Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TUESDAY'S TIP: Malnutrition & Food Allergies

Finding the Right Balance

How do you ensure you're getting the right nutrients when you have to avoid certain, possibly nutrient-rich, foods? When you have a food allergy... or multiple allergies like me, it can be difficult to find alternatives or replacements for foods we can no longer eat. I know I can't be the only person who has looked up and down the grocery store aisles in search of an acceptable snack, lunch item, or ingredient to alter a recipe. If you're like me, you probably get frustrated too and end up saying something like, "Forget it! I'll just get a candy bar... that's got nutrients, right?" No? OK, well... maybe it's just me.

If you have to avoid certain foods for health reasons, and you don't eat enough of the right foods, you could be lacking vital nutrients. So what do you do? We need to have carbohydrates, protein, fats (yes, fats), vitamins and minerals in our diets to get everything our body needs to function properly. Let's take a look at these individually.

Carbohydrates are our bodies main source of energy. While people with wheat or gluten allergies and sensitivities can't eat some carbohydrates, there are other alternatives that provide the same benefits. Gluten free whole grains like amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice are great choices. These foods are also a source of fiber, which helps regulate your digestive tract.

Protein is necessary for growth and repair in the body. It is also necessary for the production of some hormones and enzymes. Meats, nuts, seeds, beans, soy, egg, and dairy products. If you're allergic to any of these try another form. I'm allergic to eggs and dairy, but soy, seeds, nuts, beans, and meat are fine for me.

Fats... don't scoff... fats, well the RIGHT kinds of fats are good for you. In fact they're necessary! Our body needs fat for proper nerve and brain function. It's also imperative for absorption of certain vitamins and minerals into the body. Eating low-fat or fat-free could actually be harming your body and pumping it full of sugars, which get turned into... you guessed it... fat! You need to know what fats to choose. Saturated fats and trans fats are unhealthy and should be limited. Look for monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and Omega-3s. You can find them in olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, sesame, soybean, corn, and safflower oils. You can also find them in foods like avacados, olives, nuts, peanut butter, fatty fish (salmon, tuna, macherel, and trout), soymilk, and tofu. Again, find the sources that are allergy free for you and run with it!

Vitamins and minerals are essential to immunity, mood, growth, metabolism, and overall health. The best source of vitamins and minerals is the food we eat. Choose colorful fruits and vegetables, and eat the other 3 items mentioned above, whole grains, healthy proteins, and healthy sources of fat. You can also eat fortified cereals and drink fortified milk or milk alternatives. When foods aren't enough choose a vitamin replacement, but choose wisely. Vitamins with excessive amounts could actually cause other problems... and in reality all you'll end up with is expensive urine... if you catch my drift.

It may take some planning and research, but there's no need to sacrifice nutrition when you have to cut out the allergens!

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