Food is any material eaten to supply body protein and nutrients. Food is generally of animal, plant or even fungi origin, and has key nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, or minerals, which are required to develop and grow properly. Although, food is considered the most important nutrient, nutrition is a complex process that involves many other factors such as the quantity and quality of the food, the amount of time that the food is consumed, and individual differences in the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Most people are familiar with the basic principles of nutrition – the amount of food to be eaten, the amount to be avoided, the balance of macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat, protein and mineral) in the food, the food’s taste and texture, and so on. But what many people do not realize is that the quality of the food is just as important as the quantity.
Good nutrition depends on sufficient intake of carbohydrates, fat, protein, minerals and vitamins. In fact, any food, which provides the following: carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fruits, fiber, water, and any soluble or insoluble fibrous matter, is helpful. A balanced diet that meets the daily needs of these nutrients and meets the active needs of the body is considered to be nutritionally balanced.
Food processing techniques and methods have improved over the years, but some foods are still recognized to be ‘real food’. This does not, however, negate the value of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, oils, and herbs in meeting nutritional needs. According to a recent report by the Institute of Specialized Health Education, “Nuts and seeds, legumes, vegetables, whole grains, fatty acids, calcium and fiber are beneficial. The consumption of red meat has been found to be associated with increased risks of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.”
The food industry continues to fight vigorously against recognition of the fact that some natural healthy diet foods actually have more health benefits than artificial foods. For example, nuts are a great source of dietary fiber and they contain soluble fiber, which is not only good for you, but also helps to reduce cholesterol levels. In addition, nuts are high levels of magnesium, which help prevent heart disease. Also, many of the legumes and vegetables in a healthy diet are also high in potassium, another mineral that can help prevent high levels of blood pressure. Finally, it has been shown that whole grains may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease and other diseases.
Many people argue that there are no healthy foods that contain no carbohydrates or fats. Some will point to cereals, pasta, bread, cookies, chips, candy bars, etc., as examples. However, there are many healthy options that don’t include these common foods that are often recommended to us by our favorite TV shows and newspapers. For example, there are many delicious recipes available for breakfast, lunch and dinner without using any processed grains, which contain many carbs and fats. Instead, a variety of whole grain options such as brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, oatmeal and millet provide a healthy alternative for breakfast, lunch and dinner without sacrificing taste and variety.
Finally, even though processing carbohydrates and sugar are bad for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there can’t be any real foods in your diet. Just because you eliminate one type of food from your diet doesn’t mean you can’t eat other types. In one study that was performed, participants were asked to fill out questionnaires about their real food consumption. Only 14% of the participants indicated they had eliminated any sugar or carbohydrates from their diets; instead, most of them indicated they had added variety to their food by substituting some type of protein (usually meat, poultry, fish, cheese, etc.)