Building Blocks

Nutrients are like building blocks.

Fat molecules are composed of fatty acids, three per molecule, and usually different. So even olive oil, which is a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, is not composed ONLY of monounsaturated fatty acids. There are some saturated ones, and some polyunsaturated ones. But they’re mostly monounsaturated.

Chicken fat also has a large percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids, plus some polyunsaturated ones and some saturated ones. The cocoa butter in your dark chocolate has a very high percentage of saturated fatty acids. But…wait! I know what you’re thinking: I thought saturated fat was bad for you! I wish I had an answer. All I can say is that there is clearly more here than meets the eye, and that we still don’t have the whole story. In the meantime, I will continue to eat dark chocolate, which I consider food, and not candy.

Protein molecules are composed of amino acids of all shapes and sizes. Some are short, some are long, some are branched and some are circular. Each one plays a different and essential role in building animals, whether fish, mammals, or human beings. Corneas, tendons, skin, muscles, fins, scales, nerves, retinas, livers, hair, nails, kidneys — you name it. We’re made of protein building blocks, which we obtain from the foods we eat.

Whenever you eat anything made of protein, you concentrate its diet up the food chain, right into you. So the name of the game, when it comes to protein, is quality. Garbage in, garbage out. You are what you eat. Protein is conserved within the animal kingdom. We continually break apart protein molecules and then build new structures with the resulting amino acids. It reminds me of the Legos my children used to play with — continually being broken apart by their little hands and then rebuilt into ever newer spaceships, boats, and buildings.

Carbohydrates are made of various types of fiber (like soluble and insoluble) as well as phytonutrients, vitamins and starches. We’re talking about fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains only. If you’ve ever heard anyone say to “eat the rainbow,” that’s just another way of saying to fill your plate with color. Every color corresponds to a different phytonutrient, and every phytonutrient is a building block for your good health. Phytonutrients make your retinas work right, for one thing, so you can see better. Phytonutrients fight rust and oxidation, to increase the odds that you will remain healthy, wise, and content for many years to come.

So there you have it. Stick with foods that act like building blocks, and save the sugar, treats, and entertainment for special occasions.

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