Food contains the raw ingredients that the body needs for proper growth and development. Eating a variety of foods ensures that the body is getting the right mix of nutrients.
In the body, food is first broken down into their chemical components, and then further processed into smaller substances that the body can utilize. In the body, nutrients have three basic functions:
- To provide energy
- To promote growth and development
- To regulate body processes
The body has several trillion cells and each requires energy to perform its daily activities. This energy comes in the form of simple sugars, the result of carbohydrate metabolism.
Vitamins and Minerals
Digestion also releases the vitamins and minerals found in food. Vitamins are chemicals classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Vitamins are responsible for releasing the energy found in carbohydrates and provide many functions related to building and repairing cells, as an antioxidant, and as a catalyst in numerous chemical processes.
Like vitamins, minerals play a vital role within the organ systems. For example, in the cardiac system, minerals are necessary in the formation of electrical impulses within the heart. In the central nervous system, they are a necessary component in nerve transmission. Lastly, in the urinary system, minerals assist in maintaining proper water balance within the kidneys.
Water - A Vital Nutrient
It is a well-known fact that the body cannot survive without a consistent and regular supply of water. Moreover, the body itself is composed of a significant amount of water. The exact amount is debatable as some sources state the body is composed of over 70% water while others, like the Mayo Clinic, suggest that 60% of the body is composed of water.
The dispute over body water contents vary because the answer is dependent on a number of variables such as age, weight, gender, and activity level. People who are more active sweat more than the average sedentary person sweats and therefore needs a higher level of body water.
Therefore, researchers might disagree on how much water the body is actually composed of, but one thing is certain, without this vital nutrient, all life would cease.
Water, composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom combine to form a molecule that is located both inside and outside the cells.
- Provides a medium for the transportation of nutrients and waste products.
- Lubricates and keeps mucus membranes moist.
- Acts as a thermostat to monitor and maintains body temperature.
- Provides a medium for chemical reactions.
- Lubricates joints.
- Acts as a shock absorber within the eyes and spinal cord for example.
- Is a large component of amniotic fluid surrounding a developing baby.
Start the Day off Right
During the night when you sleep, your body is fast at work repairing, regenerating, and replenishing itself. This process demands a lot of energy. Imagine the body is like a furnace, in order to generate the heat needed, the furnace needs a constant source of power.
In order for the body to function properly, it needs a constant source of fuel in the form of food. The best way to energize the body is by eating small frequent meals throughout the day. Not only will you be providing the body with the nutrients it needs but you will also feel better, feel stronger, and more alert because your blood sugar will be level without the large peaks and dips often experienced with long breaks in between meals.
Start the day off with a good healthy breakfast consisting of a low fat and high protein food source. The fuel from protein burns slower providing a more stable blood sugar level and leaves you feeling full longer.
Add a midmorning snack of fruit salad to satisfy any sweet cravings, provide water for hydration, and a quick energy boost. Fruits are an excellent carbohydrate source. The fuel from carbohydrates provides a quick pick-me-up feeling.
At lunchtime try to have a good size meal to get you through the rest of the day. Depending on your activity level, a lunch consisting of a low-fat protein source like chicken or fish, and a couple of sides of carbohydrates (side of fruit and vegetable for example) will provide you with the brain boost and physical energy to finish out your day, on top.
Many people feel the mid-afternoon blahs, fatigue, and a loss of creativity. A great way to give you a quick boost is to have an apple and a couple of slices of cheese. The apple will give you a quick carbohydrate boost of energy while the cheese, a good protein source will continue the energy boost at a slower pace.
The focus of dinner should be on color. The American Cancer Society recommends nine carbohydrate sources per day. Dinner is a great way to bring in the rest of your requirement while enjoying a visual array of colors and smells to tantalize any palate. Add a small protein source and your meal will end on the right note.
By mid-evening, I am usually craving something sweet like ice cream or a slice of cake. I allow myself this daily indulgence for two reasons. First, it gives me something to look forward to (my reward) and because I know the treat is coming, I do not tend to overeat or indulge during the day.
Many people over-eat simply because they are trying to compensate for the loss of sweets in their diet. Let's face it; a banana is just not going to cut it when all you want is a slice of banana cream pie.
In conclusion, the body must have the proper fuel source in order to function optimally. By eating, a variety of foods from a variety of sources, every three to four hours, you will be giving your body the energy boosts it needs. Your mind will be clearer, more alert, and your general physical state of being will feel stronger.
Disclaimer: Dr. Mundorff is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Traditional Naturopath, and not a medical doctor. The information in this column is for educational purposes only and should not be used to self-diagnose and treat diseases, nor be misinterpreted as a prescription. This information is provided with the understanding that the author is not engaging in a health-care practitioner/patient relationship with her readers. In the author’s best judgment, the information and opinions expressed here are accurate and sound at the time of publication. Readers who rely on the information in this book as a replacement of the advice of a medical doctor assume all risks of such conduct. The author is not responsible for errors or omissions. Please consult your doctor before starting any alternative modalities.