The Basics of Nutrition: 101
With all of the discussion about diets and trying to stay up with the latest trends these days, I thought it would be a good time to get back to fundamentals. Consider this “Nutrition 101.” For many, this will be a refresher, but for others, it will be new knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into great length with clients about their diets only to discover afterwards that they didn’t understand some of the basics. To be able to eat to cure our bodies, we must first grasp certain fundamental concepts so that we may acquire more sophisticated knowledge.
What Exactly Is Food?
This appears to be a straightforward question. We’re all familiar with the term “food.” Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all made with it. Cereal, eggs, sandwiches, hamburgers, bread, potatoes, apples, carrots, and more are all on the menu.
To comprehend how living creatures obtain food, you must first comprehend a scientific explanation of the term food. This definition of food may differ from what you think of when you think of food. People think about food in a variety of ways throughout everyday life. Some argue that juice isn’t considered food because we don’t chew it. Others believe that juice is food since we consume it. We may all think about food differently in regular life, and nobody is confused.
However, scientists conducted tests and discovered that the substances we consume perform various functions in our bodies. Water does not have the same effects on your body as meat, sweets, aspirin, or vitamins. Food has an essential role in the body, according to experts.
The Scientific Definition of food is matter (building materials) that contains energy living things can use to live and grow. All living things need both the matter and energy in food to grow, to heal wounds, and to keep all their parts working.
Where does this energy come from?
We need energy for all activities. Food can be broken down into individual nutrients, Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. When our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, energy is released: calories.
A food Calorie is actually a kilocalorie, which is equal to 1000 calories. Calorie is useful in comparing the energy available from different foods when we are deciding what food to eat. For example, a small apple contains only 80 Calories, while a slice of apple pie contains almost 350 Calories.
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are the building blocks of nourishment. Nutrients are found in the food we eat, and it is these nutrients that we will investigate further. Nutrients can be subdivided into two categories: Macronutrients and Micronutrients.
– “material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy”
3 Types of Macronutrients
So, “macro” implies “large-scale,” or, as I prefer to conceive of it, “huge.” Consider macronutrients to be the primary components that make up the structure of our diets. Macronutrients are split into 3 subgroups: Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat.
I would say they are the most addicting nutrient. The comfort food. Whether it’s simple or complex, they make you feel good, accepted. Sweets and starches for example are carbohydrates. They’re the food group that tens of thousands of Americans shunned during the Atkins diet fad that swept the country. The Low Carb Diet was “the thing,” and people dropped a lot of weight…at least for a while. Many people lost weight until they discovered it was an unsustainable way of life and started eating those pesky carbohydrates again.
Carbohydrates, of course, include cakes, cookies, pastries, sweets, and fruits that have a sweet flavor and contain sugar. Bread, pasta, rice, tortillas, flours, and other grains are examples of meals that are starchy yet don’t always taste sweet. Then there are the starchy vegetables, which must be taken into account in terms of carbs. White potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, maize, winter squash, and peas are the vegetables in question.
They are a fantastic component of a balanced diet when consumed in their “whole” state. I mean whole grain bread, brown rice, beans, and other fruits and vegetables when I say “whole” form. Of course, sweets have a place on my table, but only sometimes and in moderation.
Why in moderation? Because they are simple carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are the different forms of sugar, which are easy for the body to process. These sugars are fructose and glucose (found in fruits and vegetables, lactose (found in milk), and sucrose (refined and purified to produce table sugar). The most important to the body is glucose – the form of the sugar that goes directly to the bloodstream and provides quick energy.
All other sugars must be changed into glucose by the body before the cells can use them. The cells use glucose as their primary source of energy. If the body no longer has a need for the Glucose it is immediately converted by the body to glycogen, a form of starch stored in the muscles and liver, or it is converted to and stored as body fat. Go Straight to the belly. Do not collect 200 dollars.
