In recognition of World Food Day (supporting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger) and National Nutrition Week in Australia we turn our focus to nutrition.
In today’s health-conscious society, we’re always hearing about nutrition and how we should pay more attention to it. Yet, despite its importance to wellbeing, the exact nature of nutrition remains shrouded in mystery for many. So let’s dig a little deeper into learning more about such an integral part of our lives.
More than Just Numbers
Perhaps the most basic of understandings regarding nutrition involves the existence of calories. Essentially treated as fuel by the body, calories are derived from the food that we eat. The first layer of personal healthcare—weight management—is commonly attributed to the balance shared between caloric intake and expenditure. Put simply, if you take in more than consume, you’ll gain weight. The inverse is also true; taking in less than you require results in weight-loss.
However, human biology cannot be regarded using such a simplistic equation. Firstly, caloric density can vary between similar foods just by method of cooking (which can also alter glycaemic index values). Secondly, not all calories are created equal. While “calories in vs calories out” is the primary consideration for weight management, where you derive calories from matters too.
Bring in the Big Guns
Nutrients are the next most pertinent subject when it comes to this discussion. The three most prevalent ones—protein, carbohydrates and fat – are collectively referred to as macronutrients. Just as the word “macro” denotes a larger capability, macronutrients fulfil a variety of functions within the human body. From promoting cellular health to regulating hormone production and repairing body tissue, macronutrients are vital to just about every aspect of physical and mental health.
Ensuring that your body gets the proper ratio of macronutrients is crucial to good health. While this figure does fluctuate accordingly to numerous variables (age, gender, physical occupation, body composition, medical status, etc.), the key takeaway here is that it is far better to internalise a ratio rather than to not have one at all. If, for example, your body needs 2,000 calories a day to fuel its activity, having 90% of it as carbohydrates will be akin to short-changing it of the benefits afforded by a balanced diet.
DO Sweat the Small Stuff
Micronutrients stand somewhat diminutively next to their macro counterparts. Despite occurring naturally in trace amounts, micronutrients (ie vitamins and minerals) play the vital role of supporting the macronutrients’ efforts to keep the body up and running. Despite it being almost impossible to separate micronutrients and macronutrients (they’re a package deal in whole foods), the “modern” diet makes it all too easy to come up deficient in them. Heavily processed and refined food products often lose their micronutrient value, or even having them replaced with synthetic variants.
Possessing a micronutrient deficiency may seem harmless, but its effects are far-reaching and can cause something more serious. Magnesium deficiency—one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies—carries as many as 23 symptoms (both neurological and physical) and is known to be related to 16 medical conditions. Not surprising when you consider its key role in over 350 enzymatic processes and its involvement in virtually every metabolic activity of the body. It is a natural process for our bodies to deplete its store of micronutrients, so it becomes essential for us to replace them at the earliest opportunity.
Weird Diets and Nutritional Supplements
Bringing things back to the crux of the matter, what we eat is important because it has a direct impact on how much energy our body receives and its ability to function optimally. A balanced diet rich in whole foods ensures your body gets what it needs, in terms of quantity and quality. A poor diet, on the other hand, skews your intake and leaves you in a semi-deprived state. While there are some scientifically proven diets that advocate a large-scale de-emphasis on certain food groups (eg the ketogenic diet), bear in mind that these diets are typically prescribed for a predetermined amount of time, or for very specific populations.
Nutritional supplements are another important factor when it comes to health and wellbeing. While you shouldn’t build a nutritional plan around supplements, intelligent use allows you to address shortcomings and promote recovery. Active people require more nutrients, so things like protein powder and fish oil can help keep the body healthy.
The Effects of Good Nutrition
One thing to remember about nutrition, and its effect on our health, is that it’s not something immediately apparent. However, there are a number of ways you can ensure you’re not secretly sabotaging yourself. Building a diet around quality whole foods and keeping your consumption to reasonable levels, while also minimising alcohol and sugar intake, can do wonders for your wellbeing. A lot of it boils down to good old common sense—you get out what you put in!
To learn more about improving nutrition, health and wellbeing in your workforce, get in touch with WellteQ team.