Introduction to Nutrition
Nutrition is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “ the act or process of nourishing or being nourished; specifically, the sum of the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances.”
That is to say, human nutrition involves how the foods we eat are used by our bodies to sustain life and promote growth and well-being.
Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, you are what you eat? The foods we eat directly determine how our bodies function, from the health and function of each individual cell to the system as a whole.
When discussing nutrition, food can be viewed in terms of a few key components – specifically, there are macronutrients – proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – as well as micronutrients – vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals, trace elements, and antioxidants (don’t worry, we’ll go into more detail about all of these components throughout the course). These components must work synergistically together to create optimal function within the body.
But food, nutrition, and nourishment involve much more than simply consuming the correct macro and micronutrients. The fact is, we humans are social creatures with feelings and emotions. Whether we like it or not, food is tied with our sense of pleasure and enjoyment. Moreover, food plays an important role in our sense of love, connection, and culture.
As Mark Kurlansky said, “food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”
What popular diets have in common
Is there a “right” or “wrong” diet?
MIchael Pollan said, “eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” Though much of the research about nutrition may seem conflicting, it is clear that this is our foundation for a healthy diet! The nuances and details beyond that come down to our own individual needs and preferences. These may be biological (how does my body react to various foods?), spiritual or ethical (do I prefer to avoid meat for moral reasons?) or cultural (do I prefer the taste of various foods based on my culture and childhood?) Truly, nutrition is a very personal manner, and it is up to us as individuals to pay attention to our bodies and find the right diet that works for us!
How does food fit into your daily life? What role does food play in your life now?
How are your food and nutrition choices influenced by the people around you? By media and culture?
What considerations are important to you when it comes to the food you eat?