The importance of nutrition in a diet logically points towards seeking healthy living and disease prevention. I’m a believer in the notion of preventive care, in which you develop healthy habits in an effort to eliminate the causes of disease. Our society has become too reliant on doctors and other “experts”. We need to regain our sense of independence fostered by our forefathers.
One method of putting a firmer hand on our destiny is eating healthier, enacting other healthy habits, and preparing for unforeseen circumstances. I’d like to touch upon these three topics in the following article as three ideas will become the main themes of this website.
Ideally, our meals will provide our bodies with all its needed nutrients; however, that isn’t always possible in modern society. Processed food isn’t suited to meet these nutritional needs. Moreover, the hectic nature of modern society often prevents us from preparing proper meals.
How has society and industry become this way? What are some options a person can use to avoid being completely reliant on the matrix?
Part I – What are nutrients?
Let’s begin by examining the basics.
The body requires nutrients in order to perform all basic functions. Nutrients are not produced by the human body; therefore they must be consumed from food. Nutrients are used to produce energy, detect and respond to environmental surroundings, move and excrete wastes, respire (breathe), grow, and reproduce. Essentially, nutrients are compounds in foods essential to life and health. They provide energy, serve as the building blocks for repair and growth, and exist as substances necessary to regulate chemical processes. Nutrients are digested and then brok
en down into basic parts to be used by the various systems in the body.
6 Essential Nutrients
- Carbohydrates – The body’s main source of energy; comes in three forms: sugar, starch, and fiber.
- Protein – structural building blocks; provide amino acids
- Fat – energy storage and cell repair
- Water – solve
nt and lubricant, transport of nutrients, temperature regulation
- Vitamins – essential for normal metabolism, growth, and development, and regulation of cell function.
- Minerals – involved in enzyme functions, nerve impulses, and bone structure.
What are Macronutrients and Micronutrients?
The simple difference is that macro
nutrients are needed in larger quantities. Water, carbohydrates, fat, and protein are considered macronutrients. Except for water these nutrients provide energy to the body. Energy is essential for the body to grow, repair and develop new tissues, conduct nerve impulses and regulate life process.
Micronutrients consist of vitamins a
nd minerals. They are needed in smaller amounts. As a unit, they are vital to the various functions of the body. Their main function is processing the body’s main chemical reactions. Growth, immune function, and brain development are examples of vital processes that require vitamins and minerals.
Before I continue is important to remember that all of these nutrients are provided by food; and optimally provided by a diet of healthy, nutrient-dense food.
The Two Types of Vitamins
1. Water-Soluble Vitamins
These vitamins will dissolve in water, and get flushed via the urine when there is an excess amount. Here are the water-soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): Helps convert nutrients into energy
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): Necessary for energy production, cell function and fat metabolism
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): Drives the production of energy from food
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): Necessary for fatty acid synthesis
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): Helps your body release sugar from stored carbohydrates for energy and create red blood cells (12).
- Vitamin B7 (biotin): Plays a role in the metabolism of fatty acids, amino acids and glucose
- Vitamin B9 (folate): Important for proper cell division
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Necessary for red blood cell formation and proper nervous system and brain function
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid): Required for the creation of neurotransmitters and collagen, the main protein in your skin
2. Fat- Soluble Vitamins
These are Vitamins are not dissolved in water. Instead, they’re stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use.
Here are the fat-soluble vitamins:
- Vitamin A: Necessary for proper vision and organ function
- Vitamin D: Promotes proper immune function and assists in calcium absorption and bone growth
- Vitamin E: Assists immune function and acts as an antioxidant that protects cells from damage
- Vitamin K: Required for blood clotting and proper bone development
Types of Minerals
1. Macrominerals are needed in larger amounts than trace minerals. Here are the types of macrominerals:
- Calcium – aids in bone and teeth formation, muscle function, heart rhythm, and vital in the proper functioning of enzymes.
- Chloride – A key element in acid balance, water metabolism, and fluid balance. Chloride often works in tandem with sodium.
- Magnesium – necessary for the normal function of muscles and nerves, required for the formation of bones and teeth. In fact, 70% of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones and teeth. Also, magnesium assists with over 300 enzyme reactions, including regulation of blood pressure.
- Phosphorus – A vital part of metabolizing energy, without phosphorous, your body can’t turn food into energy and strength. Phosphorus is another mineral needed in the development of bones and teeth.
- Potassium – essential for nerve and muscle function and water metabolism.
- Sodium – Electrolyte that aids fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure. Sodium is necessary for maintaining your proper nerve and muscle function as well.
