Tips on how to choose nutritious and healthy foods

Eating a healthy and balanced diet

All living things must have food. It helps children grow. It gives adults the energy they need to work and play. From food animals get the strength to catch their prey and to escape the enemies. Plants require food to sprout leaves, flowers, and seeds.

How Food Is Converted to Fat?

When the animals or human beings eat more food than they need for energy and tissue building, their bodies convert eh excess into fat. Farmers can fatten cattle for market by feeding them large quantities of corn and not allowing them to exercise. Thus the energy which the corn supplies is not used up. In the same way eating too much in relation to one's activities causes a person to become overweight.

The Importance of Nutrients in Diet

The calorie count is not just the only measure of an adequate diet. All foods contain nourishing ingredients called nutrients, which are necessary to human life. Nutrients can be classified as organic and inorganic. Water and minerals are inorganic. Organic nutrients are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Human beings need proteins for growth and for the repair of body tissues. They require minerals for growth and to keep the body functioning properly. Fats and carbohydrates supply energy.

Protein for Building Tissues

Proteins are a class of chemical compounds. No living thing exists without them. All plants and animals contain some of this nutrient, but animal foods contain more than the plants.

Proteins are made up of combinations of some 30 amino acids. No single protein contains all of them. The process of digestion changes protein to these amino acids. Nine of them are needed by humans to build new tissues, and they must be obtained from food since the body cannot manufacture them.

Because milk, cheese, eggs, meat, fowl, and fish are rich in protein, some of these should be eaten each day. Soybeans, nuts, dry peas and beans are cheaper but poorer sources. Some of the other protein-rich foods are cereals, bread, vegetables, and fruits. If a diet is deficient in protein, the body will have to use some of its own tissue as the source of materials necessary for living. Listlessness, fatigue, and lack of vigor and zest result from a diet which supplies too little protein for body upkeep.

Minerals for Bones, Teeth, Blood

About 99 percent of all the calcium in the body is used for building and maintaing bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves. Teh remaining one percent stays in the body fluid, where it is necessary for clotting of the blood. Without calcium, muscles could not contract and relax and nerves could not function. Teeth would not develop. A child's bones are small or malformed if he gets too little calcium in his foodor if it fails to be deposited properly in his bones. An older person who has a calcium deficiency amy develop brittle bones, which break easily and mend slowly.

Every diet should be rich in calcium. The best source of this mineral is milk. Some of the leafy green vegetables, such as lettuce, turnip tops, mustard greens, and kale, also contain calcium.

One of the essential materials for building blood cells is iron. It enables the blood to carry oxygen from the lungs to each body cell. Liver and leafy green vegetables are good sources of iron. Some other foods that add iron to the diet are egg yolks, meat, peas, beans, dried fruits, molasses, and bread and cereals that are made from whole or enriched grain.

Fats and Carbohydrates for Energy

There is some fuel in every food, but carbohydrates and fats are the chief fuel foods. They also contribute to healthy growth of tissues.

Carbohydrates, or starches, provide half the fuel man needs. Another third that his body demands for proper functioning comes from the fat in food. Fats and carbohydrates are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in varying proportion. Because these nutrients lack nitrogen, they cannot maintain life without some protein. Butter, cream, bacon, peanut butter, and olive oil are fatty foods. Some of them contain vitamins and protein as well. Sugar is pure carbohydrate.

Most foods contain more than one nutrient and are of value in more than one way. No one food, however, has a large supply of all the nutrients. This is true even of milk, which is the most nearly perfect food.

Vitamins for Growth and Body Functioning

Even though vitamins are not food, all living things need them in order to grow and to be healthy. They are organic compounds which cannot be manufactured by the body and so must be included in the daily diet.

Vitamin A is vital to the growth of children, and at all ages it is important for vision, especially in dim light. Vitamin A also helps keep the skin and the linings of the nose, mouth, and inner organs in good condition. If these surfaces are weakened by lack of vitamin A, bacteria can invade and cause infection.

The vitamin B family includes more than ten different vitamins. Thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin are the most familiar. These vitamins help promote steady nerves, a normal appetite, good digestion, a feeling of well-being, and healthy skin. The B vitamin group plays a part also in converting food into energy.

The value of vitamin C is well known. When a diet is low in vitamin C, gums are tender and bleed easily, joints swell and ache, and muscles weaken. These symptoms can develop into scurvy, the disease which plagued sailors until vitamin C foods were carried on ships.

Planning a Balanced Diet

Meals should be carefully planned to meet all food needs. Each person's daily diet ought to supply protein, minerals, vitamins, fats, and carbohydrates. These are available in at least minimum servings from each of the four broad food groups - dairy foods, meats, vegetables and fruits, and bread and cereals.

Dairy foods which can supplement milk to fill daily needs are cheeses and ice cream. One serving of meat is two to three ounces, without bone, of lean, cooked meat, poultry, or fish. The nutrition equivalent of a meat serving is two eggs; one cup of cooked dried beans, peas, or lentins; or four tablespoons of peanut butter.

For maximum nutrition, breads and cereals should be whole grain, enriched, or restored. One serving consists of a slice bread; one ounce of ready-to-eat cereal; or one half to three quarters of a cup of cooked cereal, corn-meal grits, macaroni, noodles, rice, or spaghetti.