The basics of nutrition are one of the fundamental ways of living. Sometimes, during periods of our youth, we tend to disregard our health out of convenience. Kimberly Green, a Registered Dietitian on campus, explains the importance of having a healthy diet and what that entails to the students of UTM. Figuring out what works for our bodies is important because each body varies in calorie intake, the amount, and what we eat.
Breakfast is the most important, and usually the most skipped, meal of the day that has a vital role in our daily function. There are many benefits to eating a proper full breakfast as stated by Kimberly Green, such as “better short-term memory, and overall better cognitive function, which ultimately improves your test scores.” Kimberly Green also brings up a study that demonstrates those who eat a full breakfast stay at a healthy weight and are less likely to be obese. Eating a well-balanced breakfast has benefits and provides more of a stable amount of energy throughout the day. Green says that “protein, grains, fruits and vegetables may take a little more time and effort, but provide a filling, longer-lasting and more nutritious breakfast than just grabbing a banana or a coffee.” There are many facts that demonstrate how important breakfast is as a meal, and it should be encouraged as such.
A popular drink that many students use as a little boost to keep them awake while studying is coffee. Coffee—the lovely companion that the majority of students go to, and the reason for the long line ups at Starbucks and Tim Hortons. Although coffee gives energy to students, it is not real “energy,” according to Green. “The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant and its effect is to constrict or ‘vasoconstrict’ the arteries, making our heart pump a little harder, giving us that “energy” boost.” Green further states that this energy is temporary and unlike the energy food can provide. But like most foods, coffee does have benefits such as decreasing the chances of breast, colorectal, colon, endometrial, and prostate cancers; cardiovascular disease; and type 2 diabetes, identified by Green. Additionally, Green recommends not having more than two medium cups of coffee per day to ensure you don’t overdo it on the caffeine.
Sugar is found in our selection of foods that sometimes it is hard to avoid. “There is a difference between ‘free sugars’, or ‘added sugar’” (honey, white and brown sugar, jam, juices, etc.).” Green continues, “Naturally occurring sugars generally come along with protein and fibre and that makes a big difference to how fast it is digested and absorbed in the bloodstream.” Sugar is an unavoidable carb in a majority of our foods but, keeping track and understanding the difference between a healthy sugar and free sugar can improve our diets.
The ideal diet for students, according to Green, is to eat in regular intervals—the typical three meals a day. Though every calorie intake varies from person to person the main focus is to get enough iron, because too commonly students suffer from iron deficiency. This can make you feel tired and drained with no energy left to study. Vitamin D is another energy driven micronutrient. In order to keep up with the pressure and demand of university life, Green presses on the importance of getting enough iron and Vitamin D. These two micronutrients are vital for students to feel more energized, and less tired and lethargic, stated by Green. Furthermore, since we live in Canada, and we have the lovely long winter months, Green says that “without enough sun exposure in the winter months, most people could benefit from a vitamin D supplement of 600 IU or more.”
Even though students are focused on getting good grades and stressed with completing assignments, it is still vital that they care about their diet to ensure they are functioning at their optimal level.