Nutrition is the biological and nutritional process by which an organism uses food to sustain its existence. It consists of absorption, assimilation, production, catabolism, and exhalation. The food we eat is broken down to nutrients that are used by cells in the body and is also delivered to the tissues for energy and sustenance. An optimum nutrition plan ensures that all the nutrients are used and the right amount is supplied to the cells. When any part of the system does not function normally, nutrition plays a vital role.
Some of the most vital nutrients in nutrition include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, and water. Vitamin, mineral, and carbohydrate nutrition help in maintaining good health by maintaining the general balance of body fluids, preventing constipation, improving immunity, and regulating body temperature. A well-balanced nutrition reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, high blood pressure, and skin disorders like psoriasis and acne. Hair, nails, bones, teeth, hormones, and other vital organs are nourished through adequate nutrition. Nutritional needs vary according to the physical condition of an individual.
In United States, food is considered nutritious when it contains the following basic nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. The nutritional value of food can be improved by including low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts. Nutrient intake is highest in the morning when the body receives the bulk of its calories through food.
The primary sources of vitamin B12 are liver and milk products, seeds, and whole grain cereals. Milk is the only source of naturally occurring vitamin D. Vitamin A promotes strong bones and teeth. Folic acid is found in citrus fruits, wheat products, and most green vegetables. Vitamin C improves immunity and slows the aging process. Some foods with vitamin E are green tea, avocado, and nuts.
Individuals in developing countries have a difficult time maintaining normal nutrition. The major dietary deficiencies are micronutrients and essential fatty acids. A typical urban diet does not contain adequate amounts of most of the essential vitamins. This could result in a variety of symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, anemia, and nerve pain or malfunction. One of the most important steps in preventing vitamin deficiency is eating a balanced diet rich in foods rich in vitamins.
Children in urban areas are low in calcium, and studies show that this deficiency may lead to stunted growth and poor brain development. Low levels of vitamin D are found in urban youngsters. It is recommended that both adults and children eat vitamin D-fortified milk, fortified orange juice, and enriched bread. Calcium supplements are also available. Good sources include dairy products, broccoli, spinach, and eggs.
Men and women are prone to mineral deficiencies because of increased toxic load. The recommended dietary allowance of iron is appropriate for healthy people, but women may have reduced absorption of Fe and B magnesium and may be at risk for osteoporosis. In infants, nutritional deficits are associated with poor growth, increased susceptibility to infections, and delayed closure of the birth canal. Maintaining proper levels of these minerals is important in preventing deficiency and improving cardiovascular health.
Each person needs a different balanced diet and physical activity to achieve good overall health. An individual’s level of activity and nutrition are influenced by genetic, physiological, and external factors. A healthy lifestyle can prevent chronic disease and promote longevity. Nutritional needs are increasing as the world becomes more urbanized, and a balanced diet is becoming more important than ever. Although deficiency symptoms are not always easy to spot, with some help a person can make dietary changes and improve health.