Nutrition plays a key role in our daily lives.
Our bodies are made up of billions of cells that have very specific nutritional requirements that are mainly provided by our diets. If our bodies to not receive the nutrients that they need, a deficiency can occur which over time can be detrimental to our overall health. By eating a balanced diet you help to ensure a healthy heart, active brain function, and the proper regulation of various processes including blood pressure levels and digestion. This is possible because your body is receiving the correct nutrients in order for all these processes to function in the correct manner. Our body also needs a balanced diet to:
- Grow, replace and restore our cells and tissue in our body.
- Help to produce energy which we use on a daily basis.
- Help our bodies resist and fight infections and sickness and aid in our recovery if we do get ill.
All food types are made up of two main forms of nutrients.
There are 16 key minerals and electrolytes the body needs to function correctly. A few examples of these include:
- Potassium: This mineral helps with nerve function, muscle control and blood pressure.
- Calcium: This mineral helps to ensure strong bones and teeth as its primary role. It does, however, have other roles, including help with blood clotting, muscular contraction/release and with the release of hormones.
- Phosphorus: This mineral is used by the body to ensure strong bones, regulate a normal pH level in the body, ensure oxygen gets to tissues and cells, helps to create energy, contraction/release and hormone production.
- Sodium: This mineral ensures a balance of the fluids in the body by regulating the water found in and around cells. Incorrect fluid levels around cells can lead to swelling and medical problems.
- Chloride: This mineral helps to maintain the correct blood volume, regulates blood pressure and controls the pH level of body fluids.
- Magnesium: This mineral helps with muscle and nerve function, ensures proper heart rhythm and works in conjunction with calcium to build stronger bones and teeth.
- Zinc: This mineral helps to maintain a healthy immune system, manufactures DNA and helps wounds to heal.
- Iron: This mineral helps to deliver oxygen to tissue and cells all over the body and then transports carbon dioxide to the lungs to be expelled. It is also used in the production of red blood cells and converting blood sugar to energy.
Other minerals found in the body include manganese, copper, iodine, selenium and molybdenum. Click here for more information on these minerals
These are the nutrients our bodies need in larger quantities to function properly. Examples of these include:
- Carbohydrates provide the body with energy. They consist of simple sugars that enter the body in the form of glucose which is used as an energy source for the body. Complex carbohydrates take longer to absorb into the blood stream and should be eaten over refined or sugary carbohydrates.
- Proteins work in our cells and are used in the regulation, function, repair and structure of the tissues and organs of the body as well as helping the immune system. Protein itself is broken down into over 20 types of amino acids of which 9 cannot be produced by the body, hence the importance of protein in our diets.
- Fats help to supply the body with energy and essential fatty acids such as omega-3 which help cell growth and function. Fats also help in the transportation of fat soluble vitamin A, D, E and K around the body.
- Fibre helps to fight heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Fibre is found in two distinct forms – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is digested by the body and helps lower cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre cannot be digested. It passes through our system and can help with major problems in the digestive system.
A proper balanced diet of the correct nutritious food incorporating macro and micronutrients can help your body in the following way:
Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains is the cornerstone to weight management. A balanced diet provides the nutrients and minerals your body requires while allowing you to lose weight at first and then maintain it once you have reached your goal weight. Maintenance is easily achieved by upping your calorie intake slightly based on your RDI (recommended daily intake). Fibre, mainly found in fruit and vegetables, plays an important role as part of a balanced diet as it helps to make you feel fuller for longer periods.
- Control of blood glucose levels
A balanced, healthy diet filled with nutritious foods can help to regulate your blood glucose level and avoid spikes that are often associated with eating sugary foods and refined carbohydrates. These blood glucose spikes lead to a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes, so avoiding them is important.
Eating a balanced diet helps to control cholesterol levels in your blood. This helps to protect against heart attacks and strokes by ensuring that plaque will not build up on artery walls and therefore narrow the arteries. The fibre found in fruit and vegetables can help to reduce cholesterol levels.
A balanced diet including fruit and vegetables provides the body with antioxidants. These help to neutralise free radical cells that can cause damage in the cellular system of the body, eventually leading to cancerous cells. Antioxidants create a more stable cell environment in the body where free radical cells cannot form and grow.
- Helps regulate blood pressure
Eating a balanced diet rich in potassium, often found in fruit and vegetables, can help to regulate a healthy blood pressure. Restricting your salt intake helps to lower blood pressure as well.