The Importance of Diet and Nutrition and The Types of Nutrition

We’ve all heard the word nutrition, but very few truly understand what it entails and how it assists the body. Let’s take a look at that now.

Nutrition is the supply of food that is required by organisms in order to survive. Both within human medicine and science, nutrition is the practice of consuming and using food. When we use the term in a medical facility, the term nutrition is used to refer to the food needs of the patient, which can also include nutritional solutions delivered to the body through intravenous (IV) or intragastric tube.

Nutritional science is called catabolism, or how the the body breaks down food, and anabolism, which is how it repairs and creates cells and tissues. When they are combined, anabolism and catabolism are called metabolism. And nutritional science looks at how the body responds to food.

With so many advancements in molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, nutrition became more focused on metabolism and the biological steps- where the substances in the body are altered from one form to another. This is also called metabolic pathways.

When studying nutrition, we also focus on how diseases, conditions, and problems can be stopped or reduced with a healthy diet. We are also concerned with how specific diseases and conditions can be caused by a poor diet or malnutrition, food allergies, and food intolerances.

 

The Types of Nutrition

The first thing we need to talk about when we’re talking about nutrition is nutrients. Nutrients are sources of nourishment for the body. These nutrients include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, minerals, water and fibre. These can be subdivided into micronutrients and macronutrients.

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Healthy paleo snack with nuts and tea

Macronutrients are something the body needs in large amounts. Micronutrients are something the body only needs small amounts of.

Micronutrients are then further divided into energy-providing macronutrients. Let’s take a look at those:

 

Energy Producing Macronutrients

Carbohydrates: (4 kcal per gram) There are a few molecules that form carbohydrates. These include monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, and galactose), dissacharides, and polysaccharides (starch).  Because of their complex nature, polysaccharides are ranked higher than monosaccharides. Polysaccharides take longer to breakdown and be absorbed into the blood stream.

Good sources of carbohydrates are: apples, bananas, carrots, cauliflower, brown rice, oats, quinoa, kidney beans, and chickpeas.

Proteins: (4 kcal per gram) There are approximately 20 amino acids that combine together to form proteins. Some of these amino acids are made by the body, and others need to be consumed through foods. Proteins help to repair and regenerate our body tissues and cells. They’re also necessary for a healthy functioning immune system, as well as manufacturing hormones.

Good sources of proteins include: beans, hemp seeds, legumes, flax seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, unsalted nuts, avocado, kale, spinach, and beets.

Fats: (9 kcal per gram) Fats are formed from 3 molecules of fatty acids (triglycerides) that combine with glycerol. Fatty acids are monomers (also called simple compounds), while triglycerides are polymers (also called complex molecules). Fats help to lubricate the joints, they help the organs to produce hormones, aid in the absorption of certain vitamins, reduce inflammation, and preserve brain health.

Good sources of fats include: almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocados, and olives.

 

Non-Energy Producing Macronutrients

Fibres: Fibres are mainly comprised of carbohydrates. Fibres are not easily absorbed by the body and because of this, not much of the sugars and starches get into the blood.

Water: Approximately 70% of the body is made up of water. Water is necessary for many different functions within the body.

 

Micronutrients

The body requires small amounts of micronutrients. In most cases, people who eat a balanced diet get all of the necessary minerals from what they eat. However, most people don’t even understand what a balanced diet truly consists of, and in which quantities. Micronutrients include:

Potassium: Potassium is an electrolyte that helps to regulate adenosine triphosphate (this carries energy in the cells of the body) along with sodium. It’s also needed for production of ribonucleic acid.

An individual who is deficient in potassium would suffer from hypokalemia which affects the heart and nervous system. An individual with excess potassium would suffer from hyperkalemia, which also affects the heart and nervous system.

Chloride: The body needs chloride for the production of stomach acid. It also helps to transport molecules between cells, and is essential for the proper functioning of the nerves.

An individual who is deficient of chloride would suffer from hypochloraemia, which causes low salt levels. An individual who has excess chloride would suffer from hyperchloraemia, which typically has no symptoms but is linked to excess fluid loss.