Now the flip side to simple carbohydrates are Complex carbohydrates. Starches are complex carbohydrates made up of several units of glucose or other sugars that are linked together to create lengthy chains. Before these chains can be utilized, the body must break them down into single units of glucose. Starches take longer to break down into glucose than sugars. Simple sugars offer energy to the body for a shorter length of time, whereas starches provide energy for a longer period of time. Starch may be found in breads, cereals, pasta, and potatoes. How fast carbohydrates are absorbed depends on their Glycemic Index.
Dietary Fiber is a complex carbohydrate derived from non-digestible plant parts. Dietary fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber binds to waste and other chemicals to help them pass through the body. (Oat bran, beans, apples, carrots, and other vegetables contain it.) Insoluble fiber absorbs water and contributes to the diet’s bulk. (Whole grains, as well as the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables, contain this nutrient.) according to the University of California San Fransico, the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber is 25 to 30 grams a day (check out: https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake)
Protein is a macronutrient that is present in the largest amounts in animal products like meat and eggs. Amino acids are the building components of protein. Our bodies only use 20 amino acids, despite the fact that there are more in nature. About ten of the 20 are necessary, which means our bodies can’t make them from other compounds and must get them from food. Animal products are called “complete” proteins because they contain all of the necessary amino acids. Protein is required for the growth and maintenance of lean body mass (muscle), as well as the mending of bodily tissue, the synthesis of chemicals and hormones, and a variety of other physiological activities.
When it comes to animal-based protein, I recommend opting for lean cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products. There are a plethora of tasty and healthy plant-based protein alternatives. Because all fruits and vegetables contain some kind of protein in variable levels, they may be consumed in big quantities to fulfill protein requirements. Soy beans (and soy products like tofu), lentils, sprouts, beans, nuts, and seeds, on the other hand, are particularly high in protein. Throughout the day, I advocate eating lots of these plant-based alternatives as well as a variety of other green leafy veggies.
FAT. Yes, fats are the other food group that has been vilified throughout the years—and rightly so—but they are not to be dreaded in general. Fats serve a critical role in our bodies. It is critical that we include fat in our diet on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, including lining our cell walls and helping in hormone synthesis. Butter, oils, meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, coconuts, avocados, and other foods contain these compounds. Is it true that certain fats are better than others? Yes, of course. In general, I urge individuals to be aware of the fat present in animal products, since it is primarily saturated fat, which can raise cholesterol levels. That includes avoiding chicken skin, eating less fat in steaks and other meats, limiting butter, and opting for lower-fat dairy. Fatty fish (such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies), nuts, seeds, and avocados are all good sources of healthful fats. Fill up on the good fats and consume the bad fats in moderation… Please don’t be afraid of the fat!
Fats contain the most concentrated type of energy of all the nutrients. Lipids include fats.
- Lipids are organic compounds that resemble carbohydrates but contain less oxygen and do not dissolve in water.
- One of the necessary nutrients for healthy bodily function is fat. It is necessary to consume a modest amount of fat on a daily basis.
A gram of fat has more than double the amount of energy as a gram of carbs. Fats are found in a variety of bodily tissues and serve as transporters for other nutrients such as vitamins. Fats also enhance the flavor of meals, making them more appealing, although fat consumption should be limited.
At room temperature, saturated fats are generally solid. They have the greatest quantity of hydrogen atoms.
Saturated fats are abundant in tropical oils, butter, and animal fats.
Saturated fats in the diet can raise the risk of heart and blood vessel disease, obesity, and some forms of cancer.
Fats that are liquid at normal temperature are known as unsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil and peanut oil, are defined by the absence of one pair of hydrogen atoms. Because they lack two or more pairs of hydrogen atoms, fish oils and most vegetable oils, such as maize, soybean, and sunflower oils, are classified as polyunsaturated fats.
What is Cholesterol?
Eating a lot of high-fat foods, especially saturated fats, can elevate cholesterol levels, which is a waxy, fat-like substance produced by the body. Cholesterol is present in cell and nerve tissue membranes. It is used by the body to produce vitamin D and other hormones. Only animal-derived foods like butter, eggs, and meats contain it. Cholesterol is not an essential vitamin because it is generated in the liver. When cholesterol levels in the body grow, the risk of heart and vascular disease rises as well. Cholesterol builds up on the interior walls of arteries, restricting blood flow to the cells supplied by these vessels.
