Basic information about Nutrition
A human being is made up of roughly 63 per cent water, 22 per cent protein, 13 percent fat and 2 percent minerals and vitamins. Every single molecule comes from the food people eat and the water they drink. Eating the highest quality food in the right quantities helps humans achieve the highest potential for health, vitality and freedom from disease……
Water is vital
- Water is the most plentiful substance in the body. It constitutes over 60 percent of body weight.
- More than two thirds of the body’s water content is found inside the cells.
- Water carries vital nutrients and blood cells through the body.
- It functions in chemical reactions, serves as a lubricant in joints and aids maintaining body temperature.
- The body requires an intake of two quarters of water to function optimally. One quarter comes from the food people eat.
- Not drinking enough liquids or eating enough high water content foods puts a great deal of stress on the body.
- Water melon, melons, grapes, pineapple and oranges.
Proteins are essential
- The body manufactures proteins to make up muscles, tendons, ligaments, hair, nails and other structures.
- Proteins also function as enzymes, hormones and as important components to other cells, such as genes.
- Proteins are composed of amino acids.
- The human body can manufacture most of the amino acids required for making body proteins.
- There are nine essential amino acids that the body does not manufacture and must get from dietary intake. (For further information click on: Where do I get my proteins ?)
- Dates, avocado, grapes, figs, peanuts, almonds, brazil nut, and walnuts.
Fats are important cellular components
- Fat is the only source of essential and other important fatty acids.
- Most vitamin E is in fatty acids foods and fat is needed to absorb vitamins A,D,E and K.
- People who lack vitamin D, obtained from sunlight, need to eat certain fats that contain this vitamin.
- The body can produce all its needs for fats from fruits, nuts and seeds.
- Olives, avocado, all nuts and seeds.
Vitamins we can store
- Vitamins A, D, E and B12 can be stored in the body for a considerable time;
- Stores protect the body against short-term shortages. Vitamin D, obtained from sunlight on the skin in summer, helps maintain the supply in the winter;
- Storage also means that body levels can build up and when eaten in animal foods, even moderately excessive amounts of vitamins A and D produce ill effects;
- Although the body also produces vitamin A from carotenes in vegetables and fruit, eating these in large amounts does not cause vitamin A excess, nor does an excess of vitamin D result from sunlight;
- In developed countries, shortages of fat – soluble vitamin A, D, E, (and K, which is little stored by the body) are mainly due to poor food choice, or vitamin D, lack of time spent outdoors;
- Some people are at risk because they absorb fat poorly, through illness or as a side effect of medication, such as cholesterol-lowering drugs or regular use of laxatives;
- Due to exposure to air storage, and strong heat during cooking, some vitamin A and vitamin E in food is lost;
- Fat- soluble vitamins need not come from high-fat foods, there are good low-fat sources for each one;
Vitamins we barely store
- The B complex vitamins and vitamins C and K are little stored by the body, so daily intake is important, although the body manufactures much of the vitamin K it needs;
- Contact with water will wash some of these vitamins out of food, for example in canning, soaking or when cooking in lots of water;
- Food refining, exposure of cut surfaces to air and light, and prolonged heat also cause major losses;
- The risk of deficiency is higher among people who rely on processed or overcooked food. Poor food choices and some medications are also harmful;
- In times of illness or stress, the body may benefit from higher levels of the vitamins that we barely store;
- As B vitamins have related functions, taking a supplement implies taking all the B complex vitamins;
- Required for growth and the normal development of tissues; maintains the health of the skin inside and out protecting against infections. Protects also against many forms of cancer. Vitamin A is also necessary for vision;
- Melon, mangoes, tomatoes, apricot, papayas, and tangerines;
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)
- Essential for many bodily functions, energy production and helps maintain the health of nerves and muscles. Helps the body make use of protein.
Viitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- Vitamin B2 is involved in many bodily processes, especially making energy available from food; growth in children; and the repair and maintenance of body tissues; helps to regulate body acidity;
Niacin (part of B complex)
- Niacin compromises nicotinic acid and nicotinamide, which are both needed for the production of energy in cells;
- Nicotinamide is involved in enzyme processes, including fatty acid metabolism, tissue respiration and the disposal of toxins;
- Essential for brain function;
- Tomatoes, peanuts and avocados;
Pantothenic acid (part of B complex)
- Plays a central role in making energy from fats and carbohydrates available for the production of essential substances in the body including the production of steroid hormones and fatty acids;
- Maintains healthy skin and hair;
- Tomatoes, strawberries, avocados
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Required by the body in the making of proteins;
- Helps balance sex hormones;
- Natural anti-depressant and diuretic;
- Helps control allergic reactions;
- Bananas, seeds, nuts and avocados;
- Needed to make the energy from food available, for instance, for the synthesis of fats, and for the excretion of protein waste products;
- Nuts, oats, almonds, tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and cherries.
- Needed for the production of many essential substances in the body;
- It is important for the roles it plays with vitamin B12 in rapidly dividing cells, making genetic material (DNA) for every cell;
- Required to maintain immune system function;
- Essential for brain and nerve function;
- Peanuts, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, cashew nuts, walnuts, and avocado;
- Needed for the manufacture of genetic material (DNA and RNA);
- Involved in the formation of red blood cells;
- Essential for the nerves;
- Deals with tobacco smoke and other toxins;
- Some sources have indicated passion fruit as containing this vitamin but it has not yet been confirmed.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- Strengthens immune system – fights infections;
- Keeps bones, skin and joints firm and strong;
- There is a strong connection between higher intakes of vitamin C and a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, cataracts and some cancers;
- This vitamin is susceptible to oxidation as well as destruction by heat;
- Strawberries, lemons, kiwi fruit, melons, oranges, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes;
Vitamin D (calciferols)
- Needed for the absorption of calcium from food, and for calcium and phosphorous use;
- Affects the growth and strength of bones and teeth, together with nerve and muscle health connected with calcium;
- Exposure to sunlight; Vitamins A, C and E protect D;
Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol)
- Vitamin E is needed for its antioxidant action, which protects against the harmful by-products of oxidation. The more polyunsaturated fats you eat, the more vitamin E is needed to protect them from oxidation;
- Improves wound healing and fertility;
- Good for the skin;
- Sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, oats and avocado;
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
- Essential for the formation of proteins controls blood clotting and other functions. Vitamin K may be required for maintaining bone health;
- Some 15 minerals are known to be essential to human health, a few others are still in investigation;
- The exact amount of minerals we need to eat is even less easy to define, for most minerals the amount we absorb varies considerably according to the foods that we eat them in;
- We absorb some minerals less efficiently from foods high in fibre-especially when they also contain phytic acid. This does not mean we should avoid fibre, just in excess.
- Certain minerals can be harmful in even moderately excessive amounts. For iron, there seems to be quite a narrow “good” body level, though high enough to avoid the harm done by shortage, but low enough not to risk iron pro-oxidant activity, which may encourage the formation of free radicals;
- A very large amount of one mineral may reduce the amount that the body can absorb of another. Obtaining minerals from food than from supplements that contain larger amounts can avoid such problems;
- Mineral levels in natural foods are declining – This happens due to the gradual loss of mineral content in the soil by over farming, this can only be repaired if mineral – rich manure is added to the soil. This extra need of minerals are not necessary for the plant growth, they benefit only our health so there is no incentive for the farmer to take such measures.
