More Info on Nutrition
There is so much information available on what we should eat and when and how, but how much of this information is really important? Which bits do we really need to know? What exactly is Nutrition ? How can you best understand this vast subject to improve your health and the health of friends and family?
In the sea of existing information on nutrition and food, there are a few really important points to know so you can better understand nutrition in order to live a healthy life.
The Balancing Act of a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet includes all the foods we eat and liquids we drink as well as the time between meals! Let’s say we eat all the right foods and then sit around all day without exercising. Let’s say that someone eats a diet high in sugar and fats and yet exercises regularly, who is to say who is the healthier of the two?
The truth is that a healthy balanced diet is really only this if we are getting a balanced diet of nutrients of ALL the foods we need to maintain our health as well as:
Getting regular exercise
Exercise helps the get the oxygen & blood moving faster around the body and increases the supply of oxygen to the cells. It increases the speed of the blood flow to and from vital organs and increases the amount of oxygen to the cells of these organs. Small amounts of regular exercise is a useful part of a healthy lifestyle.
Drink plenty of fresh water
Eating well should also include drinking well!
Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water and drinking enough fresh water each day is so so important. Dramatic health improvements are made in many people once they start drinking enough water each day. So live well - eat well - drink well.
Nutrition has a couple of meanings which are useful when looking at the subject. Nutrition can be defined as: The means by which living organisms take in food and use this food for energy and growth and to maintain health. The subject of nutrition is the science that deals with food and nourishment, especially in humans.
The word ‘Nutrition’ itself is taken from the Latin ‘nutricius’ meaning that which nourishes or suckles, taken from the Indo-European ‘Sans Snauti’ – literally ‘she gives milk’. Let’s have a look and see what food groups we can get the most nourishment from:
The Main Food Types
All that you have eaten and all that you will eat falls into one of 5 main food types. Whether your food comes from Yorkshire in England or New Delhi in India, it falls into one of the 5 main food types and here they are:
- Carbohydrates which include cereals, bread, rice, grains.
- Vitamins & minerals including fruit & vegetables
- Proteins including fish, meat, cheese, tofu, soya products
- Fats & oils including all the cooking oils, butter & cream, milk & dairy product
What we eat affects our health and energy levels. If we only drank sugary drinks, processed foods and took little or no exercise, we would could not expect our body to respond with vigor and health. Carefully planned nutrition must provide an energy balance and a nutrient balance. To maintain health, it is advised that we eat foods from these main groups daily.
Carbohydrates or carbs as they are often called, are the most common source of energy found in foods. Carbohydrates are an essential component of living cells and an important source of energy for the body. One of the functions of the liver is to break down carbohydrates into blood sugar or glucose which is then used by the cells, tissues and organs for energy.
Some Food Sources of Carbohydrates
Click here for more --> information on carbohydrates.
Vitamins help the body to grow, helps to resist it to infections and helps to maintain the smooth and efficient running of the organs. We only require small doses of vitamins but as we cannot make them ourselves, we are dependent on the food we eat to ensure that we get the vitamins that we need.
A well balanced diet provides an adequate quantity of all vitamins and our supply comes mostly comes from the plant and animal foods we eat. Eating a balanced diet of a variety of fresh fruit & vegetables ensures we get the supply of vitamins that we need on a daily basis. Vitamins are either dissolvable in water or fat.
Examples of Vitamin Rich Foods
Milk is rich in Vitamin D which helps bones, teeth, nails & hair. Carrots are rich sources of Vitamin A and this helps to maintain healthy vision. Most fruits and green leafy vegetables have lots of Vitamin C which helps the body to stay healthy and heal itself it if gets sick or there is a cut.
Fresh foods are key. (However, frozen vegetables that are frozen whilst fresh can contain more vitamins and minerals than vegetables stored for a long time at room temperature. Freshly frozen foods and the technology of freezing has dramatically enhanced the availability of good foods around the planet.)
For more information on Vitamins and Menopause click on this link.
Food Sources of Vitamin-Rich Foods:
- Green leafy vegetables – spinach, rocket, watercress, cabbage.
- Yellow/red vegetables – pumpkin, carrots,
- Fruits – oranges, grapes, kiwi-fruit, bananas, tomatoes, lemons.
- Plant & animal products – tofu, milk, cheese, fish, nuts, grains
Minerals are not created in plants and animals, they are found in the soil and the water we drink, depending on where the water is sourced will depend on the level of minerals contained in it.
Plants & animals absorb the minerals from the soil and from the food they eat which we then consume as part of our diet. Minerals are needed to make healthy blood, bones and teeth.
Food Sources rich in Minerals
- Green vegetables – kale, Brussels sprouts, beans, peas
- Grains – wheat, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, millet, spelt
- Fruits – kiwi-fruit, blackberries, black currants, raspberries
- Nuts – brazil, cashews, walnut, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
- Seaweed, sea salt
- Dairy products – cheese & milk
- Fish – tuna, salmon, perch, herring, sardines
What are Proteins?
Protein is the food that supports the life of cells in the body.
Protein is the body’s basic building block for the tissues that bind organs, for the muscles that allow us to move, for the protection of the skin, for our hair and nails, for the nerves that supply sensory communication between the brain and all parts of our bodies and for the bones that allow give strength to the skeletal system.
All cells in the body, no matter what their function, need protein to grow, to repair themselves, to fight off bacteria and to do their jobs.
What Proteins Do
Proteins help every activity in the body to occur such as digestion, growth & reproduction.
Protein is a vital nutrient and extremely needed in all of our diets. There are different types of protein and our bodies need 22 different types to maintain health. Our diets need to supply us with the 9 proteins that our bodies cannot make.
Protein-Rich Food Sources
- Animal proteins include: chicken, fish, beef, pork etc.
- Vegetable proteins include: soybeans, tofu
- Dairy products include: milk, eggs, yoghurt & Cheese
- Grains such as wheat, spelt, rye & corn
- Wheat germ
Our bodies need a certain amount of fats for a healthy diet .The fats we eat in our diets come from either plant or animal products.
Fats are either solid at room temperature such as animal fat on bacon, beef, chicken, lamb, hard margarine, cheese, whole milk and hard cheeses or liquid at room temperature such as olive oil and sunflower.
The Functions of Fats
- Fats provide us with energy and an energy reserve for such times as needed.
- Fats provide the body with warmth and insulation.
- Fats surround and protect many of our internal organs.
- Fats also help to transport the fat soluble vitamins around the body.
Examples of Food Fats
- Butter & margarine
- Olive oil, sunflower oil, soya bean oil
- Wheat germ
- Animal meats
Click here to find out more information about fats and their role in your health.
Fibre or roughage as it is sometimes called plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy diet. Fibre’s main function is to help keep the digestive system functioning properly, to help eliminate waste and toxic products and to help remove excess sugars and chemicals out of the body and balance the levels of fat in the blood.
Fibre is largely supplied by plant based foods and is not a classified as a nutrient as such but is nevertheless a very important factor in a healthy diet.
Functions of Fibre
- Fibre helps your digestive system to process food and absorb nutrients.
- Fibre lowers to keep a balance in the levels of fat in the blood.
- Fibre helps to control blood sugar levels, which in turn controls appetite.
Foods containing Fibre
- Brown rice
- Wheat bran
- Whole grain cereals
- Whole grain breads
- Whole meal pasta
- Fruit & Vegetable peels