The food we eat is the source of energy and nutrition for our body. Eating should be a pleasurable experience, not one that causes guilt or remorse. Getting enough food is rarely a problem, but getting enough good nutrition can be a challenge. What should we eat to stay healthy? Nearly everyone has an opinion, from your best friend to the daily newscaster. There is a lot of advice available, but the basics for good health have not changed since the first fad diets were introduced centuries ago.
Our body needs over 45 different nutrients every day. These nutrients are essential for health and must be provided in the foods eaten. These nutrients can be divided into five classes:
- Carbohydrates (starches, sugar, and fiber)
- Proteins (includes 22 amino acids)
- Fats (saturated, monosaturated, and polyunsaturated fatty acids)
These nutrients work together and interact with body chemicals to perform several functions.
- Provide materials to build, repair and maintain body tissues
- Supply substances that function in the regulation of body processes
- Furnish fuel for energy needed by the body
Each nutrient has a certain special job to do in the building, maintenance, and operation of your body. Some jobs require that nutrients work together as a team. These jobs are nutrient-specific. They cannot be done by other nutrients—an extra supply of one nutrient cannot make up for a shortage of another. That’s why a balanced diet including all food groups is so necessary. Your body needs all of these nutrients, not just a few. Some nutrients need to be replenished every day from food, while others can be stored in the body for future use.
Of the six classes of nutrients, only 3 provide energy: Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins. Energy is the body’s most basic need. Energy is used when you breathe, when the heart pumps blood, and when you sit, stand and walk. The more vigorous the activity, the more energy is required.