating fruit provides excellent health benefits. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body. Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories; and are full of sources of many essential nutrients such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure.

Dietary fiber from fruits, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.  Vitamin C is essential for growth and repair of all body tissues, helps heal cuts and wounds, and keeps teeth and gums healthy.

Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods,

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming fruits are:

May reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.

  • May protect against certain types of cancers.
  • May reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • May lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.

Carbohydrates​ ​can​ ​be​ ​confusing and scary to some people. That is mainly because not​ ​all​ ​of them​ ​are​ ​created​ ​equally.​ ​You​ ​find​ ​them​ ​in​ ​the​ ​usual​ ​suspects:​ ​bread,​ ​cereals,​ ​crackers​ ​, and​ ​pasta.​ ​You also​ ​find​ ​them​ ​in​ ​whole​ ​grains,​ ​fruits,​ ​vegetables,​ ​legumes,​ ​beans​ ​, and​ ​dairy.​ ​Your​ ​body​ ​needs carbohydrates​ ​to​ ​function​ ​optimally!  ​The​ healthy ​carbohydrates​ ​you​ ​eat​ ​are​ ​broken​ ​down​ ​into​ ​glucose, which​ ​is​ ​the​ ​primary​ ​fuel​ ​your​ ​body​ ​uses​ ​for​ ​energy​ ​and​ ​to​ ​carry​ ​out​ ​normal​ ​cellular​ ​processes.​ ​We​ ​cannot​ ​live​ ​on​ ​fats​ ​and​ ​proteins​ ​alone​. That is because too​ ​much​ ​time​ ​without​ ​some​ ​carbs​ ​on​ ​your plate​ ​will​ ​leave​ ​you​ ​sluggish,​ ​tired, ​ ​and​ ​inefficient​ ​at​ ​getting​ ​through​ ​the​ ​day. So what kind of grains are best? Complex carbohydrates! I am specifically​ ​talking​ ​about​ ​carbs​ ​that​ ​come​ ​from​ ​ ​whole​ ​grains. Whole grains ​ ​are​ ​made​ ​up​ ​of​ ​​all parts​ ​of​ ​the​ ​grain:​ ​the​ ​​bran​​ ​(the​ ​fiber-rich​ ​outer​ ​layer),​ ​the​ ​​endosperm​​ ​(the​ ​middle​ ​section)​ ​and​ ​the germ​​ ​(the​ ​nutrient-rich​ ​inner​ ​part).​ ​When​ ​grains​ ​are​ ​milled ​ ​or​ ​refined,​ ​the​ ​bran​ ​and​ ​germ​ ​portions are​ ​removed,​ ​leaving​ ​only​ ​the​ ​endosperm​ ​(what​ ​you​ ​get​ ​when​ ​you​ ​eat​ ​white​ ​bread).​ ​The​ ​endosperm is​ ​mostly​ ​empty​ ​carbohydrate​ ​calories.​ ​Yes,​ ​you​ ​need​ ​carbs​ ​for​ ​energy,​ ​but​ ​you’re​ ​losing​ ​the benefits​ ​of​ ​the​ ​whole​ ​grain​ ​when​ ​you​ ​go​ ​for​ ​refined.​ ​Most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​carbohydrates​ ​in​ ​a​ ​healthful​ ​meal​ ​plan​ ​should come​ ​in​ ​the​ ​form​ ​of​ ​​veggies,​ ​fruits,​ ​yogurt,​ ​beans,​ ​legumes​ ​​, and​​ ​whole​ ​grains​.​ ​These carbohydrate-rich​ ​foods​ ​tend​ ​to​ ​be​ ​the​ ​most​ ​nutrient-dense​ ​choices.​ ​Like​ ​millet,​ ​quinoa, ​spelt​, ​or​ ​cracked​ ​wheat.​ ​Whole​ ​wheat​ ​bread,​ ​brown​ ​rice,​ ​and​ ​whole-wheat​ ​pasta​ ​are also​ ​good​ ​sources​ ​of​ ​carbohydrates. ​However,​ ​their​ ​whole​ ​grains​ ​are​ ​processed​ ​, and​ ​therefore,​ ​some nutrients​ ​are​ ​lost.​ It is important to mention that whole grains are not for everyone — especially those who have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming whole grains are:

  • High in nutrients and fiber.
  • May lower your risk of heart disease
  • May lower your risk of stroke
  • Support a healthy digestion
  • May reduce chronic inflammation
  • Bodies #1 energy source

