When making my weekly menu I try and ensure that my family cover our food groups, in acceptable quantities. I have 6 hungry mouths to feed, all at different stages of life. Planning a healthy well-balanced diet is fun, but difficult at times.
The Rule of Five
I use my hand as a reminder of what a healthy plate will look like. Each of my fingers represent a food group.
My thumb represents milk and milk products- a thumb is not a very big finger, but it is my first finger and is very important for my littlest members. Milk is required in infants, not only for its nutritional value, but also for the role in plays in building a healthy gut microflora (Seppo, Autran, Bode, & Järvinen, 2017). The fat in the milk is used to build brain cell, and the calcium is used to build bones and teeth (Zempleni et al., 2016). Optimal quantities of calcium need to be absorbed in childhood, as calcium levels are merely maintained through adulthood. This means that to prevent osteoporosis in later years, a child requires as much calcium as possible (Whitney, 2013). Cows milk is a hotly contested topic, because of the high number of allergies and intolerances associated with its consumption. We refer to milk as the primary food, because we are mammals and our infants require milk, preferably a milk that closely resembles breast milk nutritionally at a younger age (Seppo et al., 2017). Milk is however not the only source of calcium available. We can get creative here, in how we include calcium in the diet. Beans, pulses, broccoli, bok choy and kale as well as nut milk fortified with calcium are all high in calcium. Just be cautious when consuming these veggies with spinach, as the oxalate present in spinach interferes with calcium absorption (Rogerson, 2017).
My index finger represents meat and meat alternatives- this is my power finger, it is not my biggest finger, it is very important to build healthy muscles and strengthen our immune system. Too much animal-based protein consumed has an inflammatory effect. This inflammation results in the hardening of arteries and can result in hypertension (Richter, Skulas-Ray, Champagne, & Kris-Etherton, 2015). Insufficient protein consumption can result in depression (Matta et al., 2018). Neurotransmitters that help make you feel happy are made of protein (Chen et al., 2019). It makes sense then, that if you do not consume enough protein you will not have the ingredients to produce these happy neurotransmitters. Plant based proteins have numerous health benefits. The most researched is in preventing heart disease (Dinu, Abbate, Gensini, Casini, & Sofi, 2017). Try include plant based protein, and exclude animal based protein some days and see if you can feel the health difference.
My Middle finger represents Cereals- Not because they are bad, but because they are abused. It is in this food group that the term “empty calories” earned its fame. This food group is very important, because of the role it fulfils in gut health (Slavin, 2013). Unfortunately, when we eat the processed version of this food group, we find that our blood sugar increases, as well as our LDL cholesterol (Jung & Choi, 2017). Cereals must be whole grain. Whole grain foods have a cellulose outer casing that is indigestible in our human gut. This fantastic feature means that it sits in the colon for a while and ferments, feeding our gut garden (Slavin, 2013). This indigestible husk also gathers waste on its way past, and helps the colon dispense of food matter that has been “hanging around”. This fermentation process also helps our body produce folate (Whitney, 2013). Without grains in our diet, our blood lipid profile will be unbalanced, and this will lead to heart disease. Instead of cutting grains, cut processed carbohydrates.
Ring finger is fruit and vegetables- This group is one to be married to. Vegetables are filled with the vitamins we need to maintain an immune system. The tricky bit in this group is getting enough of them each day. Plants are made up of what is known as phytochemicals (Boeing et al., 2012). These are the chemicals inside of the plant that help the plant perform their tasks (Pengelly, 2004). These phytochemicals are what I as a Medical Herbalist study, to find what they can do to improve our health (Bone & Mills, 2013). Vegetables can, due to their constituents, fight cancer, reduce inflammation, heal and repair the mucus membranes lining the gut, even reduce stress. The greater the variety of vegetables we consume in the day, the more added advantages we will feel.
Pinkie fats and oils- My smallest finger. The cell membrane is made of fat. Our skin and hair are lubricated with fat, and our brains are made of fat (Marieb, 2014). Fat is an essential part of the makeup and protection of our bodies. The part that is so important here is getting the right kind of fat. For fats to be absorbed the body breaks them down, almost like a flat pack piece of furniture is packaged to be transported in the car. When the fat has passed through the cell membrane of the small intestine, the body has to reconstruct the fat, to be the way it looked before it put it into little pieces. When fats have been altered in a laboratory to be something they are not, our bodies do not know how to reconstruct them correctly. This incomplete fatty acid causes oxidative stress in our bodies. Consuming fats in their most natural form is the best option to prevent this stress on or bodies (Stoker, 2013). All these aspects are in my mind, when I am making a menu plan for my family for the week. You are what you eat they say. If you make informed choices about what you are going to eat, you can choose to be “healthy”.
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Chen, P.-J., Taylor, M., Griffin, S. A., Amani, A., Hayatshahi, H., Korzekwa, K., . . . Blass, B. E. (2019). Design, synthesis, and evaluation of N-(4-(4-phenyl piperazin-1-yl)butyl)-4-(thiophen-3-yl)benzamides as selective dopamine D3 receptor ligands. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2019.07.020
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Seppo, A. E., Autran, C. A., Bode, L., & Järvinen, K. M. (2017). Human milk oligosaccharides and development of cow’s milk allergy in infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 139(2), 708-711.e705. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2016.08.031
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Stoker, H. S. (2013). General, Organic, and Biological Chemistry (2013 ed., Vol. Sixth Edition, pp. 559). Belmont, CA 94002-3098 USA: Brook/Cole.
Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. R., Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D. Walsh, A. (2013). Understanding Nutrition (2 ed.): Cengage Learning Australia.
Zempleni, J., Aguilar-Lozano, A., Sadri, M., Sukreet, S., Manca, S., Wu, D., . . . Mutai, E. (2016). Biological Activities of Extracellular Vesicles and Their Cargos from Bovine and Human Milk in Humans and Implications for Infants. The Journal of Nutrition, 147(1), 3-10. doi:10.3945/jn.116.238949