Food is the major factor defining a human health. The priority directions of science about food include the organization of the balanced diet, prevention of the alimentary diseases connected with the deficiency of proteins and micronutrients, the further development and strengthening of the monitoring system and supervision of the quality and safety of food as well as increase of the awareness level of the population in the questions of healthy nutrition. The given essay will discuss the importance of healthy nutrition and balanced diet, the groups of nutrients and food products as well as the information on food labels.
Vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and water compose six main categories of macro - and micronutrients composing the nutrition of people. Vitamins are such substances which do not deliver energy to an organism but are necessary for life maintenance. They are irreplaceable as are not synthesized by the cells of a human body. Vitamins compose a part of biological catalysts - enzymes or hormones, which are powerful regulators of the metabolic processes in an organism. Vitamins can be water-soluble and fat-soluble. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and vitamins of group B, PP belong to the first group (folic and pantothenic acids, a pyridoxine, etc.). Vitamins A, D, E and K belong to the second group. A long absence of vitamin B in a diet leads to the vitamin deficiency. The vitamin deficiency - a lack of vitamins B - is more often observed in winter and spring months. People, suffering from vitamin deficiency, have fatigue, weakness, apathy, as well as the decrease of working capacity and organism resilience.
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Minerals in a human body are also called microelements, which compose only 0, 04 - 0, 06%. There is always a metabolism between a human body and environment. The content of both should always be filled up by a person. The microelements, such as calcium Ca, phosphorus P, magnesium Mg, potassium K, sodium Na, chlorine Cl, sulfur S, are required for a human organism in rather big portions: from two to three grams per day. However, the need for microelements (such as Fe iron, Cu copper, Mn manganese, Zn zinc, Co cobalt, iodine I, fluorine F, Cr chrome, Mo molybdenum, etc.) makes only several milligrams per day. However, if they are not enough, the blood formation processes are broken, endocrine glands cannot function normally. In other words, the growth, development, and activity of a human organism become impossible. All necessary macro - and microelements should be present in the nutrition plan of people, and at a strictly certain ratio. In the majority of widespread food (meat, fish, eggs, cheese, grain and flour products) the main part of mineral substances composes a source of macro - and microcells of acid type. Therefore, it is not allowed to be limited to one of these products in nutrition.
Proteins compose the irreplaceable part of food. They are used for the creation of the new cells and replacement of the worn out ones, and actively participate in a metabolism. The proteins of a human organism are formed only from the food proteins. The lack of proteins can result in a bad skin and problems with the nervous system. The main sources of protein of an animal origin include meat, fish, cottage cheese and eggs. The vegetable products also contain proteins; beans and nuts are especially rich for them. A healthy food or balanced nutrition means a combination of animal and vegetable products. Babies and children, pregnant women and nursing mothers especially need proteins in their diet. Proteins help make enzymes, hormones and antibodies, thus protecting the immune system. Fats compose the most powerful source of energy. Fats are calories, the abuse of which can lead to different nutritional problems including obesity. Animal fats and vegetable oils, and also meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products are the sources of fats. Fats contain the saturated and non-saturated fatty acids, fat-soluble A, B, E vitamins, lecithin and some other substances necessary for an organism. They provide the absorption of mineral substances and fat-soluble vitamins from intestines. Fats improve the taste of food and cause the sense of fullness. They can be formed of carbohydrates and proteins, but are not fully replaced with them. It is possible to provide the requirements of an organism only with a combination of animal and vegetable fats as they supplement each other with the vital substances. A daily norm for adults composes from 100 to 150 g. The daily diet of fat is equal to 60-70% from animal fat and 30-40% - from the vegetable one.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for an organism. They are necessary for a normal metabolism of proteins and fats. In a complex with proteins, they form certain hormones, enzymes, secrets of the salivary and forming slime other glands and other important connections. The average norm of carbohydrates in a daily diet should make 400-500 g, but no less than 100 g. A lack of carbohydrates of an organism results in the broken metabolism of fats and spoilt mood.
Fiber is one of the complex carbohydrates. A human body does not digest fiber. However, it strengthens the intestines vermicular movement, and, therefore, is necessary for a correct digestion. By means of fiber, cholesterol is removed from an organism. The insoluble fiber also cleans the organism from toxins. Fiber is present in vegetables, fruits and wheat brans.
Water occupies the second place after oxygen by its importance for people. It is used in all internal processes of a human organism: it helps to digest food, to thermoregulate a body and moisturize the air during breathing. Moreover, it brings the useful substances and oxygen to the human cells. Also, the system of withdrawal of toxins does not work without water. Around 1.5-2 liters of water a day can help an organism to control the water balance.
