Nutrition is important for optimal health

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross writes about nutrition.
Posted on Feb. 11, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Food & Nutrition

Most people don’t consider the fact that your body is made up of basically the same compounds that are present in food. So, when what you are eating is unbalanced, your body can become deficient in certain nutrients. An example is when you don’t consume enough foods high in fiber. As a result, you may always feel hungry and have problems with elimination.

It is important you have a general understanding of the nutrients present in the foods you eat to make sure your healthy eating has the proper balance. When it comes to healthy eating and what your body needs, you should get most of your nutrients from carbohydrates found in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and the rest from proteins and fat.

Chemical compounds classified as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water are made up of many different nutrients in various amounts and combinations. When you eat food, the digestion process breaks down the food and allows the individual nutrients to be absorbed in your bloodstream.

Food provides you the fuel or energy, measured in calories, which is released when the body burns carbohydrates, protein and fat. Even though we don’t need as many calories as we age, it is vital to realize our nutrient needs are just as great, and in some cases, even greater than when we were younger. This means that the nutrient quality of your eating should be better than when you were younger. The best thing you can do is to select a variety of items high in nutrients and moderate to low in calories from each of the food groups.

Work at expanding your range of choices and exploring new tastes within and among the various food groups, especially vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Eating a wide variety of foods is so important. It not only promotes optimal nutrition but it provides some of the pleasurable aspects of eating.

Besides eating a variety of foods in moderation we need to be physically active so our bodies will make the best use of the nutrients from the foods we eat. You don’t need to have expensive equipment or a complicated fitness program; the key to increasing your physical activity is to find a variety of activities you enjoy and then creating a plan so you do it.

Healthy eating does not and should not mean feeling deprived or guilty. Learn to look at the big picture and see what and how much you eat over several days, not just one day or one meal. A food journal can be very helpful in making sure you are getting a variety of foods with various nutrients. As I have shared before MyPlate at www.ChooseMyPlate.gov is an excellent resource.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is county extension director and extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. She can be reached at 533-0554 or lienhart@purdue.edu.

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