What is nutrition and how has it evolved?

Nutrition is a science that is constantly expanding, exploring the link between life, health and nutrients, as nutrients are the vital chemical substance needed by our bodies for energy, growing, developing and repairing. The human body is very complex and partially it can be considered to be self-sufficient, as it has the ability to produce a variety of substances necessary to function properly. The body alone cannot fabricate the majority of the essential nutrients, oxygen and water. For this reason, they must be obtained from an external source. The foods we consume are the main source of nutrients and water.

A balanced and well-thought out diet leads to good health

A balanced and well-thought out diet leads to good health

Starving from lack of food is the same as a nutrient void diet as they both cause malnourishment, which negatively affects our bodily functions and increases risks for developing other illnesses. As a species, humans are omnivorous, which means that we have the ability to digest animal products and vegetables, as do many other species.

Early-day nutrition

In prehistoric times, people collected their food from roots, herbs, fruits, nuts and vegetables that were growing wild. On rare occasions, they would eat fish, this low calorie diet lead to eating more calories to maintain their health and acquire proper nutrition. Common life revolved around constantly looking for food and once discovered it was typically eaten right there. Deliberate hunting took place once they invented the appropriate tools for the task at hand.

In this time period, the human population at that time were nomads, travelling throughout the year depending on whether there was food in a certain area or not. Throughout the following centuries, this lifestyle continued like this until they discovered fire and cooking, as up till then they eat only raw foods. It is difficult to put an exact date when pre-historic men started using fire, but it is believed they had the means to make and use fire more than 40,000 years ago. After which, they began to eat vegetables or beans that were cooked for eating. Cooking grains made them easier to digest and lead to invention of new methods of preparing foods such as bread, which was a more concentrated source of calories.

These new preparation methods resulted in the need for collecting even more food than before and eating more frequently become a necessity. By the early 7,000 B.C. in Southeast of Asia, the people had developed the skills for acquiring their food sources by agriculture needs. This meant an end to the nomad way of life known to mankind at that time, as it become more and more common to cultivate plants and grain, sow and reap their own produce and raise their own animals for workforce and food. From this point forward the human diet became more varied.

Modern-day nutrition

For the last 25 years, United States of America has been considered to be a country full of malnourished citizens. As their main diet is based on high fats, refined starches, sugar and low quantities of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, that didn’t offer any real form of wholesome natural nutrition. The majority of Americans have access to a wide variety of foods, as the supermarkets sell not just fruits, vegetables, meat protein and dairy products but also a long list of processed foods that are jam-packed with fats, sugars, artificial flavors and chemical additives. These processed foods often have a long shelf life and can easily be stored in the supermarkets warehouse, plus the preparation time from package to your plate are often under 10 minutes. But, almost all types of processed foods are a very low-source of nutrients.

Food and our health

Eating good or good eating

Learning to distinguish the difference between healthy food choices and junk food is one of the key elements for wholesome nutrition. However, we still need to know how to make good choices when choosing from healthy foods, by basing our decision on the quantity of healthy nutrient vs. our bad eating habits.

The majority of people keep eating, even when they are not hungry but just because it is time to eat, so they eat. Others continue eating even after they are full because it looks good and smells delicious. Also, it is common that people eat just because they feel bored, anxiety or for emotional stress. Under these types of situations, it is difficult to judge whether humans have the innate ability to choose healthy foods over bad food choices. Experts have a divided opinion concerning the latter, if only healthy food choices were the only options available, then everyone would be capable of following a healthy diet.

In 1925, a study was conducted in a North American hospital that discovered that infants could distinguish between balanced and healthy diet from the foods provided, but human babies have a tendency to love sweet items. This characteristic trait most likely helped prehistoric men to distinguish between a mature piece of fruit and a not so ripe piece of fruit. However, we are surrounded with junk food and choosing processed sweets have unfavorable long-term health consequences.

Food and our health

After decades of treating diseases with medicines, nutrition is finally being used as a key element, in improving our health by professional and public healthcare providers for preventing diseases. These changes happened due to the fact the world finally comprehends that the majority of us are malnourished even in developed countries, despite being surrounded by food. This might sound surprising to hear, especially when a heavily obese man suffers from malnutrition because he lacks a balanced wholesome diet.

In poor countries, the lack of clean drinking water is responsible for a high-percentage of reoccurring diarrhea among children. It is estimated that diarrhea kills millions of children each year but only one child a year dies due to diarrhea in United States.

Lacking wholesome foods and vitamin deficiencies are common worldwide and can affect people of all ages. Also, health disorders such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are more and more common, all of which are directly related to an unhealthy and nutritionally, inadequate diet.

Worldwide, there are public health programs that help educate the overall population about good nutrition. In United States and Europe, the population is taking control of their diets and making better, healthier choices when it comes to eating and planning out their weekly menu, by reducing fats, dairy products, eggs and beef. At the same time, they are increasing their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus whole grains.

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