We Eat, Therefore We Are

Our very existence depends on food.  Beyond any doubt, proper nutrition allows our bodies to  survive and thrive.  A balanced diet grants the fuel and nutrients needed to attain optimal health and accomplish essential tasks.  This may sound self-explanatory, even inane at times – but eating hale to live well is too often forgotten.

While dietary and nutritional research is constantly evolving, perhaps a primer is in order.     

Proteins, which come from meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, eggs, cheese and certain whole grains, are used to build and repair muscles, skin and bones.  In the digestive tract, they break down into crucial building blocks known as amino acids which are later used to replace the missing proteins.  There are some 20 amino acids that join to create protein. Some of these amino acids cannot be made by the human body, so diet must provide these.   A complete protein source is one that provides all of these essential amino acids. 

Carbohydrates (“carbs”) are converted into glucose and are used to fuel critical body processes. Fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, and dairy products contain simple carbohydrates. Whole grains, starches and legumes hold complex carbohydrates, and  often contain dietary fiber which aids in digestion.  Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down into glucose.

Fat makes food taste better, as would attest most chefs;  but it also provides energy sources, and allows the body to absorb vitamins which aids in healthy development.  While fats are essential for normal body function, some fats are better for you than others.  Generally, trans fats, saturated fats and cholesterol are less healthy than polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.  Good fats, such as those found in certain fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil, help control cholesterol levels.  Saturated fats (lard, butter, and shortenings) and trans fats (vegetable shortening, certain margarines, cookies, crackers and processed foods with partially hydrogenated oils) are considered unhealthy, especially when consumed too frequently.   Daily dietary fat intake should be limited and is commonly tied to individual caloric needs.  Judicious may be the byword. 

Vitamins are organic substances made by plants or animals while minerals are inorganic elements drawn from the soil.   Both are nutrients needed for the body to grow and develop normally.  Vitamins are needed to accomplish various bodily processes, including digestion, growth and nerve function.  The body craves minerals to make hormones, build bones and even regulate heart rates. 

Water is found in every cell, tissue and organ of the body,  flushing out toxins, carrying nutrients to cells.  Water is vital to so many processes — regulating body temperatures, lubricating and cushioning joints, protecting the spinal cord and soft tissues, maintaining organ vitality,  hydrating skin, and ridding the body of waste.

Some have groused that healthy food choices are judgmental and quell free will, even inducing guilt or shame.  These arguments, laden with phrases like “personal choice,” many of which are oft echoed on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, are disingenuous at best and specious at worst.  Good nutrition does not occupy some narrow moral ground, and it should be utterly blind to party, industry or lobbying affiliation.  A simple, balanced diet is just one of life’s luxuries.  Real food translates to better health.

As the venerable Virginia Woolf once remarked,  “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”





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