Eating from the Rainbow
Nutrients are the nourishing substances in food that are essential for the growth, development, and maintenance of the bodily functions.
“Essential” means that if a nutrient is not present, certain aspects of function and, therefore, human health, decline. This sounds simple, right? When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs dictated by the cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop, and this is when dis-ease can take over.
In other words, nutrients give our bodies instructions about how to function. In this sense, food can be seen as a source of “information” for the body. Thinking about food in this way gives us a view of nutrition that goes beyond calories or grams, good foods, or bad foods. This view leads us to focus on foods we should include rather than foods to exclude. Instead of viewing food as the enemy, we look to food to create health and reduce disease by helping the body maintain function. The nutrients in food give our bodies the information and materials they need to function properly, and your daily diet may not always be providing all the information your bodies need.
We all know that we need to get a basic balance of nutrients every day. But we may not be aware that our standard daily diet lacks nutrients. Moreover, processed foods include chemically-altered fats and sugars that give our bodies the wrong signals.
Food and Disease
As a society, we are facing significant health problems.
• Our work forces are plagued with absenteeism and reduced productivity because of chronic health problems, including depression.
• A large percentage of all country’s healthcare expenditures is for the treatment of chronic disease.
Many researchers now believe that these problems are partly related to diet. While they used to believe that diseases, such as type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers, were caused by a single gene mutation, they are now generally attributing these conditions to a network of biological dysfunction. And the food we eat is an important factor in that dysfunction, in part because our diets lack the necessary balance of nutrients (Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 2004).