Why Is Nutrition Important?

Posted by on September 14, 2008 at 9:18 am

Owners of cars do not question the need for their proper assembly, maintenance and fuel. They know that, as complex machines, cars need to be given the appropriate type of gasoline (or other fuel), oil, and other fluids. They would not attempt to argue that a car could run without these things.

Our bodies are much, much more complex machines than are our cars, and they too have basic needs for the types of fuel that help them to develop, operate properly, and maintain themselves. Proper nutrition is essential for humans at all stages of our lives to keep our bodies in optimal shape and to provide us with healthy, long and happy lives. In this article I will describe some of the major reasons that nutrition is so important for everyone throughout the life cycle.
EXISTENCE

Without proper nutrition, none of us would be here as we would not even have made it to our own births. Nutrition is crucial from the time the fertilized egg that is us in our earliest days implants itself in the womb to this very day that we are still here, living and breathing. Our most basic needs are food, water and oxygen, and if nutrition is not maintained, we cease to exist.

DEVELOPMENT

Our early nutritional needs are provided to us through our mother’s placenta, as she does the eating and drinking for us in these early months of our lives when we are not yet ready to take on the task. Her nutritional choices influence the way our bodies and brains develop and optimal choices at this crucial time of “critical periods” is very, very important. An entirely new person growing from a small collection of cells is no small feat, and the proper amounts of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals are essential during this time for the development of the brain, bones, skin, eyes, and every other part of us.

Once born, development continues at a rapid pace through childhood and the teen years, and nutrition remains very important during this time as well. People who are still growing need large amounts of carbohydrates for fuel and to provide the sugar required to run their curious, active, and ever-developing brains. As well, since bone development and growth is important during the childhood years, plenty of calcium is important (this is usually gained through dairy products such as milk). Vitamins of course are important, such as Vitamin A for eyes, E for skin, and B for the developing immune system.

BRAIN FUNCTION

The brain needs sugar to operate and this is provided through the fuel that we eat in the form of simple and complex carbohydrates. The former are found in foods such as bread, cereals and pasta, while the latter are found in foods such as vegetables, beans and fruits. Carbs are high-energy nutrients, and are especially important for those who are active, growing and learning. They keep our brains working optimally to enable us to take in information and learn. Without them, we can begin to feel tired, lethargic and “burnt out” as our brains being to feel “foggy”.

Our moods are also controlled by our brains, so our nutritional choices have an impact on them as well. Serotonin, for example, is one of the many neurotransmitters that our brain needs for the electrochemical activity that is the basis of all our thoughts. A lack of serotonin is found in those with depression. Certain foods (such as bananas) are good at providing us with the building blocks that make this neurotransmitter, regulating our moods, feelings, and mental performance.

DAY-TO-DAY OPERATION

Day to day and hour to hour, proper nutrients keep our bodies and brains working, their activities generally going on behind the scenes (as long as all is well and nothing goes wrong). This enables us to live our lives and to do all those activities that make us who we are and make up the wonderful experience of life: learning, communicating, working, playing, traveling…

BUILDING, MAINTENANCE, and HEALING

The amount of activity that actually goes on with our bodies is actually very amazing. Our bodies are continuously building and re-building muscles, healing injuries, building immunity to illnesses, transferring memories from short- to long-term memory, creating our view of the world based on past experiences, and many other things. All of these activities require specific types of fuel and optimal nutrition can provide that. Immunity and healing are aided by a variety of B vitamins, among others. Protein is essential for muscle building and reparation. Calcium (combined with vitamin D) is needed for bone maintenance. Vitamins are needed for maintenance of skin, eyes, etc. Some research is beginning to suggest that certain foods may aid in the prevention of diseases such as cancer and Alzheimers’ disease.

LIFE WITHOUT PROPER NUTRITION

In order to see just how important nutrition is, we need only look to the parts of the world where proper nutrition is lacking. In these cases a number of health problems are seen, as is a lower life expectancy and quality of life. Starvation (also called marasmus) and dehydration are the most obvious risks. Other diseases of malnutrition include scurvy (an immune problem due to lack of Vitamin C), kwashiorkor (bloated and distended stomach), rickets (characterized by weak bones), anemia due to iron deficiency, night blindness from lack of Vitamin A, goiter from improper thyroid function (lack of iodine), beriberi and pellagra (both Vitamin B deficiencies), and many others. Contaminated water leads to diseases such as diarrhea, which can be deadly, as well as parasites.

We need proper nutrition to keep our bodies running properly and by giving our bodies the food and water they need, we can help to ensure that we will enjoy a long and healthy life.

by April Storme



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