THE FOOD GROUPS
The food groups are divided based on the nutritional properties they offer. Foods that animals eat can be classified based on the amount of nutrients and the type of nutrients they provide for subsistence and survival. It is highly recommended to eat portions of food from the different groups in order to live a healthy lifestyle. This will provide you with a complete set of nutrients for better health.
There are seven major classes of nutrients and they are
These nutrient classes can be classified either into macronutrients or nutrients that are needed in large quantities and micronutrients or nutrients that are needed in small amount. Macronutrients include the carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, and water while the micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.
Macronutrients provide the body with energy. Water and fibre are exempted. The energy is measures in terms of kilocalories or joules. Kilocalories are written as C in order to differentiate them with gram calories. For every gram of carbohydrate, seventeen kilo joules or four kilo calories are provided for your body. Fats provide your body with thirty seven kilo joules or nine kilo calories for every gram. Vitamins, fibre, minerals, and water do not provide the body with energy but they are needed for other purposes.
Carbohydrate molecules are made up of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms. Monosaccharides like glucose, fructose, and galactose are types of carbohydrates. An example of a complex carbohydrate is starch. Fats are made up of the same kinds of atoms as carbohydrates. They are made of triglycerides or fatty acid monomers that bind to glycerol.
Protein molecules are made up of nitrogen atoms plus carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. These nitrogen monomers are essential amino acids needed by the body. They perform functions that are essential in metabolism. They are used for energy and fuel for the body. Antioxidants and phytochemicals are other micronutrients that are essential to the body.
Most of the foods that you consume are made up of several of the classes of nutrients. Some of the nutrients are needed by the body all the time while the others are needed once in awhile. People’s health deteriorates because of the imbalance of nutrients. There can be too much of a nutrient or a deficiency in it.
Carbohydrates are classified based on the number of monomer units in them or the number of sugar units they have. They can be monosaccharides, disaccharides, or polysaccharides. Monosaccharides have one sugar unit, disaccharides have two sugar unites, and polysaccharides have three or more sugar units. Carbohydrates constitute majority of foods like bread, noodles, rice, and other products that have grains.
Monosaccharides and disaccharides are simpler carbohydrates while the polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest because they need more time to be broken down into simpler sugar units. Only the simpler sugar units can be absorbed by the blood. The spikes in the sugar levels of the blood are caused by too much consumption of simpler carbohydrates. The simple carbohydrates are absorbed by the blood very quickly which causes the blood sugar levels to spike abnormally. This leads to heart diseases and vascular diseases. You should keep in mind that there are a lot of foods out there that are composed of simple sugars. One of them is the sugar-based juice.
A lot of animal body structures are made up of protein. Your hair, your skin, and your muscles are all made up of protein. Every protein molecule is made up of thousands of amino acids. These amino acids are made up of nitrogen and in some cases sulphur. Your body needs these amino acids in order to make new proteins or retain existing proteins and to replace damaged proteins or to maintain protein mass. Amino acids that aren’t needed by the body are discarded through urination.
All animals require certain proteins that can not be produced by their own body. These are called the essential proteins. The proteins that an animal can produce internally are referred to as non-essential proteins. These are the proteins that an animal can produce using their own nitrogen based components. There are around twenty amino acid types that can be located in the human body and around ten of these are essential. Since they are essential and can not be produced by your own body, they are required in your diet.
Your diet needs to have an ample amount of protein especially the protein that is essential. A diet rich in protein is needed when your child is developing and maturing, when you are pregnant, lactating, or when you are injured.
Complete protein sources are those with all the essential amino acids while an incomplete source of protein lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. In order to make a complete protein source, one or more incomplete protein sources can be combined. For example, rice and beans can be combined in order to make a complete protein source. Other sources of protein are tofu, meat, eggs, soya and soya products, legumes, grains, and dairy products like cheese and milk. There are a few amino acids that can be converted into glucose and used for energy. This process is referred to as gluconeogenesis. The amino acids that remain after the conversion are discarded by the body.
