Nutrition....Essential fuel for survival

(H/Dr Waqar A Shaikh, Toronto/ Canada)

these foods serve as fuel for our body

The archaeologists, historians and the researchers, all hold the same opinion that prehistoric Homo sapiens, our remote kith and Kin, were hunter-gatherers. These nomads, living cheek by jowl with nature and hardship, obtained their foods by collecting wild Plants with the real smell of earth on them, and hunting wild animals, for that purpose they learned the art of making stone tools and using those for hunting, for many, it might had been because of an innate ability to hunt for the purpose of obtaining food just to satisfy their hunger. Another explanation for their consuming the food, could be because of the human instinct for survival, which helped them through life. Then came a period when they started transitioning to a new way of life, they were stopping the process of being hunter-gatherers and were becoming farmers, since then agriculture has taken over the planet and humans are growing fruits and vegetables and raising cattle and domesticated fowl as food ,now more in a commercial way. We, the Homo sapiens of this advance era, now know that food is not just to satisfy hunger but there is much more to it... “Some live to eat, others eat to live.”... The fact is that the food is the most important source of keeping body and soul together. But what is food ? Food is any substance that we consume and is utilized by our body in the form of energy, growth ,body repairing helped by the nutrients contained in the food. Nutrients are the substances required by the human body to perform it’s basic functions, we also need nutrients for normal growth and development, for maintaining body muscles, for fuel as a source of energy to do physical and metabolic work. Food must provide these nutrients because the body either cannot make them or not make them enough. They are called “Essential nutrients”. What is Nutrition: The word nutrition first appeared in 1551, originates from the Latin word “nutrire”, meaning to “to nourish”, thus we can define nutrition as the process of digestion and absorption of food (nutrients) and body’s use of it as energy. The practical approach to nutrition: As far as healthy body is concerned , it does know how to extract and assimilate the nutrients which are available in the food eaten, so it is up to us to supply the body with required nutrient. The science of nutrition helps us improve our food choices by identifying the amounts of nutrients we need and the best food sources of these nutrients. It also helps us make better choices and not only improve our health but reduce our risk of diseases. Why people are compelled to switch to nutritional food It holds true that “food is a very good servant but a very bad master”. In the last few decades, the food science has advanced by leaps and bound but in spite of all this it has it’s own pros and cons. New technologies have compelled us to move away from nature, we now live in an artificial, unnatural world of food desert, a world in abundance of food but lacking in quality, unjust supply and with exemption to organic food, it is not like what the mother nature intended. The food mostly is grown on nutrient depleted soils, only to be replaced by artificial minerals, use of chemical pesticides, growing more and more genetically modified foods (GMO’S). Commercial dairy and poultry farms where animals and birds are kept and raised in an unhealthy, unhygienic environments, indoor cages and shelters, devoid of natural sunlight and fresh air, under artificial lights, breathe polluted air and on fattening food which their body is not accustomed to, cramping for space, hardly able to move, use of antibiotics to fight diseases and the use of growth hormones, to increase milk production (luckily it’s banned in Canada and most of European countries), it is very unlikely to get safe and nutritional food from these housings, everything sub nutritional all the way from farm to table. All these scenarios have serious consequences on health, because these foods fail to provide the proper nutrients our bodies need, and when the illnesses strike, people try to switch to healthier, nutrient-dense foods, mostly to unprocessed foods, to replenish the missing nutrients, which give their body a new lease of life, so they must separate the “wheat from the chaff”, they all come up with different aims and fall in different groups, but two most common groups of people are 1.Healthy group: this group consists of healthy people, who aim at maintenance of health and prevention of diseases, by providing the nutrients which are consumed by the body on daily bases. 2.Dificient group: people who already have some kind of deficiency, of one or many nutrients leading to health issues ,due to above mentioned reasons or the ones who burn the candle at both ends. They use “the food as a medicine and medicine as food”, the body is capable of healing itself, just feed the body with right nutrients and it will heal itself. This article is about basic nutritional information, I hope at end of this you walk away a better informed consumer. There are six classes of nutrients: The food mainly consists of the following six nutrients: 1)Carbohydrates: energy and fibre 2)Protein: 3) Lipids: commonly known as Fats 4)Water: 5)Vitamins:
(2)
6)Minerals: According to their requirements, nutrients can be divided into two main groups A) Macronutrients : which are required in large quantities these are 1) Carbohydrates 2) Proteins 3) Fats and 4) water. They all yield energy except water. B) Micronutrients: which are needed in comparatively small quantities 5)Vitamins 6)minerals : these do not provide energy to body.

