Dancers, ballet and otherwise need a balanced diet rich in complex carbohydrates, found in unrefined foods, proteins, and healthy fats. What are healthy fats? Saturated fats constitute about 50% of your cell membranes. Cholesterol is needed to rebuild cell walls, even more so when inflammation is present.
Once you have stopped growing, maintaining weight means consuming approximately the amount of calories that you burn. If you gain weight while participating in an athletic career, you could review your caloric intake. You could also have your endocrine system checked for hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies.
A healthy diet does not exclude fats. Saturated fats are good sources of Vitamin A and D, and also help the body utilize omega 3 fatty acids. Some saturated fatty acids have anti-microbial properties, helping protect you against harmful organisms in your digestive tract.
Fats that you can consume are the following:
- Organic free-range animal meats and fats such as lard, tallow, etc. These fats can be used for high-heat cooking.
- Wild caught cold water fish can be consumed 2-3 times a week. This rich source of omega 3 oils is polluted with mercury and other contaminants, therefore for daily intake, use a purified fish oil supplement.
- Whole, organic free-range eggs. Keep the yolk intact and soft while cooking, to prevent ruining the cholesterol in the yolk.
- Raw nuts. Some nutritionists recommend pre-soaking in water before eating to release the phyto-nutrients and make all the nutrients in the nuts more bio-available.
- Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated oleic acid.
- Olive oil may be used for cooking at medium temperatures.
- Butter has benefits such as fat-soluable vitamins, and equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids. If the butter is from grass-fed cows it will also have conjugated linoleic acid, which has strong anti-cancer properties.
- Coconut oil is good for cooking at a high heat. Pumpkin seed oil - but do not heat it.
- Cod liver oil, an excellent source of Vitamin D. (get it purified).
- Walnut oil, olive oil, sesame oil, and flax seed oil are all excellent sources of omega 3 oils. You can use them to make your salad dressings with.
Personally I am not a fan of frying foods, but if you do, choose a small amount of the fats that are recommended for high heat cooking. Athletes and dancers are constantly breaking down and repairing damaged soft tissues. Therefore their bodies will produce inflammation, and therefore more cholesterol. This is natural. Cholesterol is a pre-cursor to corticosteroids, hormones which help us to deal with stress and protect the body against heart disease and cancer. Estrogen and testosterone are made from cholesterol. Cholesterol acts as an antioxidant and is required for the proper activity of serotonin in the brain. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and suicidal thoughts. So cholesterol is not such a "bad guy" element as it has been promoted for a couple of decades.
Omega 3 oils reduce inflammation, water retention, platelet stickiness, blood pressure and tumor growth. Some individuals do not assimilate the omega 3 oils from plant sources as well as from meat, egg and fish sources. Omega 6 oils are not "bad guy" fats, but out of balance with omega 3 oils will produce inflammation, high blood pressure and cell proliferation (as in cancer). Wild game meats contain a close balance of omega 6 to omega 3 oils, but domestically raised meats are predominantly omega 6 fat containing.
A dancer's diet can be 20-30% fat. Fats are burned for energy during long work sessions, contributing to endurance. "Fats and Oils" by Paul Chek published in "A Grain of Salt" gave some of the above details on fats. To stay healthy as a ballet dancer, eat healthy fats, lots of leafy greens, vegetables and good quality proteins. For more about oils read here.
Last update : Thursday, 04 September 2008