NUTRITIOUS FOODS – A GUIDE TO INGREDIENTS

Today I thought I would make a bit of a different kind of post and follow up on the grocery haul post! This will be more of an all-in-one-place guide to ingredients of nutritious foods. Use it to easily search what ingredients to look for if you wish to increase a nutrient in your diet or how to simply improve your diet! This list will also constantly be updated and have more ingredients updated to it.

I do this because I truly know how much of a jungle it is when it comes to nutrition ๐Ÿ˜ตโ€๐Ÿ’ซ. Many myths, scares and trends have been created over the years. Along with this, we’ve turned towards more processed foods and tend to lose our knowledge around nutrition and what foods actually contain ๐Ÿ™ˆ. So I’m here to help rid the confusion and keep it all in ONE place!

Copyright: Disney

Macronutrient Sources: Proteins, Carbohydrates & Fats

All foods contain a combination of 3 main nutrient sources called macronutrients; proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Unless we have a certain condition, our bodies need a daily balance of all 3 macros in order to function fully and for us to feel good. How much of each depends on your personal goals! To know what balance is best for you, I’d advice to consult with a professional as this will be well worth your time, money and headache ๐Ÿ˜…

Micronutrient Sources: Vitamins & Minerals

Along with these, there is also something called micronutrients. These are the vitamins and minerals which our bodies need, but in less amount than macros, in order to function fully. Perhaps you’ve heard of magnesium being important for healthy bones and good sleep? But which foods contain magnesium? This is stuff I’ll go through here! And remember, this list will keep getting updated since there is SO MUCH to touch on! Yet, I still want the info I’ve already gathered to help you, so just make sure to pop back often! ๐Ÿ’š

Hint: If you’re searching for something specific, use Control+F/Command+F and type in what you’re searching for in the pop-up bar!

PROTEIN ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿณ๐Ÿซ˜

Most proteins contain amino acids and these are the building blocks of our cells, muscles & bones! Imagine how important it then is for us to eat enough?! Even more so if you want to build muscles. For that, muscle growth needs to be higher than muscle breakdown! Muscle growth along with protein breakdown is a constant process in our bodies, so it’s only when muscle growth is higher than breakdown that you will increase your muscle mass! ๐Ÿ’ช

Generally, multiplying your weight in kilograms by 0.8 is the amount of protein in grams which your body needs daily just to function properly. If you want to build muscles, then multiply your weight in kg by 1.6.
Example, if you weigh 60 kg you will need to eat about around 100g protein to build muscle!

PROTEIN SOURCES CAN BE:  

  • Eggs
  • Lean meats & Poultry
    – lean cuts of beef, pork and wild game
    – turkey
    – chicken
  • Dairy
    – milk
    – yogurt & quark
    – lower sodium cheeses
  • Seeds & nuts
    – peanuts
    – almonds
    – cashews
    – nut butters
    – sunflower seeds
  • Fish & shellfish
    – trout
    – cod
    – shrimp
    – salmon
    – pickerel
    – sardines
    – mackerel
  • Beans, peas & lentils
    – brown, green or red or other lentils
    – peas such as chickpeas and split peas
    – dried beans such as black beans and kidney beans
  • Soy beans & products, tofu, quorn, seitan, tempeh

AMINO ACIDS

  • The building blocks of protein and have critical roles to play!
  • They’re needed for the process of building proteins and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • They are however categorized as essential (our bodies cannot produce it on their own), conditionally essential and non-essential.
  • These acids are organic compounds made out of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

20 different amino acids are necessary for our bodies to grow and function well. All 20 are necessary, but only 9 are essential; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine – these can also not be made by your body and so need to come from your diet.

Best sources? “Unfortunately”, animal proteins like eggs, meat and poultry. However, if you are vegan, then please do some extra research and/or consult a dietitian to make sure you’re getting what you need!

Eating protein breaks it down to amino acids and these are then used to help your body with different processes like building muscle and regulating immune function.

(This is copied straight from healthline.com as there is no other way to put it! ๐Ÿ˜)

