Nutrition is the process by which nutrients interact with the system of a living organism. The entire process of nutrition starts with the intake of food, the constituents it breaks down to, the process of digestion and absorption, interaction and usage of the absorbed nutrients, and culminates into the excretion of the waste materials. Each organism has a different way of acquiring and processing food. Most animals eat their food raw, even if it is meat. Humans on the other hand rarely eat raw food, and when they do, these raw foods are mostly fruits, everything else is cooked and stored. Humans also need critically balanced meals, as an imbalance in the supply of nutrients can lead to an imbalance in the presence of nutrients in the body, which can either cause deficiency or toxicity.
Nutrition is the most commonly spoken of topic as far as health is concerned, thus, in this write up we will be focusing on importance of nutrition, types of nutrition, busting diet myths and nutrition myths, What to eat, what not to eat, and nutrition supplements. So, let’s begin at the fundamental question, why is it so important to focus on nutrition.
- What is the Importance of Nutrition?
- Types of Nutrition:
- Diet Myths And Facts:
- What to Eat and What Not to Eat:
- Nutrition Supplements:
What is the Importance of Nutrition?
At some point in our collective history, the study of nutrition started with a focus on just diet. Without knowing exactly how a particular food source interacts with the body, the understanding of nutrition was heavily dependent on direct observation of the effects of food on the body. While this worked, it could also have backfired, as most general nutrition sources can also cause allergic reactions in some. Today, the focus of nutrition has shifted from just the intake of food to how the food is broken down and absorbed (catabolism), and used to create as well as mend tissues (anabolism) by the body. The processes of catabolism and anabolism combine to form metabolism, which is the body’s first and only line of defence against diseases.
Nutrition now focuses on maintaining the critical balance of all nutrients in the body. Nutrients in part are divided into two parts:
Micronutrients are critical nutrients you need in minimal or trace amounts. Micronutrients generally help the body absorb and process other nutrients, they also help with the secretion of critical hormones and regulating the health of certain organs. Micronutrients are further divided into two broad categories:
Vitamins help the body absorb essential nutrients, they also ensure organ health. Vitamins in required trace amounts help the body remain healthy but over presence of one or more vitamins can lead to the opposite effects, causing fatal illnesses. Same is true about the deficiency of vitamins as they lead to diseases conditions like weak bones, night blindness, scurvy, beriberi and so on.
Minerals are required in even smaller quantities but are responsible for several things, including transmitting signals from the brain to required body parts, preventing the formation of plaques in organs, muscle movement and so on. Deficiency of minerals can lead to severe chronic illnesses like lack of iron leads to anemia and so on, however, an excess amount of minerals can lead to diseases like copper toxicity in case of copper excess.
Macronutrients are bigger nutritional sources, which are broken down by the body during the process of digestion. These macronutrients are generally broken down for energy, some parts of macronutrients are also used to help with organ activity, maintenance of the body and so on. Macronutrients are divided into 6 broad categories:
Carbohydrates are foods which are further subdivided as mono-, di-, and polysaccharides depending on the number of units of sugar in them. Carbohydrates are primarily present in starch rich foods like wheat, rice, potato, yam and so on. Carbohydrates are the energy providing units, which is to say, that most of the glucose produced during the process of digestion is used to provide the body with energy.
There are several types of fats, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and so on. Mostly the fats present in naturally is unsaturated fat in the form of triglycerides. Fat helps insulate the body, store excess energy, protect vital organs, aid the work of proteins, also as the storehouse of vital nutrients. However, excess of fat in diet, especially hydrogenated fat can lead to obesity which in turn can cause diseases like heart diseases, diabetes, blood pressure and so on.
Protein is generally synthesised from amino acids, which are typically not generated in the body. Excess amino acids are normally ejected from the body through urine. Proteins help repair body tissues, with the production of essential enzymes and hormones, build skin, muscle, cartilage, and blood, as well as production of some necessary chemicals in the body. Proteins are also known to carry genetic information and assist in transmitting to the new cells, they also help with passing on the information for the creation of the said new cells.
Water is an essential macronutrient, nearly 70% of the human body is made of water. Water in the body helps with the absorption of essential nutrients, it helps clean the body and eject it out of the body in the form of urine and feces, as well as sweat. An optimal intake of water ensures balanced blood pressure, water also keeps your internal and external organs well moisturised. It is believed that while a person may survive starvation for about a week, person who is dehydrated will die of water loss much sooner. However, too much of water can also lead to weakening of bones, as well as bloating due to water retention. The optimal amount of water intake is 6-8 glasses per day, which roughly amounts of nearly 2 litres of water. A person suffering from anemia, athletes, and people who do work which causes excessive sweating should drink more than 2 litres of water per day, however, the regular intake of water should not exceed 4 litres of water per day.
