How much do we really know about diet? Are we still basing it off our grade school memory of the Canada Food Guide? For the most part, that’s where my mind goes to when I think about a healthy diet. I remember the four major food groups: Fruits and Vegetables are one, Proteins are another, then Dairy, and then Grains and Cereals. Eat three balanced meals throughout your day based on these groups and we should be good to go – I won’t argue that. BUT, is there more to it? Is there a smarter way to construct your diet?
We know that some foods are ‘super foods’ when it comes to things like energy, such as bananas, or nuts, where other foods like tomatoes and avocados are high in lycopenes, and bright coloured vegetables like red peppers are rich in antioxidants that may help fight against certain types of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Spicy foods like chili peppers can help you expel toxins from you system, while omega 3 fatty acids are another good example of our new perspective of a healthy diet with good fats vs. bad fats. Of course these are only a few examples but if you think about it for a minute, you’ll probably find that you can quickly come up with a so called ‘super food’ for almost every goal, whether that be weight gain, weight loss, cancer fighting, cardiovascular health, maintenance of brain function, skin and hair care, eyesight, and the list goes on… So with all this food specific knowledge, the average person can make more sophisticated dietary decisions as they forage the local grocery stores than say 20-30 years ago. But is there still more to it? You bet…
More than just the individual foods we choose, the food combinations are important as well. We can to start asking, how are our foods reacting, or counteracting? Some good examples of this would be tomatoes with olive oil. This combination works especially well because the fats in the olive oil help the body to absorb the antioxidants (carotenoids) in the tomatoes. When it comes to fruits, a variety or mix is better than any single fruit alone when it comes to antioxidants in that they can have a positive compounding effect. Garlic and fish is another combination that you might want to make note of because the two together deliver a lower level of the LDL cholesterol that can come from natural fish oils. Again, this is just a short list of the kinds of food combinations that can have a marked impact on the health potential of your regular diet.
If you’re interested in reading more about this there is tons of information out there. I’ve included some links below to get you started. I find this stuff really interesting and one food combination I read about recently that really impressed me involved the relationship between carbohydrate absorption, protein intake and hydration. Apparently there is a sort of ‘magic cocktail’ that you want within the 30-60 minutes following your workout because your body is primed for carbohydrate and protein absorption – your body wants to get busy repairing itself. The magic ratio is 4:1 carbohydrate to protein and the reason is that the protein helps the body absorb the carbs more easily. What’s more though, is that you may want to make sure the protein source is a whey protein, which also helps with hydration. That’s killing 3 birds with one stone.