One molecule of fat is made up of several fatty acids that are bonded to glycerol. These fatty acids are made up of long chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms and are found as triglycerides. Triglycerides are three fatty acids that are bonded to one glycerol.
Fats are either saturated or unsaturated. Saturated fats are those kinds of fats with all their carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen atoms with the fatty acid chains. On the other hand, unsaturated fats are characterized by carbon atoms that are double bonded with oftentimes few hydrogen atoms. Moreover, these unsaturated fats can be further classified into monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are made up of one double bond. Polyunsaturated fats are made up of several double bonds. Trans fats are a kind of unsaturated fat with a trans-isomer fatty acid and they are usually made through the process of hydrogenation.
There have been several studies that indicate that unsaturated fats are the best for the diet of a human being. Specifically, monounsaturated fats are the best type of fat. Saturated fats from animals are the next kind of fat that is okay for a human being whilst trans fats are the kinds of fats that should be completely avoided. Saturated fats and trans fats are the kinds of fats that are solid at room temperature. Examples of these fats are butter and lard. Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Examples of unsaturated fats are olive oil and flaxseed oil. Trans fats are not usually found in nature but are useful in the processing of food.
The essential fatty acids
Most of the fatty acids are not essential which means that your body can produce them when it needs to do so. There are some fatty acids that are essential and must be included in your diet though. A balance of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are needed for better health. These omega long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are substrates of eicosanoids which are also referred to as prostaglandins. They play important roles in the functioning of the human body. They can be referred to as hormones in some ways.
The omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA is made by the human body with the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid or LNA. It can also be derived from marine food sources that are building blocks for the series 3 prostaglandins or weakly inflammatory PGE3. The omega-6 dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid or DGLA is a building block for series 1 prostaglandins or anti-inflammatory PGE1. The Arachidonic acid or AA is used as the building block for these series 2 prostaglandins, otherwise known as the pro-inflammatory PGE 2. Both the DGLA and the AA are made from the omega-6 linolenic acid or the LA from the body of a human being. It can also be acquired through some types of food.
With a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, there will be a production of the necessary prostaglandins. When you balance omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, you will be on your way to excellent cardiovascular health. Problems in highly industrialized societies involve the overconsumption of huge quantities of vegetable oil. This reduces the amount of essential fatty acids or an imbalance between the omega-6 and the omega-3 fatty acids.
The production of the prostaglandins PGE1 and PGE2 are largely dependent on the way omega-6 DGLA and AA are converted. The omega-3 EPA hold back the AA from being released from the membranes which results in an imbalance of pro-inflammatory PGE2 made from AA to an anti-inflammatory PGE1 which was made from DGLA.
The conversion or the desaturation of DGLA into AA is handled by the enzyme delta-5 desaturase. This delta-5 desaturase is handled by the hormone called insulin and glucagon. Insulin regulates the increase whilst glucagon regulates the decrease. The amount of carbohydrates consumed alongside the amount of amino acids in your system influences the processes of insulin, glucagon, and other hormones. This means that the ratio of omega-3 against omega-6 will have serious effects on the health of a human being. Particularly, this will influence the immune system, inflammation, and mitosis or the division of cells.
In order to get the essential fatty acids, one must consume vegetables, seeds, nuts, and marine oils. The best sources of these essential fatty acids include flaxseed oils, fish, soya and soya products, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that is not completely absorbed by human beings and in several similar animals. Just like carbohydrates, when fibre is metabolized, it produces four Calories or kilocalories of energy for every gram. Actually, this may be lesser than the estimate because not all of it is absorbed by the body.
Fibre in your diet is mainly made up of cellulose. This is a large carbohydrate polymer that can not be digested by human beings because of the lack of enzymes. There are two categories for fibre. The insoluble fibre and the soluble fibre are these two types. The whole grains, fruits, prunes, plums, figs, and vegetables are excellent sources of dietary fibre. Fibre is needed by your body in order to promote digestive health and to minimize the risk of developing colon cancer. Moreover, fibre will also alleviate cases of constipation and diarrhea. Fibre will give bulk to the intestinal contents while the insoluble fibre promotes peristalsis. Peristalsis is the rhythmic muscular contractions that are done in the intestinal tracts in order for food to pass through it. Some of the fibres which are soluble are produced with a high viscosity. This means that is slows down the movement of food in the intestines which results in lessening the insulin spikes which are attributed to diabetics.
