Although western industrialized populations’ experience unprecedented food choices and the ability to afford them, millions lack the basic of nutrition. To wit – just go to any major airport and observe passengers. Many, if not half of them are overweight to obese in appearance because of ignorance of nutrition basics.
Individuals form eating habits early in their lives through family and environment.
People eat first and foremost what food is around them. It is only recently that millions can afford to buy imported tropical or Mediterranean vegetables and fruits in cooler winter months.
Let us start with vitamins. They are essential for a healthy body, but required in small quantities mostly extracted from food, except vitamin D, which our body produces when exposed to sunshine. In climates with sufficient sunshine there is no need to pop vitamin D pills, but in Canada it becomes strongly advisable, and in some parts of the country a must.
Generally a daily does of 400 I.U. vitamin suffices for adults, 200 for children, although these recommendations have been challenged of late. Milk, fish, and eggs contain vitamin D.
Other vitamins are abundant in vegetables and fruits and should constitute part of your daily diet.
Fibre is the indigestible part of plant foods that moves through the gastrointestinal tract intact. It acts like broom and helps expel food residue. There are insoluble and soluble fibres. Both are important.
Whole grains contain fibre-rich bran, starch and germ. All are nutritionally more valuable than their refined versions. Two or more servings of whole grain cereals,( whole grain pastas, – breads, and brown rice, quinoa, spelt) are highly recommended.
Omega-3 DHA (docohexaoeinic acid) and EPA (eicosapemtaoenic acid) are healthy unsaturated fats found mainly in fish and other seafood. A daily intake of 500 mg. (for adults) and 125 mg. (fro children) is recommended. 70 – 80 grams of salmon daily or 250 grams twice weekly should cover your body’s needs.
Omega –3 ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) is an essential fat can be derived only from food. It is available in soy, canola, walnuts, soy oil.
Antioxidants fight free radicals that occur due to pesticides, smoking, and generally polluted air and through the aging process.
Antioxidants occur in phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals. All should be consumed in adequate quantities daily, i.e apples, berries, green vegetables, black or green tea, beans (kidney, black, pinto) and whole grains.
Proteins build up and repair damaged cells. They are organic compounds made of amino acids. There are 21 essential proteins that the body needs but cannot generate from the food intake. Foods rich in protein must be ingested i.e meat, fish, eggs, to complete those missing, that the body cannot produce. Some nuts contain small amounts of protein, and must be ingested by vegans to complete their bodies’ needs.
Prebiotics are non-digestible fibres that foster probiotcs growth in your gastrointestinal tract and are important for a healthy body. Onions, garlic, soy, dandelions and Jerusalem artichokes, barley, chicory and food enriched with inulin like cheese, pasta and yoghurt are contained in prebiotics.
Probiotics are “good” bacteria that grow in the gastrointestinal tract. Fermented milk, prebiotic-enriched yoghurt and probiotic supplements make up for losses when antibiotic drugs are taken.
In general, a diet rich in natural (unprocessed) foods – plenty of vegetables, and fruits, whole grain cereals, a little fat, preferably unsaturated, and meat will help your body to maintain a good balance.
Like everything else in life, it is the dosage that matters!