Mahatma Gandhi, at 74 years old, went on 21 days of total starvation while fighting a campaign for India’s independence. The body’s capacity to withstand starvation depends on one’s age and state of health. But while you are able to survive starvation or the deprivation of food, your body cannot normally function when it lacks the nutrients it is supposed to get from food.
When you are under or malnourished, your body functions and system are prone to infection, illness and malfunction. You easily get sick. Your mental processes may be affected. Your body’s nerve reactions impaired.
That is how important proper nutrition is. Not just nutrition, but the emphasis on good, sufficient and balanced nutrition.
What is Nutrition?
It is the intake of foods and beverages that provide essential nutrients to the body, to enable its proper functions and well-being. When the food and beverages you take in are broken down during digesting, the nutrients are released into our body system.
The key elements to nutrition are the intake of foods, its proper breakdown or processes, the presence of nutrients in these foods and the effect of these foods on the body.
What does our Body need?
Your body needs nutrients for good nutrition. Nutrients are both macronutrients and micronutrients:
- The macronutrients, named as such because your body needs it in bigger amounts, are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber and water. These work to provide structure for growth and development, and energy to your body;
- The micronutrients refer to the vitamins and minerals. They fight off illnesses and beef up your immune system.
How does the Body get Nutrition?
When you eat food, you chew it down. Then you swallow and the food goes into your stomach along with other water and fluids. It then passes to the intestines. Nutrients are released from there and travels to the bloodstream throughout the body. Whatever wastage that our body does not need is expelled through urine and bowels.
How does Nutrition affect the Body?
The main nutrients your body needs are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. You need it in varying amounts depending on your age and general health. A person with diabetes will need fewer carbohydrates than a healthy person. A person with a kidney disease has limitations on water compared to a healthy person. Whatever your health condition is, you need all these nutrients because each plays a role in the functions of your body. A well-balanced diet is a diet tailor-fit to one’s health and ailments.
- CARBOHYDRATES fuel the body, and keep it going. Simple carbohydrates are composed of sugars, and give the body immediate energy rush. This should be taken in limited amounts. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are high in fiber and low in fat, and provide long-term flow of energy.
- FATS can actually be both good and bad to your body. The bad fats in cakes, butter, cheese and animal products like bacon and sausages have to be limited. The good fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats abundant in oily fish, olive oil and green leafy vegetables, work in lowering cholesterol levels and in preventing heart diseases.
- PROTEINS are essential for the development, growth and repair of your body’s cells, tissues and muscles. It works to protect the body from infections and ailments. Meat is a good source of protein, but also vegetables like beans and nuts.
- VITAMINS AND MINERALS are abundant in fruits and vegetables, which is why you have to consume a big amount of this food group consistently. It keeps the body healthy and free from diseases. It affects the functions of both the immune and nervous systems.
- WATER composes 70% of your body. It is vital to body functions and has to be consumed liberally. A person can last 21 days without food, but without water, you can only survive up to 3 days. Once your body lacks water, it becomes dehydrated and your body breaks down. Water transports the nutrients and oxygen to other parts of the body. It also is necessary for digesting, elimination of toxins, circulation and excretion. Experts recommend at least 8 glasses of water daily.
What is Nutritious Diet?
The key to a nutritious diet is variation and completeness. You have to plan your meal to include the different food groups. It would not be healthy to just eat a good piece of steak alone. That is just protein, but you lack the carbohydrates. If you are vegan, you get tons of vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables, but you would not have a stable supply of protein.
The food pyramid provides the different kinds of food that your body needs:
- FRUITS. These can be fresh, dried, frozen or canned fruits, and also real fruit juices. Experts recommend that your food plate should have 50% of fruits and vegetables.
- VEGETABLES. These share the top spot of the healthy foods to be eaten. It includes green leafy vegetables, red and orange ones and starchy vegetables. Have variations in the kind of vegetables you eat for a more comprehensive diet.
- GRAINS. Whole grains compose of rice, pasta and oats, and these have higher fiber content than refined grains. The latter, however, are chemically enriched and have higher content of B vitamins and iron. Eat more of whole grains, and less of refined, which are found in crackers and corn flakes.
- MEAT, EGGS, AND OTHER PROTEIN-RICH FOODS. This food group encompasses animal products, seeds, nuts, soy and beans. In eating meat, choose lean. For chicken, avoid the skin. Vary your source of protein for a richer and healthier diet.
- DAIRY are yoghurt, cheese, liquid milk products, ice cream and pudding which are high in calcium. Choose the low-fat variations of these products.
Unique Tip: your food is precious so do not forget to preserve them properly to keep their nutritional content at perfect level. A vacuum sealer will help you do that easily.
A nutritious meal in a day would compose of:
- 1 piece whole wheat bread or 4 ounces of brown rice or oatmeal
- 3 pieces of vegetables
- 1 piece of fruit
- 1 – 3 servings of legumes and nuts
- 1 – 2 servings of dairy, non-fat
- 2 – 2 servings of protein source (chicken, fish or eggs)
- Very spare serving of potatoes, pasta or sweets
- Very spare serving of red meat
Keep your diet varied. If you had the toast for breakfast, enjoy pasta for lunch, and a small serving of brown rice for dinner. Remember, a healthy or nutritious meal is varied but complete.
Self-cooking is highly recommended. A self-made meal will provide more nutrition for you, and it is much cheaper than eating out. Using the home cooking instructions will help you get the most nutritious meals.
The problem of Malnutrition
Malnutrition is a broad spectrum that includes poor nutrition or eating unhealthy foods, and malnutrition which is the inability to eat anything due to poverty or absence of foods. These problems are more apparent in third-world countries, and its effects are devastating. There is prevalence of Infancy deaths, malnourished children, and physical and mental disabilities.
The Importance of Good Nutrition
Poor nutrition or eating unhealthy foods will keep you alive, but not well. Imagine going through life with all kinds of ailments that need medications and treatments. Or you can choose to eat well and live through a hundred.
Eat right to provide nutrients for your body to look good and function well. Your parts – organs and systems have to do their jobs well so your body can be a well-oiled machine that works efficiently.
Most diseases these days are due to unhealthy diet and lack of nutrition. Your body has been created to withstand normal wear and tear, but when you consume foods that break down your body, it will deteriorate faster.
Supplements and intake of vitamin capsules may help, but the best way to go is to eat organic, eat naturally. The different food groups are more than enough to provide your body with what it needs. Be conscious of your buying preferences and choose healthily.
Enhancing the consumption of fruits and vegetables is an effective way to improve your health and body. Nutrition and delicious meals are necessary for us, especially for children.
To maximize and get the best benefits from your good nutrition, partner it with exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Give your body the physical workout it needs. It is good for the heart, the lungs, and your muscles. It is good for mental health. Avoid smoking, drug use, and excessive drinking.
Choose to be healthy. Some people cannot have the luxury of choosing what to eat and when to eat. You are privileged to have food and the privilege to enjoy it.
If you take care of your body, it will take care of you, and you will live a long and satisfying life. You will not only see your grandchildren, but even your great grandchildren.