”You are what you eat.”1 The food we consume determines our physical and psychological health. The muscles in the body, and the blood flowing through the veins, are all supplied by the food that we consume. These foods also have an effect on the way the brain functions, and an effect on the body’s performance. People might say they are hungry and genuinely believe it when in fact they are feeling sad. This is due to the lack of neuro-chemicals in the brain which carry messages and control nerve impulses. When the right types of food are eaten, the neuro-chemicals contained in the foods enhance mental capabilities such as defusing stress.
The serotonin, dopamine and endorphin levels in the brain change. Dopamine is related to alertness, used for fast reflexes, ”mental energy”2 and assists with problem-solving. Serotonin helps to improve the mood and is a regulating hormone. It is important that a well-balanced diet is consumed, eating an appropriate amount from each food group. Today’s diet has drifted a long way off the ideal intake and balance of nutrients. The research will focus on a wide variety of diet-related issues and their effect on the bodily systems. A healthy balanced diet should consist of:
- 60% CARBOHYDRATES- an important constituent of almost all foods and an excellent source of energy food. If consumed before and after a workout, the workout will be more effective. According to The balance of good health sheet, a person should consume 6-14 measures of carbohydrates per day. Sources include bread, beans, pasta, rice, dried fruit etc.
- 25%FATS- Function of fats are:
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– Production of and storage of energy in the body
-Supports organs in the body eg. Kidneys and eyes.
-Transports fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K)
-Forms part of the nerve sheath and sebum in the sebaceous gland.
-Used in the formation of cholesterol and steroid hormones.
Sources include Milk, cheese, butter, eggs, meat, oily fish, margarine, vegetable oils.
- 15% PROTEIN- involved in building and repairing tissues. Their functions are:
-To provide energy and heat.
-To provide roughage in the diet
Too much excess protein can place undue stress on the kidneys and excrete calcium.
- VITAMINS- are essential for health. Each vitamin has many functions so they are listed in a table format later.
- MINERALS – inorganic compounds important for all bodily processes.
- WATER -6-8 glasses of water daily- water is a very important constituent of the body as the body is made up of 40-60% water and muscle is 70-72% of water by weight.
A well-balanced diet supplies the recommended daily allowances (RDA’s) and nutrients that vitamin pills lack. Fibre is one of these nutrients. Fibre, also referred to as ”roughage”3 can be consumed from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans on a daily basis. Fruit and vegetable fibre helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood, helping to maintain good energy levels. People in the UK should consume an average of ”22 grams of fibre a day”4, this has shown to lower rates of bowel diseases such as bowel cancer. Foods lacking in nutrients can result in faulty digestion, gut infection and has an effect on every bodily system; skin becomes dull and sluggish, and the body is not able to detoxify itself as it should. Acidity is one of the effects, some people produce too much hydrochloric acid(HCL) and results in indigestion and a burning sensation.
Meat, fish, eggs and other concentrated proteins can aggravate acidity. Excess sugar can also result in gut infection. If the gut contains the wrong type of bacteria, or perhaps overgrowth of a yeast organism such as candida Albicans- a high sugar diet can aggravate this problem. Foods containing indigestible carbohydrates can cause wind and constipation. Meat, cheese, eggs, refined grains and wheat are all constipating foods. Cereal fibre is excellent at preventing constipation and putrefaction of food, which are the underlying causes of many digestive complaints. Improving digestion is the cornerstone of good health. Energy levels improve, skin becomes brighter and cleaner, and the immune system is strengthened.
MALNUTRITION – is a worldwide disease and occurs due to deficiencies in the diet. Starvation is a form of malnutrition and continues to be a significant problem, especially amongst children. Deficiencies in diet cause people to feel ”high”5 and spaced out and separated from emotions. According to a recent study in California University, poor nutrition, characterized by Zinc, Iron, vitamin B and protein deficiencies, in the early years of childhood leads to anti-social behaviour, aggressiveness and a low I.Q level. ZINC: required for tissue growth and repair especially in the growing fetus; aids bones and teeth.
Also known as trace mineral as it is required in a smaller quantity. RDA(Recommended daily allowance) for children is ”7mg and Adults 15-50mg.”6 However, 2g or more of zinc can result in gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, anemia, reduced growth and stiffness. Sources of food: oysters, shrimps, nuts, whole-wheat grain, oats. Kwashiorkor disease is also a form of malnutrition. Lack of protein in the diet can result in this disease. This occurs mostly in famine areas where there is a limited amount of food supply. Symptoms of kwashiorkor disease include:
- decreased immunity
- loss of muscle mass
An adequate diet with sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats and protein will prevent kwashiorkor disease. OBESITY- is a major contributor to chronic diseases. An individual whose BMI(body mass index) is >40 is considered obese. A variety of medical problems including high blood pressure, heart problems, have been associated with obesity. Vitamins such as B3, B6, and C, zinc and chromium will help stabilize blood sugar and assist to lose weight by stabilizing appetite and burning fat. ”Overweight and obesity are increasing. The percentage of adults who are obese has roughly doubled since the mid-1980s”.
As a desperate measure for losing weight, more and more people are attracted to low carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins diet because weight loss is instant. ”It is not healthy”. 60% of our diet should be from carbohydrates. Atkins diet only allows a very small amount of fruit and vegetables which is not enough to give the RDA. Essential vitamins and minerals come from a balanced diet and a low carbohydrate diet is not balanced. The Atkins diet claims to clear up all manner of ailments, but it is lacking in nutrients essential for good health and a high protein diet increases calcium output, therefore a risk of osteoporosis.
