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Harmony at Home with Nutrition

Harmony at Home with Nutrition

by Holly Niles, MS

Food is a big part daily life, but how often do people really think about how food impacts the body? While considering the larger view of creating harmony in the home using nutrition, it may be helpful to begin with some nutrition basics.

How does the body use food that’s eaten?
Food travels a long journey through the digestive system. As it moves, it breaks down into units of information that can support or challenge the body. Those units of information are generally placed into these groups: macronutrients (protein, fats and carbohydrates), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients (natural colorful pigments).

Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates and fats.

PROTEIN is in meat, fish, eggs, nuts/seeds and legumes and supports many parts of the body:

• It’s needed to maintain the structure and shape of cells, including the organs and connective tissue.

• It’s a building block of immune system antibodies.

• It’s important for hormones such as insulin that function as messengers between cells and organs.

CARBOHYDRATES such as vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes do the following:

• They help to create energy for all tissues and cells.

• They’re vital for brain energy and focus, elimination of toxins and supporting muscle action.

• They’re significant in the creation of gut bugs or healthy bacteria and ‘emptying the trash’ through elimination.

A third category of macronutrients is FATS. ‘Good fats’ include olives and olive oil, nuts/seeds, coconut oil and avocado. These are crucial for a healthy body:

• Fats are needed for brain power and the nerve system.

• ‘Good fats’ reduce inflammation.

• Fats are an important part of the cell membrane wall and support communication in the body.

Micronutrients assist the macronutrients in maintaining wellbeing. For example, vitamins like the B vitamin family help turn the wheel of energy production in cells. Vitamin D helps with bones and blood sugar balance. When looking at biochemical pathways in the body such as carbohydrate metabolism and detoxification, one learns that the co-factors or ‘helpers’ are generally vitamins and minerals. Some of the best sources of vitamins and minerals are vegetables and fruits.

Phytonutrients are responsible for the color of vegetables and fruits. Resveratrol in the skin of grapes is an example. This particular phytonutrient is anti-inflammatory. Another example of a phytonutrient is sulfur, found in vegetables like broccoli and onions. Those nutrients support detoxification in the body.

Food Affects the Brain and the Emotions
The art of creating harmony with food is in both the sources and combination of foods chosen. The body needs carbohydrates to create energy. But the source of carbohydrates matters. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread or cereal only create short term energy for the body. They metabolize quickly, causing the blood sugar to spike from high to low. That ride from high to low can create feelings of crankiness, depression or the inability to focus. It may feel like an ‘energy crash.’

When complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and vegetables are combined with protein and healthy fats, it creates an efficient slow burning fuel that provides nutrients and more consistent energy. This is called ‘balanced blood sugar.’

Dr. Mark Hyman discusses the topic of balancing blood sugar in his bestselling book, Blood Sugar Solution. Keeping the blood sugar balanced helps to create more energy in the body and supports brain power and focus.

Dr. David Perlmutter wrote a bestselling book titled, Grain Brain. This book references studies from the Mayo Clinic illustrating how a diet with less carbohydrates and more healthy fats improves brain function. Fat is a longer burning source of energy for the body and strengthens cell membranes to transport nutrients in and out of the cells. Eating a diet of whole real foods with the right combination of macronutrients supports mood, energy and mental performance.

How Does One Make Changes that Include the Family?
• The most important step in adopting changes at home is getting kids involved with food preparation. Little ones can wash and peel, bigger kids can chop and slice. Show children where food comes from. Visit local gardens or farms so that children feel more connected to their food.

• Introducing vegetables into the daily diet can sometimes be challenging. Homemade dressings or dips make them tastier for smaller appetites.

• Another great way to keep kids eating healthier is to simply avoid buying processed foods. Limiting exposure to simple carbohydrates promotes healthier eating by default.

• Mix whole grain pasta with white pasta, or brown basmati rice with white rice to get more fiber.

• Eliminating all sweets is not the answer. Modifying sweeteners by using more natural sweeteners is an option. Making desserts at home allows for the option of lower sugar versions. Some great natural sweeteners include stevia, coconut sugar, palm sugar and raw honey. For some great ‘healthy dessert’ recipes, visit and read Terry Walter’s book, Clean Food.

Experimenting with combining whole real foods and limiting simple carbohydrates supports inner and outer harmony at home.

Holly Niles, MS, CNS, LDN, CFSP, is a Clinical Functional Nutritionist with more than 25 years experience in the field of health and wellness and is the Nutrition Director at Integrative Wellness & Physical Therapy in Bloomfield. For more information, visit or call 860-519-1916.



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