The Food-amentals of life
Food is one of the main epicentres of our lives, it facilitates our body's ability to grow and move around in our world, many social occasions revolve around food, and some fond memories are associated with food; for myself for when I think of cornbeef (although I'm a veggie now) reminds me of times spent with my grandma, preparing our lunch making silly faces out of salad and cornbeef. Food is an important part of living for all of us.
Despite food being one of the food-amentals (Nutrition pun I'm sorry), often the way certain foods are represented in society is by the positive/negative individual nutrients they may represent for example being high in carbohydrates or fats rather than looking at these components as part of the food matrix or as whole food. For instance, often potatoes are thought as carbohydrate foods, therefore avoided by some, however potatoes are also great sources of B vitamins, fibre, vitamin C, therefore by looking at one individual nutrient occasionally we can forget about the other nutrients a food may be providing. To use one of my favourite quotes - 'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts'.
A basic understanding of the individual parts that make up the food matrix is useful, and we'll be discussing the main macronutrients and other micronutrients in other posts.
These can be broken down further into simple, complex and dietary fibre. Here in the UK the guidelines from the Eatwell guide recommend that 50% of our energy derived from food should come from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates come in many shapes and sizes and can be found in potatoes,rice, pasta, crackers, processed foods such as biscuits and cakes, but they also include fruit and milk (lactose is a sugar). Carbohydrates are important in our diet, they are an excellent source of energy- they are broken down into glucose molecules which are then used by our bodies as its primary source of energy to supply our cells with. There are however different considerations for certain health conditions such as type 2 diabetes regarding the portion sizes of carbohydrates, please see BDA foodfact for more information.
Fats come in many different forms whether that be unsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated fats. They can add palatability to food. Similar to carbohydrates fats have gotten a bad rep over the years. However fats are an important part of our diet, they are a good source of energy at 9kcal per gram, they allow for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K and certain types of fats are associated with having an anti-inflammatory effect. Recommended intake is 70g, with less than 20g of that being obtained from saturated fat. Fats come in various shapes and sizes from butter to oil to fish and nuts.
Proteins are broken down into amino acids, of the 20 amino acids 9 are essential meaning that our body cannot produce them, therefore, we need to eat them in our diet. Amino acids are the important building block for cells they are needed for cell growth and repair, to make specific enzymes for example insulin, hormones and haemaglobin. Foods that have high protein content include eggs, fish, meat, vegetarian alternatives such as soya,lentils/pulses.
Foods contain within their food matrix many other micronutrients and fibre which is why it is important to consider food as a whole rather than being high in protien or fat for example. Foods have a food matrix where these elements interact with each other and compose the nutritional value of the food. Therefore when you are considering foods nutrient value in the future remember they are not only high carbohydrate/high fat but they have many other important qualities.