OSTEOPOROSIS occurs if the bones are not strong before bone loss begins. Calcium intake is important in achieving peak bone mass and an adequate supply is vital to health, particularly in times of growth, e.g. Childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation. Calcium is the principal mineral in bones and teeth. Deficiency of calcium in bones can result from an inadequate supply of vitamin D resulting in rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Different foods supply different amounts of minerals. Eating a varied diet will ensure an adequate supply of most minerals. In the UK, iron and calcium intakes are gradually decreasing. Some adolescent girls and women of childbearing age may be deficient in iron and this may have implications for future health.
IRON has many functions in the body, also needed for normal functioning of the immune system. Iron deficiency, Anaemia, is a common problem. Loss of blood due to injury or large menstrual losses increases iron requirements. Women and teenagers, in particular, need to ensure their diet supplies enough iron. Haem -iron from animal sources is better absorbed than iron from plant sources (non-haem iron). High doses of iron can be toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and constipation. Sources of food: lean meat, pulses, green leafy vegetables. Vegetarians and vegans may be at risk of iron deficiencies and the requirement for iron will be higher. An alternative for iron in vegans include
- Dried fruit, green leafy vegetables and egg yolk(if not vegan)
- Fresh orange juice with meals. (vitamin c)
Studies have shown that vegetarians have low intakes of :
- IODINE (found in milk and seafood)
- VITAMIN B12( fortified cereals, tofu and yeast extract)
- VITAMIN D and CALCIUM(vitamin D can be made in the skin when exposed to sunlight; calcium can be obtained from broccoli, spinach, nuts)
To ensure a healthy nervous system, an adequate supply of sodium and potassium in the diet is important. Sodium helps regulate body water content and is involved in nerve function. The average intake of salt in the UK is ”10.1g/day for adult men and 7.6g/day for adult women,”8 about 20% of salt consumed is added to the food. High salt intake has been associated with hypertension and a low salt diet is recommended for this condition. Potassium is found in body fluids, it is present in almost all foods especially fruits and vegetables, but processed foods contain less than raw foods. Potassium deficiency is rare in the UK, although some drugs can increase potassium loss.
HEART DISEASE- is a major cause of death in the UK. Important risk factors include obesity, cholesterol, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Making changes to your diet is the most effective way to reduce the risk of C.V.D.
-Reducing the fat content- especially saturated fat can help to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Essential fatty acids such as omega 3/6 (found in oily fish such as mackerel, sardines etc) are known to reduce the risk of CVD, eat 2-3 portions a week. Essential fatty acids make the blood less viscous and less likely to form a clot. It also protects against abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias)
-Eat lean cut meats
-Grill, bake or steam foods rather than frying.
-Aim for 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day- rich in nutrients and includes Vitamin C and E (anti-oxidants).
-“Whole-grain foods can reduce the risk of CVD by up to 30 percent”9whole grain rice, pasta, wholemeal bread etc.
-Soluble fibre found in oats, pulses and beans can help to lower cholesterol levels- should be included as part of a balanced diet- 2-3 times a week
-Reduce the amount of alcohol.
CANCER- One of the factors involved in cancer is DIET, as well as other related factors such as environment and genetics. Dietary factors affecting the risk of cancer are:
- smoking ( smoke contains carcinogens causing lung cancer)
- too much alcohol
- red meat
- certain drugs and hormones
- high-fat diet
A well-balanced diet rich in protective nutrients can determine what disease we could avoid or succumb to. A high intake of certain vegetables, fibres, antioxidant vitamins such as beta-carotene (strengthens the immune system), Vitamin C(See vitamin chart) and Vitamin E(see vitamin chart) could prevent cancer. Regular consumption of fruit and vegetables is known to reduce the risk of cancer. To encourage more consumption of fruit and vegetables, the government has launched a 5 a Day logo on pre-packed fruit and vegetables.
EAT A VARIETY OF FOODS. To make sure you get all of the nutrients and other substances needed for health, choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans. MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT. It is important for people of all ages to maintain a healthy weight. Physical activity is an important way to use food energy. Extreme thinness is also unhealthy. People who eat very little or diet excessively may not get the calories and other nutrients they need for good health.
AVOID HIGH-FAT FOODS. Choose a diet that provides no more than 30 percent of total calories from fat. The upper limit on the grams of fat in your diet will depend on the calories you need. Maximum Total Fat Intake at Different Calorie Levels10. Calories
Total fat (grams)
You are what you eat, and there is a lot of truth in the statement. The type of food we eat directly affects our health and overall well-being. After eating fried food, our body feels sluggish and heavy, it is not healthy and not good for the body. However, when we eat nutrient-rich food, our body feels goods, our energy levels are high and we feel healthy overall. Nutrition is an important aspect of good health, what we put into our body, we will see the effects too. There is a lot of importance placed on individuals these days regarding nutrition especially to children in school. A healthy diet together with physical activity will keep you free from illnesses. It is not necessary to become a vegetarian or a health nut, but to cut back on unhealthy habits and eat properly is necessary to avoid illnesses and diseases.
- Optimum nutrition bible, page 100
- positive health, page 39, issue 101
- The optimum nutrition bible, page 30
- The balance of good health sheet, 2004
- www.bnf.co.uk/nutrients, 2004
- Fitpro magazine, issue 12 pg18, 2004
- you are what you eat. Gillian McKeith
- Fit Pro magazine(2001) issue 12 page 18