Sugar and salt play an important role not only for the taste qualities of meals, but also for the processes, occurring in a human organism. However, an overuse of salt and sugar can negatively influence a human body. People using too much sugar can have problems with skin (spots, acnes, psoriasis). The surplus of sugar can also lead to the development of type II diabetes, promote the development of obesity due to the excessive load of a pancreas, etc. Besides, the overuse of sugar causes thirst, and, at the insufficient use of liquid, there can be a condition of water deficiency (dehydration). The use of too much salty food causes a liquid delay in an organism, which results in both the hypostases harmful for the work of internals, especially the senior age. Hypostases lead to the increase of arterial and intraocular pressure. Moreover, salt is one of the essential reasons of urologic diseases.
In order to have a balanced diet, it is necessary to control the quality and quantity of the consumed food. The quantitative ratio of products of various groups can be represented in the form of a plate or a pyramid of optimum food. There are six main groups of food products.
The first group - bread, grain and potatoes occupy the most part of a plate. These products make the basis of a diet, and they should be used in large quantities. They promote the normal activity of a digestive tract, increase the protective forces and an energy potential of an organism. Moreover, they reduce the cholesterol level in a blood serum and risk of the development of cardiovascular diseases and some types of malignancies. The products of the whole grains compose the main source of iron, the comprehensibility of which increases at the simultaneous consumption of the products rich in vitamin C.
The second group - vegetables – compose an important element of a healthy diet. The diet rich in fruit and vegetables has a low caloric content, improves the work of a digestive tract, a condition of immune system, normalizes metabolism, brings fats, toxic substances, carcinogens, allergens out of an organism and reduces the cholesterol level in blood serum, the risk of development of obesity, violation of brain blood circulation and other diseases. Vegetables compose an important source of many nutrients: food fibers, potassium, folate, vitamins A, E, C, minor food components (organic acids, essential oils, etc.). Due to the high content of potassium, vegetables promote the maintenance of a normal level of arterial pressure. The vegetables rich with potassium include potatoes, haricot, tomatoes (paste, sauce and juice), beet stalks, soybeans, pumpkin, spinach, lentil and split peas.
The third group - fruit - also compose an important element of a healthy diet. The balanced diet is composed of the various combinations of fruits and vegetables. Fruit contains the biologically active agents necessary for the maintenance of health and reducing the risk of the developments of some chronic diseases: a stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, some oncological diseases, etc.
The fourth group - dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese) - are recommended in small quantities. The diet with the inclusion of milk and dairy products promotes the strengthening of bones and teeth, beauty and health of skin, nails, hair, maintenance of the normal level of arterial pressure, regulation of intestinal motility and structure of microflora, reduction of the risk of emergence of osteoporosis, etc. The dairy products contain the nutrients necessary for the maintenance of health and physical activity of a human being: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, D, groups B and protein. A glass of milk or milk products satisfies the need for calcium for 25%, B2 vitamin - for 20%. Dairy products compose the main source of calcium, necessary for the vital activity of an organism.
The fifth group is represented by meat and beans. Meat products, fish and seafood promote the increase of protective forces and an energy potential of an organism, decrease in the risk of development of anemia and iodine deficiency. The fat sea fish normalize a lipid exchange, improve a brain activity, sight, a condition of a skin, work of heart and vessels, as well as the processes of a fibrillation. The products of this group are rich in the full-fledged protein, contain vitamin B, vitamin E, iron and zinc.
The sixth group is a top of a pyramid and a smaller part of a plate. It represents the fat presented by butter, margarine, different types of cooking fats. These products should be used in limited quantities and infrequently. This group also includes alcohol and sugar containing products. They contain many calories but practically no vitamins and mineral substances. For the prevention of obesity, diabetes, and also dental caries, these products are not recommended for the frequent use.
Another important issue for the balanced diet and healthy way of life includes the control of the consumed products and their labels. Food labels represent a text or graphic information placed on packing, which allows defining not only a food product but also its some qualities. Food labels give a big amount of information on the ingredients composing the packed foodstuff. They include a total amount of calories, fats, carbohydrates and proteins containing in a product. The list of nutrients, such as fats, saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, food cellulose, sugar and proteins includes all necessary information for a human health. The food label contains six sections, such as serving size, amount of calories, limit to nutrients, the nutrients to get enough of, percent daily values and footnotes with daily values. Thus, food labelling is one of the tools important for decision-making on purchase of food products by customers. To sum up, the balanced diet includes the nutrition with the optimal and sufficient quantity of all food components, necessary for the normal life activity of a human being.