- Sulfer – Part of every living tissue and contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine
The second type of minerals are trace minerals.
2. Trace Minerals List:
- Iron – Part of a molecule (hemoglobin) found in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body; needed for energy metabolism
- Zinc – Part of many enzymes; needed for making protein and genetic material; has a function in taste perception, wound healing, normal fetal development, production of sperm, normal growth and sexual maturation, and immune system health
- Iodine – Found in the thyroid hormone, which helps regulate growth, development, and metabolism
- Selenium – Important for thyroid health, reproduction and defense against oxidative damage
- Copper – Required for connective tissue formation, as well as normal brain and nervous system function
- Manganese – Assists in carbohydrate, amino acid and cholesterol metabolism
- Chromium – Works closely with insulin to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels
- Molybdenum – activates 4 vital enzymes that are needed in the breaking down of sulfites. An excess of sulfites can cause allergic reactions such as skin problems or diarrhea.
As can be seen from this list of vitamins and minerals the importance of nutrition cannot be overstated.
Food Sources for Vitamins and Minerals
The next section will provide some healthy food sources for the various types of vitamins and minerals.
- Vitamin A – Retinol (liver, dairy, fish), carotenoids (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach). It is generally made by converting compounds in yellow and green vegetables.
- Vitamin D – Fish, fish oils, and fortified foods. Most is made by converting a compound in the skin when exposed to sunlight.
- Vitamin E – Sunflower seeds, wheat germ, almonds
- Vitamin K – Bacteria in the gut, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, other green leafy vegetables, cereals, pumpkin, soybeans, and other vegetables.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) Fortified breads, cereals, and pasta, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dried beans, peas, and soybeans. Lesser amounts are found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. There is none in unfortified polished rice.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) Lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and fortified breads and cereals
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) Meat, salmon, leafy greens, legumes
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) Fish, cereal grains, legumes, carrots, spinach, peas, potatoes
- Vitamin B7 (biotin) Almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes, grain cereals, legumes, yeast, broccoli and other vegetables in the cabbage family
- Vitamin B9 (folate) Beef, liver, black-eyed peas, spinach, asparagus
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) Eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish,
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) All fruits and vegetables contain some. Highest: green peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens, and other leafy greens, potatoes, and cantaloupe. Other excellent sources: papaya, mango, watermelon, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, winter squash, red peppers, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and pineapple.
- Calcium – Yogurt, leafy greens, broccoli, sardines
- Phosphorus – Salmon, yogurt, turkey
- Magnesium – Almonds, cashews, black beans, leafy green vegetables, seafood
- Sodium – Salt,
- Chloride – Seaweed, salt, celery
- Potassium – Lentils, acorn squash, bananas
- Sulfur – Garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, mineral water
- Iron – meat, fortified cereals, beans, green leafy vegetables, and whole grains
- Manganese – Pineapple, pecans,
- Copper – Liver, crabs, cashews
- Zinc – Meats are a primary source of zinc but other sources include dairy products, beans, nuts, and fortified cereals. Absorption is best in diets that include animal proteins.
- Iodine – Seaweed, cod, yogurt
- Selenium – Brazil nuts, sardines, turkey, chicken
Effects of Vitamin Deficiency
Here we’ll take a stark glance at the relationship between nutritional deficiencies and disease. After examining this list it the importance of nutrition in a diet should become undeniable.
- Vitamin A – Impaired vision, night blindness, dry eyes, destruction of the cornea, and total blindness. Other effects include impaired immunity, anemia, thickened cells in breathing passages and urinary bladder, and damaged teeth.
- Vitamin C – Scurvy: loss of appetite, diarrhea, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, irritability, depression, leg pain, bleeding gums, small hemorrhages from capillaries under the skin, pallor, anemia, poor wound healing, corkscrew body hair, and an impaired immune response.
- Vitamin D – A deficiency in childhood leads to the bone deformities of rickets. In adulthood, thinning of the bones with muscle weakness is known as osteomalacia. Reduced bone mineral density and fragile bones is called osteoporosis.
- Vitamin E – Deficiency is rare. It usually appears as nerve problems in hands and feet but also as anemia in premature infants.
- Vitamin K – Impaired blood clotting, poor mineralization of bone.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – weight loss, emotional disturbances, impaired senses, weakness and pain in arms and legs, irregular heartbeat, and swelling of bodily tissues. Heart failure and death can occur in advanced cases. Chronic deficiency can also cause permanent psychosis with memory loss and confusion.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – Cracks in lips (especially mouth corners), high sensitivity to sunlight, inflammation of the tongue, dermatitis (particularly the genitals and mouth), and sore throat and mouth. Growth failure also occurs in children.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) – aggression, dermatitis, insomnia, weakness, mental confusion, diarrhea, and eventually dementia and death.
