“Nutrients are the nourishing substances in food that are essential for the growth, development and maintenance of body functions. Essential meaning that if a nutrient is not present, aspects of function and therefore human health decline. When nutrient intake does not regularly meet the nutrient needs dictated by the cell activity, the metabolic processes slow down or even stop.”
Perspectives in Nutrition, Wardlow and Insel, 2004
How Nutrition Affects Your Health
What you eat has a direct and indirect effect on your health. Food gives your body the tools and ‘information’ it needs to function well. Eating the wrong types of food gives your body improper instructions, which can lead to ill health and disease. Here are 13 surprising ways nutrition affects your health.
- 1) Diet is partly responsible for 30 to 40 percent of all cancer, according to BreastCancer.org. However, nutrition alone cannot cause or cure cancer.
- 2) Eating inadequate amounts of protein, or eating the wrong proteins, can lead to muscle wasting, a poor immune system, lackluster energy and liver problems. Your body uses the protein you eat to build muscle, repair damaged tissue, form immune and blood cells, make hormones, and synthesize enzymes.
- 3) Vitamins and minerals are essential to good health. Vitamin A, found in animal liver, whole milk and some fortified foods, helps form and maintain healthy skin, bones, teeth, soft tissue and mucus membranes. B vitamins are important to metabolism and essential for the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis in adults and rickets in children.
- 4) Salty foods increase blood pressure. In an effort to balance sodium levels in your bloodstream, your body retains water it can use to ‘flush’ the salt from your body through urine. This excess fluid travels through your bloodstream and the increased volume presses against your blood vessels to cause high blood pressure.
- 5) Eating fiber can help you lose weight. Dietary fiber is the ‘roughage’ that gives fruits and vegetables their form. Your body cannot digest fiber – the fibrous part of fruits, vegetables and whole grains passes through your body undigested – therefore fiber has no calories. Fiber adds bulk, so you feel more satisfied without eating more calories.
- 6) A high fiber diet that is low in meat and fats reduces your risk for some types of cancers, especially colorectal cancer.
- 7) Dietary fiber can reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Fiber binds with cholesterol particles in your digestive tract then carries these particles out of your body before the cholesterol has a chance to enter your bloodstream.
- 8) Eating breads and sugars can lead to high blood sugar levels, overeating and weight gain. Carbohydrates, like those in sugar and white bread, provide the sugars and starches that act as your body’s main source of fuel. Carbohydrates provide instant energy by raising your blood sugar levels quickly. Your body digests carbohydrates quickly, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after a meal. These characteristics can pose a serious health problem if you are diabetic or borderline diabetic whose body has a hard time controlling blood sugar levels.
- 9) You may be surprised to learn that some fats are actually good for your health. Healthy unsaturated fats, like those in olive oil, keep your cell membranes flexible and helps regulate blood cholesterol levels. Eating too much fat or the wrong kinds of fat can result in serious health risks. Dietary fat contributes to high blood cholesterol levels, plaque buildup in your arteries and heart disease.
- 10) A gram of fat provides 9 calories, as compared to just 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates. Eating high-fat foods can increase weight and lead to obesity-related diseases.
- 11) Taking in more calories than you can burn will cause unhealthy weight gain, not surprisingly, which can lead to being overweight or obese.
- 12) Drinking sugary beverages increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and gout, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
- 13) 3500 calories equals about one pound of fat. In other words, you will gain one pound if you take in 3500 more calories than you burn.