Their Roles in Your Body

The nine essential amino acids perform a number of important and varied jobs in your body:
Phenylalanine: Phenylalanine is a precursor for the neurotransmitters tyrosine, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. It plays an integral role in the structure and function of proteins and enzymes and the production of other amino acids.
Valine: Valine is one of three branched-chain amino acids, meaning it has a chain branching off to one side of its molecular structure. Valine helps stimulate muscle growth and regeneration and is involved in energy production.
Threonine: Threonine is a principal part of structural proteins such as collagen and elastin, which are important components of the skin and connective tissue. It also plays a role in fat metabolism and immune function.
Tryptophan: Though often associated with causing drowsiness, tryptophan has many other functions. Itโ€™s needed to maintain proper nitrogen balance and is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your appetite, sleep and mood.
Methionine: Methionine plays an important role in metabolism and detoxification. Itโ€™s also necessary for tissue growth and the absorption of zinc and selenium, minerals that are vital to your health.
Leucine: Like valine, leucine is a branched-chain amino acid that is critical for protein synthesis and muscle repair. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, stimulates wound healing and produces growth hormones.
Isoleucine: The last of the three branched-chain amino acids, isoleucine is involved in muscle metabolism and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue. Itโ€™s also important for immune function, hemoglobin production and energy regulation.
Lysine: Lysine plays major roles in protein synthesis, hormone and enzyme production and the absorption of calcium. Itโ€™s also important for energy production, immune function and the production of collagen and elastin.
Histidine: Histidine is used to produce histamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to immune response, digestion, sexual function and sleep-wake cycles. Itโ€™s critical for maintaining the myelin sheath, a protective barrier that surrounds your nerve cells.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • May boost mood, improve sleep and reduce symptoms of depression (from tryptophan)
  • BCAA (Branched-Chain Amino Acids) may also relieve fatigue, improve athletic performance and stimulate muscle recovery (from leucine)
  • Shown to prevent muscle breakdown & preserving lean body mass (especially effective for elderly and athletes)

CASEIN PROTEIN

Casein is a protein sourced from milk protein. This protein specifically is taken up slowly by the body which is why many recommend to take casein at night before going to bed. After a workout, it’s best to consume a protein which has a quick effect (usually whey), but while sleeping and recovering it’s best with a slow protein.

The body’s slow way of taking up the protein leads to a slower release of the amino acids in the protein, meaning that the casein will stay in your digestive system for a longer period thus provide your body with amino acids for a longer period too! 

Studies show that by increasing casein intake by 2,5 times the amount, the metabolism increases while we sleep and your body can achieve a better fat balance. Casein is a protein which also contains a high amount of calcium and calcium itself has shown to contribute with reduced subcutaneous fat, is good for healthy bones and for general health. By increasing casein intake, we can then increase the possibility to reduce fat but without going hungry.
However, always make sure you do not exceed recommended doses as this can give bad side effects. 

TIPS ON HOW TO USE:ย ย 

  • Cottage & Mozzarella cheese
  • Kefir and other yoghurts
  • Cow’s and goat’s milk
  • Cream
  • Supplements such as powder

WHEY PROTEIN

Whey is a protein sourced from milk protein. This protein is known as the “quick” protein as it’s taken up quickly by the body and so gives a fast and powerful increase in muscle production. However, it also disappears quickly from the body even if taking a big dose of it.

If you are lactose intolerant or lactose-sensitive, then try whey isolate powder as this has been filtered in a process to remove the lactose. This also results in a leaner and lower fat protein source (but then tends to cost more).

Which powder is best and works best is HIGHLY individual and the only tip I can give here is to keep trying different brands to find the best one for YOU! ๐Ÿค

CARBOHYDRATES ๐Ÿฅ–๐Ÿฅ”๐ŸŒพ

The poor macronutrient which tends to always get a bad rep! ๐Ÿ˜… However, it is CRUCIAL for your health and well-being! Usually, those who speak poorly of it are trying to sell you something, or really have no idea what they’re actually talking about. Not ALL carbohydrates are evil ๐Ÿ˜ˆ so let’s break it down so we understand them better!

Carbohydrates are your main source of energy and can be broken down into slow and fast carbs. This simply indicates how your blood sugar is affected by eating the carb (if this is good or bad is an entirely different topic for another post! ๐Ÿ™ƒ). A slow carb keeps the blood sugar level steadier and also provides us with feeling more full, whilst a fast carb increases the blood sugar level quickly but also decreases with similar speed. This is also what contributes to your cravings!

Carbs are also essential for MANY processes in your body (like brain function), so do NOT fear them. Simply try to learn as much as possible about them ๐Ÿฅฐ.

GOOD CARBOHYDRATE SOURCES CAN BE:ย ย 

  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Whole wheat versions
  • Oats & whole grains
  • Berries, banana, oranges, apples, watermelon, kiwi & many other fruits
  • Beans, peas & lentils

FIBER

This is a carbohydrate which does not get broken down by the intestines enzymes, thus passing from the small intestine to the large without providing energy to the body.

  • Helps you feel full and improves intestines process by binding fluid which eases digestion and reduces the risk for constipation (make sure to drink water!)
  • Feeds the friendly bacteria in your stomach and intestine – this keeps your stomach flora well fed which is so important to overall health
  • Doesn’t raise blood sugar levels even though it is a carbohydrate because it does not get broken down during digestion
  • Recommended intake for an adult is approximately 25-35 grams/day

TIPS ON HOW TO USE:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Lentils & beans
  • Berries, fruits and veggies

FATS ๐Ÿฅ‘๐Ÿฅœ๐ŸŒฑ

Similar to carbohydrates, fats also get a bad rep from certain groups of people. This, again, is due to a lot of misinformation and sources with different motives. Like carbohydrates, fats are a fantastic energy source! However, the main reason here is for low intensity and long endurance activities. Also just like carbohydrates, they are essential for many functions in your body (like protecting your organs & transporting fat soluble vitamins) and should therefore NOT be excluded in a healthy and well-balanced diet!