Dietary fibre is sources of carbohydrates which are partially digested. Fibrous food help with the digestion process, ensure that excretion of waste material from the body is painless and prevent gastrointestinal diseases. Moreover, dietary fiber is present in a lot of natural fruits and vegetables, they even help with the prevention and management of type II diabetes. It is believed that dietary fiber helps with cancer prevention, however, the scientific explanation for the same is not available.
Fatty acids are generally produced by the body, as per its needs. However, two essential fatty acids Omega- 3 and Omega-6 are also acquired through diet. These fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation in the body.
Types of Nutrition:
Types of Nutrition can be understood easily if one understands the means and methods by which one can gain nutrition. There two ways in which organisms gain nutrition:
When organisms are able to make food on their own, then this type of nutrition is known as autotrophic nutrition. A good example of autotrophic nutrition is the plant world, where plants produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis.
When organisms are not able to produce food on their own, they depend on other sources to gain nutrition. Insects, Reptiles, Parasites, Fish, Amphibians, Large and small animals, Human beings, all are great examples of heterotrophic nutrition as they depend on other sources like plants and other animals for nutrition.
Diet Myths And Facts:
Diets have been in and out of fashion through the ages, from the blood type diet that caught people’s imagination to the new age keto diets, they have been fads that people have opted for to lose weight quickly. However, as has been proved several times, diets could be big failures too. Here are a few diet myths that we decided to bust:
Certain Types of Food Burn Fat:
Yes, certain types of food like a limited amount of coffee, eggs, cinnamon, bell peppers and so on help burn fat. This fat burning process is not overly rigorous which means that while they may help cut back a little fat, it doesn’t mean that a person should only eat these foods, that too much of any of the above mentioned amy cause discomfort and harm.
You can Only Eat a Limited Number of Foods:
Fad diets, like ones which focus on month long detox food and all, may help lose weight in the immediate future, but become boring and more often than not are not sustainable. The result of which is that as soon as the individual finishes the diet course, they have absolutely no idea on how to continue on a healthy diet to maintain that weight. A better way is to make healthier changes in regular diet making it more sustainable in the long run.
Carbohydrates make you Fat:
Carbohydrates actually have less calories than fat rich food. Yes, we need to keep an eye on the amount of carbs we are eating in a day, but one portion of carbs per day or 3-4 times a week will not affect your weight if it is balanced with the right amount of greens and proteins. Instead of avoiding carbohydrates completely, one should be careful about what are these carbs being paired with.
You Shouldn’t Eat after 8:00 p.m.
If you stuff yourself, you can eat whenever you want and still get fat. It is generally believed that people go to bed by 9:30- 10:00 p.m. which is why they are asked to avoid eating after 8:00 p.m. because one should have a light dinner before bed, making digestion and absorption of food easier. So, we would suggest a light dinner and at least an hour’s gap between your dinner and bed.
You Should Completely Avoid Treats:
All things deliciously are also borderline or completely unhealthy. But we do love them, and if you are to deny yourself everything you love, you would soon fall off the bandwagon and cheat your diet. Instead of depriving ourselves all that we love it is better to allow ourselves small quantities of our favourite treats.
What to Eat and What Not to Eat:
As far as we are concerned, if you are balancing everything your food, as well as exercising regularly there aren’t many things you shouldn’t eat. However, if like us you eat, work, sleep, repeat, then maybe you should follow the guide below:
What to Eat:
Food which helps maintain the functionality of our organs, as well as maintain the critical balance of our bodies is good enough. Here is a small list of food items that could be a part of your weekly routine:
Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach.
What not to Eat:
A list of avoidable food items would generally pertain to items which are either created in factories and cured or worked upon to maintain their taste and shelf life. Here are a few food items to avoid:
Cold storage processed foods like cheese, ham or other flavoured and ready to eat meat and meals.
Canned fruits and beans
Dried fruits like dried pineapple and so on.
Trans fats like edible vegetable oil.
Before we start describing nutritional supplements we need to understand that these supplements are suggested and taken to compensate for any deficiency which may arise in the body. These supplements have not been designed to replace actual food or meals. There are several nutrition supplements from the most common ones like multivitamins, calcium and so on to very specific micronutrients. Medlife provides a wide range of chemical salt based as well as herbal nutrition supplement products. However, while most of these products are safe, we would suggest that you speak with your physician before taking health supplements.
We have tried to briefly capture nutrition and important aspects of it in our content. Over a period of time, we realized that while we keep talking about having nutritious food, we never sat down and understood what nutrition stood for and how can one have a nutritious diet, for us the trick lies in balanced diets.