What are the Good Rules of Nutrition?

In my line of work most clients who visit me feel overwhelmed by the much information as regards nutrition that is out there. I fault no one as nutrition is a relatively new science and understanding food science is a tall order for most lay people.

A client of mine one day commented that after assessing the many aspects of his wellness he came to the conclusion that nutrition was the missing link. He felt that if he was to eat better, he could feel better, have more energy and improve his gym workouts. I could identify with his dilemma given the amount of misinformation that is out as regards what to eat in our grab and go culture where time is a limited resource.

This got me thinking about what guideline to apply in helping my clients make better choices and to apply this knowledge on day to day basis without feeling like they are on a diet. The most important lesson being to learn that eating and nourishing are two different aspects of nutrition. Picture this: you are scheduled for a meeting at lunch time and without much thought you just decide to take the meeting which goes on well for over 2 ½ hours – 1 ½ hours longer than planned! The last meal you had was breakfast at 6.30 am and haven’t had time to take a midmorning snack...that means that at 2.30 pm (7 hours later) you have not had anything to eat. It’s my guess that you will be famished and will be dying to eat anything for that matter. The only available food is cookies and without much thought you take the cookies together with a soda. In this case you have eaten and drank but you certainly have not nourished nor hydrated. When we talk about nourishment what we mean is the intake of vitamins, fiber and minerals in the right amounts to build our bodies and improve our overall health.

Talking about rules we need to follow to achieve success in the way we eat we look at the rules as presented by Dr.John M.Berardi of Precision Nutrition and renowned author of “ Precision Nutrition: strategies for good success”.

Below, I have listed the 10 Rules of Good Nutrition by Dr.John Berardi:

1. Eat every 2-3 hours.
I wonder how many of us conform to this rule given the hectic schedules we have planned each day of our lives. It isn’t practical to eat a full meal every 2-3 hours but we need to eat 6-8 meals and snacks that conform to the other rules below. An easy way to do this is to plan for our meals well in advance and carry these snacks to the office.

2. Eat complete, lean protein each time you eat.
An easy practical way to ensure we follow this rule is to consume a protein source every time we eat especially the main meals. It could be from animal or plant source for vegetarians and here am thinking foods such as milk, nuts, legumes, chicken among others.

3. Eat vegetables every time you eat.
Now for many people this is a tall order and something most detested by children and adults alike. An easy way to incorporate vegetables in your meals is to consider carrying cut pieces of cucumber and ordering kachumbari with your meals if you eat in a restaurant. Remember that we are blessed with abundant greens throughout the year and you will not miss to see a green across many restaurants (apart from the fish and chips ones!)

4. Eat carbohydrates only when you deserve to.
Carbohydrates have been demonized for quite a while for no other reason but the misunderstanding that exists. One thing is for sure fruits and vegetables do constitute carbohydrates but the good thing about them is that they are packed with minerals and vitamin goodness. The rule here is that you can eat all the other carbohydrates that are not a fruit or vegetable such as pasta, potatoes, rice etc. But the catch is that you need to consume these after exercise when our bodies are at optimum to absorb nutrients and the carbohydrates will replenish the muscle stores. As for the rest of the day do stick to your lean protein and sumptuous selection of fruits and vegetables.

5. Learn to love healthy fats.
I think most people are scared to mention the word fat in food in a sentence and this does not need to be so. Our bodies do require all the 3 types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated in a healthy balance (about equal parts of each). Achieving this balance can dramatically improve your health, and even help you lose fat. Most saturated fat is found in animal products while monounsaturated fat sources include mixed nuts, olives, avocados and olive oil. Vegetable oils such as corn oil, flaxseed oils provide polyunsaturated fat in addition to fish oil and mixed nuts.

6. Divorce the calorie containing drinks (including fruit juice).
If there is a place that moderation applies it’s in the context of calorie containing drinks that we love so much. Talking about fruit juice, alcoholic drinks, and sodas these should be consumed occasionally and not on daily basis.

7. Focus on whole foods.

One thing that is for sure as the population continues to grow so does the food industry with concentration on packaging and preserving food. It’s in this process that the wholesomeness of foods is altered to ensure longevity (extended shelf life). But not all is lost and we do still have access to foods that are wholesome and our diets should consist of these most of the time.

We should limit our intake of processed foods but keep in mind that there will be instances where supplement drinks and shakes can be taken.

Why It's Important To Wash Your Hands

I am at the Ngara market. A few metres ahead there is a middle aged man who is roasting maize. He is dressed in a grey shirt and a black trouser and black shoes. He is sweating as a result of the scorching sun and of the hot coals burning from his improvised jiko.He coughs a bit and does not cover his mouth. He rubs off the sweat out of his forehead with his hands to reach out to an old plastic plate which he is using to light the fire.

A woman wants to buy some maize. The man responds “30 shillings for a whole maize and 15 shillings for a half one.’’ The woman removes some coins from her pocket and hands it over to the man. He smilingly gives her the roasted maize. The woman requests to have the maize cut into two so as to share with her friend. The man quickly cuts it into two and gives it back to her.

I can feel the pangs of hunger.  As I walk past them I notice this dark man with a wrinkled face who is also roasting some green maize. He is wearing a checked shirt, a black trouser and sandals. He has roasted some maize which is waiting to be bought. His hands are dirty and he’s using them to turn the one which is now roasting. He keeps touching the roasted maize with his bare hands. Though hungry and desiring to eat maize, I don’t. I think of the health risk factor.

How many people are conscious about washing hands every time they come into contact with food? How many care about their health? Simple hygiene can help keep germs away and save lives. We all know that the environment has a profound effect on our health and quality of life. If the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat is not hygienically clean, we stand high chances of developing sicknesses.

What is hygiene? Wikipedia defines hygiene as “a set of practices performed for the preservation of health. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between different cultures, genders and etesian groups. Some regular hygienic practices may be considered good habits by a society while the neglect of hygiene can be considered disgusting, disrespectful or even threatening.’’

A lot of people who sell food, fruits, and vegetables don’t practice proper hygiene when handling them. You can see someone pricking his nose and going ahead to touch fruits which he is selling with the same hands. This is one way of spreading germs to other people.

The fruits vendors are busy selling all types of fruits. Some people prefer buying fruits and eating them as they walk home. The fruits have not been washed but the outer skin is removed by a knife. The vendors are not wearing gloves. The knife which they are using to remove the outer skin is not washed before use. House flies are landing of the knives and enjoying the juice that gets stuck on the edges.

But if you carried around a microscope, there are a whole lot of things you'd be hesitant to rub all over your hands.Keep that in mind when you are buying that maize cob or that mango; make sure that they are hygienically clean. This is a wakeup call to all of us to be cautious when touching things with our hands. You never know exactly when your hands will get into contacts with harmful germs that can compromise your health.

I am left wondering whether people know that the simple act of observing hygiene can keep them free from germs. Each day our hands are exposed to dirty surfaces. The act of shaking hands, sneezing and coughing with a handkerchief leaves germs on the hands and if one does not wash their hands after that, they can transfer them to everything they touch be it fruits cups, places, spoons. These germs can then be transferred to the mouth when one eats these foods which has been touched by the dirty hands.

What should be done to ensure that we don’t come into contact with germs on daily basis? By washing our hands with soap. The Pan American Health Organisation sums it up well : “Turning hand washing with soap before eating and after using the toilet into a habit could better keep people from germs and sicknesses than any single vaccine or medical intervention, cutting deaths from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter. A vast change in hand washing behaviour is critical to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing deaths among children under the age of five by two-thirds by 2015.”