How Do You Grow?
You can actually appear taller without physically changing your height at all. There are things you can do for yourself, such as carrying yourself nice and straight, holding your head up when walking and understanding that different combinations of clothes and colors can all have the effect of making you look taller. One positive way you can help your body to help itself is to ensure you are getting the best nutrition you possibly can so that your body is fuelled with the correct nutrients for it to carry out its jobs properly.
Why is Nutrition Important?
When it comes to growth, nutrition is much more important than you could possibly imagine. It is so important that I would have to say that NUTRITION is of PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE. I cannot stress enough just how important nutrition is for proper growth to take place. Food, to your body, is not about pleasure – it is about fuel: nothing more and nothing less.
Your body needs fuel to make your muscles grow; to make your bones grow; to make your hormones and glands perform properly; to help your body repair itself. In fact, I could produce a list as long as both your arms giving reasons why appropriate nutrition is important to optimum health and growth. However, for growth to occur and for your body to heal itself and produce new cells and new tissues, your body uses quite a lot of energy. In fact, your body is using up around 1,000kcals just to keep itself alive – even when you are sleeping, your body is burning calories. Without proper nutrition and the correct nutrients, your body’s growth would be impeded. Healing would be slowed down and you could find that cuts and bruises don’t heal properly; you could come out in sores and pimples all over your body – and, particularly important here –
you fail to grow properly, often becoming a much shorter adult than nature intended you to be.
How Do We Know Nutrition Is So Important?
Scientific studies have been carried out, using information from 250,000 people who have lived over the last 200 years. That is quite a good sized study. The result of this research showed that, whereas Europeans are still getting taller, Americans seemed to have reached their maximum height. At one time, the Dutch people were about three inches shorter than the average height for an American of the same period.
Is Access to Healthcare Better in European Countries?
Nowadays, you hear lots in the media about the effects of growing obesity on the health of the nations but very rarely do you hear much about the effects of height and what clues this can provide about the health of people in different countries.
While increases in height seem to have occurred in those European countries which have access to free healthcare, some of the results from Professor Komlos’ research appears to indicate that effective ante-natal care and baby care is essential and indicative of the future height of these individuals.
The welfare state and access to free healthcare for all provides continuous and enhanced care to all pregnant women and their babies, literally from before birth through their adult lives, to the end of their lives. This is provided regardless of social status or the ability to pay and, incorporated with attention to a balanced diet, there is bound to be an influence on the height of these welfare-based nations. In fact, the
Dutch ante-natal and post-natal care is considered to be the best in the world by many in the medical profession.
As a direct contrast, it has been estimated that more than 40 million Americans do not have any healthcare insurance and, according to Professor Komlos who was responsible for this extensive study, ‘…the social, economic and medical differences between Europe and America…’ seemed to indicate a link with the overall height of the adults in each of the countries he studied.
Did this Research Look at Nutrition?
Yes it did. Professor Komlos noticed there was a more even distribution of wealth amongst the European countries, with the appropriate foods more readily available when compared with the comparative prices of shopping baskets in America. Professor Komlos noted that in less than 50 years the population of America appears to have changed from being the tallest adults in the world to one of the countries with the most profound density of obese adults.
Various factors definitely do influence an adult’s final height, with a representative from the British Dietetic Association noting that nutrition had quite an overwhelming part to play. She pointed out that America is not a nation deprived of food – quite the contrary, but education about the importance of good nutrition was paramount and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency if the obesity epidemic was to be staunched.
What is Considered to be Good Nutrition?
The Eatwell Plate was devised by the Food Standards Agency to educate people, in the easiest way possible, to what they should be eating and the quantities they should be eating them in. By far the largest food groups are the group consisting of fruit and vegetables and that containing bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. This refers to their basic properties, not when these foods are smothered in butter and sauces.
Milk and dairy products form the next group, closely followed by the group constituting meat, fish, eggs and beans – these are the proteins containing amino acids which are essential for healthy growth. The mistake many people make, however, is to include huge quantities of these in their diet to the exclusion of other food groups which are just as important because these contain vitamins and minerals and, as shown earlier, these are just as necessary for healthy growth as the protein group.
Protein is Needed for Growth. What Kind of Protein?
For the best nutrition you need to include all the different kinds of protein in your diet because, even though the protein groups provide protein, different proteins also provide other nutrients which you body needs, such as monounsaturated fats and linoleic acid to mention just two. If you eat a diet with moderate amounts of meat, fish, dairy products, pulses, nuts and seeds your body will be getting all the different kinds of protein it needs to be able to do its jobs properly – and, that includes growing.
What is the Difference?
The best way to explain the differences between the different proteins is to discuss each one in turn:
Many nutrients are found in meat besides protein. Meat is one of the most important sources of Vitamin B12 which can only be found in foods from animal sources like milk and meat. Also found in meat are other vitamins and minerals, iron, zinc, selenium and other B vitamins, all of which are essential to good health. Some kinds of meats are higher in fats than other kinds of meat and meat is particularly high in saturated fat which is not very good for your body as it makes your cholesterol levels rise. High cholesterol levels can increase the likelihood of heart disease developing.
How you cook meat as well as the cut you buy will also make a difference to the nutrient content of your food. If you roast a pork leg joint you will have 5.5g fat/100g, out of which 1.9g will be saturated fat. Now, if you exchange that for grilled pork belly joint, you will have 23.4g fat/100g, out of which 8.2g of that is saturated fat. A lean grilled rump steak has 50% less fat than rump steak with the fat left on; similarly, beef mince will also depend on the amount of fat included with the meat.
