Nutrition refers to the body of knowledge that deals with the study of nutrients. By nutrition we are also speaking about the various steps by which people are able to acquire and use nutrients. These steps include the choosing and preparing of food and the assimilation and utilization of that food by the body.

For health it is important that we understand and make use of the principles and practices of good nutrition. One reason for this is that many people find it difficult to properly perform one of the most fundamental activities of all living things: eating. It is possible that this ignorance is an important factor in the cause of the many nutrition-related diseases existing today.

Proper eating should be simple and natural. I further believe that, barring certain medical conditions and special or abnormal circumstances the average person should not have to put out the kind of effort that so many people are putting out, to eat properly.

Food is any substance which, when taken into the body, is capable of yielding energy, building body tissues and/or regulating body processes. The food we eat comes from two primary sources, the plant and animal kingdoms. Today, we are encouraged to place greater emphasis on foods such as fruits, vegetables and grains that are from the plant kingdom.

Nutrients are the substances obtained from the food we eat. Approximately 50 nutrients are required each day by the body to ensure optimal health. It is important for us to know and choose those foods that are beneficial to us.

Food is classified as protein, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals and water. Air (with its oxygen and other gases), because of its role in the process of food utilization, is seen by some as an important nutrient.

Protein is the building and repairing material used by the body. The word protein is a Greek one meaning “of principal or first importance.” The main constituent of body tissue is protein. It is the substance found in muscles, nails, hair, skin and etcetera. A considerable portion of our food should be protein.

Carbohydrate foods are a principal source of energy and should supply us with most of the energy (fuel) we need. Because they are abundant and economical, they are often referred to as the “poor man’s food.” Starch and sugars are examples of this class of food.

Lipids is the name given to fats and oils. Lipids serve as concentrated sources of energy. For instance, one gram of fat supplies nine calories while the same amount of carbohydrate will yield only four calories.

Because they are so difficult to be used by the body, lipids are not considered efficient sources of energy.

Vitamins are organic substances that help to regulate the functions of the body. Only about 12 major ones are identified. A deficiency in even one of these vitamins will produce what is appropriately called a deficiency disease. Vitamins are sometimes classified as water-soluble or fat- soluble. They are needed in small amounts.

Minerals are essential inorganic elements that regulate certain body functions. They also assist with the construction of body tissues such as bones and teeth. Like the vitamins, they are needed in minute quantities.

Water is the most abundant nutrient. It is also essential for life. Without this vital fluid, chemical reactions within the human body would fail to take place. A daily intake of water is needed to replace that lost through urination, perspiration, defecation and exhalation (breathing).

For answers to your fitness questions, contact Gregory. He may be reached at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center. Call, 941-625-4175, ext. 263 or visit the Fitness Center at: 2280 Aaron St., Port Charlotte.

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