Good nutrition is the foundation of good health. To be able to choose good food products, and understand if your diet should be supported with supplements, you need to have knowledge of the Basics of Nutrition.
The foundation of a diet is built with four basic nutrient groups. These are carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water. These are all needed in proper balance for your body to be able to function in its optimum level. A diet also has to provide proper level of vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients.
70 percent of the body is water. It is involved in every function of the body. An adequate amount is at least eight 8 ounce glasses every day. Tap water is generally obtained from surface water or from ground water. Most people assume they are getting clean, safe, and healthy drinking water from the kitchen tap. Often this is not the case. The greatest concerns about water quality focus on chlorine, pesticides and parasites. Chlorine has been added to the public water supply for a long time to kill disease causing bacteria. The levels of chlorine in drinking water today can be quite high. Some byproducts of chlorine are known to cause cancer. Also, pesticides are suspected of causing an increasing incidence of cancers, especially breast cancer. The reason for this, as some scientists believe, is that certain pesticides can mimic the action of the estrogen hormone in the body.
Today more than half of the cities in United States fluoridate their water supplies. In many states it is required. Fluoridation of the water supply has become standard because it is believed to help develop strong bones and teeth. So far there is no convincing scientific evidence to support this claim. It is known however, that chronic fluoride use results in numerous health problems including osteoporosis and osteomalacia, and that it also damages teeth leaving them mottled. The naturally occurring form of fluoride, calcium fluoride, is not toxic, but this form of fluoride is not used to fluoridate the water. The salts used to fluoridate the water supply, sodium fluoride and fluorosalicic acid, are industrial byproducts that are never found in nature. These are very toxic, and are also used in rat poison and insecticides. Concern of the safety and health effects of tap water has made many people turn to bottled water.
Carbohydrates are the main source of glucose in blood. Glucose is the major fuel for all cells and the only source for the brain and red blood cells. When there is more glucose in the body than it needs for fuel, part of the remaining portion can be stored in the liver for later use and in the body as fat. Carbohydrates are divided into two groups, simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include all sugars, like fructose, sucrose (table sugar) and lactose found in dairy products, and several other sugars. Large amounts of simple carbohydrates found in fast food and refined food, can lead to a number of disorders, like hypoglycemia, and diabetes. Food high in refined simple sugars is usually also high in unhealthy fats, which should be limited in a healthy diet.
Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugars, but the sugar molecules form longer and more complex chains. Fiber and starches belong in this group. Many vegetables, whole grains, beans, and peas are rich in complex carbohydrates. Most of the fiber is not digested. Fiber in food results in bulkier and softer stool, which will help to keep the colon clean and prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. It binds certain substances in the digestive track, which would otherwise result in the formation of cholesterol. This way it reduces blood cholesterol level and the risk of heart disease.
A high fiber diet also reduces the risk of colon cancer. The daily recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams.
Protein is essential for growth and development. It is needed for production of hormones, enzymes, antibodies, tissues and energy. There are two groups of dietary protein; complete and incomplete protein. Incomplete proteins are foods which contain some of the essential amino acids, but not all of them. When you combine two incomplete protein foods, you get a high quality complete protein meal. Amino acids are the Building blocks of protein. Amino acids are divided into two groups; essential and nonessential amino acids. Essential amino acids must be included in the diet, and nonessential amino acids can be built by the body from other amino acids.
It is not necessary to get the protein from meat. Because of the high fat content and antibiotics and other chemicals used in raising cattle and poultry, most meat should be eaten in moderation. Most Americans eat too much protein. The recommended amount is about 50 grams protein a day.
All soybean products are complete protein foods. The only animal-derived product that could be recommended for frequent use is yogurt, but not the ones that are sold in the supermarket and filled with sugar, artificial sweeteners and colorings, and other additives. Health stores sell unsweetened natural yogurt, or you can make it yourself and sweeten with natural juices, fruits and berries.
Fats are needed for normal brain and nerve tissue development. It is the most concentrated source of energy available for the body. For adults, excessive fat intake will lead to obesity and numerous other disorders, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. After about two years of age, the body requires only small amounts of fat, but during infancy and childhood fat is necessary for normal brain and nerve development.
It is clear by now that if your goal is to reduce or control a high cholesterol level, you need to avoid saturated fats and products with trans-fatty acids. This includes hardened vegetable oils (margarine and shortening) and most animal fats. Total calories from fats shouldn’t be more than 20 to 25 percent of daily calories.
Vitamins, minerals and micro nutrients are necessary for good health. The FDA (food and drug administration) has formulated recommended daily allowance (RDA) levels for vitamins. These recommendations are only enough to prevent the deficiency disease, but not enough for maintaining maximum health. Especially people who are suffering from chronic illnesses, under great stress, recovering from surgery, mentally or physically ill, use alcohol, are very active and exercise, will need higher amounts of nutrients.
Always consult your health care provider before following any recommendations, starting a new health program, or making changes to your diet or medication.
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