CyberDodo and Nutrition (1-55)
That’s the title of a book written by Jane Goodall, and also a perfect phrase to introduce this file dedicated to nutrition because, indeed, what we put into our bodies largely determines our health.
What is nutrition?
Science will continue to study and discover the effect of diet on health. However, the emergence of numerous diseases is notoriously linked to the quality, quantity, rhythm, etc of the food that we consume.
The key word which should always be associated with nutrition: balance!
That is, balance between protein, carbohydrates and fat. Most of us are familiar with these words without really being able to explain what they mean. Let’s review them now:
Protein makes up the basic part of all living cells and is present in all living organisms. Only protein is capable of obtaining nitrogen – which is essential to development. There are proteins of animal origin, which contain a large number of amino acids, as well as proteins of vegetable origin, which are less rich in amino acids.
Protein serves the following important roles:
The maintenance of immunological defences
The proper development of foetuses, children and adolescents
The daily renewal of our muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, etc.
Protein is found mainly in dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, cereals and certain greens.
Lipids (Fats) :
Did you know that the human brian is made up of more than 50% fat? Our cells’ membranes are also made of fat. Rich in calories, hence in energy, fat feeds our bodies which could survive without it – but there are good and not so good fats. Among the good ones are polyunsatured fatty acids (we will come back to this) while among the “bad” fats are saturated fatty acids and monosaturated “trans” fats which are responsible for, or contribute to many different illnesses.
Fat serves numerous functions in our body, among them:
To provide energy – for example, maternal milk is very rich in fat to ensure the ideal development of babies (See our file on breastfeeding)
To maintain body temperature
To transmit nerve impulses and transport protein and vitamins
Fat is found in meat, milk products, fish, oils and even certain greens.
Carbohydrates (Saccharides) :
One could also call them “body fuel” as they offer a source of energy that is immediately usable by cells. They are an indispensable complement to fats and protein but many people unfortunately consume too many carbohydrates. Indeed, if they are present in cell membranes or even in human genes, “modern” carbohydrates present a health risk.
Depending on the type of carbohydrate, they are found naturally in fruit, rice, honey and certain legumes (examples: cereals, potatoes, corn, etc) but the majority of carbohydrates we consume come from the delight we take in eating sugary foods... which means that food manufacturers toss sugar into just about everything.
And not only in drinks (carbonated or not), candy, cakes, ice cream, etc.!
This discussion on carbohydrates is a perfect presentation of the following part of this report – the balance necessary in our eating habits.
By means of introduction, we must never forget that each day almost 20,000 children die of hunger and more than a billion of our contemporaries do not have enough to eat (See our file on famine).
Keeping this terribly cruel reality in mind, let’s look at some aspects to eating healthy:
With better knowledge of protein, fat and carbohydrates, it is important that each of these is present in your diet according to the correct proportion. This proportion is a function of age, metabolism and type of foodstuffs that are locally available and, as such, we will abstain from providing you with specific figures.
The important thing to remember is to consume each group of macronutrients on a daily basis A visit to a nutritionist could be a very good idea, as you will be able to draw up a personalised diet plan.
Our bodies need variety in order to stay fit and healthy. Don’t always eat the same things – try to vary your diet as much as possible, all the while respecting the principle of balance. Likewise, our needs change depending on our age, the activities we do, the season, etc - it is important to always listen to your body.
How about if the solution was offered to us by Nature? Fruit, vegetables, cereals, oils, etc. - the list is long and above all healthy! Insofar as possible, avoid processed foods which contain large quantities of substances which our bodies would be happy to pass up: colourants, preservatives, flavour enhancers, trans fatty acids, etc.
CyberDodo will now present you with a few magic words in the field of nutrition:
Omega-3, Omega-6, body mass index, 3 meals per day, drink water, calcium, vitamins, minerals, not too much nor too little, physical activity, + all those that you will discover alone or with your family.
To finish up this introduction to nutrition, we simply must bring up the disastrous consequences of this lack of varied diets in rich countries. Let’s look at some good examples:
The continuous and expansive cultivation of cereal monocultures is done to feed the billion animals intended for slaughter and human consumption. Merely the impact of their flatulence (methane) on global warming – which was initially a bad joke – is now being revealed by scientists to be a real problem, more and more worrisome.
More than half of the fresh water needed by man is used for irrigation (see our file 1-53) while, in the meantime, our water tables are polluted. In order to always produce more, we now manipulate life and release GMOs into nature, the future of which no one can predict, and the majority of which are unwanted by populations.
Many countries privilege crops that they will export while their own populations do not even have enough to eat or suffer from nutritional deficiencies.
Our seas are being emptied at a horrifying rate – entire species of fish are threatened by extinction. Farmed fish are stuffed and “treated” with antibiotics which we then inadvertently consume....
Forest areas the size of entire countries are destroyed each year to be replaced by monocultures, each of these which contributes to the grave threat to natural biodiversity. What took Nature millions of years to create is destroyed in the human lifetime of a single generation.
Of course we must eat, but not just whatever, whenever and to the detriment of our health and future generations.
For a more complete answer to the question – “How can I eat healthy?” don’t forget to also consult our file on childhood obesity.
To watch the cartoon on nutrition, click here
To take the quiz, click here
For the game, here