Food Component Basics
It can be important to have an understanding of our basic food components to learn how these can affect mood and general functioning. Richmond Psychology would like to present some basic information on the topic.
Carbohydrates are one of three main sources of energy, aside from protein and fats. They are digested and turned into glucose so they can be transported around the body and turned into energy. Carbs are in most of the foods we eat and there are three main types:
- sugars (in honey, fruits),
- starches (in bread, pasta, cereal) and
- dietary fiber (in vegetables, seeds, and nuts).
Carbohydrates are generally the most primary and most efficient energy source. They are essential for our muscles, central nervous system, and brain. Not eating enough carbohydrates can lead to decreased concentration and difficulty in regulating our emotions.
Carbohydrates also allow proteins to be used for their purpose in muscle growth and maintenance, and they support the immune system. Some types of carbohydrates encourage the growth of healthy bacteria which prevents gastrointestinal issues. They’re also linked with the release of serotonin, a chemical that helps to improve mood, regulate the sleeping schedule and our appetite.
GI or glycemic index tells us how fast or slow different types of carbohydrates are digested (low GI foods slower and high GI foods faster). Some dieticians recommend that carbohydrates should make up around 50-60% of our food intake every day. Low carb diets can be damaging because in the beginning, they cause weight loss, but they can also cause:
- decreased energy,
- loss of muscle tissue,
- constipation due to lack of dietary fiber,
- mood swings and low mood,
- poor immune response and
- decreased concentration.
Fat is an essential nutrient and the statement “All fat is bad” is simply not true. There are six types of fat. Saturated fats are mainly found in animal foods such as milk, meat, and butter, but also palm and coconut oil. Monosaturated fats are found in olives, avocadoes, peanuts, and other nuts. Polyunsaturated fats are extracted from sunflower seeds, soybeans, sesame, and grape seeds to make cooking oils. Omega-3 fats are a subgroup of polyunsaturated fats found in fish and other seafood. Cholesterol is an essential part of cell membranes and is used to create vitamin D and hormones. Fats are important because:
- they serve as an energy store,
- they provide two essential fatty acids which can’t be manufactured inside the body,
- they provide protection of vital and reproductive organs
- they provide fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
- they provide fatty acids required for making hormones, brain cells, and healthy skin.