Sodium: Sodium is also an electrolyte. It works in conjunction with potassium to regulate adenosine triphosphate. It is also vital for the nerve functioning and regulates the levels of body fluids.

An individual who is deficient in sodium would suffer from hyponatremia which causes the cells to malfunction. An individual who has excess sodium would suffer from hypernatremia which also causes the cells to malfunction. Both could be fatal ata extreme levels.

Calcium: Calcium is important for muscle, heart, and digestive health. It helps to build bones and helps in the synthesis and function of blood cells.

An individual who is deficient of calcium would suffer from hypocalcaemia, which causes muscle cramps, abdominal cramps, spasms, and hyperactive deep tendon reflexes. An individual who has excess calcium would suffer from hypercalcaemia which causes muscle weakness, constipation, calcium stones in the urinary tract, impaired kidney function, and impaired absorption of iron.

Phosphorous: Phosphorous is vital for the structure of DNA. It also helps to transport adenosine triphosphate, is a component of the cellular membrane and helps to strengthen the bones.

An individual who is deficient in phosphorous would suffer from hypophosphatemia which causes rickets. An individual who has excess phosphorous would suffer from hyperphosphatemia, which is often a result of kidney failure.

Magnesium: Magnesium helps to process adenosine triphosphate and is needed for good bones and the management of proper muscle movement. Many enzymes within the body need magnesium to function properly.

An individual who is deficient in magnesium would suffer from hypomagnesemia, which causes irritability of the nervous system, including hands and feet spasms, twitching and cramping of the muscles, constipation and larynx spasms. An individual who has excess magnesium would suffer from hypoagnesemia, which causes nausea, vomitting, impaired breathing, and low blood pressure.

Zinc: The enzymes in the body need zinc. It’s also needed for the growth of the reproductive organs, gene expression, and the regulation of the nervous and immune system.

An individual who is deficient of zinc would have a short physique, anaemia, increased pigmentation of the skin, an enlarged liver and spleen, impaired reproductive function and wound healing, and immune deficiency. An individual who has excess zinc would suffer from suppressed copper and iron absorption.

Iron: Iron is required by proteins and enzymes.

An individual who is deficient in iron would suffer from anaemia. An individual who has excess iron would suffer from iron overload disorder. Iron deposits can form in the organs, especially the heart.

Manganese: Manganese is a cofactor in the functioning of enzymes.

An individual who is deficient of manganese would suffer from wobbliness, fainting, hearing loss, weak tendons and ligaments. Diabetes may also develop, although it’s less common. An individual who has excess manganese would have issues with the absorption of dietary iron.

Copper:  Copper is part of many enzymes.

An individual who is deficient in copper would suffer from anaemia or pancytopenia and neurodegeneration. Pancytopenia is essentially a reduction in the number of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets. An individual who has excess copper would have issues with the formation of blood cellular components.

Iodine:  Iodine is needed by the body for the absorption of thyroxine.

An individual who is deficient of iodine would suffer from developmental delays, enlarged thyroid gland, and fatigue. An individual who has excess iodine would have issues with the function of the thyroid gland.

Selenium: Selenium is an important cofactor for antioxidant enzymes.

An individual who is deficient of selenium would suffer from Keshan disease and Kashin-Beck disease. Keshan disease is essentially the death of tissues in the heart which eventually weaken the heart. Kashin-Beck disease is a breakdown in the cartilage.  An individual who has excess selenium would have garlic smelling breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, exhaustion, irritability and neurological damage.

 

As human beings we have all heard about nutrition and how important it is to keep the body functioning at optimal levels. However, many of us don’t truly consider the role of nutrition in our lives. We know that we must eat to survive, but how often do we stop to consider what we are actually putting into our bodies, and what the consequences of that will be? What are the long-term damaging consequences of improper nutrition? There are several. Stick with me on this journey of nutrition, as we explore the role of vitamins in the body next.

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