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The Function Of Food


What we eat, when we eat and how much we should eat has become a bit of a minefield.

In order to try and answer some of these questions let’s first go back to basics and look at the function of food and what it does for us.

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The Function Of Food

What we eat, when we eat and how much we should eat has become a bit of a minefield.

Are we supposed to eat five or ten portions of fruit and veg per day?

Should we all be vegan?

Is nut milk an environmentally friendly option?

Is there such a thing as a truly sustainable diet?

In order to try and answer some of these questions let’s first go back to basics and look at the function of food and what it does for us.

In the most simple terms, the human body is unable to produce everything that it needs to function properly. There are six essential nutrients that we need to consume through food in order to maintain optimal health. These nutrients are vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, water, and carbohydrates.

Vitamins

The body requires 13 essential vitamins to function properly, including A, B6, C and D. Through a ‘rainbow’ diet of colourful vegetables and fruits, the average person can obtain these without the need for vitamin supplements.

Minerals 

Like vitamins, we need minerals to function properly, namely calcium, zinc and iron. Ideally we get these through a balanced diet, but there are many conditions and periods in our lives when we may require a supplement to maintain healthy bodily functions and mineral levels.

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Protein

Protein can be considered the essential building block of the human body as every cell found within us from our hair to our bone contains protein. Protein makes up 16% of the average person’s body weight. Protein sources include meat, eggs, fish, beans, pulses, nuts, soy and some types of grain.

Fats 

Fats are vital in supporting immune function, controlling inflammation, supporting cardiovascular function and are required for maintaining hormonal balance. Essential fatty acids found in unsaturated fats are required through the diet as our body is unable to produce these by itself. Omega-3 and Omega-6 can be found in oily fish, seaweed, algae, oils and seeds such as hemp, olive, flax and walnuts.

Water

While we can survive for weeks without food, we’d only last days without water. Our body is thought to be 70% water, and water is the driving force for every single one of our bodily systems. Water can also be consumed through lots of fruit and veg, herbal teas, juices, soups, broths and stews.

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Carbohydrates 

Carbs are not to be avoided, and should in fact be your body's main source of energy in a healthy, balanced diet. Without carbs, our body will use protein and fat for energy instead. Healthy sources of carbohydrates include foods like high fibre wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and legumes, many of which are also a source of other vital nutrients like calcium and iron.

A Full Spectrum Of Nourishment

Consider your body as a battery. What we consume through food is converted into energy which fuels all of our bodily functions from making our muscles move to processing the thoughts in our brain. During the day, while we are awake, our energy is ‘spent’ and as we sleep, this deep, restorative rest recharges our biological battery.

However, the human body is a lot more complex than your average battery! Besides the food we eat, we are fuelled by our emotions and we gain or lose nourishment through our five senses. Our energy comes from things we consume through our mind and soul, not just our body. Love, connection, compassion, excitement, and also stress, grief, trauma and pain.

Eating is personal, and it can be a much deeper experience than simply re-fueling your body with nutrients. Food can be healing, it can be medicine, it can also be used as an escape or comfort, it can be religious and ceremonious, it can be a distraction or an addiction.

Food is the ultimate source of nourishment; yet it involves all our senses to digest it fully. Two people might eat exactly the same food yet they both receive entirely different nourishment from it, because of the difference in their digestion, but also their state of mind and stress levels. Even identical twins who eat the same meal have highly variable responses. Food is capable of creating all kinds of responses for different people.

Here at BELIEVE, it’s important to us to look at the cultural, societal and soulful aspects of nutrition as well as the function of food for our health. Our holistic approach addresses nutrition and nourishment through all forms. We want to foster curiosity and a deeper connection to all the ways we can receive nourishment from the earth, and how we can best nourish ourselves and each other.

“What nourishes you is not vitamins in food. It is the joy you feel in eating it.”

― Ramtha

 

References

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/food/

https://www.who.int/elena/nutrient/en/

https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2382

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/what-science-says-about-best-way-eat-what-we-re-ncna1104911

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