- Pantothenic acid (B5) – Uncommon but can result in acne, numbness, and tingling.
- Biotin (B7) – Impaired growth and neurological disorders in infants.
- Vitamin B6 – Anemia, depression, dermatitis, high blood pressure, and water retention.
- Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) – Anemia, neuropathy of hands and feet, and mental deficits. Decreased absorption occurs with gastritis and pernicious anemia. It can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis. Rarely, paralysis can result.
- Folate (folic acid and B9) – anemia and birth defects
Mineral Deficiency Symptoms
- Calcium – Tetany, depression, anxiety, irritability, bone pain, osteoporosis, rickets/ chondromalacia
- Phosphorus – Bone loss (rickets), weakness, anorexia, pain
- Magnesium – Nausea, weakness, cognitive impairment, arrhythmias, constipation, muscle cramps
- Sodium – Hypovolemia, muscle weakness
- Chloride – Infants: hypochloremic metabolic acidosis
- Potassium – Weakness, anorexia, nausea, irrational behavior, arrhythmias
- Sulfur – joint pain or disease. Note – Sulfur contains amino acids that important for many processes. So, lack of sulfur could be a contributing factor to many ailments.
- Iron – Fatigue, anemia, glossitis
- Manganese – Weight loss, dementia, nausea/vomiting, changes in hair color, carb intolerance
- Copper – Hypochromic anemia, neutropenia, osteoporosis, growth retardation
- Zinc – Anorexia, growth retardation, hypogonadism, hypogeusia, poor wound healing
- Iodine – Endemic goiter, cretinism
- Selenium – Muscle pain, cardiomyopathy, growth retardation, osteoarthritis (cartilage defects)
Vitamin and Mineral Toxicity
Hopefully, the above information answered the question – What is the importance of nutrition? Clearly, there is a direct correlation between nutrition and disease. The importance of good nutrition is very obvious.
However, there are some caveats and warnings. It may be cliche to state there needs to be a balance. However, this cliche is quite true. There is a danger in overdoing you’re nutritional intake. Hence, here are some warning signs indicating vitamin and mineral toxicity (ie. your body has too much of a certain vitamin or mineral).
Admittedly, this has been an aspect of nutrition and supplementation that I’ve overlooked. When I first became interested in living a healthier lifestyle I became too overzealous, which resulted in me trying EVERYTHING. I gave no heed to the possibility that I was consuming too much of a certain nutrient. The more the better was my attitude.
Do as I say not as I do. If you’re interested in supplementation then try one product and evaluate. Then, you’d be less likely to accumulate toxicity and you’ll obtain a better read on the efficiency of the product.
Here are the effects of Vitamin Toxicity and Mineral Toxicity:
- Vitamin A – Anorexia, headache, blurred vision, dry skin, pruritus, painful extremities, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly
- Vitamin D – Hypercalcemia and tetany, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, polydipsia, polyuria, renal stones, hypertension
- Vitamin E – Fatigue, headache, delayed wound healing, increased bleeding, muscle weakness
- Vitamin K – Hemolytic anemia, liver damage
- Vitamin B1 – Arrhythmias, anaphylactic shock with large intravenous doses
- Vitamin B2 – No cases reported
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) – Release of histamine: severe flushing, pruritus, gastrointestinal disturbances, elevated serum uric acid and glucose, hepatic toxicity
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – Diarrhea, water retention
- Vitamin B6 – Peripheral sensory neuropathy, ataxia, perioral numbness
- Folate (folic acid and B9) – Masks vitamin B12 deficiency
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) – No clear toxicity reported
- Biotin (B7) – None reported
- Vitamin C – Nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea
- Calcium – Constipation, hypercalciuria, hypercalcemia
- Phosphorus – etany (infants), arrhythmias
- Potassium – Hyperkalemia cardiac toxicity
- Sodium – Edema, hypertension
- Chloride – Hypertension
- Magnesium – Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension
- Iron – Acute: vomiting, cyanosis, diarrhea, shock Chronic: hepatomegaly, slate-gray skin, cardiomyopathy, arthropathy
- Selenium – Alopecia, fingernail changes, garlic odor, nausea, diarrhea, peripheral neuropathy
- Copper – Hyperactivity, depression, headaches, capillary fragility
- Manganese – Neurologic, cognitive, and behavioral changes
- Fluoride – No Benefits. Side Effects – Mottled, pitted teeth; impaired bone health; kidney, nerve, and muscle dysfunction
- Chromium – Renal impairment
- Molybdenum – Gout-like syndrome
The lesson I’ve from this list is moderation. For me, the best strategy is having a healthy morning smoothie then eating a healthy meal later in the afternoon. And using one supplement or powder that covers all nutritional needs.
