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The Importance of Good Nutrition
What Are Nutrients?
Every breath we take, every beat of our heart, virtually every bodily function down to the cellular level depends on electrical and chemical communication between cells, tissues and organs. Nutrients in food- such as enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids – help create and power these chemical reactions. Nutrients help build healthy cells, organs and tissues.
Other substances in food not normally classified as nutrients, e.g. fiber, are also essential to health. If the body doesn’t get these elements from the diet, low energy, poor immunity, and other symptoms of decreased health can result. Poor nutrition will eventually lead to disease. The good news is that many health goals can be achieved with proper nutrition, exercise, rest and proper stress management.
How Important Are Nutrients?
Various nutritional deficiencies are linked with specific health problems. One of the most well-known, a vitamin C deficiency is linked to a disease called scurvy; vitamin B deficiency to beriberi; niacin deficiency to pellagra. Other nutritional connections include vitamin E and cardiovascular function, zinc and immunity, calcium and osteoporosis, and folic acid and neural tube (birth) defects. However, because nutrients are interdependent, it’s an oversimplification to single out one nutrient and link it to a disease. For instance, calcium can’t be efficiently utilized without magnesium and vitamin D, and an excessive amount of phosphorus (drinking pop) interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium
What about Chemical Additives in Foods?
Many foods today contain chemicals that may threaten the body’s delicate chemical message system. The average American eats several pounds of additives per year, chemicals such as MSG, artificial sweeteners, various preservatives and dyes. Because little is known about the long-term and cumulative effects of the consumption of food additives, natural health advocates believe it’s important to try to eat foods with as few chemical additives as possible.
Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s)
Testing has not been done on humans to see the effects of GMO’s on the nutritional level of foods. Even without nutritional deficiencies the GMO’s can deplete nutrition because of the change in structure of the food and the additional stress of pesticides.
Which Nutrients are Important?
In the past few decades, science has managed to isolate and name many substances necessary for the proper function of the body. These include the vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K, and minerals like selenium, calcium, zinc and iron. We also know of certain enzymes and amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) necessary for health. Current government daily nutritional recommendations (US Daily Values) include only nutrients that have been discovered by researchers. Chances are there are others yet undiscovered.
The Role of Food
It’s very likely that the body needs nutrients that science has yet to identify. This is one reason many people advocate eating foods that are as close to nature as possible, such as whole wheat, brown rice and fresh fruits and vegetables. Such a diet helps ensure that the body is getting ALL of the nutrients it needs – known and unknown – in the way nature intended.
Foods that are highly processed like white rice, white flour, and white sugar – and products made from those ingredients – suffer an appreciable nutrient loss during processing. Only a few nutrients are added back through the “enriching” process. (Enriching has been compared to a robber holding you up for all your money, then giving you a small amount back and claiming he has enriched you.)
Many – if not most of us – in our fast-paced world don’t always have time to eat the way we should. Processed foods are hard to completely avoid because they’ve become part of our way of life. Nutritional
supplements can provide “insurance,” helping make up for what is often lacking in modern food.
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