Food – The Importance of Nutrition
The word food brings to mind delicious food that we eat on a daily basis. However, this definition does not accurately portray the complex nature of food. Food is any material consumed to supply nutrition to an organisms, to improve health, or for personal preference.
In its simplest form food is food that is eaten. It has been estimated that in North America, plants contain more than two hundred billion calories worth of nutrients. Animal food accounts for another forty eight billion calories, making animal products the largest component of our diets. Of all plant foods, only meat accounts for more than fifty percent of dietary intake.
There are many factors that affect what a person eats and the nutrients they receive from the diet. Age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, occupation, level of physical activity, and the presence of other medical conditions are just a few of the factors that affect diet. Because of these factors, most nutritionists agree that a proper diet is necessary to maintain good health. For example, if a woman is pregnant, her diet will be different from that of a woman who is not pregnant. A person who has certain diseases will require a higher fiber diet to compensate for their disease, while a person with no known disease will not require a high fiber diet to promote good health.
The way food is digested is also very important to proper nutrition. When carbohydrates are digested, three major chemical reactions occur. First, the glucose is converted to glycogen, which is a sugar used for energy. Next, the glycogen is broken down into two main chemicals: free fatty acids, which provide a medium for bacteria to live in (the so called “visceral” body), and fat. Most of the fat that is ingested by humans is used as a source of energy or as a reserve for future food supplies, but very little is used as a source of food or for building cell walls.
In addition to the major chemical reactions that take place when food is digested, nutritionists believe that all living things need certain vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. To illustrate this point, consider the differences between carrots and sweet potatoes. Carrots contain a lot of vitamin A; sweet potatoes, on the other hand, contain almost none. Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium, while carrots are lacking in this mineral.
A good diet involves eating a variety of different foods. In today’s society, there are too many preservatives and chemicals in processed foods, so it is important to choose foods carefully, in order to maintain good nutrition. Some types of food are better than others when it comes to nutrition; for example, milk and dairy products, which are mostly pasteurized and contain too many nutrients, are not as good as whole or raw milk and dairy products. It is important to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and meat, for good nutrition.