Cholesterol Comes in Two Forms: LDL and HDL. LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind, as it tends to deposit cholesterol on blood vessel walls. HDL is the “good” cholesterol that carries cholesterol from cells to the liver and intestines, where it is regenerated or eliminated. It’s been proven that exercise raises HDL levels while low-fat diets lower LDL levels.
What are Micronutrients? And how important are they?
Now that we’ve come to micronutrients, let’s take a look at this word. Micronutrients are the microscopic nutrients that are sprinkled over our meals to provide nutritional value. The helpers that assist the body to function properly by working in combination with energy-producing substances.
Vitamins and minerals are two types of micronutrients. They are regulating nutrients, which are not absorbed by our systems, and therefore do not supply calories. Instead, the body’s tissues release and absorb vitamins, minerals, and water from the foods we eat.
Now water is the most important nutrient because it facilitates the transport of all other nutrients throughout the body. And is mostly overlooked and not consumed as much as it should.
Getting your daily dosage of vitamins and minerals is usually as easy as eating a variety of foods in the right amounts.
The majority of physiological functions require vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. They’re required for proper growth and overall health. Because our bodies are unable to manufacture vitamins, we must consume a varied diet rich in a range of colors to guarantee that we obtain enough of them.
Vitamins have a role in the development of bones and tissues, as well as the conversion of carbohydrates and fats to energy. Because most vitamins aren’t manufactured by the body, we have to get them through our diet.
Some illnesses can arise as a result of a vitamin deficiency. Vitamins can be classified in two groups: the ones that breakdown fat and may be stored in the body are called fat-soluble vitamins. The vitamins that are water soluble dissolve in water. Meals high in water-soluble vitamins must be consumed more often than foods high in fat-soluble vitamins because water-soluble vitamins are not retained by the body. Fruits and vegetables are good source of water soluble vitamins.
So what are the water-soluable vitamins?
- Thiamin (B1)
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folacin (Folic acid)
- Vitamin B12,
- Pantothenic acid, biotin,
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid).
Minerals are basic chemicals present in the environment that are necessary for the body’s functioning. They are utilized to control a wide variety of bodily functions, from bone formation to blood clotting, and they are vital for body structure. Because most minerals are quickly depleted or lost in waste products, we must consume mineral-rich meals on a regular basis to replenish our supply. Except when there is a blood loss, iron is an exception: it is retained and regenerated by the body.
Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, sodium, and chlorine are the major minerals.
- Calcium is required for blood coagulation and keeps the neurological system in good functioning order.
- Sodium and potassium assist control the flow of fluids in and out of cells, which is what causes osteoporosis. High blood pressure or hypertension can be aggravated by too much salt in the diet, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage. One source of sodium in the diet is table salt. The majority of sodium comes from diet.
- Potassium deficiency can cause muscular weakness and irregular heartbeat.
Now, there are some minerals that you only need a small amount of and those are called trace minerals. Trace minerals include iron, iodine, manganese, zinc, copper, and fluorine.
Hemoglobin, a substance present in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body, need iron to function properly. Due to a shortage of iron, the body produces either too few red blood cells or too little hemoglobin, resulting in anemia. As a result, the body’s cells don’t get enough oxygen.
Iodine is necessary for the thyroid gland to function properly. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland govern the pace at which chemical reactions in our bodies occur. Iodine deficiency causes thyroid gland hypertrophy. The primary sources are seafood and iodized table salt.
I hope this has given you some insight and that you now have a better knowledge of meals! The better we understand nutrition, the more likely we are to make healthy dietary choices. Consider your own diet for a moment. Do you consume a diverse range of foods from each of the macronutrient groups?
Please keep in mind that any advice, diagnosis, or treatment given in this article is not meant to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All nutritional advice should be addressed with your doctor.