Proteins are considered the building blocks of life. Our skin, bones, muscles, hair, nails, and cartilage are mainly made of proteins. Most enzymes and hormones in our bodies are also proteins. Our protein needs shift as our activity levels change and throughout our life cycle. We​ ​need​ ​the​ ​most​ ​protein​ ​when​ ​we​ ​are​ ​growing​ ​(childhood​ ​and​ ​pregnancy)​ ​and repairing​ ​(injury​ ​or​ ​recovery​ ​from​ ​intense​ ​strength​ ​training).​ Protein has many functions in the body, aside from just giving us energy. It helps provide structure to our tissues and cells, supports our immunity, and even helps support growth. Protein​ ​quality​ ​usually​ ​refers​ ​to the​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​essential​ ​amino​ ​acids​ ​found​ ​in​ ​the​ ​food.​ ​There are two types of dietary protein: complete and incomplete. Protein that comes from animal food is considered a complete protein because it contains all essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins are typically lacking in one or two of these essential amino acids, which is why this form of protein is considered incomplete.  Animal​ ​proteins,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​beef,​ ​eggs,​ ​chicken, fish​ ​, and​ ​poultry,​ ​contain​ ​high​ ​levels​ ​of​ ​all​ ​of​ ​the​ ​essential​ ​amino​ ​acids,​ ​and​ ​so​ ​they​ ​are​ ​referred​ ​to​ ​as complete​ ​proteins​.​ ​Soy-based​ ​foods,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​tofu​ ​and​ ​tempeh,​ ​quinoa​ ​and​ ​hemp​ ​are​ ​also considered​ ​complete.​ ​Many​ ​plant​ ​foods​ ​such​ ​as legumes,​ ​rice,​ ​beans​ ​, and​ ​nuts​ ​do​ ​not​ ​contain​ ​all​ ​the​ ​essential​ ​amino​ ​acids​ ​in​ ​high​ ​amounts​ ​and​ ​may be​ ​referred​ ​to​ ​as​ ​​incomplete​ ​proteins. Many people are concerned that they don’t get enough protein, but most can easily obtain adequate protein from their diets, whether or not they consume animal foods.

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming lean proteins are:

  • Builds and repairs body structure
  • Supports a healthy metabolism
  • Encourages weight loss and maintenance
  • Improves overall health

Health fats, also known as lipids, are necessary for our diets to achieve optimal health. Although fat might be a scary word to some, remember that the quality and type of fat we’re eating plays a significant role in our health and that by avoiding it, we’re doing ourselves a disservice. Healthy fats you want to include are called monounsaturated fats, like those in the Mediterranean Diet. Things like avocado, chia seeds, olive oil, nut, and seeds. They help are heart-healthy and help to support “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Polyunsaturated fatty acids found in the form of  Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential to our diets because we can’t synthesize them in the body. There are three main types of omega-3s: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Omega-3s help reduce inflammation, support heart health, reduce symptoms of depression, and reduce the risk of cancer. Western diets tend to be high in omega-6 (linoleic acid) and lacking in omega-3, which has been shown to promote inflammation. Good sources of EPA and DHA are salmon tuna, walnuts, and chia seeds. Health benefits aside, fat helps our food taste delicious and because fat takes longer to digest, keeps us feeling satisfied after a meal.  As a good rule of thumb stay away from fats in the forms of saturated or trans fats found in processed foods, fatty meats, or fried foods.

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming healthy fats are:

  • Supports proper brain development
  • Provides cushioning and insulation for internal organs
  • Plays a role in hormone synthesis
  • Help support cardiovascular and neurological health

Hydration another essential part of your healthy plate! Water​ ​makes​ ​up​ ​50​ ​to​ ​60%​ ​of​ ​your​ ​body​ ​weight​ ​, and​ ​every​ ​system​ ​in​ ​your​ ​body​ ​depends​ ​on​ ​water​ ​to function.​ ​Two-thirds​ ​of​ ​the​ ​water​ ​in​ ​the​ ​body​ ​is​ ​within​ ​cells​ ​, and​ ​about​ ​one-third​ ​is​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​cells​ ​as the extracellular​ ​fluid,​ ​circulating​ ​in​ ​the blood,​ ​between​ ​cells​ ​and​ ​inside​ ​organs.​ ​You​ ​need​ ​water​ ​to​ ​make everything​ ​in​ ​your​ ​body​ ​happen,​ ​including​ ​proper​ ​nutrition.​ ​Water​ ​flushes​ ​toxins​ ​and​ ​wastes​ ​out​ ​of organs,​ ​helps​ ​carry​ ​oxygen​ ​and​ ​nutrients​ ​to​ ​cells, ​ ​and​ ​provides​ ​a​ ​healthy​ ​environment​ ​for​ ​tissues.

