Basic Nutrition Information

Published in Nutrition

It is fairly common knowledge that nutrition plays a major role in both our physical and mental health. Basically nutrition refers to how nutrients and little girl reading abc of nutrition bookother parts of the food and drinks we consume affect the cells of our body. However, not enough of the proper nutrients (malnutrition) or too much nutrition and obesity can adversely effect our immune system thus making us more susceptible to infection and disease.

 The following is some very basic nutrition information :

There are two(2) types of nutrients:

Macro-nutrients (needed in large quantity) – Proteins, carbohydrates and fats

Micro-nutrients (needed in small quantity)– Vitamins and minerals – we need about 50 vitamins and minerals daily to maintain good health

Proteins are made up of amino acids of which there are 20 ( 11 are synthesized in the body and 9 – called essential amino acids – come from our diet)

11 synthesized amino acids:        9 essential amino acids:

Alanine                                                           Histidine

Arginine                                                         Isoleucine

Asparagine                                                    Lycine

Aspartic Acid                                              Methionine

Cysteine                                                         Phenylalanine

Glutamic Acid                                             Threonine

Glutamine                                                     Tryptophan

Proline                                                           Valine

Serine

Tyrosine

These proteins are used in building muscles and organs and in keeping a healthy immune system. The most common sources are : meat, fish, eggs, dairy, grains, legumes and seeds. Non vegetarians get all the essential amino acids from animal sources of protein. Vegetarians need to combine plants – since each plant protein is missing at least one essential amino acid.

Carbohydrates are the structural materials of which plants are comprised. They are produced by plants through a process called photosynthesis and consist of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They appear as Starches, Cellulose and Sugars. There is no human need for carbohydrates as in essential amino acids. However it is essential to eat fresh vegetables and fruit (heavy in carbohydrates). Their value lies in the vitamins, proteins. Minerals and fiber they contain rather than in their nutritional carbohydrate content and it is more beneficial to eat them in their natural (raw) form than cooked or as juice.

Starches are complex carbohydrates with no taste, no odor and are granular or powdery in form. It’s function is to provide emergency food supply to the plant. Starch is manufactured in plants’ leaves from excess glucose. It is white, granular and does not dissolve in cold water, alcohol or liquids that usually act as a solvent. Vegetables with a high starch content (ex: potatoes, seeds rice, wheat, corn) are plants of which the starchy part is what we eat.

Cellulose is a polysaccharide (a carbohydrate composed of 2 or more mono-saccharides). It is sometimes called roughage or fiber. Cellulose is edible but not digestible by us (humans). It does however aid in our digestive process by helping the body push out foods and waste thus aiding in regular bowel movements helping to lower the risk of colon cancer.

Sugars are mono-saccharides (building blocks that make up carbohydrates) and the simplest form of carbohydrate. Simple sugars (glucose, dextrose (grape and corn sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and galactose (less soluble)) Therefore eating fruits and vegetables is the main way of obtaining carbohydrates. Believe it or not – the distinctions between vegetables and fruit is actually based on custom not science. Every edible vegetable and fruit has both edible, digestible carbohydrates and non-edible, non-digestible (fiber) carbohydrates.

Fats: Complex molecules of fatty acids and glycerol needed for energy and growth.

There are 3 basic types:

Monounsaturated

Polyunsaturated

Saturated

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature and are basically derived from plants.

Saturated fat is animal fat (two exceptions being palm and coconut oil – both of which contain more saturated fat than any other plant oil) and tends to be solid at room temperature. It can cause an increase in cholesterol levels and an increase risk of atherosclerosis.

 

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