Back to basics: Food and our cells

Fortune cookie that says "You are what you eat: choose wisely"

The other day, I met with my youngest client yet for a one-time check-in. My session with the eight-year-old was fun and more basic than the sessions I have with older teens and adults. During this session, we got back to basics and it made me realize that sometimes we get so caught up in all the minutiae that we forget the simple but powerful truth of the role of food in our body. So if you will indulge me, I want to take us back to basics, too, because I think that this sort of reframing will help you make your next meal choice so much easier.

We are constructed of a bunch — a BUNCH —  a bunch of tiny cells. 37.3 TRILLION in fact. That’s 37.2 trillion tiny cells working together to create everything inside us and everything on the outside of us. Our organs, skin, muscles, joints, bones (etc., etc.) are all built and repaired by these trillions of cells. This means our health is a reflection of how well our cells are being taken care of.  The only way to ensure our cells are getting what they need is to understand how the food we eat impacts them because food determines how well each cell will function.

Protein

Proteins are what build and repair our cells. Our cells, inside and out, are made up of protein. Some of the proteins needed for cell health are produced by our bodies, but some of these proteins must come from our food. This means it’s important to eat adequate amounts of good quality protein daily.

For meat eaters this part is pretty easy; meat contains all the essential amino acids you need for cell function. If you are a plant eater, getting complete proteins can be a challenge. Vegetarians and vegans need to make sure to do the hard work of getting complete proteins. Grains and lentils are a good source, and of course eggs (for vegetarians) work too.

Fat

Despite the bad rap it gets for sharing its name with the stuff we all try to get rid of, fat is an important nutrient for our cells. Fat protect our cells by creating a non-water soluble membrane which regulates what is allowed in the cells. Fat helps our cells communicate with one another to help regulate gene expression. And fat also makes it possible for us to absorb the essential vitamins A, D, E, and K from our foods (and supplements).  Good sources of fat include:

  1. Oily fish
  2. Avocados
  3. Walnuts
  4. Nuts and nut butter
  5. Olives
  6. Olive oil
  7. Ground flaxseeds
  8. Full-fat dairy (if tolerated)
  9. Eggs
  10. Chia seed
  11. Sunflower seeds

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates also get a bad rap, but let’s all remember two things. 1.) carbohydrates break down into glucose which our body uses for energy by storing them in our cells and 2.) vegetables are carbohydrates. Of course, not great, fast burning carbohydrates cause problems for the body, but nutrient dense, slow burning carbohydrates like vegetables provide an excellent source of energy while also delivering the vitamins and nutrients our cells need to thrive.

Vegetables make your cells thrive! Doesn’t that just make you want to eat them all the time? Me too!

I hope this back to basics look at food has been helpful to you. I would love to know what you think in the comments below.

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