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Brain Food: What you need to know to eat smart.

by Elisha Courts

Girl eating a healthy lunch

We all know that being healthy doesn’t mean having a two-inch waist or eating only chocolate (although I wish that second statement were true!) Being healthy means knowing what your body needs and responding to its needs. Your body is like a machine. Give it “fuel”—food and water—and it works great! Give it the wrong type of food or not much water, and it won’t work as well.

Lots of girls feel pressured to go on fad diets, but there’s no need for that! Eating a variety of food helps keep your body healthy. Your body needs certain nutrients to keep it working properly, and you can get those nutrients lots of ways. I like to read the nutritional information about food while I eat. It’s a good thing to do if you want to know what you’re putting into your body.

Your Body’s Building Block

Protein makes up your bones, muscles, organs, skin, hormones, and more. It gives your body long-lasting fuel, so high-protein foods satisfy you longer than foods without protein. Nuts, beans, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, cheese, soy, and milk are just a few sources of protein. Your body can’t store protein, so make sure to get some every day!

Know Your ABCs—Get Your Vitamins!

Learn the eating essentials in our nutrition section.

Vitamins boost your immunity, help your eyes adjust to light changes, keep your bones and muscles strong, and make red blood cells. Eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables, sardines, nuts, liver, pork, and even sunshine all contain vitamins. You can also take a daily multi-vitamin, which usually includes other things your body needs such as calcium and iron. Check with an adult before you take vitamins—taking too many or the wrong kind can make you sick.  

Sugar, Salt, and Caffeine . . . Are They All Bad?

Sugary, salty, and high-caffeine foods might be yummy, but the food pyramid tells us to use these foods “sparingly”—that doesn’t mean you CAN’T eat them, just that they shouldn’t be your main foods.

Sugar alters your blood chemistry and gives you a quick energy boost. Sugar occurs naturally in lots of foods, including pasta and fruit. But table sugar, or white sugar, is the type of processed sugar found in soft drinks and most sweets. The more sugar you eat, the higher your energy will spike and the worse you’ll feel when it wears off. Looking at how many carbohydrates are in a certain food can also tell you how much sugar it has, since sugars are carbohydrates.

Pretzels, chips, and some drinks have lots of salt. Lots of foods that I add salt to, such as rice, spaghetti, and soup, would be more healthful without added salt! Salt makes your body store more water, especially in your blood. That means your heart has to work harder, which can lead to high blood pressure or heart problems when you get older. If you’re reading the nutritional values on food packages, note that salt is the same as sodium.

Caffeine is in tea, most sodas, and chocolate. Too much caffeine can give you headaches and stomachaches or make you dizzy or cranky. It also makes you have to pee a lot, which dehydrates you. While your body needs some sugar and salt, it DOESN’T need caffeine. Caffeine is a drug, and your body can get addicted to it, so it’s good to avoid caffeine as much as possible.

The 1, 2, 3s of Feeling Good

  1. Eat right. Eat when you’re hungry, don’t skip meals, and drink lots of water—not soda—to stay hydrated. During the day, your body loses water when you sweat, go to the bathroom, and even breathe.
  2. Exercise. Lots of people dread working out, but exercise can be fun! You may be rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, right!” But if that’s how you feel, you probably haven’t found the right activity for you. I like to run, play soccer, swim, play drums, and do gymnastics.
  3. Feel good about yourself. Don’t stand on a scale criticizing yourself because that’s a waste of time. Remember: You’re beautiful and a great person!

 

© 2008 New Moon® Publishing, New Moon®: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams, Duluth MN.

 

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This article is from New Moon  , a magazine written for girls by girls. Here is a complete list of the New Moon articles on girlshealth.gov.

Content last reviewed May 15, 2008
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