As a rule of thumb, the more white you can see on the meat, the more fat is contained in it. If chicken breast is fried in breadcrumbs it will absorb almost six times the amount of fat that grilled chicken breast will if it is grilled without the skin. The grilled chicken breast without the skin is clearly the healthiest option, with 2.2g fat/100g and just 0.6g saturated fat.
Always attempt to buy lean cuts of meat and opt for either turkey or chicken wherever possible as these meats are much lower in fat. Many meat products are manufactured with added fat and salt and often bulked out with starches such as rusk. These include beefburgers and sausages. Salami and pate also need to be treated with care as do pies and sausage rolls due to the amount of pastry they are wrapped in, increasing the amount of fat you are likely to be consuming.
Good sources of Vitamin A and iron are liver and products containing liver but, because the sources of Vitamin A in liver are so high, it is best to limit the amount of liver products you do actually eat at any one time. This is because your body stores up unused Vitamin A and, the last thing you want is too much Vitamin A in your body
– it is not good for you at all. If you do eat liver on a regular basis you really must not take any additional Vitamin A supplements – or fish liver oil capsules either because they are also high in Vitamin A. The maximum amount of Vitamin A you should obtain, per day from food is 1.5mg. Any more than that can actually INCREASE the risk of a bone fracture.
Very few people are eating their full quota of fist. The Food Standards Agency recommends adults eat at least two portions of fish each week. One of these should be oily fish such as mackerel or salmon. Oily fish is important as it is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and all fish are particularly rich in both protein and minerals such as selenium and iodine. Apart from Omega 3 fatty acids, oily fish is rich in Vitamins A and D and, white fish such as haddock, plaice, whiting and cod are all very low in fat. The fish where you are also able to eat the bones provide your body with an excellent source of calcium and phosphorus. These can be obtained from fish such as canned sardines, salmon, pilchards and whitebait.
Shellfish also contain many of these nutrients. You can obtain Omega 3 from crab and mussels, although many shellfish contain very little. All shellfish are excellent sources of many of the trace minerals your body needs to stay healthy, minerals such as zinc, iodine, copper and selenium.
Baked, grilled or poached fish is far better for you than fried fish, especially when the fried fish is cooked in batter. However, an occasional meal of fish and chips is not bad for you, especially if you follow some simple rules:
- Add a portion of peas or baked beans to your fish and chips
- Keep you portion of chips small, or have a bread roll with your chips so you eat less chips
- Chips are better for you if they are cut thick as there is less surface area to absorb any extra fat.
- The oil used for cooking should be at the right temperature – this will ensure that the fish and chips absorb less fat than if the temperatures were too low.
As with anything, too much fish can be bad for you and there is a maximum recommended level s of fish portions per day. In the case of shark, marlin or swordfish, this is because of the high amount of mercury found in these fish. When it comes to oily fish, the warning is due to the small levels of pollutants that can build up in the body of the fish. If you are eating fresh tuna fish, this is counted as an oily fish but, once it has been canned, it loses much of its oily benefits and is best counted as being a white fish. Due to the above problems with the fish, the amount of fish you eat per week should not exceed 140g.
3. Dairy Products
Vitamin A and Vitamin B12 can be found in all dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais, apart from also providing an excellent source of protein and calcium that is easy for your body to absorb.
There is a different amount of fat content in different dairy products, much of which is saturated fat which is not good for your heart and can raise your cholesterol. Many cheeses actually contain as much as 20 – 40g fat per 100g. Other cheeses, with a lower fat content, are a much healthier option. As an example, reduced fat hard cheese contains an average of between 10 and 16g of fat per 100g. Cottage cheese and Quark are both quite low in fat, providing just 3g per 100g.
These days there are many different low-fat options, with many types of milk now available in reduced fat varieties, apart from semi-skimmed and skimmed. Some types of milk have been altered to provide just half the fat content of semi-skimmed milk, with just 1% fat, but still retain all the nutritional benefits of original milk products such as protein, calcium, minerals and vitamins. Low fat yoghurts and fromage frais also provide similar benefits to milk itself, including all the B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, calcium and protein. To save calories and reduce fat content, use low-fat spreads instead of butter, and Crème fraîche in recipes; yoghurts and fromage frais as low-fat alternatives to desserts.
Dairy products usually have a comparatively high salt content and too much salt is not good for you either. The recommended amount of salt per day for adults is no more than 6g and this can usually be found in all the convenience foods that fill the supermarket shelves. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure and, if not dealt with, end up by causing heart disease. It’s worth remembering that dairy products are excellent foods for growing bones because of the amount of calcium they contain which is easily available to your body.
In pregnancy it is best to avoid any of the unpasteurised kinds of cheeses like Brie or Camembert which have a white, fluffy rind. Blue cheeses should also be avoided because of the high levels of listeria they often contain. Listeria is a nasty germ that, amongst one of its many traits, can cause miscarriage or stillbirth or, if your newborn baby is lucky enough to have escaped those consequences, it could still be very seriously ill. Instead, if you are pregnant, exchange those unpasteurised cheeses for processed cheese or cottage cheese, or some of the hard cheeses such as Cheddar, as listeria is not attracted to these cheeses.
Dairy Products are Good for Babies and Children
4. Pulses, Nuts and Seeds
Beans, lentils and peas are all pulses and each of these will give you a good source of protein that is low in fat but high in the fibre, vitamins and minerals that your body needs. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan you can live quite healthily on this group of pulses, nuts and seeds without experiencing any ill effects at all.
A little known fact is that pulses can be counted into your 5-a day portion of fruit and vegetables – which is why vegans can live very well if they include pulses in their diets. Nuts and seeds also provide a good source of protein and are rich in other nutrients as well. An easy way to remember what a pulse is – they are edible seeds which grow inside a pod [like peas].