Fats can be divided into saturated and non-saturated. The saturated fat is considered the “unhealthy” version as it can lead to heart diseases if too much is consumed, whereas the non-saturated fats can lower the risks and are good for the reparation of your cells. The biggest issue is that our modern lifestyle tends to include too much of the saturated fats without us even being aware of it, so it is important to understand the difference between fats and how we can make easy adjustments for a healthier and longer life! ๐Ÿฅฐ

Important to us are the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 which are involved in several biological processes. These can be found in;
Omega-3: fat fish, algae, rapeseed, walnuts, chia, hemp, flax, soybean, avocado
Omega-6: corn oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, sesame & soy.

Olive oil, olives, rapeseed oil, nuts, avocado and seeds are also healthy monounsaturated fats and should, in a balanced ratio, be included in your diet.
This does not mean that other fats should be completely excluded from your diet, but instead to simply be aware of how much you consume of fatty dairy products, red meat, palm- & coconut oil.

FOODS & “SUPERFOODS”

CHIA SEEDS

  • Loaded with antioxidants whichย fight the production of free radicals which can damage cell molecules and contribute to aging and diseases like cancer
  • High fiber content – 40% fiber by weight, so they’re pretty much one of the best sources of fiber in the world!
  • 28 grams of chia seeds has 12 grams of carbs, BUT 11 of those grams are fiber
  • Theoretically increases fullness due to the seeds expanding when in water/fluids
  • Decent amount of protein –ย about 14% protein and compared to most plants, this is a very high number
  • Their great balance of amino acids helps making use of the proteins

TIPS ON HOW TO USE IT:

FLAX SEEDS

  • Loaded with Omega-3 essential fatty acids which are a type of healthy fats that have shown to help keep your heart healthy.
  • One of the highest amounts of lignans is found in these seeds compared to other plants. Lignans are polyphenols which are believed to have a lowered risk of heart disease, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis and breast cancer
  • High fiber content, both soluable and insoluable, helping gut health

NOTE: In Sweden ground flax seeds are not sold due to the content of hydrocyanic acid which is easier for the body to take up if the seeds are ground. Therefore I will keep to this and let know that 2 tablespoons/day is the max recommended amount for whole flax seeds

TIPS ON HOW TO USE IT:

  • Overnight oats
  • Smoothies
  • Muffins and other baked goods

VITAMINS & MINERALS

B12/B-12 VITAMIN

  • Recommended intake for an adult is approximately 2 micrograms/day, but also depends on sex, age and your current B12 levels
  • This vitamin promotes the production of red blood cells which transport oxygen to the cells, these are necessary for the cells to survive and keep doing their important job (cells don’t live forever and need to be replaced by new cells – making B12 critical for us to survive!)
  • The brain is also protected with this vitamin by giving it a mental balance while keeping up the serotonin levels (also called “the feel good hormone”). This leads to a stable mood and improved concentration

TIPS ON HOW TO USE:

  • Meats, fish, seafood and dairy products
  • From what I’ve researched, B12 can also be found in veggies and fruit but this is the kind which your body cannot absorb. Supplements are required in these cases

ZINC

  • Also known as the versatile mineral
  • Helps maintaining your skin, hair, nails and even your vision!
  • Also helps your immune system to function normally as well as protecting your sells against oxidative stress due to it being an antioxidant
  • Is important for your brain’s mental function such as learning, concentration, problem-solving and memory (also called cognitive function)
  • The body also needs it to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells

TIPS ON HOW TO USE:ย 

  • Seafood and meats, especially liver
  • Cheese
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Lentils & beans
  • Quorn
  • Whole wheat

IRON

  • A mineral necessary for growth & development!
  • Iron is needed to create hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells, and these cells transport oxygen in the blood to your organs. Having too little hemoglobin can cause anemia which can then cause tiredness, weakness and shortness of breath
  • It can also support pregnant women since the volume of blood in your body then increases, needing more iron, and helping with providing oxygen to your child

TIPS ON HOW TO USE:ย 

  • Organ meats
  • Red meat
  • Dark meat on poultry
  • Fish & seafood
  • Lentils & beans
  • Edamame & tofu
  • Spinach & beet greens
  • Cereal (usually fortified)
  • Sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds & cashew nuts

Is there anything you’re missing on the list? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to add it!

Much love, strength & happiness,
Johanna

Sources: livsmedelsverket.se, healthline.com, bodystore.com, mayoclinic.com, fitnessguru.com, webmd.com