Today’s food technology makes food preparation very convenient. Recipes that once took hours to complete can now be cooked in under 15 minutes thanks to advances in food technology. The trade-off to eating pre-prepared and convenience foods is primarily related to health. Anything that is ingested, including food, affects our health in some way.
The significance of nutrition
The importance of food consumption is related to food’s purpose as an energy source. Food essentially fuels the body’s energy-producing and metabolic processes. When the body ingests additives and preservatives, these ingredients interfere with the natural process of producing energy or fuel for the body. More importantly, when the body fails to metabolize foods properly, a person’s health deteriorates. The body becomes vulnerable to conditions such as obesity, which leads to high blood pressure and hypertension, and the body is also susceptible to diabetes, cancer, stroke, kidney stones, and other medical conditions.
Diet and nutrition can also have an impact on a person’s mental health. Too much sugar makes it difficult to concentrate, while fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids are linked to better learning and memory. A balanced diet is associated with lower incidences of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders.
The culprits: Sugar, dairy, preservatives and additives
While vigilance regarding food choices is important, becoming too extreme is not the answer. In general, moderation is a good way to approach food decisions. The advantage for modern consumers is that because there is so much information available regarding various food choices, a person has very little reason to be ignorant regarding food science and human nutrition. Conversely, while there is a tremendous amount of information online regarding food nutrition and processing, unhealthy products masking as healthy products often end up as staples in the American diet.
Sugar: Sugars, simple and complex, play a role in human health. Simple sugars, or natural sugars, like honey, fruit sugars, sucrose (table sugar) and milk sugar are good sources of energy. These sugars are either used as immediate energy sources or they are stored, even though they are associated with rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Complex sugars, on the other hand, get a bad rap because of the body’s inability to digest them quickly. Complex sugars like wheat, breads and cereals or foods containing gluten stabilize blood sugar, but they pose a problem for those with conditions like Celiac disease, a condition in which the small intestine is damaged and nutrients do not get absorbed easily. Those with a sensitivity to gluten will experience gas, bloating, changes in bowel movement, fatigue, and weakness.
Dairy: Dairy is a great source of calcium, which is one of the nutrients the body needs, and it also contains other nutrients like proteins, fatty acids, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. In addition, it has Vitamins A, D, B1, B2, B6, and B12. Three-fourths of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, a condition that makes it difficult for the body to metabolize milk sugar. You can take a lactose tolerance test if you suspect you might have this problem, just like you can test for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity if you notice symptoms.
Preservatives and additives: Often products contain hidden sugars and salts used to preserve food for convenience. For example, the preservatives known as sodium benzoate and sodium nitrites are two salts that are used to preserve foods and beverages. Sodium benzoate is linked to hyperactivity in children, and it is believed that sodium nitrites cause gastric cancer. Other additives such as food dyes, monosodium glutamate or MSG (used to enhance flavor), high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, and trans fats are linked to conditions like headaches (MSG) and diabetes (trans fats).
Eating a balanced diet that is rich in fiber is one of the best ways to incorporate good nutrition for better health. A diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fruits helps remove excess fat from the digestive system. Furthermore, drinking a lot of water helps to cleanse the body of toxins and other wastes. For the most part, people can partake in sweets and fats in moderation, but it is best to avoid foods that contain an abundance of sugar, salts, preservatives and additives.
Diet and nutrition play a direct role in the physical and mental condition of human beings. Diet controls the metabolic processes that fuel human activity while also being responsible for promoting memory. Ultimately, good nutrition begins with arming oneself with proper knowledge regarding food preparation and processing.