18 May 2021, Tuesday

What is Nutrition?

Foods bring to the table a variety of pleasures and traditions as well as nourishment. People decide what and when to eat in highly personal ways, often based on cultural, behavioral or social motives. We are here to coach you in any way we can to encourage you to combine your favorite foods with those fun times. There are so many fresh ingredients available in today’s markets, and when you begin to understand the relationship of vitamins and minerals in the foods you eat, and how they play a role in your overall health you will be on an incredible journey created by you, for you. Think of it as your health bank account.

Carelessness about food choices can contribute to many of today’s most prevalent chronic diseases such as cancer, heart attack, hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure. These are the killers of society today, and nutrition is your best defense

You CAN combine your favorite foods and fun times with a nutritionally balanced diet. After all — we are what we eat!


What is Nutrition? Simply said, Nutrition is the study of food at work in our bodies, our source for energy, and the medium for which our nutrients can function. Think of nutrition as the building blocks of life.

The essential nutrients for life include carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids (fats), as well as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water—the solvent for all soluble ingredients in the blood and cells. The absorption of nutrients starts the moment we begin to digest our foods, as they are transported to assist all the metabolic processes in the human body.

Good nutrition means getting the right amount of nutrients from healthy foods in the right combinations. Having nutrition knowledge and making smart choices about the foods you eat can and will help you achieve optimum health over your lifetime, and be a key to avoiding obesity, illness, and many of today’s most prevalent chronic diseases.

Nutrition is just one key to developing and maintaining good health. Good health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being — a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food” ~ Hippocrates


What is Nutrition?

Nutrition is:

  • utilization of food to grow, repair and maintain our bodies;
  • getting the right amount of nutrients from healthy foods in the right combinations;
  • making smart choices about the foods you eat;
  • proper nutrition helps you develop and maintain good health;
  • a choice — choose good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle!


Nutrition principles are applied throughout the life cycle from the time of conception to needs in the later years for older adults. Areas of nutrition emphasis include pregnancy, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and the ‘older’ adult. The relationship between diet and health is strong. A look at the research documents the connection with chronic diseases and nutrition. Diet is an important factor in heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer, diabetes mellitus and obesity.

Nutrition also focuses on how diseases, conditions and problems can be prevented or lessened with a healthy diet.

Nutrition also involves identifying how certain diseases, conditions or problems may be caused by dietary factors, such as poor diet (malnutrition), food allergies, metabolic diseases, etc.

What is the difference between a dietician and a nutritionist?

A dietician studied dietetics, while a nutritionist studied nutrition. The two terms are often interchangeable; however they are not 100% identical.


  • Dietetics: the interpretation and communication of the science of nutrition so that people can make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle, in both health and disease. A dietician must have a recognized degree (B.Sc. or M.Sc), or postgraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics to work as a dietician.
  • Nutrition: the study of nutrients in food, how the body uses nutrients, and the relationship between diet, health and disease. Major food manufacturers employ nutritionists and food scientists. Nutritionists may also work in journalism, education and research. Many nutritionists work in the field of food science and technology.


There is a lot of overlap between what nutritionists and dieticians do and study. Some nutritionists work in health care, some dieticians work in the food industry, but a higher percentage of nutritionists work in the food industry and food science and technology, and a higher percentage of dieticians work in health care.

One could very loosely generalize and say that a nutritionist focuses firstly on a food, and then looks at its effects on people, while a dietician looks at the human, and then how that human’s health is influenced by food.

The human body requires seven major types of nutrients

A nutrient is a source of nourishment, an ingredient in a food, e.g. protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin, mineral, fiber and water. Macronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively large quantities. Micronutrients are nutrients we need in relatively small quantities.

Energy macronutrients – these provide energy, which is measured either in kilocalories (kcal) or Joules. 1 kcal = 4185.8 joules.


  • Carbohydrates – 4 kcal per gram
    Nutritionally – the more complex a sugar molecule is the longer it takes to break down and absorb into the bloodstream, and the less it spikes blood sugar levels. Spikes in blood sugar levels are linked to heart and vascular diseases.


  • Proteins – 4 kcal per gram
    Proteins build and repair tissue and when used as a fuel, the protein is broken down as eliminated by the kidneys.
  • Fats – 9 kcal per gram


Other macronutrients. These do not provide energy


  • Fiber
    Fiber consists mostly of carbohydrates. However because of its limited absorption by the body, not much of the sugars and starches get into the blood stream. Fiber is a crucial part of essential human nutrition.


  • Water
    About 70% of the non-fat mass of the human body is water. Nobody is completely sure how much water the human body needs – claims vary from between one to seven liters per day to avoid dehydration. We do know that water requirements are very closely linked to body size, age, environmental temperatures, physical activity, different states of health, and dietary habits.





