Introduction to Nutrition – The Food Groups
If you are interested in nutrition you have probably come across already of various articles and diets talking about carbohydrates, protein and so on. Well, what exactly are carbs, proteins and minerals? This article will introduce you into food groups, what are they and how does your body get its energy from eating.
To successfully manage your body weight and composition, it is necessary to realize that food is a fuel that provides energy to propel our bodies and to perform chemical reactions. Food when is ingested is turned into energy through a process called oxidation. The amount of energy provided by food is measured in calories.
Food provides essential nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water that are vital to maintaining optimal health.
The secret of managing the intake of your fuel to know how much, what type and the best to be consumed. The optimal intake is depending on several variables such as age, gender, height, weight, body composition and activity level. The body handles mismanagement of calories (over eating) and the composition of these calories by storing unused calories as body fat.
Carbohydrates are the major source of energy for muscular exertion and aid in the digestion and assimilation of all foods. Carbohydrates when digested are broken down into the blood sugar or glucose and combined with water from glycogen that is stored in muscle cells and the liver. Excess glucose is stored in the fat cells throughout the body as a reserve source of energy. Glycogen is the primary fuel for muscle contraction.
Carbohydrates are present in foods in the forms of starches, sugars and cellulose. Starches are complex carbohydrates that require prolonged digestive time to be broken down into glucose and assimilated.
Proteins are the second most abundant substance in the body and are the building blocks for all cells. Proteins, when digested, are broken down into simpler units called amino acids and are synthesized by the body. The body requires 22 amino acids and all but 8 of these can be produced by the body. These eight are known as ‘essential amino acids’ and must be supplied by foods. Most meat, fish and diary products are complete protein foods, whilst most fruit and vegetables are incomplete protein foods. The ultimate goal is to have sufficient amounts of amino acids creating a positive nitrogen balance. This allows the body to be in an anabolic state that results in muscle repair and growth. If inadequate amounts of protein are consumed, the body falls into a catabolic state that leads to breakdown of the muscle tissue to supply energy.
When it comes to watching the fat calories, there are people who do and people who don’t. If you’re one of those who do, it is tempting to feel smug. But maybe you shouldn’t because in our efforts to follow a low-fat lifestyle, most of us have thrown out the baby with the bath water. Some fats are not just harmless, but absolutely crucial for health and vitality. In fact new research suggests that these essential fats may play a pivotal role in actually losing body fat, maintaining a healthy body weight and producing energy in the body, as well as protecting the body against degenerative diseases. Since an estimated 90% of modern diets are low or deficient in the essential fast, some scientist believe that this is one of the greatest nutritional problems facing the western world today.
Vitamins are necessary for cellular growth, cellular metabolism, cellular reproduction and digestion. With a few exceptions, the body cannot synthesize vitamins; therefore they must be supplied by foods or food supplements. Vitamins working in combination with enzymes ensure that the nutrients in foods are properly metabolized for cellular maintenance or energy.