What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the process of consuming a healthy and balanced diet to provide your body the nutrients it needs for nourishment, growth, function and well-being. It also involves the study of nutrients in food, their source and their usefulness in your body.
Typically, nutrition includes the following steps:
- Ingestion – The process of eating and drinking
- Digestion – The breakdown of food into absorbable units
- Absorption – The nutrients are mainly absorbed in the small intestine
- Transport – The nutrients are transported to all parts of the body through the circulatory system
- Assimilation – This is the process by which nutrients are used for growth, energy, and repair
- Excretion – The elimination of waste products from the body
What are Nutrients?
Nutrients are chemical compounds in food that are used by your body to:
- Produce energy
- Provide nourishment for growth
- Maintain health and life
- Ensure proper functioning
Your body requires several nutrients for all systems to function properly. Nutrients can be classified into:
- Macronutrients: Required in relatively large quantities and include:
- Carbohydrates: To make energy
- Proteins: To build and maintain bones, muscles and skin
- Fats: Give you energy and help your body absorb vitamins
- Fiber: For better bowel movements and healthy weight maintenance
- Water: For all physiological activities
- Micronutrients: Needed in relatively small quantities and include:
- Vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, K): For normal growth and development
- Minerals: (Calcium, Iron, etc.): For making enzymes and hormones
Significance of Nutrition
Nutrition is one of the keys to good health. Just like your car needs fuel or your cell phone battery needs a recharge, your body needs food that provides it with energy to function. Moreover, your organs and tissues need proper nutrition to work effectively.
Without nutrition, your body will be prone to reduced immunity, increased chances of infections or diseases, impaired physical and mental development, reduced productivity and poor performance. Therefore, your nutritional status can influence your overall health over the entire course of your life.
Sources of Nutrition
Though nutrition includes a lot of natural whole foods, a sizeable portion consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially those that are red, orange, or dark green. Key sources of nutrition include but are not limited to:
- Whole grains or cereals such as whole wheat and brown rice, milk products, starchy vegetables and legumes (for carbohydrates and fiber)
- Beans, legumes, soy products, nuts, dairy products, eggs, seafood, meat or poultry (for proteins)
- Oils such as canola, olive, safflower, sesame, sunflower, etc. (for fats)
- A wide range of foods and/or supplements (for vitamins and minerals)
However, processed or fried foods, solid or trans fats found in processed foods, refined grains (white flour, white rice) and refined sugar (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), are found to be harmful in the long run. Typically, an appropriate nutrition plan is based on several factors and is specific to the individual. Therefore, it is important to work alongside your doctor or nutritionist who can tailor the right nutrition plan that is best for you.
Benefits of Adequate Nutrition
Good nutrition helps you:
- Produce more energy
- Feel younger and more active
- Improves your overall health
- Maintains a healthy body weight
- Cope successfully with an ongoing illness
- Lower the risk of or avoid certain diseases
- Prevent diet-related illness such as some cancers