So…. What is nutrition exactly? Nutrition is the study of how different nutrients once ingested affect our bodies in terms of growth and metabolism. When people ask ‘What is nutrition?’ they are often referring to health guidelines, but the science is far more complex.
We use these nutrients every day during our day to day activities hence it is important to replenish our bodies with the right balance of food.
A poor choice of diet will place stress in our bodies ability to function.
Our bodies are like machines with different moving parts, performing different functions so just like a machine needs oil for lubrication or for fuel to keep it moving throughout the day.
For example the body needs protein for growth, it needs carbohydrates for energy and calcium and minerals for strong bones.
Nutrition deficiency can lead to various health problems such as marasmus and kwashiorkor in children, obesity, hypertension, diabetic mellitus, heart conditions etc.
So what does a balanced diet contain?
A carbohydrate, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. In what portions you may ask. The following chart is a description of the portion.
Proteins are called body building foods. They are required for healthy muscles, skin and hair.
We can get proteins from meat products, poultry, milk and milk products.
Carbohydrates are called energy giving foods. They are necessary for supplying our bodies with glucose which is in turn converted to energy that we use for performing daily activities.
Sources of carbohydrates include rice, maize flour and potatoes.
Vitamins are the primary components of nutrition. The essential vitamins are A,B,C,D,E ,K and folate.
Vitamin A is important for vision, immune system and reproduction system development. Examples of foods rich in vitamin A are leafy vegetables, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin B also called thiamin helps in maintaining good health, maintaining our energy levels ,brain functions and cell metabolism. Foods rich in vitamin B are leafy greens, legumes and salmon.
Vitamin C is used for treatment and prevention of scurvy. It is essential for repairing our body tissues. The foods rich in vitamin C are mostly fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin D is mostly got from exposure to sunlight. The early morning sunlight and the evening sunlight. It is essential for bone growth and healing as well as development of our immune system. Lack of vitamin D can result to rickets in children. Foods rich in vitamin D are oranges .
Vitamin E lacking from a diet can result in nerve problems. Although vitamin E deficiency is rare and is usually due to our bodies inability to digest fat. Foods rich in vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds and peanuts.
Vitamin K plays a major role in helping the blood to clot incase of an injury hence preventing excessive blood loss. Vitamin K is obtained from leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach and collard greens.
Folate is also called vitamin B9.It is used as a dietary supplement and for food fortification. It is also used for making DNA and other genetic materials in our bodies. Foods rich in folate are dark green vegetables, whole grains, peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Either of these vitamins should be included in our meals . Vitamins should be the biggest portion on our plates as we partake different meals of the day.
Minerals are a major part of nutrition too. The essential minerals are calcium, iron, zinc and iodine. The deficiency of these minerals can result in weak bones or poor development of bones .
Fats are also required in our diets but in small portions. There are healthy fats and that we can partake and are not harmful to our bodies such as fats from nuts, avocados, olives, fish and seafood.
However there are other fats that are not good for our health that can cause cardiovascular diseases. Fats helps insulate our bodies to maintain the temperature. They also help to cushion our organs to protect us from trauma.
Water is necessary to maintain our body temperature as well as quicken digestion of food to avoid constipation. Water also helps in transportation of oxygen throughout our bodies as well as lubricating the joints.
We should aim to take at least two litres of water daily.
On top of having a balanced diet let us keep an eye on our portions using our chart above. Let us eat a lot of whole grains, nuts and get rid of excessive fat intake. It is also advisable to take white meat such as chicken and fish and less of red meat such as beef.
Exercising too is part of good nutrition. Taking a walk every day or skipping a rope is also exercising our bodies. So let us try exercising at least thrice a week.
Remember a healthy diet is good for our physical and mental health. It helps us cope with stress ,fatigue and frustrations as well as avoid some lifestyle diseases. A healthy life is a wealthy life. We can do anything in this world when we are healthy. So let us focus on living a healthy lifestyle.