Why Understanding Nutrition is Essential to a Healthy Lifestyle?
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison" Ann Wigmore
Hello and welcome to this blog post about the importance of good nutrition. I have been very much looking forward to this one and very happy that it is finally online. I absolutely love food and I would do anything for good food any day. I also love cooking and baking, and have been doing so for as long as I can remember, starting in my mother’s kitchen when I was a little girl. I now have a plant-based diet, and cook almost daily simple, nutritious meals with accents from Chad, but also inspiration from my cosmopolitan upbringing and current modern-day life.
I am not a trained chef but have been cooking for more than two decades, and perfected my art by taking advanced cookery classes with several celebrated chefs. I now create my very own recipes using the basis of classic (and not so classic) cooking technics. I don’t believe in dieting, systematically counting calories, but rather in eating simple, organic, nutritious, delicious, plant-based, wholesome foods that are delightful for the palate, good for your health and your wallet!
Last year, I took last year a course on nutrition to figure out how to put together balanced plant-based meals after a few of nutritionists I saw in Paris wanted me to consume dairy daily, eat meat, poultry, fish several times a week and forget about a vegetarian diet, and God forbid a vegan diet. My BMI was healthy at the time, but as my frame is very thin, I was looking to lose a few kilograms as advised by my physiotherapist. The new understanding about food that I got from this course has literally changed my life, including making me shed over 10 kilograms (22 pounds), leaving me with a leaner body, glowing skin, great hair and most importantly, with more energy than I have ever had. My biggest regret is that I did not get that understand of nutrition much earlier.
I have already started to share in my blog some of my favorite recipes. But, I would also like to share some of the elements I learnt through my course, but also through readings, many conversations with specialists in the field and my very own experiences. I believe this information about nutrition should be readily available to everyone, everywhere. First things, first, I will cover today the definition of nutrition, malnutrition which is in my opinion the biggest public health problem we have in modern times and some of the disastrous health problems that may steam from poor nutrition.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs (World Health Organization) or the process of nourishing or being nourished. Nutrition is the fuel we need. It is important for each of one of us and is the basis of good health throughout the life cycle. If you have poor nutrition, this can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development. Unfortunately, nutrition and foods are not always good for us. Sometimes, when I am in supermarkets, I get headaches reading food labels- there are some products on shelves, which have such little nutrition value to them that they should not be sold as food! This is where malnutrition (over and under nutrition) come into play. They really are a huge problem today, and as you will see with disastrous health consequences.
What is under nutrition?
Under nutrition - indicates a lack of the necessary energy, protein or micro nutrients required by the body for good health e.g. protein-energy. Micronutrient deficiencies occur when the body lacks one or more micro nutrients resulting in deficiencies which usually affect growth and immunity e.g. anaemia (iron deficiency).
What causes under nutrition?
Some of the main causes of under nutrition are lack of knowledge, fad diets, disease and illness, life cycle changes, poverty, inadequate diets…
What are the signs of under nutrition?
There are many. The most common ones are unplanned weight loss, weak muscles and/or loss of muscle, feeling tired all the time, low mood, increase in illnesses or infections, slow recovery from illness, failure to grow at the expected rate, changes in behavior such as appearing unusually irritable, sluggish or anxious. Undernutrition also reduces the ability to fight infection.
842 million people globally, mostly in developing countries suffer from under nutrition and 1 in 3 child deaths are related to under nutrition.
A note on Iron deficiency anaemia
I would like to touch upon iron deficiency as most of us are in this case. It can occur when the body has a lack of red blood cells or haemoglobin to transport oxygen to the cells of the body. The most common cause is lack of iron in the diet. The consequences include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, pallor and breathlessness.
Those most at risk are very young children (infants and toddlers), menstruating women, pregnant women, vegetarians, diets lacking in Vitamin C, people with malabsorption or pathological blood loss. Some example of iron rich foods are: dark leafy greens, broccoli, quinoa, dried fruits and lentils.
Please also note the importance of Vitamin C that is essential as it helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
Over nutrition and its consequences: obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases
As its name implies, over nutrition is the opposite of under nutrition. It can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
According to WHO Obesity is an “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health” The causes of Obesity are numerous and complex.
Obesity often does not occur for just one reason. There are often multiple factors that interact and contribute to the condition. Some examples are over eating, difficulty for some women to lose weight after childbirth, environment (demanding work Schedule, easy access to high caloric process food), emotional or psychological, certain medical condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome, lack of sleep, genes and family history (diet and lifestyle habits), medications.
The health implications of obesity can be disastrous and include: stroke, heart disease, pancreatitis, female disorders, arthritis, inflamed veins, gout, cancer, gallstones, liver disease, lung disease, sleep apnoea… to name a few.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce any/enough insulin or when the body cannot use the insulin that it produces (WHO). There are 2 primary forms of diabetes Type 1 and Type 2. Symptoms include: frequent urination, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness, irritability, blurred vision, slow healing cuts…
Cardiovascular disease is a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and is the number 1 killer globally. Risk factors include: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, excessive alcohol and genetics. An unhealthy diet coupled with an inactive lifestyle can lead to elevated blood pressure, blood glucose and blood lipids as well as overweightness or obesity. This can indicate an increased risk of developing a heart attack, stroke of heart failure.
In other words, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help to treat and prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Do you agree with me that good nutrition is extremely important to a healthy lifestyle? Please let me know your thoughts below in the comment section. I am planning to share in the upcoming weeks and months the knowledge I have gathered and continue to gathering about nutrition. Those will include: food composition (macro and micro nutrients); healthy nutrition guidelines, understanding weight loss and fad diets, boosting your energy and many more topics. If you have not yet done so, do not forget to subscribe to be in the know!
I will of course continue to share some of my favorite recipes. My recipes are always simple (never more than 10 ingrédients), plant-based, nutritious and delicious. You should also follow me on Instagram where I post daily drinks and food. So welcome to my kitchen, put on an apron and let’s get started! To make sure you do not miss out, do not forget to subscribe!