Part II – The Problem with the Modern Diet in the Western World
The foremost problem is that the majority of people eat a diet consisting of primarily processed food. These meals range from fast food to frozen meals to packaged food filled with additives and preservatives. The social engineers have created a hectic society in which everyone is always busy and running to and fro. Naturally, this lends towards people selecting “easy and quick” options for meals, especially during breakfast and lunch.
These “foods” are filled with sugars and manufactured sweeteners. These sweeteners are unhealthy and possibly a leading contributor to the development of various diseases. Even worse, they’re addictive like a drug. Has anyone ever experienced an overwhelming craving for sweets? Or has anyone opened a bag of potato chips with the intention of only eating a handful but then 15 minutes later.. .alas, the bag is empty except for tiny bits of chips on the bottom. If so, there was likely a chemical reaction in your brain creating this unhealthy desire.
Essentially, processed foods have little to no nutritional value. And this is the norm in the Western world… well at least in my native United States.
The centralization of all aspects of life has inevitably led to the dearth of nutritional value in the modern diet. Profits for international corporations are the lone concern in everything, including food production.
Mass production was one of the results of the Industrial Revolution, which led to the rise of supermarkets during the early 1900s. During this epoch, the centralization of society occurred within all industries. The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 centralized the banking industry and sent the United States on the path of being dominated by a select group of elite, powerful influences.
As the food industry adopted the mass production trend, self-service supermarkets selling perishable items became the common trend during the 1920s. There was a period of time during the late 1800s and early 1900s in which people shopped at a number of specialty stores, for example, a butcher, bakery, greengrocer, etc.
Today, the food industry (like all other industries) are monopolized into a select group of entities. The seeds used by farmers are largely the products of companies like Monsanto.
Moreover, the groceries bought at supermarkets and other stores are owned primarily by ten major corporations:
- Proctor and Gamble
- Johnson and Johnson
- General Milles
- Coca Cola
What is the problem with the monopolizing of the food industry? Whenever corporations or central bodies control anything the quality of the product and the interests of the people become unimportant; profits and blockage of entry are the only matters of concern to the ruling companies.
Epidemic Health Issues
Naturally, problems and concerns have arisen over the past few decades concerning the health of the food being sold and its nutritional value. Hence, there has been a corresponding organic food movement and growth in the use of nutritional supplements.
The World Health Organization (WHO) performed a study on diet and nutrition from January 28th through February 1st 2002. The findings determined that lack of nutrition caused the following health conditions:
- Obesity – Decreased physical activity combined with excess calories from sugar, starches, and fat has created an imbalance resulting in increased obesity.
- Diabetes – lack of physical activity combined with obesity has caused escalating rates of type 2 diabetes. More than 25% of the US population had diabetes, approximately 90-95% of these people suffer from type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular and Heart Disease– heart disease kills over 600,000 people every single year.
- Cancer – the study determined dietary habits held a major influence over incidents of cancer… again weight was a key factor. There was a recommendation for increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables as a means of prevention.
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures – Sun exposure (Vitamin D) was a recommended means of strengthening bones and muscles.
- Dental Disease – limiting the use of sugar and the consumption of acidic beverages and foods would reduce risk tooth decay.
There is a myriad of other diseases/symptoms that are caused by poor eating habits. I listed the above just to provide a cursory understanding.
I recently read an interesting article written for the US National Library of Medicine. Essentially, the study confirmed what many naturopaths and nutritionists have claimed: ie. the typical American diet has negative consequences on the gut. I may do another post further examining this study; however, for the purposes of this blog, a scientific study confirmed an unhealthy gut leads to a wide range of diseases and ailments. A low fiber diet with reduced vegetable and fruit consumption combined with a high percentage of meat in the diet significantly increases the chances of developing heart disease, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
All of these issues are a symptom of a fat, bloated society. If you peruse history once prosperity strikes the people steadily become complacent and soft. Gluttonous habits became common during the waning days of the Roman Empire. The people literally and figuratively became fat. Nothing is new under the sun. The Western World has been in the midst of prosperity for quite some time so modern dietary habits are natural in light of human history.
