Even if you were concentrating in biology class, you’d be hard-pressed to remember the details. Well, we suspect your lessons involved amino acids – the building blocks your body uses to store protein, which in turn builds your major muscles, organs and immune system. Think of them as Lego bricks, glued together by cells and built from the animal and plant proteins you eat. Chemists Louis Nicolas Vauquelin and Pierre Jean Robiquet discovered the first amino acid way back in 1806. By 1935, scientists knew of about 20 of the 22 of them, including 10 that your body produces naturally and nine more that are essential for it to function properly. Fascinating stuff.
KNOW THIS: Those nine are ‘essential’ because, without them, your body’s proteins (aka muscle) would start degenerating. “You can’t actually make these nine essential amino acids yourself, but they’re present in foods,” explains nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert. “The foods with all nine amino acids are called complete proteins and include meat, dairy, soybeans and eggs. Foods with some amino acids, but not all nine – such as beans, rice and peanut butter – are incomplete proteins.” Meaning a protein-packed picnic genuinely constitutes an acid trip.
Like a burly bouncer for your cells, antioxidants are chemical compounds found in fruit and vegies that protect against damage caused by free radicals. Free what, now? Let’s back up a bit. “Certain substances – alcohol and fried food, but also polluted air – cause the body to produce free radical chemicals via a process called oxidation,” says nutritionist Jenna
Hope. “When oxidation happens inside the body, free radicals can cause your cells to become damaged and diseased. This explains why they are associated with diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” And it’s where the burly bouncers come in: antioxidants neutralise free radicals, by stopping the oxidation reaction from happening.
KNOW THIS: Loading up on fruit and veg is a key pillar of futureproofing your health. They contain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, which act as an army for your insides. “Eating natural food sources containing antioxidants – as opposed to consuming them via supplements – is the safest and most reliable way to protect your body,” adds Hope. You’ll also find them in some meat, fish, whole grains and nuts.
Poor old calories. Despite being nothing more than a metric, they’ve weathered a negative rep to rival Wall Street bankers. In reality, they’re harmless. “A calorie is a unit of energy; the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1ml of water by 1°C,” says Lambert. The Department of Health recommends the average person eats 8700 kilojoules a day, which equates to about 2000 calories (FYI: the only difference between cals and kJs is the name; the ‘kilo’ part of kilojoule represents the measurement of one thousand of a certain metric and joules is the unit to measure energy). A calorie surplus results in weight gain, a calorie deficit in weight loss. “Calorie counting has recently fallen out of favour, as it can encourage a disordered approach to eating. It also fails to account for the macro and micronutrient content of a food,” says Lambert.
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