To make healthy life choices, you need to understand what goes into your body i.e. nutrients. Our previous blog briefly touched on the importance of nutrition and the benefits it could bring. In this blog, we’ll delve deeper into what nutrition is, the components of nutrients and what you should be looking for in food to live a healthy lifestyle.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the study of the substances we ingest for our body’s needs i.e. nutrients. All nutrients are important as, in the right balance, they can lead to good health. They reduce the likelihood of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, which in turn reduces the risk of a heart attack or stroke1. Many Australians are not living healthy though with over 9 in 10 adults consuming an inadequate amount of vegetables while 1 in 2 had inadequate fruit consumption2.
This is a concern as in a healthy and balanced diet, nutrients provide:
- Growth and development of the body
- Repairing of body tissue
- Happiness and healthiness
- Greater energy
Components of Nutrients
There are two components of nutrients – macro and micro. Macro nutrients include proteins, carbs and fats while micro nutrients include vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. A combination of all these nutrients has a positive impact on your body:
- Protein: provides structure to your muscles and bones, whilst also repairing tissue when damaged. It’s why protein is so important with post-workout recovery.
- Carbohydrates: provides your body with energy and helps your body to function.
- Fats: provides structure to your cells and cushions membranes to prevent damage.
- Vitamins: aids with the production of energy, wound healing and eye and skin health.
- Minerals: helps maintain cardiovascular health and provides structure to your skeleton. Zinc is an important mineral for the immune system, wound healing and taste/smell3.
- Phytochemicals: chemical plant extracts which helps maintain overall health and wellbeing.
Where to find these nutrients
As mentioned before, balance is key meaning the nutrients can be found across all food groups and hence you need to be eating a variety of food4:
Fruits, vegetables and wholegrains
These foods have high levels of vitamins and minerals. By incorporating this into your diet, you reduce your risk of heart disease and some cancers.
Fish, eggs, lean meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes/beans
Protein can be found in a variety of sources, especially within this food group. These foods are also a good source for zinc and vitamins.
Unsalted nuts and seeds
Fats are also important to include as part of your diet. Unsaturated fats should be consumed in moderate amounts and are found in unsalted nuts and seeds. Saturated fats should be consumed less and are found in dairy foods, chicken skin, deep fried and high fat take away food5.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives
These foods are a source of protein, vitamins, zinc and calcium. They provide protection against heart disease and may help reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and weak bones.
Grains can be found in breads, cereals, pasta and noodles. They contain carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, phytochemicals and minerals. Grains reduce the risk of developing diseases such as coronary heart disease and diabetes.
It’s not specifically a type of food but it’s important to include. Water is a vital tool towards living a healthy lifestyle as it protects body organs and tissues, moistens tissues and carries nutrients to cells.
The foundations of living a healthy lifestyle is through nutrition. By balancing a healthy diet with a variety of nutrients, you reduce your risk of developing diseases and keep your body in shape. Although you need a combination of all nutrients, electrolytes are one of the most important minerals to consider as they help move nutrients into your cells. It’s time to eat healthy to live healthy.
- Healthdirect 2017, Zinc, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/zinc
- Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, Food & nutrition, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports-statistics/behaviours-risk-factors/food-nutrition/overview
- Sky UK 2018, Diabetes epidemic set to cause surge in heart attacks and strokes, https://apple.news/AXZnXgsD5T6m7tRrPuZUUEg
- National Heart Foundation of Australia, Food and nutrition, https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/healthy-eating/food-and-nutrition
- Eat for Health 2015, Fat, https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/fat-salt-sugars-and-alcohol/fat