Nutrition is a word that gets tossed around all the time, but do you really know what it means? Most people would say it means the food we put into our bodies, and that’s basically true. However, the meaning of nutrition to us is a lot more complicated than that.
The American Heritage Science Dictionary gives this definition:
- The process by which living organisms obtain food and use it for growth, metabolism, and repair. The stages of nutrition include ingestion, digestion, absorption, transport, assimilation, and excretion.
- The scientific study of food and nourishment, including food composition, dietary guidelines, and the roles that various nutrients have in maintaining health.
Some people practice good nutrition and some, bad nutrition. What’s the difference, you might ask? We all know people who eat ‘junk’ food all the time and yet they are still functioning just like those of us who are dedicated to a ‘healthy’ diet. They go to work, shop, take trips, get married, have children, etc. What advantages does a healthy diet have?
Scientists believe the answer lies in the numerous studies on human nutrition and how it affects our health. In general, eating a wide variety of fresh, whole (unprocessed) foods has proven favorable compared to diets based on processed foods. In particular, the consumption of whole plant foods slows digestion and provides higher amounts, and a more favorable balance, of essential nutrients per calorie, resulting in better management of cell growth, maintenance, and cell division, as well as better regulation of appetite and blood sugar. What this means is that eating a healthy diet on a regular basis significantly reduces the risk of degenerative diseases that appear to be the ‘norm’ in our modern society as we age. But, a poor diet can have immediate effects also, such as allergies, headaches, loss of energy, fibromyalgia, digestive conditions and numerous other symptoms. This is your body’s way of telling you it’s not getting what it needs. Moreover, the long-term effects of poor nutrition are heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
We have grown so used to our present diet of fast foods and processed (convenient) foods that we’ve forgotten the value of fresh, whole foods and how important they are to good health. In essence, we’ve forgotten how to eat the right way. Let’s face it, our lives are busy and it’s very easy to swing into the drive-through for a meal or stop at the grocery store and pick up a frozen dinner to pop in the microwave. The sad thing is that we’ve been conditioned by expensive marketing campaigns into thinking that our current way of life is okay. I’m sure you’ve noticed that a lot of the restaurant chains have begun offering ‘healthy’ choices on their menus to keep you coming. Why? Because people have begun to realize that maybe the way we eat IS causing us to be obese and ill. And the medical profession’s answer to that has been to prescribe numerous medications that have dangerous side-effects. And sometimes we’re prescribed another medication to counter-act those harmful side-effects. What’s wrong with this picture? Wouldn’t it be better to get to the root of the problem and fix that rather than treating symptoms and causing more health problems? This is not to say that ALL medication is bad. Some conditions require it and some medications have saved countless lives. The important message here is that we can avoid a lot of illness and disease by simply changing our diets.
What is the answer to this problem? Education. When people understand something, they are more likely to embrace and practice it. Good nutrition equals giving your body the nutrients it needs to perform all functions optimally. When we eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, get the proper amount of protein and good fats and drink plenty of pure water each day, our bodies sing with joy, we have energy and our minds are clear. Our systems become balanced and balance is a wonderfully healthy state.
Every vitamin and mineral we require for health plays an important part in that balance so when we are deficient in any or all of them, illness and disease follow. Fast, over-cooked and processed foods are basically ‘dead’ foods meaning they are devoid of nutrients. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that make our bodies live, and live well!
Given a good chance and a reason to do so, most people would like to be healthier, but drastic changes are difficult. Remember that you don’t have to change your entire way of eating all at once. Just try to make a few small changes to begin with and then add other changes as you go. Knowledge is power and you have that power!