When most people think of nutrition they think of food and the nutrients that we receive from that food, which would be correct only most people have no idea what they are really putting in their mouth. Even worse most people don't care to know either. If they would just do a little research they would find that most diseases that we face today, like cancer and heart disease are being caused by the air, soil, and water pollution in addition to the way modern factory farms are ran. They have depleted our soils of vital nutrients. To make matters worse the use of food additives, synthetic fats, chemicals, and sugar in almost every thing that is consumed is replacing the nutrients more and more and our waists are becoming bigger and bigger. What is the answer? The answer is nutritional education.
What is Nutrition?
The word nutrition itself means "The process of nourishing or being nourished, especially the process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and replacement of tissues." To put another way you are what you eat and in the modern world we live in what most people eat is completely lacking in nutrients. Nutrients are substances that are essential to life which must be supplied by the food we eat. There are six classes of nutrients that the body needs to acquire from food: protein, carbohydrates, fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are broke down into two categories macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are needed in relatively large amounts to survive and micronutrients are also needed but in much smaller quantities. Other micronutrients include antioxidants and phytochemicals.
Water is not a nutrient itself though it is a very important part of nutrition. All known forms of life depend on water to live. Water is important to aid the body in breaking down all the forms of food and enzymes needed in daily function, it also helps aid in the metabolic processes of the body. Water is also needed for photosynthesis and respiration.
The other side of nutrition is malnutrition. Malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissue and organ function. It occurs in people who are either under nourished or over nourished. Under nourished is consuming too few essential nutrients or using them faster than they can be replaced. Over nourished is a whole other story. It is exactly what it sounds like, eating to much, eating junk food and not exercising enough, basically the average American life style.
The Food Pyramid
No conversation about nutrition can be complete without mentioning the history of the food pyramid. Since 1894 the American government has been publishing dietary recommendations. Not long after that, in 1916 the first food guide, called Food for Young Children was published. In 1941 the USDA came up with Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA's) for the American people and in 1943 announced the "Basic Seven" nutritional guideline to help with shortage of food supplies during World War two but was soon changed to the "Basic Four" to simplify the concept. The Basic Four consisted of: milk, meats, fruits and vegetables, and grain products. During the 1970's they added a fifth category of unhealthy foods which was brought on by the increase in diseases like stroke and heart disease. Finally in 1992 The Food Guide Pyramid was released showing variety and proportion with pictures of food and the size of the food group. In 1994 the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act was put into effect making it mandatory that all food have a nutrition label.
Who knows what the future holds but hopefully the next generation will be able to put all the nutritional knowledge we have now and will have to good use and reverse our current state of over-nourishment.