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Nutrition is defined as the study of how food is related to health and well-being. It can also be used to define how lack of certain foods or excesses of others can cause certain diseases. In developed countries, the biggest nutritional problem is caused by effects of eating too much. Some of the effects of this are manifested in obesity and other lifestyle ailments.
A balanced diet is made up of 12% protein, 30% fat and about 58% of the complex carbohydrates. These nutrients are necessary since they are responsible for giving the body the energy it requires for day to day functions. This energy can be measured in calories or kilo-calories. The unit of measurement, the calorie, represents how much value of energy the food contains as well as how much energy is used to carry out a physical activity.
A major source of providing energy to the body is the carbohydrate. It is the biggest fuel for the body in normal activities. There are several types of sugars also known as simple carbohydrates. These include galactose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose and lactose.
Fiber and starch make up complex carbohydrates. Complex chains of the simple carbohydrate known as glucose make up starch. The complex carbohydrates consist of starches and fiber. On the other hand, fiber is found in vegetables, whole grains and fruits. It is not digestible, but it is very important in keeping a healthy and properly functioning digestive system. It is also responsible for the formation of waste products and helps to avoid complications that lead to indigestion and constipation.
One of the best forms of energy storage in the body is fat. This is because fat stores more than twice the same amount of energy that proteins or carbohydrates can store in the body. The body extracts fat from oods. It can also be extracted from any excess proteins and carbohydrates that are consumed in food.
Fat is one of the several types of lipids. Other types of lipids include cholesterol, waxes, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, triglycerides, monoglycerides, diglycerides and many more. Lipids are useful mainly for storage of energy and signaling. They provide the building blocks of cell membranes. The level of cholesterol, one of the lipids, in the blood directly affects the risk of exposure to heart diseases.
Triglycerides make up the biggest percentage of fat in the body as well as that consumed in foods. Just as the name suggests, these fats are made up of three fatty acids that are attached to a core made up of glycerol. Depending on the structure of their chemicals, fatty acids are either classified as being saturated or as being unsaturated.
Protein is responsible for cell building and repair in the body. It provides the structural unit necessary for cell repair and generation in all body tissues. Protein is made up of two types of amino acids. Non-essential amino acids, which are total 11 in number, are made by the body. Essential amino acids are obtained only through food consumed. There are 9 essential amino acids in total. Proteins can be broken down by the body to be used as a form of energy should there be a deficiency of carbohydrates or fats.
The roles of vitamins in the body are varied and crucial. One of the major roles is in metabolism and growth, where vitamins regulate these processes. Vitamins that are soluble in water cannot be stored in the body. These include vitamin C and Vitamin B-complex. On the other hand, vitamins that are soluble in fat can be stored in the body. These include Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin E.
The roole of minerals in the body is mainly to regulate various body functions. They are a collection of chemicals that are inorganic and are found in several animal and plant food products. About two-thirds of the entire body is made up of water. This makes water very vital in day to day physical activities. It is recommended that one should drink about 8 cups of water daily.
A good balanced diet should have larger portions of vegetables, lean meats, dairy products and fruits. It should have small amounts of sugar and fats. Sodium intake should also be limited. The amount of calories being consumed should always balance the amount of calories that is spent in day to day activities. Only moderate amount of alcohol should be consumed.
Depending on how intense physical exercises are, the amount of carbohydrates and fats consumed as fuel differs. For low intensity exercises, more fat than carbohydrate is used as fuel. For very intense exercises, more carbohydrate than fat is used as fuel. Another class of nutrients that are important to the body are antioxidants. These are used by the body to prevent the damage of cells by free radicals. Some of the well-known antioxidants include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, selenium and beta-carotene.
In most cases, consuming natural and non-processed foods ensure that people get all the required nutrients without the need for supplements. However, for older people, vegetarians and pregnant women, dietary supplements are sometimes recommended.
It is always recommended that food should be prepared well, stored in clean conditions, and cooked properly. When buying food, fresh and clean food should always be the obvious choice. Meat should always be cooked thoroughly before eating, while fruits and vegetables should always be properly washed.