The Importance of Food and Nutrition in Your Daily Life
Food is one of the basic necessities for life. It contains nutrients, which are substances needed for the growth and repair of body tissues and for the regulation of bodily functions.
Good nutrition includes eating a mixture of foods from the 5 major food groups to get the best variety of nutrients. It also avoids consuming foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, added salt, sugars and kilojoules.
Food is one of the human body’s basic necessities and contains nutrients – substances essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of the body tissues and for the regulation of vital processes. Nutrition is the science that studies food and the factors that influence eating habits, and how they affect our health.
A healthy diet provides the body with all the necessary nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins. The main classes of nutrients are called macronutrients and micronutrients. The body needs carbohydrates to supply energy in the form of calories, while protein supplies amino acids that are used to build and maintain muscle. The body also requires fats to provide insulation and lubrication, and to help with the absorption of some minerals.
The nutritional needs of a person vary throughout life. Infants and children have different requirements than adults, as do pregnant women and the elderly.
Eating a balanced diet means choosing a variety of foods from the 5 food groups daily, in the recommended amounts. Limiting foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, added salt and sugar can help to control weight and protect against chronic disease.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide today’s best scientific advice on the selection of foods to promote health and prevent disease. They are prepared by a Federal Advisory Committee, in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, and are subject to an extensive review process within and outside of government.
The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans are designed to help all people meet their nutrient needs at every life stage by promoting healthy eating patterns and limiting unhealthy choices. The Guidelines do not endorse a single popular diet or specific food or beverage, but they do stress the importance of following a dietary pattern that is high in nutrient-dense foods while staying within an appropriate number of calories.
Eating a balanced diet means getting a variety of foods and beverages from each of the 5 food groups each day in the recommended amounts. This provides the nutrients your body needs and helps prevent boredom with meals. Eating a wide range of foods also reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.
It is also important to limit intake of foods and drinks that are higher in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium. These are known as discretionary choices and should be eaten sparingly. Finally, it is important to follow safe food handling recommendations to minimise the risk of food-borne illness.
The human body requires nutrients in order to function and maintain health. The body cannot produce some nutrients, therefore they must be obtained through dietary sources. These nutrients are often called essential. If the body does not get enough of these nutrients through diet, a nutritional deficiency may result. The different classes of nutrients are carbohydrates, lipids (fats), proteins and water.
The body uses carbohydrates as a main energy source, turning them into glucose or blood sugar. Glucose provides energy for cells, tissues and organs. The body also stores any extra sugar in the liver and muscles for use when needed. Lipids are fats that the body uses to build structures such as cell membranes and hormones. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle and tissue. The body produces some amino acids, but many come from food. Amino acids are absorbed by the small intestine and transported to the blood where they provide energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate or ATP.
Vitamins and minerals are also important micronutrients. These include vitamins A, C and E, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc and copper. The best way to get these is through a well-balanced, varied diet of whole foods. This includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy foods, and whole grain breads and cereals.
The food we consume provides the energy our bodies need to function. This energy comes from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Food also contains non-caloric nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals, which provide other benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.
There are two major types of foods: those obtained from animals and those obtained from plants. Animal-derived foods include fish, meats and dairy products. Plant-derived foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals. They also provide a source of dietary fiber and healthful phytochemicals, which can help prevent some cancers.
Vegetables can be found in a wide variety of colors, flavors and textures. The vegetable food group includes dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes (beans and peas).
Milk and dairy products are an excellent source of protein and calcium. Dairy products come from the milk of mammals, including cows, sheep and goats. Eggs are another high-protein food. They can be eaten boiled, fried, scrambled or in baked goods. Other foods from animals are yogurt, cheese and ice cream, which contain proteins and fatty acids. A diet high in these foods should be limited as they can increase the risk of obesity and heart disease. Oils are another nutrient-dense food.