Why healthy nutrition is important and what characterizes it

A healthy diet is important — that should be known. But why actually? To stay healthy? After the family celebration including three meals and 4 pieces of cake with a subsequent food coma, you don’t get sick. To recharge your batteries? But fatigue always follows a high-energy meal like pasta. In today’s blog we want to look at the basics of a healthy diet and why it is actually important.

The most important in a nutshell !

  • Our diet serves us primarily to supply energy in the form of calories
  • A healthy diet is rich in micronutrients, which do not contain energy.
  • The need for energy-providing macronutrients and non-energy-providing micronutrients is different for each person.
  • Nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods form the basis of a healthy diet.
  • If there is a deficiency of certain nutrients due to an unhealthy diet, the body can no longer perform its functions optimally, and the risk of disease increases.

Why do we need to eat at all?

A wide variety of processes are constantly taking place in our bodies when we are at rest. Blood is pumped through the body, hormones are produced, the immune system protects us from unwanted intruders and the brain permanently processes impressions from our environment. All these processes require energy. In addition, we also have to perform our everyday tasks in life, which also cost energy. Since the sun, water and carbon dioxide are not enough for us humans (in contrast to plants), we have to supply energy in the form of calories and thus food. Our goal is therefore to cover our energy needs.

Although meeting our energy needs is the basis of our diet, it is not enough on its own for a well-functioning body. Every food contains energy (calories). If meeting our energy needs were the only relevant component, we could end the topic here. The decisive factor is that our body also needs nutrients that do not provide energy. In contrast to energy-providing nutrients (=macronutrients), we call them micronutrients. They are essential, i.e. the body cannot produce them itself. They include, for example, vitamins and minerals. They are needed, for example, so that various biochemical reactions in the body can take place properly.

This fact is decisive why the topic of healthy nutrition is so controversial. How much do we need of them? When do we need more of it? What are the best sources of it? How long can we store it?

What constitutes a healthy diet?

Adequate intake of these micronutrients, as well as the right composition of macronutrients, is crucial to classifying a diet as “healthy.” Why one food is considered healthy and another unhealthy is also primarily due to the content of micronutrients. In addition, there are also important food components such as secondary plant compounds or dietary fiber, which are not essential, but which are nevertheless said to have a health-promoting effect. These should also be abundant in a diet to classify it as healthy. In addition, of course, we should avoid certain things that are found in our food, as they are harmful to health. These include, for example, industrial sugar, trans fatty acid or heavy metals.

As we can see, a sufficient supply as well as the right composition of nutrients is essential for a healthy diet. They are needed so that the body can perform its tasks. What this composition looks like and in what quantity one needs which nutrients, however, is highly individual. Therefore, there is no one healthy diet.

To eat healthily, it is therefore necessary to integrate foods that have a very high nutrient density. These are primarily whole, unprocessed foods. Both plant and animal foods can be very nutrient dense.

If we consume certain nutrients in too low a form, our body can no longer adequately fulfill its functions and diseases may develop. In addition, we feel worse, have less energy and age faster. It is important to know that our body can initially compensate a deficiency well and we often hardly notice it. The development of diseases caused by it can take months, years or decades.

Text-Sources:

(1) Gröber, U. (2011). Mikronährstoffe (3.Auflage). Wissenschaftliche Vertragsgesellschaft Stuttgart.

(2) DGE: sekundäre Pflanzenstoffe https://www.dge.de/uploads/media/DGE-Pressemeldung-aktuell-06-2015-sps.pdf

(3) Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr. 22;5(4):1417–35. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417. PMID: 23609775; PMCID: PMC3705355.

(4) Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder PC. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients. 2018 Oct 17;10(10):1531. doi: 10.3390/nu10101531. PMID: 30336639; PMCID: PMC6212925.

(5) García-Calzón S, Moleres A, Martínez-González MA, Martínez JA, Zalba G, Marti A; GENOI members. Dietary total antioxidant capacity is associated with leukocyte telomere length in a children and adolescent population. Clin Nutr. 2015 Aug;34(4):694–9. doi: 10.1016/ j.clnu.2014.07.015. Epub 2014 Aug 4. PMID: 25131600.

Image-Sources:

(6) Designed by pch.vector / Freepik