​Not​ ​getting​ ​enough​ ​water​ ​leads​ ​to dehydration,​ ​a​ ​dangerous​ ​state​ ​for​ ​your​ ​body​ ​to​ ​be​ ​in.​ ​During​ ​periods​ ​of​ ​dehydration,​ ​your​ ​body can’t​ ​carry​ ​out​ ​normal​ ​functions​ ​and​ ​begins​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​tired​ ​and​ ​drained.​ We’ve​ ​all​ ​heard​ ​the​ ​rule​ ​”8​ ​glasses​ ​of​ ​water​ ​a​ ​day”! Still,​ ​it’s​ ​not​ ​a​ ​bad​ ​mantra​ ​to​ ​live by​ ​, and​ ​I​ ​often​ ​give​ ​my​ ​clients​ ​the​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​8​ ​glasses​ ​a​ ​day​ ​as​ ​it’s​ ​pretty​ ​easy​ ​to​ ​remember, ​ ​and​ ​it​ ​is adequate​ ​for​ ​most​ ​people.​ There​ ​are​ ​lots​ ​of​ ​other​ ​ways​ ​to​ ​get​ ​your​ ​fluid​ ​in​ ​than​ ​just​ ​plain​ ​old​ ​H2O.​ ​Lots​ ​of​ ​foods​ ​are​ ​packed with​ ​water​ ​, and​ ​other​ ​healthy​ ​beverages can​ ​count​ ​towards​ ​your​ ​daily​ ​dose​ ​of liquid.​ ​Most​ ​fruits​ ​and​ ​vegetables​ ​have​ ​incredibly​ ​high​ ​water​ ​content​ ​-​ ​some​ ​can​ ​be​ ​up​ ​to​ ​96%​ ​water! Think of cucumbers, melons, celery, grapefruit, iceberg lettuce, or herbal teas.

Some of the proven and possible benefits of consuming water are:

  • Lubricates the joints
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Flushes out wastes
  • Maintains blood pressure

So, now that you know the anatomy of a healthy plate, you can eat empowered! By that I mean you can feel​ ​empowered​ ​putting​ ​the​ ​most​ ​nutrient-rich​ ​foods​ ​in​ ​your​ ​body.​ ​It’s​ ​not,​ ​”I​ ​can’t​ ​eat​ ​the chocolate​ ​cake.”​ ​It’s,​ ​”I​ ​can​ ​eat​ ​the​ ​blueberries!”​ ​​ ​When​ ​you​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​how​ ​good​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​fueling yourself​ ​with​ ​the​ ​best​ ​foods,​ ​you​ ​will​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​be​ ​motivated​ ​to​ ​eat​ ​these​ ​foods.​ ​The​ ​benefits​ ​will follow—I’m​ ​talking​ ​everything​ ​from​ ​weight​ ​loss​ ​to​ ​skin​ ​health.​ ​When​ ​you​ ​eat​ ​well,​ ​you​ ​feel​ ​good​ ​and​ ​live good!

Rebecca Gray, Holistic Health Coach of Faithfully Rooted in Health

“Eating clean food, breathing deeply and moving intentionally throughout the day  are the centerpiece of my personal health plan.  My passion is helping mamas [and others] cultivate these habits into their lives. It is not just about food and exercise. Yes, both are important,  but family, faith, work, money and the environment we create matter too. Agreed?  We will be discussing all facets of a wholesome life in the days ahead.

So, whether you are one hot mess and need to get on track with healthy living or you are on track and need encouragement to stay there, I can help. Lets live healthy and whole, TOGETHER!”

For recipes or more information, please visit me at www.faithfullyrootedinhealth.com

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Sources:

Medical News Today https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/290814.php

Oregon State University https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/publications/rx-health

BistroMD https://www.bistromd.com/nutrition/the-4-major-benefits-of-eating-lean-protein-and-the-best-ones-to-eat

Healthline https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-of-whole-grains#section11

Integrated Institute of Nutrition https://www.integrativenutrition.com

Nutritious Life https://nutritiouslife.com

123RF Images https://www.123rf.com/photo_77515012_stock-vector-healthy-plate-concept-vector-illustration-of-balanced-meal.html