Food group percentages
As a general rule, your diet should contain:
55 per cent complex carbohydrate 30 per cent fat : 15 per cent protein (this is inclusive of at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to ensure enough fibre).
You should also drink at least 2 litres (4 pints) of fluids a day (preferably water).
The body’s building blocks are proteins. These are large molecules made up of amino acids, which are necessary for cell growth and repair. There are 20 amino acids, of which eight are essential because our bodies cannot make them naturally, so we have to obtain them from food sources. Animal protein contains all these amino acids, as do soya products. Vegetable sources do not contain them all, so if you are on a vegan diet you need to ensure you are getting these by taking a vitamin
and mineral supplement or by combining pulses, nuts, and seeds with complex carbohydrates. Quinoa and avocado are complete proteins.
Women’s protein requirements are lower than men’s but they still need their daily diet to contain about 15 per cent of protein as it is an essential nutrient for muscle, tissue, and bone health, for helping to fight infection, for producing and balancing hormones, and for producing healthy eggs and sperm. Good sources of protein are chicken, fish, low-fat yogurt, cottage cheese, baked beans, kidney beans, tofu, and avocados.
One of the important amino acids for women is tryptophan, which helps in the production of the feelgood chemical serotonin, which is vital for regulating blood sugar and hormone levels (see pages 65 and 78). Women tend to be lower in serotonin than men, and so need to consume foods that will raise their levels. Foods rich in tryptophan include eggs, milk, and wholegrains. Serotonin is produced in larger quantities in the morning, which is why it is particularly important for women to eat breakfast.
Avocado and chicken are good sources of protein.