1) Carbohydrates: foods containing carbohydrates are the most important source of energy, in the form of sugars, they are found almost exclusively in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables and beans. Milk is the only animal derived product which provides carbohydrate. It is interesting to know that carbohydrates get this energy through a process called “photosynthesis.” In this process, the leaves of green plants ,in the presence of chlorophyll, which they contain, convert ① sunlight (from sun) ② carbon dioxide (from air) and ③ water (from soil ,through roots) them into energy and store it as sugars, mostly glucose. a) Simple carbohydrates or fast releasing b) Complex carbohydrates or slow releasing a) simple carbohydrates: are of two types, single sugars as ① glucose ② fructose (fruit sugar) ③ Galactose (milk sugar) and double sugars which are made up of two single sugars ① Maltose (glucose + glucose) ② Lactose (glucose + milk sugar) ③ Sucrose (glucose + fruit sugar), sucrose is the common table sugar but is highly processed, sucrose occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables also. You may have noticed that glucose is present in all three double sugars, because it is the main source of energy. b) Complex carbohydrates: (Long chains of simple sugars) include ① Starch: is the storage form of glucose in plants ② Fiber: Fibre is a carbohydrate that passes through the digestive system without being digested, fibre is of two types, insoluble, keeps you regular, and soluble, helps lower cholesterol, maintain blood glucose. ③ glycogen: is the storage form of glucose in animals and human beings. As shown above, the process of photosynthesis stores the energy as sugars ( carbohydrates), but to use this energy by the body, it is first digested and then taken., via blood to the cells of tissues (muscles),this is here in the cells the glucose is broken down to release energy by the process of ‘’cellular respiration”.

2) Proteins: protein as a food is essential for the growth and development, it also provides the body with energy, the body needs it for manufacturing hormones, enzymes tissues, they are an important part of body’s immune system in the form of antibodies, they identify and destroy the foreign invaders (antigens), such as bacteria and viruses. Proteins are made up of different building blocks called amino acids, when consumed ,body breaks all proteins first into these amino acids and then re-manufactures different proteins exactly according to the requirements.

3) Fats or Lipids: The early morning butter on the toast, olive oil in salad dressing, sunflower oil for cooking, these all are lipids, but in different form and sources. Fats, the third energy yielding macronutrient, after carbohydrates and proteins, are the most concentrated form of energy, providing more than double the amount per gram than the other two. Although fats tend to get a bad reputation, but the fact is that they are equally essential for health in their own way, but as with all other foods it depends on the usage, fat should not be over consumed, other reason, not much realized is that most of the it’s usage is in processed form, which is not in its natural state, common example is the margarine or the hydrogenated oil, this oil, which is liquid at room temperature, is made hard by a process of “hydrogenation” to look like butter. Too much heat, in processing of foods not only destroys most of their nutrients but also change their chemical state, for that same reason, some labels read as “cold pressed oils” to show that heat is not used. These are the wake up calls, we must understand where the problem lies, is it the “fat or the way it is processed in the factories. Who to blame??. Lipids are also the only form in which the body can store energy for a prolonged period of time, these stored lipids In body tissues known as” adipose” also serve to provide insulation, help to control body temperature, and afford some physical protection to internal organs. Fats are mandatory for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins A,D, E and K. Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids, there are three types of fatty acids, saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids a) Saturated fatty acids: mostly found in animal products such as whole milk, cheese, butter, some vegetable products, palm and coconut oils. b) polyunsaturated fatty acids : found in corn, soya, sunflower oils, certain fish oils are high in this fatty acids. c) monounsaturated fatty acids: are found in vegetable and nut oils, such as, olive, peanut and canola. Although most foods contain a combination of all these fatty acids, one predominates and are named after.

