Food for Thought
We often hear the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, raising our awareness of what we put in our bodies will not only benefit the clients that we treat, but will also benefit ourselves as therapists, I decided it would be good idea to share some key facts related to nutrition with you on a regular basis.
What is “nutrition”?
Nutrition is the science of food, the nutrients in foods and how the body uses those nutrients. The science studies the process by which living organisms acquires all things that are necessary for them to live and grow. Nutrients are defined as substances that the body is unable to make on its own. These nutrients include minerals, vitamins and macromolecules. It includes the process of ingestion, digestion, absorption, metabolism, transport, storage and excretion of those nutrients. It also includes the environmental, psychological and behavioral aspects of food and eating. The six classes of nutrients include: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. To summarise nutrition consists of Diet which is the foodstuffs which are taken into the body; and metabolism what happened to the food when it enters the body and the chemical changes that occur.
What is cholesterol? What are the two main types?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance which is found in the blood. It is mainly made in the body and plays an essential role in how every cell in the body works. Unfotunately too much cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Proteins carry cholesterol around the body and these combinations of cholesterol and proteins are called lipoproteins. The tow main types of lipoproteins are:
Low- denstity lipoproteins (LDL) which is the harmful type of cholesterol
High-density lipoproteins (HDL) which is a protective type of cholesterol
It is important to note that some people can have high blood cholesterol even thought they eat a healthy diet. for example it is possible to inherit a condition called familial hyperlipidaemia (FH). A common cause of high blood cholesterol levels is eating too much saturated fat.
What are the types of fat found in food? What are trans fats?
There are two main types of fat found in food – saturated and unsaturated. Both contain the same amount of calories but to ensure you maintain a healthy diet, you need to cut down on food high in saturated fat and eat foods that are rich in unsaturated fat. Eating a diet high in saturated fat will cause the level of cholesterol in the blood to increase over a period of time, if excessive amounts of cholesterol are in the body the risk of heart disease and its associated conditions is greatly increased. On average a man should eat no more that 30g of saturated fat a day, and an average woman no more than 20g a day.
Trans fats are chemically altered vegetable oils. They are artificially produced in a process called hydrogenation which turns liquid oil into solid fat. They are used because they are cheap, adding bulk and they have a neutral flavor and give products a long shelf life. They are of no nutritional value at all. They can be found in processed foods, foods containing hydrogenated vegetable oil and also occur naturally, but at very low levels for ex dairy products. Trans fats can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, this is why it is recommended that no more that 2% of the energy (calories) is made up of trans fats.
What is the medical importance of Omega-3 fatty acids?
The medical importance of Omega-3 fatty acids are that they reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for cognitive (memory and performance) and behavioral function. It is interesting to note also that infants which do not get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk of developing vision and nerve problems.
By Alison Young BSc, FIAT, ALTT, BCMA