People whose intake of foods is varied and well thought out – those with a well balanced diet – will in most cases obtain all their minerals from what they eat. Minerals are often artificially added to some foods to make up for potential dietary shortages and subsequent health problems. The best example of this is iodized salt – iodine is added to prevent iodine deficiency, which even today affects about two billion people and causes mental retardation and thyroid gland problems. Iodine deficiency remains a serious public health problem in over half the planet.

Experts say that 16 key minerals are essential for human biochemical processes by serving structural and functional roles, as well as electrolytes:

  • Potassium

Potassium has various roles in metabolism and body functions and is essential for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs:

  • It assists in the regulation of the acid-base balance.
  • It is necessary for the building of muscle and for normal body growth.
  • It is essential for the normal electrical activity of the heart.
  • Chloride

What it does – key for hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, also important for cellular pump functions.
Deficiency – hypochleremia (low salt levels, which if severe can be very dangerous for health).
Excess – hyperchloremia (usually no symptoms, linked to excessive fluid loss).

  • Sodium

Sodium regulates the total amount of water in the body and the transmission of sodium into and out of individual cells also plays a role in critical body functions. Many processes in the body, especially in the brain, nervous system, and muscles, require electrical signals for communication. The movement of sodium is critical in generation of these electrical signals. Too much or too little sodium therefore can cause cells to malfunction, and extremes in the blood sodium levels (too much or too little) can be fatal

  • Calcium

What it does – important for muscle, heart and digestive health. Builds bone, assists in the synthesis and function of blood cells.
Deficiency – hypocalcaemia (muscle cramps, abdominal cramps, spasms, and hyperactive deep tendon reflexes).
Excess – hypercalcaemia (muscle weakness, constipation, undermined conduction of electrical impulses in the heart, calcium stones in urinary tract, impaired kidney function, and impaired absorption of iron leading to iron deficiency).

  • Phosphorus

What it does – component of bones and energy processing.
Deficiency – hypophosphatemia, an example is rickets.
Excess – hyperphosphatemia, often a result of kidney failure.

  • Magnesium

What it does – required for good bones.
Deficiency – hypomagnesemia (irritability of the nervous system with spasms of the hands and feet, muscular twitching and cramps, and larynx spasms).
Excess – hypermagnesemia (nausea, vomiting, impaired breathing, low blood pressure). Very rare, and may occur if patient has renal problems.

  • Zinc

What it does – required by several enzymes.
Deficiencyshort stature, anemia, increased pigmentation of skin, enlarged liver and spleen, impaired gonadal function, impaired wound healing, and immune deficiency.
Excess – suppresses copper and iron absorption.

  • Iron

What it does – required for proteins and enzymes, especially hemoglobin.
Deficiency – anemia.
Excess – iron overload disorder; iron deposits can form in organs, particularly the heart.

  • Manganese

What it does – a cofactor in enzyme functions.
Deficiency – wobbliness, fainting, hearing loss, weak tendons and ligaments. Less commonly, can be cause of diabetes.
Excess – interferes with the absorption of dietary iron.

  • Copper

What it does – component of many redox (reduction and oxidation) enzymes.
Deficiency – anemia or pancytopenia (reduction in the number of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets) and a neurodegeneration.
Excess – can interfere with body’s formation of blood cellular components; in severe cases convulsions, palsy, and insensibility and eventually death (similar to arsenic poisoning).

  • Iodine

What it does – required for the biosynthesis of thyroxine (a form of thyroid hormone).
Deficiency – developmental delays, among other problems.
Excess – can affect functioning of thyroid gland.

  • Selenium

What it does – cofactor essential to activity of antioxidant enzymes.
Deficiency – Keshan disease (myocardial necrosis leading to weakening of the heart), Kashing-Beck disease (atrophy degeneration and necrosis of cartilage tissue).
Excess – garlic-smelling breath, gastrointestinal disorders, hair loss, sloughing of nails, fatigue, irritability, and neurological damage.

  • Molybdenum

What it does – vital part of three important enzyme systems and it has a vital role in uric acid formation and iron utilization, in carbohydrate metabolism, and sulfite detoxification.
Deficiency – may affect metabolism and blood counts, but as this deficiency is often alongside other mineral deficiencies, such as copper, it is hard to say which one was the cause of the health problem.
Excess – there is very little data on toxicity, therefore excess is probably not an issue.


Vitamins are organic compounds we require in tiny amounts. They are classified as water soluble (they can dissolve in water) or fat soluble (they can dissolve in fat). For humans there are 4 fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K) and 9 water-soluble (8 B vitamins and vitamin C) vitamins – a total of 13.

Water soluble vitamins need to be consumed more regularly because they are eliminated faster and are not readily stored. Urinary output is a good predictor of water soluble vitamin consumption. Several water-soluble vitamins are manufactured by bacteria.

Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed through the intestines with the help of fats (lipids). They are more likely to accumulate in the body because they are harder to eliminate quickly. Excess levels of fat soluble vitamins are more likely than with water-soluble vitamins – this condition is called hypervitaminosis. Patients with cystic fibrosis need to have their levels of fat-soluble vitamins closely monitored.

We know that most vitamins have many different reactions, which means they have several different functions. Below is a list of vitamins, and some details we know about them:


  • Vitamin A

chemical names – retinol, retinoids and carotenoids.
Solubility – fat.
Deficiency disease – Night-blindness.
Overdose disease – Keratomalacia (degeneration of the cornea).

  • Vitamin B1

chemical name – thiamine.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – beriberi, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
Overdose disease – rare hypersensitive reactions resembling anaphylactic shock when overdose is due to injection. Drowsiness.

  • Vitamin B2

chemical name – riboflavin
Solubility – water
Deficiency disease – ariboflanisosis (mouth lesions, seborrhea, and vascularization of the cornea).
Overdose disease – no known complications. Excess is excreted in urine.

  • Vitamin B3

chemical name – niacin.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – pellagra.
Overdose disease – liver damage, skin problems, and gastrointestinal complaints, plus other problems.

  • Vitamin B5

chemical name -pantothenic acid.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – paresthesia (tingling, pricking, or numbness of the skin with no apparent long-term physical effect).
Overdose disease – none reported.

  • Vitamin B6

chemical name – pyridoxamine, pyridoxal.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – anemia, peripheral neuropathy.
Overdose disease – nerve damage, proprioception is impaired (ability to sense stimuli within your own body is undermined).

  • Vitamin B7

chemical name – biotin.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – dermatitis, enteritis.
Overdose disease – none reported.

  • Vitamin B9

chemical name – folinic acid.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – birth defects during pregnancy, such as neural tube.
Overdose disease – seizure threshold possibly diminished.

  • Vitamin B12

chemical name – cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, methylcobalamin.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency disease – megaloblastic anemia (red blood cells without nucleus).
Overdose disease – none reported.

  • Vitamin C

chemical name – ascorbic acid.
Solubility – water.
Deficiency diseasescurvy, which can lead to a large number of complications.
Overdose disease – vitamin C megadosage – diarrhea, nausea, skin irritation, burning upon urination, depletion of the mineral copper, and higher risk of kidney stones.

  • Vitamin D

chemical name – ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol.
Solubility – fat.
Deficiency disease – rickets, osteomalacia (softening of bone), recent studies indicate higher risk of some cancers.
Overdose disease – hypervitaminosis D (headache, weakness, disturbed digestion, increased blood pressure, and tissue calcification).

  • Vitamin E

chemical name – tocotrienols.
Solubility – fat.
Deficiency disease – very rare, may include hemolytic anemia in newborn babies.
Overdose disease – one study reported higher risk of congestive heart failure.

  • Vitamin K

chemical name – phylloquinone, menaquinones.
Solubility – fat.
Deficiency disease – greater tendency to bleed.
Overdose disease – may undermine effects of warfarin.


Most foods contain a combination of some, or all of the seven nutrient classes. We require some nutrients regularly, and others less frequently. Poor health may be the result of either not enough or too much of a nutrient, or some nutrients – an imbalance.


Most of the foods you eat are made up of varying amounts of all three of these nutrition components. Good nutrition means getting the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, plus all of the required vitamins and minerals. Great nutrition means getting a lot of the phytochemicals and antioxidants, too.


A good source of carbohydrates would be almost any fruit or vegetable. These options allow you to get the carbohydrates you need for energy, plus fiber for a healthy digestive system, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. About half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Those carbs should come from fruits, vegetables and 100-percent whole grain breads and cereals — not from candy, sodas and pastries.


This concept works with proteins and fats, too. A healthy protein source is one that does not add extra unhealthy fats. An example of an unhealthy protein is bacon. Bacon, and other processed meats like it, contains lots of saturated fats and calories which can impact your heart health, expand your waistline, and even increase your risk of cancer.


Healthy fats come from foods that contain polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids, like olive oil, fish, walnuts, soy, flax seeds and canola oil. While these fats and oils contain a lot of calories, you do need the fatty acids they provide. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unhealthy fats to be aware of. Saturated fats in red meats and trans-fats, found in some stick margarines, baked goods and processed foods, are very bad for your health.


Good Nutrition Means Good Health

A healthy diet will give your body the right amount of energy, enough raw materials and all of the “little helpers” you need to stay healthy. Good nutrition will also provide phytochemicals and antioxidants that will help keep you feeling young, looking great, and perhaps even disease-free.