Hansa D. Bhargava, MD, FAAP
You probably already know that to be fit, you need to eat foods that are good for you. That's why healthy eating is 1 of the 4 parts of the FIT Platform. FOOD gives you the fuel and nutrition your body needs to grow strong and stay healthy.
Fitness is more than just the food you eat. What food you eat also affects the other areas of the FIT Platform.
FOOD gives you energy to MOVE. When you eat food, you take in calories. Calories give your body energy to live. But when it comes to energy, what you eat is just as important as how much you eat.
For example, you can eat a piece of candy for a burst of quick energy. But that energy will only last for a little while. Then you may "crash" and be even more tired than you were before.
A snack like a few whole wheat crackers with a slice of cheese will give you better energy. Your body breaks down the fiber in the crackers and the protein in the cheese more slowly than the sugar in the candy. So you get a steady supply of energy to keep you going for a longer time.
Think about eating a big, heavy meal -- like on a holiday, or when you take a second (or third) helping of your favorite dinner. Do you want to move afterward? No, you want to sit. Eating too much can make you feel tired.
FOOD can change your MOOD and how you feel. Certain foods can affect your mood -- but maybe not in the way you would like them to. If you're feeling sad, you may think, "I just want to eat cookies." So you eat cookies -- a lot of them. Then you feel bad, because you know that many cookies aren't good for you. And that makes your mood worse, not better.
Some foods can make you feel good in a healthy way. Fruits like strawberries, grapes, and oranges are high in vitamin C, which can help keep you from getting sick. Nuts have selenium, a mineral that boosts your mood, and healthy fats that are good for your brain. Whole-grain pastas and breads and oatmeal keep your sugar levels constant and your energy level stable. Plus, they have fiber that will help keep you from getting hungry and cranky. That way, you'll be less likely to grab the cookies.
The FOOD you eat can make it harder to RECHARGE. Can the food you eat affect your sleep? Yes! That big meal may make you tired, but being too full makes it harder to fall asleep. So make sure you don't eat really big meals within a few hours of bedtime. Spicy foods can upset your tummy. Caffeine, a chemical found in some sodas and chocolate, will keep you awake. So will foods with a lot of sugar or a lot of fat.
The FOOD section of FIT Kids can help you learn more about healthy foods and eating well. Eating a good mix of foods in the right amounts can help your body be strong and your brain be sharp. You'll even feel better and sleep better, too.
Linda Bartholomay, LRD, manager, outpatient nutrition therapy, Sanford Health, Fargo, N.D.Howland R. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, January 2011; vol 21: pp 1-4.Ganji V. Internal Archives of Medicine, Nov. 11, 2010, vol 3: p 29.Lespérance, F. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, June 15, 2010.Grandner M. Sleep Medicine, February 2010, vol 11: pp 180-184.Arcan, C. Public Health Nutrition, March 2007, vol 10(11): pp 1257-1265.Barlow, S. Pediatrics, 2007, vol 120: pp S164-S192.The Daily Mail: "Ten foods that make you a happy eater."National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements: "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium."WebMD: "Energy Foods Slideshow: A Diet to Boost Your Mood and Energy Level."
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