4) Water: The human body is two third water. Water is essential nutrient that is involved in every function of the body. It helps transport nutrients in and waste products out of the cells. it is mandatory for all body systems such as digestive, circulatory, excretory also needed by water soluble vitamins for their absorption, for maintaining body temperature. 5)vitamins and 6) minerals: these both are micronutrients, which means they both are needed relatively in small quantities, but like water they do not provide energy but have very important functions in the body. Vitamins contribute to good health by
(3) helping specific chemical reactions that allow the digestion, absorption, metabolism and use of other nutrients, they act as catalysts and co-enzymes to help reactions take place but are neither changed themselves nor incorporated into the products of the reactions, some of the vitamins occur in foods as a precursors or pro-vitamins, which means they can be converted into vitamins when needed. There are 13 different vitamins divided into two classes a) Fat soluble : Vitamins A,D, E and K, which require fats for their absorption. b) water soluble: Vitamin B complex and C are water soluble. Every vitamin has a specific role Vit A: prevents night blindness, enhances immunity. sources: animal liver, fish liver oil, green yellow vegetables Vit D: Necessary for normal growth of bones and teeth in children, protects against muscle weakness. sources: Sunshine is a major source, fish liver oils, diary products, eggs yolks, butter. Vit E: improves circulation, sources: cold pressed vegetable oils, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds eggs Vit K: Needed for blood clotting. sources: Green leafy vegetables such a spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli, eggs yolks Vit B Complex: In all, there are 8 Vitamin B’s which work together as a team. They are also called as “ The energy team”. Vit B1 (thiamine): Enhances circulation and assists blood formation, carbohydrate metabolism, general weakness. sources: brown rice, egg yolk, fish, peanuts, most nuts B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for red blood cell formation, anti body production, helps absorption of iron. Sources: Cheese, egg yolks, fish, milk B3 (niacin): Involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, niacin also helps normal growth and development. Niacin lowers cholesterol and improves circulation. Sources : beef liver, broccoli, carrots, cheese, potatoes. B5 (pantothenic acid): known as anti stress vitamin, helps convert carbohydrate, fats and proteins into energy. Sources: Beef, fresh vegetables eggs, nuts whole wheat. B6 ( pyridoxine): water retention, is required by the nervous system and is needed for normal brain function . Sources: chicken, eggs, fish, spinach, carrots, sunflower seeds. B7 (biotin): Important for the health of hair and skin. Sources: cooked egg yolk, meat, milk, poultry. B12: Helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells, needed to prevent anemia, helps folic acid in formation of red blood cells, prevents nerve damage. Sources: fish, meats and dairy. Folic acid: This is considered a brain food, it is used for energy production and formation of red blood cells. Sources: chicken, dates, lentils, milk, Green leafy vegetables Vit C: This vitamin is required for many metabolic functions , including tissue growth and repair, healthy gum, it also aids the anti stress hormones, immune system. sources: Citrus fruits, berries, green vegetables ,broccoli ,cantaloupe.

Minerals: all living cells depend on minerals for proper functioning and structure, minerals are needed for composition of body fluids, formation of blood and bones, for nerves, muscles. They are naturally occurring elements found in soils which pass them to the plants and they further pass them to the animals and humans who eat them. Minerals are of two types a) macro-minerals, which are needed in larger amount than the, b) micro-nutrients or trace minerals. Very briefly their names and important function sources. Macro-minerals include,

1)calcium: makes bones and teeth, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, Sources: Dairy (milk), green leafy vegetables, figs etc 2)magnesium: heart’s most important mineral, mostly in bones, muscle weakness. Sources: Dairy, fish, meat, seafood, bananas nuts 3)sodium: necessary for maintain proper water balance and blood PH. Sources: almost all foods. 4)Potassium: important for healthy nervous system and regular heart rhythm, proper muscle contraction works with sodium to control body’s water balance. Sources: Dairy, fish, meat, High amounts in apricot, bananas, dates, fig, potatoes. 5)phosphorus: mostly found in bones and teeth, in blood helps maintain acid-base balance, normal heart rhythm Sources: eggs, fish, dried fruits, dairy products, nuts Trace minerals: include 1)Boron: Needed for healthy bones and muscle growth, energy Sources: Apples, carrots, grapes, raw nut, green vegetables 2)chromium: It is involved in metabolism of glucose, so it maintains stable blood sugar. Sources: Cheese, meat, chicken eggs. 3)copper: it aids in formation of bone, hemoglobin, red blood cells. Sources: Almonds ,beets, lentils, nuts, oranges. 4)Germanium: helps keep the immune system functioning and rid body of toxins and poison. Sources :broccoli, garlic, milk. 5) iodine: Iodine is needed for the normal thyroid function.. Sources: Seafood is rich in it iodine. 6)iron: The most important function of iron is the production of hemoglobin and oxygenation of red blood cells. Sources: Eggs, fish, liver, meat, poultry, green leafy vegetables, almonds, lentils. 7)Manganese: for healthy nerves, healthy immune and blood sugar. Sources: Avocados, nuts, seeds, pineapples. Some other trace minerals are , 8) Molybdenum 9)Selenium 10) Silicon 11) Sulfur 12)Vanadium: is needed for formation of bones and teeth, inhabits cholesterol synthesis. Sources: fish, meat, radishes 13)Zinc:

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