Through the process of photosynthesis, plants convert the energy of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and minerals and water from the earth into atomic bonds that are solid enough for teeth to sink into. We can consume these forms of energy directly, by eating plant foods, or indirectly, by eating animals that have eaten these plant foods.
The process, by which food gets broken down in the body and by which the energy released from the atomic bonds, is called digestion.
Eating the right combinations and amounts of foods to provide energy and make it possible for that energy to be released in the body is what nutrition is all about.
In the field of nutrition there are new vitamins and being “discovered”, average daily requirements changed, dietary rules changed, etc., so that most of the nutritional information that you read anywhere is never the absolute last word.
To this day there are some hundred plus labels or names that scientists have given to different nutritional elements that they have become aware of, yet there are probably many more that have not been identified.
Please keep in mind that I am not neurotic about measuring milligrams of this sort or that when I feed my family, or myself nor do we take any kind of supplements other than organic sulfur crystals. Because there is such a perfect balance in nature, using the great variety of fruits and vegetables, as fresh as they can be gotten, and unrefined, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, will easily and naturally provide all the necessary nutrients.
Understand, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that refined and enriched foods will never include all the known nutrients that were taken out. And there is a very high probability that nutritional elements, which have not been identified yet, are also removed. But then again how can they be replaced if we don’t know about them?
Good nutrition calls for a balanced diet, which means the right proportions of the right things. In discussing what the right proportions are, whether recommended daily allowance of the different nutrients, we hear the terms “grams”, “milligrams”, “International units”, etc.
The three nutrients that are required in larger quantities by the body and which make up the bulk of our nutritional intake, as well as providing the body with burnable energy, are: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. The recommended daily allowances of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are measured in grams (1 gram = .035 of an ounce). The recommended daily allowance of minerals and vitamins are measured in milligrams (1 milligram = 1 thousandth of 1 gram, which is pretty “micro”-scopic).
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are called “macro” or major nutrients because they comprise the major part of our diet as far as quantity is concerned. They are not called major because they are more important.
Vitamins and minerals are referred to as micronutrients because they are required in such small amounts, not because they are microscopic in the role they play in our bodies.
The presence of the proper portions of nutrients needed in both grams and milligrams is essential for energy to be properly released in the body.
The three macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – are the foods that give our body energy to burn, kind of like fuel, wood and paper give a fire energy to burn. It’s important to include all three in a well-balanced diet, and, in fact, if a diet of whole, natural foods is eaten, all three are naturally provided.
The nutrients, which make up the bulk of our diet – the “major” or “micro” nutrients – are sources of calories in our diet. Because of the obesity situation in America, the word calorie has taken on a negative connotation. Calories are simply a measurement for energy, not really a dirty word or something harmful to our health.
The amount of fuel or energy in a food is measured in terms of calories, which basically tells us how much energy may be released as heat when the food is metabolized.
We eat to put energy into our bodies, which is exactly what carbohydrates, proteins, and fats do. The problem begins when the amount of calories, or energy consumed, is more than the amount, which is burned up or utilized. This is what has led to so much calorie-consciousness in the United States, which, in general, is a place with very sedentary lifestyles.
If too much energy is consumed and there is not enough activity to burn it off, the energy becomes stored in the body in the form of fat, which ultimately can lead to disease. So, it’s not that calories are undesirable, it’s just that it’s undesirable to consume more calories than are burned off.
To keep calorie consumption in the healthy perspective, two things are important. One, to consume the right proportion of calories to the amount burned off in daily activities.
In the United States, where calorie consumption is high and the lifestyle is sedentary due to a dependence on fossil fuels for energy to do most of the work, energy has to be burned out somehow or it will turn into obesity.
To burn off excess energy we see everyone jogging or engaging in other “leisure activities”, which amounts to physical work that doesn’t produce anything. The right amount of calories needed to balance how much are burned has to be determined by each individual through an analysis of his or her daily activities.
The body burns a certain amount of energy just to keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing, etc. These automatic bodily functions, without any other activity, burn about 60 calories an hour. This amount of energy burned while sleeping or vegetating is called basal metabolism. Different activities, besides the basic bodily functions, burn different amounts of energy. If you go online and put in “energy requirements for various activities” you’ll get a good idea what I’m talking about.
The second important thing to do is to be sure to get all the necessary nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc., contained in the calories consumed.
Different calorie sources contain different vitamins, minerals, etc. In this connection it is important to steer clear of “empty-calorie” foods – foods that supply calories but contain no vitamins or minerals or protein, etc. – like refined white flour and sugar, and to use a variety of the major nutrient foods, which include other necessary nutrients.