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What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is the process by which a human being takes in and utilises food material, it is the process of nourishing, by which organisms obtain energy in the form of food for growth, maintenance and repair.

Evidence of good nutrition

  • A well developed body
  • Ideal body composition
  • Good muscle development and good muscle tone
  • Good skin which is both smooth and clear
  • Good posture
  • Both appetite and elimination normal
  • A well nourished person will be more alert, both mentally and physically
  • A good diet enables the body to resist infectious diseases and extends longevity

A healthy diet should provide good nutrition however, it is important not to lose sight of the whole picture. Stress, toxicity and pollution will all have a strong effect on the functionality of the body
A balanced diet should contain adequate amounts of the following:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Lipids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Fibre
  • Water

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy (calories) for the body – there are two main sources: Complex carbohydrates (starches) and sugars.
Complex Carbohydrates foods include: bread, pulses, potatoes, pasta, rice, cereals, bananas and vegetables.
Sugars either intrinsic, being part of the cellular structure of the food such as glucose, or being refined and added during manufacture such as: cakes, biscuits, squash drinks, table sugar and sweets.
Whilst the body is capable of making some carbohydrate but if very little is consumed and calories are only obtained from proteins and fats then toxicity from the breakdown of these nutrients can occur however, excess carbohydrates can lead to a number of issues as those not required by the body’s needs are converted to fat.

Protein

How much protein should we be eating?
The DoH recommends that 15% of our total energy intake should come from protein. The goal is to eat 2-3 portions of protein rich food per day.
Good sources of protein: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts and tofu.
Each gram of protein contains for calories and any protein which is consumed but not required for the body to function can be converted to glucose and used for energy.
Eating too much protein can have serious consequences and offers no advantage in terms of health or physical performance - it has been linked with bone demineralization and the development of osteoporosis and can also have a long term detrimental effect on kidney function and could be linked to high blood pressure.

Fats, Lipids and Oils
Fats and oils are known are known as lipids and are mainly used by the body as energy however, is fat is eaten surplus to the energy needed, it is stored in adipose tissue which may or may not be converted to energy at a later time.

Recommendations for Fat Intake
The DoH recommends the maximum amount of fat you should consume is 30% however, 25% is a more beneficial figure and the reduction should come from saturated fats .

  • Saturated fatty acids (non-essential): butter, lard, margarine or any fat that is solid at room temperature
  • Monosaturated fatty acids (non-essential): olive oil for cooking or making salad dressings
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids (essential): seeds, seed oils, oily fish

Too much fat in the diet

  • Weight gain
  • Increased cholesterol levels
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Imbalance of other macro and micro nutrients
  • Increased risk of cancer – breast, colon, prostrate

Minerals
Minerals are needed for proper composition of bones, teeth, regulating body fluids and components of enzymes and hormones regulating all functions of the body.
Minerals are present in most foods but in varying quantities and levels, they are not easily absorbed by the body as absorption can be hindered by other foods and some minerals require the presence of other vitamins or minerals for absorption.

Cooking methods and their effects on Vitamins and Minerals

Moist Heat Methods – these are the healthiest cooking methods:

  • Boil – good for cooking vegetables that are tougher in texture such as potatoes and carrots
  • Steam – this method is widely used for vegetables, few nutrients are lost in the liquid and it also cooks the food much faster
  • Poach – this method is used to cook foods that are delicate in nature such as eggs and fish

Dry Heat Methods – frying, baking and grilling

  • Roast and bake – this is good for cuts of meat that are naturally high in fat
  • Grill – the advantage of grilling is that fat is able to drip of the food making it leaner
  • Stir-fry – this means cooking in a shallow pan using only a small quantity of fat or oil as it uses a medium heat source the food is cooked thoroughly before burning occurs
  • Deep fat frying – foods that are deep fried need to be consumed in moderation
  • Microwave – there are very few studies on microwave cooking and food quality but of the studies that do exist all describe some type of damage

Vitamins
Vitamins cannot be synthesised by human cells and therefore must be applied in the diet. Whilst we need very small amounts and each vitamin has a different role to play and most need to be provided in what we eat and drink. There are recommended daily guidelines and most vitamins are toxic in excess therefore care must be taken if using supplements however, a deficiency of even one vitamin can cause severe health problems.

Water
Water makes up 60-70% of our boy weight and a large amount of water is lost every day in urine, sweat and faeces therefore needs to be balanced by our water intake in foods and fluids. If this balance is not maintained, dehydration will occur.

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of concentration
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle cramping
  • Lethargy
  • Thirst
  • Dry eyes
  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Decreased urine output

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