Let’s be honest, food is the best! Many people in the westernised world revolve their days around food, their social activities will often involve some sort of eating and food is, for many, the source of great joy.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the average UK household (2.4 people) spends £3,150 on groceries and £1,600 on restaurants and takeaways every year, and while many people are happy to part with £400 a month on edible delights, if their food choices are not smart, they could find themselves eating their way to somewhere far less appealing than their local eatery.
If you’re keen to enjoy life to the full for as long as possible, you may need to start reflecting on your diet, but what exactly should you eat and what area of health will it help? Let’s explore…
Key vitamins: fibre, calcium, chloride
Key foods: aloe vera, dairy, soya beans, tomatoes and celery
Today (29th May) is actually World Digestive Health Day and according to the World Gastroenterology Organisation, one third of the world’s population suffer from some form of digestive symptom. Symptoms range from bloating to serious medical conditions, but any symptom can affect the general wellbeing and quality of life of an individual.
There are several factors that may affect the health of your gut and your overall digestive system, but diet certainly can play its part in the equation. A normal, healthy and balanced diet that’s rich in fibre should be sufficient, but calcium and chloride have also both been identified as holding particular digestive benefits.
Calcium contributes to the normal function of digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes are responsible for breaking down food molecules into smaller molecules so that they can then be absorbed by digestive organs and into the bloodstream. There are three main digestive enzymes: protease (responsible for breaking down protein), lipase (responsible for breaking down fat), and amylase (responsible for breaking down carbs). If your body is unable to make enough of these enzymes you could develop digestive disorders, so it’s important to ensure you’re getting plenty of calcium. Calcium can be found in dairy, broccoli, cabbage, soya beans, nuts and sardines.
Chloride also contributes to normal digestion by the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Hydrochloric acid is essential for digestion since it kills harmful bacteria so that bacterial overgrowth cannot occur; it also activates an enzyme that helps to digest protein. Chloride is found in sea salt, tomatoes, lettuce, celery and olives.
Aloe vera is also a beneficial digestive aid since it supports gastrointestinal health, and while we’re not expecting you to chop up this leafy plant and have it on your salad, you can get aloe vera drinking gels that are perfect for adding aloe goodness to your diet. If it’s results you’re after, you’ll want to choose drinks that contain pure inner leaf aloe vera gel, and the higher the percentage the better. Forever Aloe Vera Gel contains 99.7% pure inner leaf aloe.
BLOOD & HEART HEALTH
Key vitamins: ALA, pectin, beta-glucan, chromium, potassium, EPA and DHA
Key foods: low sodium, mushrooms, nuts, fruit, fish, whole grain
Everyone knows how important an organ the heart is. The heart pumps about five litres of blood around the body every day; this blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to other organs and body parts, taking away waste products on the way. Problems with your heart and circulation system can lead to various nasty illnesses and various conditions of the blood can put you at higher risk. High cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight are all factors that can make a difference, as can alcohol consumption. Often these risk factors can be addressed through a few simple dietary changes.
Choosing foods that are low in or contain a reduced amount of saturated fatty acids, or choosing unsaturated fats like avocado, fatty fish, nuts and olive oil, contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Saturated fats that you need to avoid include cheese, butter and fatty meat. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), beta-glucans and pectins can also contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Walnuts, soybeans and pumpkin seeds are sources of ALA, mushrooms and oats are high in beta-glucan, and pears, apples and citrus fruits are packed with pectins.
Reducing your consumption of sodium will contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure, as will foods that are high in potassium, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA also contribute to the normal function of the heart and to the maintenance of normal blood triglyceride levels; foods rich in EPA and DHA include fatty fish, seaweed and algae. Bananas, dried fruit and potatoes will provide you with potassium.
Your blood’s glucose level is another area that is often monitored to ensure good health. Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, so add foods like broccoli, potatoes, green beans and wholegrain products to your diet. Consuming pectins and resistant starches (pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas) with your meal will also help to reduce the blood glucose rise after that meal.
MUSCLE AND BONE HEALTH
Key vitamins: calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and protein
Key foods: citrus fruits, berries, spinach, quinoa, whole wheat and lean meat
Without our muscles and bones, we wouldn’t be able to effectively move around and interact with people and objects. Thankfully there are many nutrients that assist with the function of bones and muscles, most notably calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and protein.
The musculoskeletal system is made up of muscles, joints and 206 bones (in adults). This structure helps to provide people with shape, hold them upright and protect their organs, and injury to any part of the musculoskeletal system can cause pain and make you feel quite uncomfortable. Protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and vitamins D and K are needed for the maintenance of normal bones. Calcium and vitamin D also help to reduce the loss of bone mineral in post-menopausal women – low bone mineral density is a risk factor for osteoporotic bone fractures. Vitamin C is also useful since it contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of bones. Lost collagen in bones, which usually makes up 90% of its organic matrix, can lead to bone fragility. Citrus fruits and berries will give you plenty of vitamin C.
Magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin D also contribute to normal muscle function. Magnesium-rich foods include spinach, quinoa, whole wheat flour produce, almonds, cashews and peanuts. High protein foods are also essential for muscles; protein contributes to a growth in and to the maintenance of muscle mass. Lean meats, seafood, beans, eggs, nuts and seeds are all rich in protein.
SKIN AND HAIR HEALTH
Key vitamins: B vitamins, selenium, copper and zinc
Key foods: whole grains, meat, eggs, legumes, beans, tuna and aloe vera
The health of your skin and hair may not seem as essential as your heart or bones, but when your external appearance impacts things like self-confidence, mental health and overall wellbeing, it’s important to take note of what can be of benefit.
According to Mintel, British women spent a total of £1.15 billion on skincare products in 2017 and this figure continues to rise. This implies that the public are concerned with skin health and are constantly trying to find ways to improve their complexions, but actually a balanced diet alongside high quality skincare could be the answer they’ve been waiting for.
Your skin is a sensitive organ that protects all the other organs and cells in the body from external aggravants like pollution, bacteria and environmental irritants. Sebum, also referred to as the acid mantle, is a natural oil that covers the skin’s surface and it exists to protect the skin from damage caused by the sun, the wind and by dehydration. It also helps to prevent bacterial growth thanks to its surface pH of 5.5. Unfortunately pH can easily become unbalanced and sometimes harsh cleansers and heavily fragranced skincare products can be the cause.
Aloe vera is an excellent skincare product since it also carries a pH of 5.5, but it is also beneficial for skin when consumed. Aloe vera can benefit skin health from the inside out – another reason to drink the inner most gel. If you’re not sure about the plain gel, Forever Aloe Peaches and Forever Berry Nectar are great fruity alternatives that will still provide you with a high percentage of inner aloe gel.
Other skin-loving nutrients to add to your menu include biotin, niacin, vitamin A, iodine, riboflavin and zinc – all these contribute to the maintenance of normal skin. Most of these are B vitamins and B vitamins can be found in whole grains, meat, eggs and legumes. Vitamin C is also important since it contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of skin. Collagen diminishes with age and collagen loss can lead to fine lines and wrinkles, so you definitely want to consume as much vitamin C as possible.
To enhance your beauty further, turn to copper, selenium and zinc. Copper contributes to normal hair (and skin) pigmentation; selenium contributes to the maintenance of normal hair, and both selenium and zinc contribute to the maintenance of normal nails. Selenium foods include mushrooms, beans and tuna while nuts, seeds and dark chocolate will provide you with copper.
Key vitamins: iron, vitamin C, B vitamins, iodine, DHA and zinc
Key foods: bananas, seafood, meat, eggs, dairy and nuts
Do you remember when you were sitting your exams at school and your mum told you bananas were ‘brain food’? I also recall fish being referred to as ‘brain food’ but I guess that’s not quite so desirable at 7am (unless you’re a fan of kippers!).
Bananas are rich in various nutrients including magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin, niacin and iron. All these nutrients contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, while magnesium, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin C also contribute to normal psychological function. Bananas also contain 30g of carbohydrate; carbohydrates contribute to the maintenance of normal brain function. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) also contributes to maintenance of normal brain function, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are full of this omega-3 fat, so perhaps that’s why fish also sports the ‘brain food’ label.
Other brain-loving nutrients to look out for include iodine, zinc and pantothenic acid. Iodine and zinc contribute to normal cognitive function, and pantothenic acid contributes to normal mental performance. Cognitive functions are mental processes that allow everyday tasks to be carried out. Orientation (the ability for someone to be aware of their surroundings), gnosis (the ability for the brain to recognise past learnt information), executive functions (abilities vital for daily life, such as planning, reasoning and time management), praxis (the ability to gesture and make movement), visuospatial (the ability to mentally perceive dimensions), language, memory, social skills, and the ability to adopt an appropriate state of awareness are all cognitive functions. Meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs and whole grains are all sources of zinc. Cod, tuna and dairy produce are rich in iodine. Pantothenic acid can be found in beef, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk, mushrooms, whole grains and chickpeas.
EAT YOURSELF HEALTHY
As you have read, a balanced diet will provide you with all the nutrients you need to remain healthy. Plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, fish, lean meat and seafood will cover all the nutritional bases, but if there is a particular health concern you have, you must ensure you visit your doctor to get a professional analysis and medical tests. In the meantime, stay away from sugary snacks, fatty foods, processed and convenience meals, alcohol and salty dishes and you can rest assured knowing your diet is providing you with plenty of goodness.
What’s your favourite health food? Let us know in the comments.