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The role of food in the body

Updated on May 15, 2010

Good nutrition is essential to good health. The quality of food that you eat directly affects the quality of your blood, your bones, as well as your brain and heart action.

Well-nourished people have an improved ability to work and play, strong bodies, excellent appearance, active and keen minds, great resistance to disease, and an expanded ability to enjoy life.

The body needs food to have a supply of energy, the materials to build and repair cells as well as the necessary materials to control the processes of the body.

These needs are satisfied by substances called nutrients. Nutrients are found in the foods we eat. Food nutrients are broken down into the following categories: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Proteins - Protein is "unquestionably the most important of all known substances in the organic kingdom. It is one of the most important components of the body.

Protein is the fundamental structural element of every cell in the body. Every human being must have an adequate source of protein to grow and maintain the body.

Specific proteins and protein derivatives have been recognized as the functional element in certain specialized cells, glandular secretions, enzymes, and hormones.

The major portion of protein is located in muscle tissue and the balance is found in blood, other soft tissues, bones, and teeth.

Protein is essential for growth, the building of new tissue, and the repair of injured or broken-down tissue. It is needed to manufacture hormones, antibodies and enzymes.

Protein provides the body with energy. It helps to main the proper acid-alkali balance in the body. It regulates the movement of fluids in and out of cells, to and from the bloodstream.

Proteins are a source of heat -- when they are oxidized in the body, heat is liberated.

Physical work, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and convalescence require increased protein intake. Best sources of protein are meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs, milk, and soybean.

Fats - Fats are a concentrated source of energy and because of its concentration it is not necessary to consume large volumes of food to furnish the energy requirements.

Fats act to support and protect certain organs such as the eyes and kidneys. Fats are the source of fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids. Fatty acids can be used as an energy source by all cells except by red blood cells and the central nervous system cells.

Fats provide the lasting quality to a meal and therefore ward off hunger. Fats also contribute to the flavor of foods and their use in cooking improves the texture of foods.

Did you know that a fat deficiency can result in poor growth, dermatitis, lowered resistance to infection, poor reproductive capacity and neurological disturbances?

Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates are a basic source of energy. Glucose, digestive end products of carbohydrates, is the preferred source of energy for the brain, central nervous system, red blood cells, and the lens of the eye. When carbohydrate intake is low, the body relies on energy from fat intake or stores. Carbohydrates provide heat to maintain body temperature.

Vitamins - Vitamins are essential for how the body uses the food we take in, as well as how the body grows, develops, maintains, and repairs itself.

Vitamins are the catalyst for all reactions using proteins, fats and carbohydrates for energy, growth and cell maintenance. Vitamins cannot be used without an adequate supply of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and even minerals. Eating fats, carbohydrates and proteins without enough vitamins means the energy cannot be used.

Vitamins are easily destroyed by heat, oxidation and chemical processes used in their extraction.

Vitamins are essential for the maintenance of good health.

Minerals - Minerals are essential parts of all cells and form the greater portion of the hard parts of the body in the bones, teeth and nails.

Minerals are an essential part of the respiratory pigments (the coloring matter in the lungs), enzymes and enzyme systems.

Minerals regulate the permeability of cells membranes and capillaries. They regulate the sensitivity of muscular and nervous tissue.

Minerals are essential for the regulation of the diffusion of water in the body. They are necessary for the maintenance of proper acid-base balance and form an essential part of secretions of all glands.

Minerals play an important role in water metabolism and regulation of blood volume.

Water - Water is an essential nutrient involved in every function of the body. It is necessary for the digestive function, the absorption of nutrients, the circulation function, the excretion function as well as the utilization of water-soluble vitamins.

Water maintains the stability of all bodily fluids. It is the principal component and medium for fluids, secretions and excretions such as blood, lymph secretions, gastric secretions, urine, and perspiration. Water enables nutrients to be transported to all the cells in the body and acts as a lubricant between cells to permit movement without friction. Water regulates body temperature by evaporating perspiration from the skin.

Did you know that a few days without water can be fatal? A negative fluid balance can have a serious detrimental effect on many body functions. Water is lost through urine, perspiration, water vapor in expired air, and feces.

Did you know that the human body contains approximately 70% water, that fruits and vegetables contain about 70% to 99% water, milk contains approximately 88% water, and eggs contain approximately 75% water?

Did you know that we need 8 to 10 glasses of water daily?

Bottom line - Protein + Fats + Carbohydrates + Vitamins + Minerals + Water = a winning combination for good health.

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    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 6 years ago

      Nice hub that highlights the importance of the different components of food and water to our bodies.

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