Nutrition is the biological and physical process through which an organism uses food to sustain its existence. It entails absorption, assimilation, metabolism, biosynthesis and excretion. The nutritional content in food is categorized into five: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each of these nutrients can be obtained from a variety of foods, although protein and fat are the most plentiful ones. In addition to vitamins and minerals, some foods contain a lot of carbohydrates and fibers while others contain a lot of unsaturated fats.
Plants, animals and humans all contain nutrients in different proportions. Plants, for example, are rich in carbohydrates but have poor protein and fat content because plant food lacks the essential amino acid lysine. On the other hand, animals have abundant protein and fat but lack vitamin E and the other essential minerals such as zinc. Humans have very little protein and fat but high amounts of carbohydrates and fiber.
Nutritional assessment is essential in order to control diet and prevent chronic diseases. According to World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 70 percent of the world’s population is deficient in most vital nutrients. Some of the major nutrition concerns include chronic diseases, which include diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease; obesity, which is the accumulation of body fat resulting in a decreased quality of life; undernourishment, which result in the nutritional deficiencies that lead to chronic diseases; and mineral deficiencies, which are deficiencies of trace elements such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, and boron.
Carbohydrate nutrition refers to the use of foods for energy. It is broken down into three types: simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fatty acids (SFA). Simple carbohydrates, which include table sugar, cakes, biscuits, pasta, and white bread, contain only two calories each and are generally not absorbed in the digestive system. Complex carbohydrates differ from simple carbohydrates in that they are metabolized slowly and result in longer-term storage of fat in the body. Unsaturated fatty acids present in nuts, seeds, and vegetables are also used in carbohydrate diets. However, research has shown that consuming foods with too much fat can be bad for long-term health.
Body mass index, or BMI, is a common measure of nutritional status. Using this index, people are classified into different categories. People with high BMIs usually have low nutrient intake and are at risk for several diseases. Research has shown that those with higher body mass index are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
A good nutrition regime starts with a good understanding of nutrition and what each food contributes to good nutrition. Each food type, whether it be carbohydrate fat, protein or vegetable, has its own contribution to nutrition and should be eaten in balanced proportions. Carbohydrates are found in foods such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals and beans; fats come in foods such as butter, margarine, ice cream and oil; protein comes in products like milk, eggs and meat; and vegetables are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. All foods have their own benefits and pitfalls, and you should understand how each can impact your health. By eating a well balanced diet, you will find that you feel satisfied for longer periods of time and gain the necessary energy to exercise and build muscle.
Low levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B12, iron and zinc are typical results of nutritional deficiencies. The good news is that deficiency symptoms usually correct themselves after a few months. However, in some cases, if left untreated for an extended period of time, nutritional deficiency can lead to other health complications, such as bone disease, kidney stones and cancer. An iodine deficiency is a common problem for pregnant women and can lead to depression and/or low levels of mood in children.
When it comes to carbohydrates, one of the easiest ways to gain insight into your nutrition is to analyze your favorite foods. If you eat many “white” carbohydrates (breads, rice, pasta) you need to make sure that you consume enough “whole grain” carbohydrates in order to balance out your carbohydrate intake. Consuming too few or too much of these types of carbohydrates can lead to fatigue, bloating, mood swings, weak bones, slow metabolism and weight gain. Another example would be to avoid foods that contain trans-fats. This would include cookies, candy bars, spreads, ready-to-eat meals and any processed or prepackaged foods.