YOUR FOOD CHOICES
While you enjoy the sensual qualities of food the mouth-watering appearance, aroma, texture, and flavor your body relies on the life-sustaining functions that nutrients in food perform. Other food substances, including phytonutrients (or plant substances), appear to offer even more health benefits beyond nourishment. What’s inside your food? (food choices)
Nutrients Classified Information
Your body can’t make most nutrients from food, or produce energy, without several key nutrients. You need a varied, adequate supply of nutrients from food for your nourishment and life itself.
Your food choices are digested, or broken down into nutrients, then absorbed into your bloodstream and carried to every cell of your body. Most of the body’s work takes place in cells, and food’s nutrients are essential to your body’s “do list.” More than forty nutrients in food, classified into six groups, have specific and unique functions for nourishment. Their work is linked to partnerships for your good health.
As your body’s main source of energy, or calories, carbohydrates are starches (complex carbohydrates) and sugars.
Another form of complex carbohydrate, aids digestion, promotes health and offers protection from some diseases. Despite its role in health, fiber isn’t a nutrient because it is not digested and absorbed into the body.
Fats supply energy. They support other functions, too, such as nutrient transport, growth, and being part of many body cells. Fats are made of varying combinations of fatty acids. All fatty acids aren’t the same. Some are more saturated (harder at room temperature); others, more unsaturated. Fatty acids that your body can’t make are considered “essential.”
Proteins are sequenced combinations of amino acids, which build, repair, and maintain all your body tissues. Your body makes nonessential amino acids; others are considered “essential” from food because your body can’t make them. Especially when carbohydrates and fats are in short supply, proteins provide energy. If they’re broken down and used for energy, amino acids can’t be used to maintain body tissue.
Vitamins work like spark plugs, triggering chemical reactions in body cells. Each vitamin regulates different body processes. Because their roles are so specific, one cannot replace another.
Somewhat as vitamins do, minerals spark body processes. They, too, have unique job descriptions.
Water makes up 45 to 75 percent of your body weight and it’s a nutrient, too. It regulates body processes, helps regulate your body temperature, carries nutrients and other body chemicals to your cells, and carries waste products away.
Nutrients: How Much?
Everyone around you needs the same nutrients just in different amounts. Why differences? For healthy people, age, gender, and body size are among the reasons. Children and teenagers, for example, need more of some nutrients for growth. Pregnancy and breastfeeding increase the need for some nutrients, too, and for food energy. Because their bodies are typically larger, men often need more of most nutrients than women do.
Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs),
How much of each nutrient do you need? Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, include daily nutrient recommendations for healthy people in the United States and Canada, based on age and gender. The DRIs include four types of recommendations:
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are recommended levels of nutrients that meet the needs of almost all healthy individuals in specific age and gender groups. Consider this advice as to your goals.
Adequate Intakes (AIs)
Adequate Intakes (AIs) are similar in meaning to RDAs. They’re used as guidelines for some nutrients that don’t have enough scientific evidence to set firm RDAs.
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs)
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) aren’t recommended amounts. In fact, there’s no scientific consensus for recommending nutrient levels higher than the RDAs to most healthy people. Instead, ULs represent the maximum intake that probably won’t pose risks for health problems for almost all healthy people in a specific age and gender group.
Estimated Average Requirement (EAR)
Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) is used to assess groups of people, not individuals.
Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR).
For carbohydrates, fats, and proteins (all macronutrients), which supply calories (energy), you might also see an Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR). That range not only reflects what’s enough. It’s also the amount linked to reduced chronic disease risk. Consuming more than the AMDR may increase the risks for certain chronic diseases and/or for coming up short on essential nutrients.
How do you use the DRIs? For the most part, you don’t need to add up the numbers; it takes considerable effort to calculate the nutrients in all your food choices, then makes an assessment with DRIs. If you choose to do that, remember, however, that the recommendations RDAs and AIs apply to your average nutrient intake over several days, not just one day and certainly not one meal.
More Than Nutrients: Foods’ Functional Components
The food contains much more than nutrients! Science is beginning to uncover the benefits of other substances in food: phytonutrients (including fiber), omega fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, and pre- and probiotics, to name a few. Described as “functional,” these substances do more than nourish you. They appear to promote your health and protect you from health risks related to many major health problems, including heart disease, some cancers, diabetes, and macular degeneration, among others.
At least for now, no DRIs exist for the functional components in food, except for fiber. And scientists don’t yet fully understand their roles in health. However, within this book, you’ll get a glimpse of emerging knowledge about functional substances in food. You’re bound to hear more, as new studies about functional substances in food unfold.
This post contains the content of the book American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide 3RD EDITION