11 Aug Nutrition 101: Understanding the Basics
Nutrition 101: Understanding the Basics
New findings on nutrition are splashed across the headlines every day. At times, the findings directly contradict one another. Yesterday, chocolate was “bad.” Today, it’s “good,” depending on the type. Tomorrow, who knows? With so much information coming at us nonstop, from so many sources, it’s understandable that a lot of people simply tune out. They decide that winging it is as good a strategy as any. After all, even the experts can’t seem to agree.
Fortunately, the basics of nutrition are known, and they aren’t going to change. Once you get a handle on the basics, you can confidently create a personalized, science-based approach to nutrition that meets the specific needs of you and your family.
The World Health Organization defines nutrition as “the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs.” They further note that good nutrition hinges on a balanced diet. Poor nutrition, conversely, is health’s most powerful foe. Poor nutrition is an invitation to compromised immunity and ramped up susceptibility to disease. Put bluntly: nutrition is the linchpin for health. Without it, other efforts to enhance health (e.g., exercise) are doomed to failure.
Nutrients are the energy-providing fuel to your body’s engine. The higher the quality of fuel, the better your engine will run. Three basic nutrients form the essential components of your body’s fuel. The relative balance among the three is a crucial determinant of health. Too much, too little, or the wrong type of these three primary nutrients can make or break your body’s engine.
Nutritional guidelines established by the United States Department of Agriculture suggest that proteins comprise about ¼ of each meal. Protein sources include meat, fish, poultry, beans, eggs, seeds, soy, and nuts. Protein shakes and protein snack bars represent a convenient option just right for modern, on-the-go families. The precise amount of protein an individual requires varies by gender, age, health status, and other factors (e.g., an intention to put on muscle).
Though carbohydrates’ reputation has taken a bit of a beating in the past several years, well-meant dietary advice that encourages eschewing this critical macronutrient is dangerously inaccurate. Your body requires carbohydrates to produce the glucose that in turn provides the energy necessary to perform vital functions. Carbohydrates include starches like grains and potatoes and sugars such as honey and syrup. Fiber, the portion of plant-based food your body cannot digest, represents the third type of carbohydrate.
- Fat (Oils)
Fats and oils, while they may sound unhealthy, are also crucial for sound nutrition. Not all fats are created equal, however.
The American Heart Association suggests limiting consumption of saturated fats. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature, and are generally found in animal-based sources such as meat and dairy. Saturated fats are notorious for raising “bad” cholesterol, and have been implicated as a major factor contributing to heart disease and stroke.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are an important component of a healthy, balanced diet. Experts at the Mayo Clinic encourage metered consumption of mono and polyunsaturated fats as well as omega-3 fatty acids. This type of dietary fat is typically liquid at room temperature. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are often derived from plant-based sources such as olives, peanuts, and corn. For omega-3 fatty acids, fish is an excellent source. Contrary to their saturated cousins, unsaturated fats improve cholesterol and mitigate the risk of developing type II diabetes.
Like macronutrients, micronutrients are also essential to good nutrition. Micronutrients are so named because they are needed in much smaller amounts than are macronutrients. Essential micronutrients include trace elements from Vitamin A to zinc. Also like their macronutrient parents, deficiencies or an imbalance among them can result in severe illness or even death.
Are you confident that your nutritional choices are the best they can be? Could you be missing something? At Wellness Life Online, we have the answers and resources you need to make the best nutrition decisions for you and your family. Contact us today for more information on living a happier, healthier life through personally optimized nutrition.