Ken Ward's Health and Nutrition Pages
Types of food
|In order to understand how we can enjoy greater
health and wellbeing, we need to understand something about food. There are four essential
groups of food. For health and wellbeing we require food from all the groups.
The purpose of this page is to stress that ALL four groups of food are essential to health and wellbeing. Even though we may be encouraged to eat less fat, this page stresses that the body requires at least some food from each of the groups every day.
Many foods contain more than one group of food, and milk contains all groups of food.
Food is often classified as:
Carbohydrates are substances that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are used in the body to produce energy. They include sugars and starches. Carbohydrates are usually obtained from plant sources. They are broken down in the body to form glucose, and any that is not immediately required in stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. Plants use carbohydrates to build structures and store any excess as starch, whereas, animals use protein.to build structures and store any excess as fat.
Plants make carbohydrates from sunlight, water, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide. We obtain them from plants, for example:
Carbohydrates are mainly used by the body to produce energy. Where there is a lack of energy, we might think of carbohydrates. The energy in the body is used for:
None-digestible carbohydrate (Fibre)
Fibre, or roughage, refers to the non-digestible carbohydrates in vegetables and to a lesser extent in fruit. Fibre may actually be 'fibrous', as in celery, or may be a powder, or, when mixed with water in the intestines, a jelly. Fibre provides:
When fibre is combined with water, it swells up and provides bulk to the digestive system. This makes it easier for food to pass through the intestines. Food also passes through the digestive system faster, so that waste products are retained for less time in the body.
Some fibre has the effect of lubricating the contents of the intestines and, therefore, makes the food pass through easily and in a timely manner. The benefits here are the same as for bulk.
In addition, friendly bacteria in the colon feed on fibre and they are therefore nourished by it. By helping these friendly bacteria, we enable them to help us to digest food. Also, by giving them support, they are more able to exclude other, less friendly bacteria, from our colons.
Fibre is, therefore, necessary for a healthy and efficient digestive system.
Proteins are composed, like carbohydrates, of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, but with nitrogen. They may also contain sulphur and phosphorus. They are complex molecules composed of amino acids.
Proteins are used by the body to:
Proteins, therefore, are needed not only for obvious body structures, such as muscles, but also for the immune and digestive systems, etc.
Complete proteins are obtained from meat, fish and dairy products including eggs. Proteins can also be obtained from certain combinations of foods, for example, cereals and beans.
Fats are substances that are not soluble in water. They are composed of fatty acids and glycerol. Fats are also called lipids.
Sources of fat include animal meat, fish, and vegetable oils. Fats are used by the body:
Fats have got themselves a bad name in recent times, yet they are an essential food. That is, the body requires its intake of fat every day for health and, especially, well being. Like the other groups of food, when the body does not get the fat it needs, then illness results.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins are substances that are required in the diet for health and wellbeing. They are often grouped as fat-soluble or water-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E and K. Water-soluble vitamins include vitamins C and B.
Minerals are non-organic substances that are required in the diet. While only small amounts of minerals are required in our diet, they are critical in building bones and teeth, regulating heartbeat and transporting oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.
Vitamins and minerals occur in a variety of foods. That is, by eating a variety of foods, you can get the necessary vitamins and minerals you need for health.
Deficiencies and excesses in any of these groups of foods produce illness and lowered wellbeing.
Western diets are especially deficient in the minerals calcium and iron and in the Omega 3 fatty acids.
Calcium is obtained from, for example, milk and from eating canned salmon including the bones (salmon also contains Omega 3 fatty acids). Iron is often obtained from meat, especially liver.
Lacto-vegeterians can get their calcium from milk, and vegans (who do not eat any animal products) can get their calcium from fortified soy milk. To obtain your calcium requirements from non-animal sources, you would have to eat a very large amount of vegetables or fruits.
See also Optimum Nutrition: Medicine of the Future, including
Food pH List - Balancing Acid/Alkaline Foods and An Optimum Nutrition Formula
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