- Essential minerals are refined out of food – Ninety per cent of trace minerals are removed by refining food to make white rice, white flour and white sugar. Calcium, iron and B vitamins are added back to meet the legal minimum nutrient requirement in cereals and labelled as “enriched” or with added vitamins and minerals” in order to sell;
- Our mineral needs are increasing – Due to the unavoidable toxic minerals that reach us from polluted food, air and water we need a good amount of minerals to protect us;
- Essential for growth and for maintaining the strength of the bones and teeth;
- Calcium also controls the conduction of nerve impulses to and from the brain and the contraction of muscles;
- Promotes a healthy heart, clots blood, improves skin, maintains the correct acid-alkaline balance, reduces menstrual cramps and tremors;
- The calcium balance of the body is improved by adequate vitamin D intake and exercise;
- It is made worse by exposure to lead, consumption of alcohol, coffee and tea or a lack of vitamin D and of hydrochloric acid produced in the stomach;
- Almonds, prunes, pumpkin seeds;
- Works with sodium and potassium in regulating the body’s delicate fluid balance;
- It is part of a compound needed to enable the insulin system to work;
- Involved in fat metabolism and in maintaining the structure of genetic material;
- Nuts and seeds;
- Part of many enzymes, copper is required for a wide spread of functions: blood and bone formation, production of melanin pigment of skin and hair, and energy release from food;
- Fruit and nuts;
- Needed by the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormone, which regulates more than 100 enzyme systems, involving the metabolic rate, growth, reproduction and many more essential functions;
- Levels in land-grown food vary widely according to natural soil level variations;
- Essential for the formation of red blood cells, and so needed for the circulation because red blood cells carry oxygen around the body;
- Component of enzymes, vital for energy production;
- Pumpkin seeds, almonds, prunes, cashew nuts, raisins, brazil nuts, walnuts, dates, sesame seeds, pecan nuts;
- Mainly present in the bones and essential for their growth, magnesium is also needed in every cell and for the functioning of some of the enzymes required for energy use. It is also required for normal calcium function;
- Almonds, cashew nuts, brazil nuts, peanuts, pecan nuts, raisins;
- Is part of several essential enzymes and triggers the activities of numerous others, including antioxidant and energy production processes;
- Pineapple, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, strawberries, nuts and seeds;
- Part of several enzymes, including mechanisms for excreting uric acid, use of iron, and DNA metabolism;
- In combination with calcium, phosphorus helps maintain the strength of bones and teeth.
- Needed by the body to use energy and B vitamins from food;
- It is a constituent of many essential body substances and body control mechanisms;
- Present in almost all foods;
- Complements sodium in regulating the fluid levels in the body.
- Helps the body excrete excess sodium, which helps prevent and relieve raised blood pressure;
- Enables nutrients to move into and waste products to move out of cells;
- Promotes healthy nerves and muscles, helps secretion of insulin for blood sugar control;
- Involved in metabolism, maintains heart functioning, stimulates gut movements to encourage proper elimination;
- Fruit, notably dried fruit, such as apricots, as well as bananas and citrus fruit;
- A vital part of the body’s antioxidant defence system, selenium works with vitamin E and can partially replace it;
· Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds;
- Essential in small amounts for regulating the body’s balance of fluid, in conjunction with potassium and chloride;
- Helps nerve functioning;
- Used in muscle contraction including heart muscle, utilised in energy production, helps move nutrients into cells;
- Required for the health of the immune system, normal growth, tissue formation, male sexual maturation and the action of various enzymes;
- More zinc is needed when new tissue must be formed for example, when recovering from surgery, burns of during wound healing;
- The most important immune-boosting mineral, there is no doubt that it helps fight infections;
- Brazil nuts, peanuts, oats, almonds and pumpkin seeds;
- Oxygen is the basis of all plant and animal life. It is our most important nutrient, needed by every cell, without it we cannot release the energy in food which drives all body processes;
- Oxygen is chemically reactive and highly dangerous, in normal biochemical reactions oxygen can become unstable and capable of “oxidising neighbouring molecules”, leading to cellular damage, which triggers cancer, inflammation, arterial damage and aging;
- Known as free oxidising radicals, this body waste must be disarmed to remove the danger;
- Free radicals are made in all combustion processes including smoking, the burning of petrol to create exhaust fumes, radiation, frying or barbecuing food and normal body processes;
- Chemicals capable of disarming free radicals are called antioxidants. The main players are vitamins A, C and E plus beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A that is found in fruit and vegetables;
- Bioflavonoids, anthocyanadins, pycnogenol and over a hundred other antioxidants, may literally be the balance between life and death;
Antioxidants in health and disease
- A low calorie diet high in antioxidant nutrients is the best way to slow down the aging process;
- The risk of death is substantially reduced in those with either high levels of antioxidants in their blood or high dietary intakes;
- A lower level of vitamin A and vitamin E is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Elderly people with low levels of vitamin C in their blood have the risk of developing cataracts compared to those with high levels;
- Low vitamin E blood levels double the risk of developing cataracts;
- Low levels of vitamin A are linked to people with lung cancer;
- A high intake of beta-carotene from raw fruit and vegetables reduces the risk of lung cancer in non-smoking men and women;
- Antioxidants help boost the immune system and increase resistance to infection.
