Diet and Nutrition
Nutrition consists of all the things a human being consumes by eating or drinking that contain components which are used by the body to keep it maintained and fueled. But optimum nutrition is when that individual is attempting to consume the best products he or she possibly can. This well-rounded diet would include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, essential fats and water.
A wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fish can lead to optimum nutrition, along with a limited amount of protein from animal sources. Most health care professionals and scientists agree that foods which are “colorful” contain more nutrients, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, kale and broccoli. Supplements can also be added to the daily mix when known deficiencies are present or simply to ensure the proper balance of vitamins and minerals is being maintained.
Because the body is 62 percent water, it is also important to consume enough water on a daily basis.
Why do humans need good nutrition on a consistent basis? In part, because a healthy body has the ability to accomplish the following amazing feats:
- Skin renews itself in 21 days
- Bones repair themselves in just six weeks
- The digestive tract replaces itself every four days
Without a healthy, nutritious diet, this entire process breaks down and becomes impaired. When the cells are unable to renew themselves the way they are meant to, the body begins to deteriorate and age.
While optimum nutrition fuels our body in the best possible way and helps to perform the above repairs that are taken for granted, a healthy diet also aids in:
- Increasing physical performance
- Improving mental clarity and enhancing concentration
- Increasing the individual’s IQ
- Protecting the body from disease
- Improving the quality of sleep
- Improving the body’s resistance to infections
- Extending a healthy lifespan
Although each human being comes into this world with his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses, everyone has the choice of how they will maintain their body. While many people feel genetics play the most important role in determining what serious diseases they will contract throughout their life, that belief is not always the case.
For instance, a study of breast cancer utilizing 44,000 sets of twins concluded that 27 percent of the participants’ risk for breast cancer was due to factors which were inherited. That conclusion leads us to believe that 73 percent of the risk was the result of external factors such as lifestyle and diet.
Some research points to one in 100 people being stricken by Alzheimer’s because of their genes. Even if a person is predisposed to have a specific disease, it sometimes takes the right circumstances and environment for that disease to develop. An individual who smokes and drinks excessively is providing an environment in which it may be more likely for diseases to develop.
A person’s day-to-day lifestyle can also lead to greater chances of disease. A lifestyle in which the person consumes a poor diet, has high levels of stress due to work or family issues, and is exposed to higher amounts of pollution does not promote good health.
There have always been some deficiencies in human diets around the world, particularly in regions where a wide variety of foods was not readily available or only available through growing seasons or when the climate cooperated with hunting and gathering seasons. However, diets in the past 30 or 40 years have changed dramatically in that the food manufacturing facilities are processing out some of the healthiest ingredients in the grains and rice people consume. Also, many individuals have been eating more salt, more sugar and more refined carbohydrates while their intake of fiber is a lot less.
Diets of this nature leave individuals with an increase in weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.
Part of the problem is hectic and unhealthy lifestyles which lead to instant gratification where food is concerned. Humans tend to grab a candy bar or bag of chips or eat at their favorite fast food chain when time is restricted. These items contain many chemicals to “pump up” an appealing look and taste. The result – most individuals consume 38 kilograms of sugar per year today, compared to a mere 9 kilograms in 1900. Every time an unhealthy food choice is made, a healthy one is left behind, leading to more and more nutrient deficiencies.
Studies of indigenous peoples who utilize as much as possible from the plants in their surrounding environments for general nutrition and medicinal purposes seem to be on the right track for healthy bodies. Diets which include a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and occasionally animal products tend to create a chemical balance which optimizes the body’s ability to repair and fuel itself.
Modern health food stores are excellent sources of vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure the body is not lacking in any essential nutrients necessary for good health.
- Alan H. Pressman and Sheila Buff. The Complete Idiot's guide to vitamins and minerals, Alpha A member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc (2007)
- Brewer, S. The essential guide to vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements, Right Way (2010)
- Elson M. Haas, Md & Buck Levin, Phd, Rd. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to diet and nutritional medicine, Celestial Arts (2006)
- Holford, P. The optimum nutrition bible, Little Brown Group (2004)
- Holford, P & Lawson, S. Optimum Nutrition Made Easy How to achieve optimum health, Piatkus Books (2008)
- Lieberman, S. & Bruning, N. The Real Vitamin & Mineral Book, Avery, a Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc (2003)
- Rodale Health Books. Healing with vitamins : the best nutrients to slow, stop, and reverse disease, Rodale, (2009)
- Royston, A. Vitamins and minerals for a healthy body, Heinemann Library, (2003)
- The National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed, National Academy of Sciences (1989)
- Werbach, M. Nutritional Influences on Illness, 2nd ed, Third Line Press (1993)
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Vitamins are an organic chemical compound that the body must have in very small amounts as it is needed for such body processes such as normal growth, metabolism, and overall health. They can be obtained by eating animal or plant products. Vitamins are necessary to make enzymes and hormones, which are both important to perform several chemical reactions that are necessary for life. Vitamins can be taken up from either foods or supplements and cannot be made in the body alone.
A mineral is an inorganic chemical element that the body must have in minute amounts for body processes such as normal growth and metabolism. They are essentially the building blocks of a living being since they are all what remain after plant or animal tissue decomposes. Minerals are also essential for enzyme and hormone formation.