Minerals are chemical elements that are needed by living things. Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen exist in organic molecules. The word mineral is archaic since it attempts to describe the less abundant elements needed by the human body. These elements are heavier than the basic four elements. These elements include metals which occur as ions more often in the body. Several dieticians advise that these minerals should be acquired from foods naturally. They are to be acquired in complex compounds or natural inorganic sources like calcium carbonate which can be derived from ground oyster shells. In another case, these minerals have to be added artificially in the form of supplements like iodine or iodized salt.
There are some elements that are essential and they have to be consumed in larger amounts. These minerals are referred to as bulk minerals. They can be structural and they could play several vital roles as electrolytes in the body. Here are some elements that have a recommended daily allowance or RDA with more than two hundred milligrams
- calcium - this is a common electrolyte which also has structural purposes involving muscle health, digestive system health, bone health, the neutralization of acidity, the clearing of toxins, and helping in the streaming of blood throughout the body
- chlorine - this is made up of chloride ions. It is a common electrolyte as well
- magnesium - this is required for processing ATP or adenosine tri phosphate, the energy of the body. It can also be used for related reactions like building bones, causing strong peristalsis, an increase in the alkalinity of the body, and an increase in the flexibility of the body
- phosphorus - this is required for bones and it is essential in processing energy
- sodium - this is a common electrolyte which is not usually found in dietary supplements. It is needed in large quantities. This is very common in food anyway. You can find it in the form of sodium chloride or common salt
- sulphur - this is essential for amino acids and many proteins in the body like the skin, the hair, the liver, the nails, and the pancreas
Several elements are needed in trace amounts because they play a catalytic role with enzymes. Here are some of the trace mineral elements that are needed in less than two hundred milligrams everyday
- cobalt - this is required for biosynthesis for the vitamin B12 family of coenzymes
- copper - you need this for many redox enzymes which include cytochrome and oxidase
- chromium - this is needed in order to metabolize sugar
- iodine - this is needed for biosynthesis of the element thyroxin. This is needed in a much larger quantity compared to the others on this list. Iodine is usually classified as one of the macrominerals
- iron - this is required for several enzymes especially haemoglobin and other proteins
- manganese - this is needed for the processing of oxygen
- molybdenum - this is required for xanthine and other oxidases
- nickel - this is needed in urease
- selenium - this is needed for peroxidase or the anti-oxidant proteins
- vanadium - there is no current RDA for vanadium although it has been spotted in lower organisms. It has no specific biochemical function but it has been spotted in human beings
- zinc - this is needed for enzymes like carboxypeptidase, the liver alcohol dehydrogenase, and carbonic anhydrase
Just like the mineral mentioned above, there are twelve vitamins that are deemed as essential nutrients. They are needed in order to maintain good health. The only vitamin that is not essential is Vitamin D because it can be synthesized in the skin when you are under Ultra Violet B Radiation. There are several vitamin like compounds that are highly advised to be included in your diet. An example is carnitine. This is needed in order to survive and maintain a healthy life. It is not a vitamin like compound that is strictly essential because the body can make it from other substances.
There have been thousands of phytochemicals that have been discovered in some foods just recently and they have desirable antioxidant properties beneficial for human beings. They are usually found in fresh vegetables. Some other essential nutrients that are not identified as vitamins are some of the amino acids, essential fatty acids, choline, and the minerals that were discussed in the previous part.
If you have vitamin deficiencies then you may get some diseases like goitre, osteoporosis, scurvy, a weakened immune system, cell metabolism disorders, some forms of cancer, signs of early ageing, poor mental health, eating disorders, and many more. If you have too much vitamins then that could be dangerous to your health as well. The same logic applies to minerals too. If you have too much or too little of minerals then that would be a risk to your health as well.