Nutrition & Detoxification

Nutrition and Detoxificaton

Do you ever think about why you eat? The easy answers are because you are hungry, tired and your stomach is rumbling. Sometimes you might also eat because you are bored, sad or happy, just because it's lunchtime, or because that chocolate-covered donut looks so good.

Those are some of the emotional and physical reasons why you eat, but do you ever put much thought into why your body needs food? Not just any food, by the way, but healthy, good-for-you food? Why is good nutrition important?

Good Nutrition Provides Energy

The foods you eat provide the energy your body needs to function. Just like you need to put fuel in your car or recharge your cell phone battery, your body needs to be fed energy-providing foods every day. The main form of energy for your body is carbohydrates.

Your body has the easiest time digesting carbohydrates like sugar and starch. Carbohydrates are broken down into individual glucose, fructose or galactose units. Glucose is your body’s favorite form of energy. If you don’t get enough carbohydrates, your body can make glucose from protein or fat -- and if you get too many carbohydrates, your body is very good at storing them as fat.
Good Nutrition Provides Raw Materials

Protein in the foods you eat is broken down into individual amino acids. Your body uses the amino acids to build and repair the various parts of your body. Your muscles contain lots of protein, and you need to replenish that protein through your diet. Your body also needs protein for components of your immune system, hormones, nervous system, and organs. Another raw material your body needs is calcium. Calcium has several functions in your body, but it's best known as the mineral that is stored in your bones and teeth. You need calcium from your diet to keep your bones and teeth strong.

Your body also needs fats to be healthy. Membranes that contain fats surround all the cells of your body. Your brain has fatty acids, and fats are also needed to signal hormones.

The "Little Helpers"

Vitamins and minerals you get from your diet are just as important as carbohydrates, protein and fats; however, you only need them in small amounts. Vitamins and minerals usually function as co-enzymes, which means they help chemical reactions in the body happen a lot faster. For example, many of the B complex vitamins help your body burn carbohydrates for energy. Vitamin A is needed for vision, zinc is involved in many metabolic processes, and vitamin C helps keep connective tissue strong and your immune system functioning.

Your diet needs to provide adequate amounts of all of these "little helpers." A healthy, balanced diet will provide you with lots of vitamin and minerals. An unhealthy diet may make your body deficient in one or more of these helpers.

Above and Beyond the Basics

Good nutrition provides more than energy, structural components, vitamins and minerals. There are other substances in the foods that you eat that have become better known over the last few years. Phytochemicals are found in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables. Although they aren't required for body functioning, they may have a very powerful impact on your health. For example, quercetin (found in red apples) functions like an antihistamine and as an anti-inflammatory effect. Resveratrol, found in grape skins and seeds, is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect your body from damage that comes from the sun, pollution, smoke, and poor dietary choices. They are found in the phytochemicals of fruits and vegetables, as well as some vitamins and amino acids.

The impotence of Good Fats

Of course. Your body creates some important substances out of fats and uses fat to transport vitamins. So think of fats as building bricks. The better the bricks, the stronger the building. If there are only broken or damaged bricks available, the contractor will use them, but the house won't be as strong and eventually there will be problems.

Good fats are the naturally-occurring, traditional fats that haven't been damaged by high heat, refining, processing or other man-made tampering such as 'partial hydrogenation'. The best of these kinds of fats are found in fish, nuts, avocados, and seeds.

Animal fats have a bad reputation, but many professionals believe it is not animal fat, but the combination of animal foods, fats and low-fibre vegetables that is the problem. Also, because of horrible factory farming methods, antibiotics and steroid use, fats from non-organically raised, non-free-range animals should probably be used with prudence. Among the worst of the 'bad' fats are margarine and the fats found in anything fried. And if you see 'partially hydrogenated' on any food label, avoid it like the plague. Refined vegetable oils are also on the 'bad' fats list. These oils oxidise easily and have been processed with high heat, which removes all the healthy nutrients, like Vitamin E. Extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil, however, is a 'good' fat.

Certain essential fats such as omega-3s (found in oily fish) and the occasional omega-6 (found in evening primrose oil) have been used to treat everything from bipolar depression to skin problems. Some can even benefit us in weight-loss programs. The terms 'omega-3' and 'omega-6' are technical terms having to do with the last occurrence of a carbon double bond in the fatty acid chain ('omega' means 'last'). In general, when you see things like 'omega-3' on the label, it's a good sign.