- Antioxidants have been shown to reduce the symptoms of AIDS, and sometimes reverse the condition;
- They increase fertility, reduce inflammation in arthritis and have an important role in many conditions including colds and chronic fatigue syndrome;
- The balance between the intake of harmful free radicals and of protective antioxidants can free us from several diseases;
- Health problems can be recognised when early warning signs start to develop like frequent infections, difficulty shifting an infection, easy bruising, slow healing, thinner skin or excessive wrinkles for your age;
- The best way to determine antioxidant status is to have a biochemical antioxidant profile done;
- This blood test measures the levels of beta-carotene, C and E in blood and determines how well antioxidant enzyme systems are functioning;
Antioxidants – the best foods
- Every year more and more antioxidants are found in nature, including substances in berries, grapes, and tomatoes;
- Vitamins A, C and E and the precursor of vitamin A, beta-carotene are the main essential antioxidant vitamins;
- Beta-carotene is found in red/ orange/yellow vegetables and fruits eaten raw, heat quickly destroys it;
- Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds and their oils;
- Watermelon is also excellent. The flesh is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C, while the seeds are high in vitamin E and in the antioxidant minerals zinc and selenium;
- The presence of non-essential antioxidants found in most fruits and vegetables are also important;
- Anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins – particularly rich in berries and grapes, are reputedly good against gout and certain types of arthritis;
- Bioflavonoids have a number of beneficial roles;
- They act as potent oxidants;
- They bind to toxic metals and lead them out of the body; they have a synergistic effect on vitamin C, stabilising it in human tissue;
- They have a bacteriostatic and /or antibiotic effect, which accounts for their anti infection properties;
- They are anti-carcinogenic;
- They are applied in capillarity fragility, bleeding gums, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, bruises, strain injuries and, thrombosis;
- Bioflavonoids include rutin and hesperidin, found particularly in citrus fruit;
- Coumarins and chlorogenic acid- these substances prevent the formation of cancer-causing nitrosamines and are found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables;
- Ellagic acid – neutralises carcinogens before they can damage DNA;
- Phytoestrogens play a protective role by binding excess oestrogen made in the body, or taken in from the environment via pesticides, plastics and other sources of oestrogen like chemicals, to a protein made in the blood. This action reduces the amount of oestrogen available to oestrogen-sensitive tissues;
Immune –boosting nutrients
- Immune strength is totally dependent on an optimal intake of vitamins and minerals;
- Deficiency of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, C and E suppress immunity, as well as deficiencies of iron, zinc, magnesium and selenium;
- Vitamins B1, B2 and B5 have mild immune-boosting effects compared with B6;
- The production of antibodies, so critical in any infection, depends upon B6, as T-cell function;
- B12 and folic acid are needed for the rapid production of new immune cells to engage an enemy;
- Immunity can boost very effectively by the combination or nutrients;
- Selenium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc are all linked to antioxidation and have been shown to affect immune power positively. The most important are selenium and zinc
- Vitamin C is unquestionably the master immune- boosting nutrient;
- They help immune cells to mature, improve the performance of antibodies and macrophages.
- Vitamin C is anti-viral, anti-bacterial and able to destroy toxins produced by bacteria.
- Monounsaturated fats do not lower blood cholesterol levels as much as polyunsaturated fats, but they are better at maintaining levels of “good” HDL cholesterol;
- Unlike polyunsaturated fats, you can eat more of them without increasing your need for antioxidant vitamin E, and they can be heated to higher temperatures in cooking without oxidizing;
- Antioxidants in food – red and orange vegetables and fruit are rich sources of antioxidant beta-carotene, with some vitamin C and D;
- Carotenes are the pigments that give the most of the orange, red and yellow colour to vegetables and fruit;
- Nearly all fruits and vegetables contain some of 4,000 – plus flavonoids or polyphenols;
- Blackcurrants are anthocyanin flavonoids these are the pigments that give purple, dark-red and blue colours to fruit such as blackcurrants, bilberries and dark cherries;
- A single food is likely to contain a range of these flavonoids. For example 40 flavonoids have been isolated from citrus fruit alone;
- Flavonoids have a wide variety of actions: antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral or antibacterial, and sometimes more than one of these;
- Flavonoids are promising health protectors, probably due to circulation benefits and antioxidant effects;