Nutrition is what you eat!
Ehm, no – actually not. According to the definition, nutrition is “a science that interprets the interaction of nutrients and other substances in food in relation to maintenance, growth, reproduction, health and disease of an organism”. How boring!
But there is another term that defines what you eat, the term diet!
In our food there are substances that help our body to grow, to repair, to create cells and tissues, and to maintain it´s functionality; they are called nutrients.
The human body requires 7 major types of nutrients
In order to keep our metabolism going, the human body needs seven major types of nutrients: water, carbohydrates, fat, proteins, vitamins, minerals and fibre.
A common classification is to separate
- Macronutrients and
Macronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively large quantities, whereas micronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively small quantities.
- Carbohydrates – 4 kcal per gram
- Proteins – 4 kcal per gram
- Fats – 9 kcal per gram
A healthy diet should provide us with the right amount of energy from our diet to maintain our energy balance. Energy balance means the calories taken in from the diet are equal to the calories used by the body. If we consume more calories than we need over a period of time we will gain weight. Every extra calorie our body doesn´t use is stored in our body as fat.
How much energy you need per day depends on your activity during the day and other things, e.g. your gender. On average, a women need 2,000 kilocalories (or 8,400 kJ) and a men need 2,500 kilocalories (or 10,500 kJ) per day.
“On average, women need 2,000 kilocalories (or 8,400 kJ) and
men need 2,500 kilocalories (or 10,500 kJ) per day.”
The truth is that up to half of the western population is overweight or obese. Overweight is the main risk factor for many civilisation diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and type-2-diabetes. So, maintaining a normal weight is really important for human health. Besides not meeting energy balance, we are generally eating too much saturated fat and sugar.
Drinking enough water is a prerequisite for our health. Our body consists of about 60% water. As with our energy, also water consumption needs to be balanced. However, how much water you need per day depends even more on your activity. Our body looses water constantly, mainly via urine and sweat.
“You should drink at least 2 litres of water per day”
No matter how much you sweat, you should drink at least 2 litres of water per day. Of course, if you are doing sports, you might need to drink way more!
Micronutrients and fibre
Calorie and water intake are important factors for your health, but so is the supply with micronutrients and fibre. Remember micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Here it gets a little tricky. Whereas calorie and water intake is relatively easy to measure, the supply with micronutrients and fibre is not. So which foods contain the most micronutrients and fibre? It is actually fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Fruit and vegetables contain the most micronutrients and fibre”
So let´s say you´ve had a piece of white toast with butter and jam for breakfast and a steak with french fries and a salad for lunch. Did you get enough micronutrients and fibre from that? The answer clearly is no! In order to fulfil the daily needs of micronutrients and fibre you should eat at least five fruit and vegetables a day and make sure your food contains enough of fibres.
Why is fibre so important?
The typical western diet is widely lacking dietary fibre and – on average – people only consume half of the recommended amount of dietary fibres per day. Major reasons are the widespread consumption of convenience foods and the lack of consuming enough fresh, unprocessed vegetables.
“People only consume half of the recommended amount
of dietary fibres per day – One reason are convenience foods”
Although dietary fibres are not degradable by our own body´s enzymes, they serve as useful nutrients for numerous probiotic bacteria of our gut flora. That is why dietary fibres are also called prebiotics. Dietary fibre or roughage increase the feeling of fullness, and have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. They also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and atherosclerosis and can prevent chronic constipation.