Hence, the root of the problem and the effects are quite obvious. Fortunately, there are some alternatives to improve your health through better nutritional choices.
Part III – How to Start Eating Healthier
In this final section, I’ll provide a few ways to improve your nutritional health.
1. Start Drinking Healthy Morning Smoothies – Shortly after changing my unhealthy eating habits I developed a morning ritual of drinking a morning green drink. I began buying various superfood powders and then eventually I bought a Vitamix. Over the years, I’ve added various fruits and vegetables to the mix. These drinks cover all of the above daily vitamin and mineral requirements
Admittedly, it did require some adjustment to the taste but nothing more than two or three weeks. Today, the taste of virtually nothing bothers me. I can’t imagine a morning without a healthy green drink.
2. Superfood Powders – These products set me on the path towards eating healthier. I was listening to a podcast from the owner of a company called Enerfood. I was impressed with the interview and then bought Enferfood. Superfood powders have been a key component in my morning breakfast for over the past 10 years.
Superfood powders are a blend of greens, superfoods, probiotics, fruits, fiber, and enzymes designed to serve as a healthy meal replacement. The various foods are ground into a powder resulting in a green appearance and typically in a displeasing taste. Typically the powders are sold in plastic containers in 30 to 60-day supplies. Vitamineral Green is one product that’s stored in a glass bottle. The price can range anywhere from around $25 to $100. The lowest powder I’ve seen was Trader’s Joe’s personal brand, price around $25. The primary selling point is that a green powder drink mix can serve as a healthy alternative to a diet lacking in the requisite daily nutrition intake.
Check here for my top 10 list
3. Hallelujah Acres – This company promotes a diet based on a high percentage consumption of fruits and vegetables. They have several products highly rated by consumers over decades of service. I’ve used the green Barley powder and their Fiber powder. I would purchase these items again and would recommend them to anyone seeking a superfood powder or a fiber supplementation. Moreover, they offer diet plans that are based on eating raw foods. The company’s principle is based on a plant-based diet.
Hallelujah Acres was founded during the late 1970s when Rev. George Malkmus was diagnosed with health problems. Instead of pursuing “traditional) medical treatment he committed himself to a diet of primarily raw and natural foo
ds. A year later he was healthy and then dedicated his life towards helping others.
Today, the team is bolstered by Michael Donaldson, a research director who graduated from Cornell University. Hallelujah Acres offers a wide variety of products. Their diet plans could be an intriguing option even if a person isn’t interested in powders or supplementation.
4. Harvest Right – For someone seeking some security and/or preparation in case of a future crisis or someone simply interested in saving money over a long term period while stockpiling food then a home freeze drying machine could be an option. A harvest right home freeze drying machine is a popular choice on the market.
If a person has a home garden and they’re seeking a way to save excess produce in a healthy manner than freeze drying should be an intriguing option. Or, someone could use the value of a home freeze drying machine as a motivational tool to start building a garden in their backyard.
There is a trend towards self-sufficiency and many people are choosing this type of option.
5. Microgreens – Along with the mentality of self-sufficiency there is a trend of people growing micro-greens. Basically, micro-greens are baby versions of ordinary-sized vegetable plants. Micro greens kits could offer broccoli, cabbage, kale, arugula, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and many other options.
Microgreens can be grown on a balcony or near a window. Typically, hydroponic lights are used to grow these plants. Recently, I bought a micro green kit but I’m seeking the time to get started with this journey.
People use these greens in smoothies, in salads, as vegetable portions, etc. Many people start businesses selling microgreens. So if a person doesn’t have access to a yard suitable for growing food than purchasing a micro green kit could be a good option.
Practice Preventive Care
The modern world is hectic and an uncertain place. Even our food is a potential danger. I’ve gotten into the habit of attempting to prevent future health problems instead of waiting for a bleak diagnosis and a doctor’s prescription of pharmaceuticals.
I think we’ve been programmed to march through life using “experts” to make our decisions. By “experts” I mean politicians, doctors, the television set, etc.
If we’re cursed with poor health then only dark clouds will seem to portend on the horizon. If we have a knowledge of the value of good nutrition and an understanding regarding why the western diet has caused so many health issues then at the very least we can make an attempt to stave off these diseases. Try to make an effort to drink more water and to eat meals with only nutritional value.
I’m in the process of learning myself. So, if anyone has an anecdote to share please leave a comment below. Also, if there’s a topic you’d like to learn more about please let me know.
I’m viewing this article as more of a cursory review on the various topics. In the future, I plan to delve deeper.