Our most basic requirement is food. It nourishes the body and keeps it healthy. It provides us with the energy we need for our activities, including our involvement in games and sports. A person’s diet may be described as the total amount of various food products ingested daily. Simple, natural, well-cooked meals that promote health and protect us from illnesses should make up a healthy diet.
Our diet is determined by socio-cultural norms, lifestyle patterns and the kind of activities we participate in. What we eat, how much we consume, myths and facts about food and what happens to our health if we overeat or eat appropriately have a sensitive link. Nutrition, nutrients, food types, balanced diet, unique dietary requirements, malnutrition and eating disorders are all significant aspects of the diet for healthy living that will be discussed in this chapter.
Human body’s nutritional needs
Our diet includes a variety of foods that come from either animal or plant sources. We already know that food is made of proteins, carbs, lipids, and additional substances such as minerals, vitamins, water, and other essential components called nutrients. Body-building foods (e.g., milk, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, pulses, groundnuts) are required for healthy body functioning, as are energy-giving foods (e.g., grains, sugar, roots, fats, and oils)
Nutrients: Before being absorbed and used by the body, the food we eat is broken down into simpler compounds. Nutrients are the names for these basic compounds. Nutrients are used by our bodies to develop and repair tissues, get energy and protect us from disease.
Proteins: Proteins are the “building blocks” of our bodies. Proteins account for around 20% of our body weight. Proteins are required for muscle and other bodily tissue development and repair. Amino acids, which comprise carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, are proteins. We receive protein from both animal and vegetable sources. Animal proteins can be found in milk, eggs, cheese, seafood and meat.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are our body’s primary source of energy. Carbohydrates are divided into three categories: starch, sugar and cellulose. Sugar and starch are broken down into glucose by our bodies to generate energy. Cellulose has little nutritional value, yet it is a significant source of dietary fibres. The liver converts excess carbs into fat, deposited in our adipose cells.
Fats: Fats and oils are concentrated energy sources. Fats are chemicals that our bodies store to be used later. Simple lipids (e.g., triglycerides), complex lipids (e.g., phospholipids) and derived lipids (e.g., cholesterol) are the three types. Fats can come from either animal or plant sources. Ghee, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, fish and meat, are all good sources of animal fats.
Vitamins: Vitamins are organic chemicals that humans need in sufficient amounts to stay healthy. Our bodies, on the other hand, are unable to synthesise them. As a result, we must consume natural sources of these nutrients, such as fruits and vegetables. Fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) and water-soluble vitamins (Vitamins of the B group and Vitamin C) are the two types of vitamins. Each vitamin has a distinct purpose, and its deficiency causes specific illnesses.
Minerals: Minerals are essential nutrients for our body’s normal growth and function and are only required in modest amounts. Essential mineral nutrients include calcium, chloride, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Water: Water is a nutrient that accounts for over 70% of our body weight. Water is required to break down complex food molecules and transport food, chemicals and gases throughout the body. It catalyses biological activities and eliminates wastes through urine and sweat. Every day, we should drink 8–10 glasses of water. Dehydration is caused by insufficient water consumption.
A balanced diet provides all of the crucial elements, including proteins, carbs, fats, minerals and vitamins, in the proportions required for optimal bodily growth and development.
Dietary nutritive and non-nutritive components
Whether nutritive (calorie-dense) or non-nutritive (calorie-free), food components are required in a wide range of foods and beverages. They are used to preserve foods (in jams and jellies), provide body and texture (in ice cream and baked goods), accentuate other flavours (such as salty) and help in fermentation (in bread and pickles).
Proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals constitute the nutritional components of the diet. Non-nutritive ingredients do not affect the body’s energy, calories or nutrition. Some non-nutritive substances are beneficial to the body, while others are harmful. Non-nutritive components include colour compounds, flavour compounds, food additives, plant compounds, water, roughage and fibre.
Intolerance to certain foods and meaning of food myths
Food intolerance is the inability of our digestive system to metabolise specific components found in particular meals effectively. It is quite common to have a negative reaction to a particular food. However, it is an intolerance rather than an allergy most of the time. A food myth usually is an exaggerated narrative about food with or without a determinable basis of reality or a natural explanation. Although intolerance and allergy symptoms are similar, a food allergy is more dangerous and rapidly manifests itself. The following are characteristics of food intolerance:
- It usually develops over time
- It is possible that this only happens on consuming a lot of a certain food
- This may only happen upon eating the dish frequently.
Various culinary food myths exist in cultures worldwide. People accept these falsehoods because they appear to be true. We can debunk these beliefs now that we have a greater scientific understanding. Some of the most common food myths are:
- Potatoes cause weight gain
- Fat-free foods aid in weight loss
- Eggs are high in cholesterol and should be avoided
- We gain weight if we drink water while eating
- Do not drink milk right after eating fish
- If you want to lose weight, you should starve yourself
- Exercising causes you to consume more calories.
Rather than focusing on weight loss, it is necessary to concentrate on fitness. Obesity is exacerbated by spending long periods in front of the television or computer, consuming junk food or drinking high-calorie beverages. Because obesity is primarily a lifestyle condition, it needs intervention at many levels, including the individual, the family and the community. Physical fitness and weight control involve good eating habits, a balanced diet, regular exercise and avoiding food myths.