The question refers to two main points: nutritional needs and the outcome of proper nutrition. In other words how and what we should eat so that our body’s requirements of energy and growth are met and we stay free from disease. The question is answered by explaining the role of nutrition in life functions and its effect on health and wellbeing.
Role of Nutrition in Life Functions:
Our body is a machine that runs on fuels that come from meals. An ideal meal is one which is wholesome in all respects and contains all ingredients required for normal healthy functions of body. Every function of body needs energy and specific substances to perform.
While we can feel and notice some functions occurring in our body, like the heart beat, walking, talking etc, we do not feel the liver performing its functions. There are innumerable deep-seated activities and functions being performed by body’s organs and tissues at the levels of cells where molecules of different substances take part in life-saving chemical interactions. The interactions are required when our brain, heart, kidney, eyes and every other organ and their tissues perform their functions.
When several of those required substances are not present in required supply they affect body functions and severely affect health and wellbeing of the person. All those substances are either obtained from food as nutrients or are made in body by using those nutrients.
Nutrients are therefore substances present in our meals which are essential for normal functioning of body’s functions, for obtaining energy and for growth of the body. Routinely, all nutrients are obtained through food we eat and water we drink. Food supplies whole list of nutrients as its ingredients. After going through a process of digestion, absorption and assimilation the nutrients are made available to each and every cell of the body for their proper functioning, which includes needs for energy, repair and growth.
An ideal food is the one that supplies body with the required amount of various nutrients in adequate quantity. Since no single food item contains all nutrients, a good meal in one which is combination of different food stuffs rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins and fiber. When a person can’t take meals or digest food, such as during sickness or disease, essential nutrients are supplied orally through a tube or through intravenous route to keep the patient alive.
Nutrients, as well, have a very important role in the special stages of life, such as in infants, growing children, nursing mothers and the old age where special attention is required for adequate supply of essential nutrients.
Nutrition for Healthy Living:
For a normal healthy life proper nutrition is essential. Proper nutrition can be defined as one which is rich in adequate quantity of the following constituents. However, the need for these constituents can vary in different individuals depending upon their age, sex and health status.
- Proteins: These are essential for body’s growth, repair and resistance against infection and diseases. Rich sources of protein are pulses, whole grains, eggs, animal meat, fish and sea food.
- Fats: Are rich source of energy and are stored in the body as energy reservoir for future needs. Fats are needed for synthesis of hormones and for building body’s defense against diseases. Excess cholesterol can be harmful. Rich sources of fat are seeds, eggs, red meat and fish oil. These are basically of two types, saturated and unsaturated fats; saturated are not good but unsaturated are good fats. Certain special types of fats, rich in omega fatty acids, found in dry fruits, are very healthy.
- Carbohydrates: Are ready source of energy. Carbohydrates like sugar, which get easily converted to glucose, are instant source of energy. Rice, potatoes, white sugar, fruit juices are rich in carbohydrates.
- Vitamins: These are essential for body functions and are required for body’s metabolic functions. Vitamins such as vitamin B complex, C, D, E, and K etc are commonly required vitamins. Deficiencies of vitamins can reduce body’s resistance to diseases and cause diseases of bone, teeth, gums, general weakness, headache etc. and even serious diseases.
- Minerals: Minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, cobalt, magnesium, zinc, etc are required for routine functions of body. Minerals are also constituents of bones, teeth, red blood cells, organs and tissues. Important functions played by different minerals are oxygen carrying to tissues, nerve conduction, tissues contraction and relaxation, etc.
- Anti-oxidants: Several nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fibers serve as antioxidants as they reduce harmful effects of oxygen free radicals formed during body’s functioning. Antioxidants protect cells and their DNA against damage and protect against serious diseases like cancer and effects of ageing. Antioxidants are principally found in colored vegetables and fruits.
- Fiber: The fiber content of orally taken diet is very essential for health of intestine. Rich source of fiber are whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Fiber rich diet protects against colon cancer.
The importance of nutrition is evident from the fact that if nutrition is not proper it can ruin health and cause diseases. Proper nutrition means a balanced died which meets an individual’s complete nutritional needs.