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Nutrition the basics

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Food is made up of protein, carbohydrates, fat as well as vitamins, minerals, water and salt. These building blocks are known as either macro- or micro nutrients. The human body should acquire plenty of macro nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fat – which will provide sufficient energy to perform daily tasks and repair cell tissue. Micro nutrients such as vitamins and minerals will keep the blood supply healthy ` aid the nervous system and help digest food.

Protein (40%
We need protein to grow, repair our cells and maintain our muscles. About 17% of the body are made-up of proteins. Protein is found in meats, eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products. Industrialised countries are found to consume 40% of protein within their diet. Some low-carbohydrate diets recommend approximately 20%. High protein diets (i.e. Atkins) recommend a diet of around 70%.

Carbohydrate (50%)
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and is the first energy to be utilised. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. Carbohydrates are found in plant food, such as fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses. There are two types of carbohydrates; complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are grains, vegetables and simple carbohydrates involve sugar and honey. Simple carbohydrates go straight to the blood stream and give the body a ‘lift’, but the energy is used up quickly and can cause a feeling of completion 20mins later. Complex carbohydrates must be broken down by the digestive system before they can be converted into energy. This therefore provides the body with steady blood sugar levels and no sense of depletion or ‘cravings’. You can also get ‘refined’ and unrefined’ sources of carbohydrates. Unrefined refer to foods such as fruits, vegetables, peas and beans. Refined refer to processed foods whereby the refined grains have had the goodness (fibre content) removed or sugar is stripped of minerals. Research has shown that diets in refined carbohydrates may lead to diabetes or hypoglycaemia.

Fat is the most concentrated form of energy available to the body. Despite the myths surrounding fat, fat is a requirement of the human diet particularly during infancy and childhood.. However, certain fats are better for you than others. The liver uses saturated fats to manufacture cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to Coronary Heart Disease and high blood pressure. Unsaturated fats – found in many nuts, vegetables and fish oils are thought to lower cholesterol.

Salt is a common seasoning for food. The recommended daily allowance for sodium is 3000mg per day. Most people eat twice these levels as most of the salt within our diet is found within cereals, processed foods and the salt we shake on our food. High levels of sodium can lead to high blood pressure and hypertension.

The human body is made of 66% of water and is essential for every function of the body. It transports nutrients and waste products in and out of cells. It is necessary for digestion, absorption, circulation and the regulation of body temperature. Health authorities recommend that people drink at least 8 glasses of water everyday, to maintain efficient functions of the body.

The majority of today’s carbohydrates are derived from sugar. The average person consumes 1kg of sugar per week. Simple sugars if overeaten, are quickly converted to fat. Sugar has been cited as the cause of tooth decay, heart disease, obesity and diabetes