plug Diet and Nutrition 1/3 - Biology As Poetry


∞ generated and posted on 2016.03.05 ∞

Substances taken up into bodies to power bodies energetically while also supplying the basic chemical building blocks required for ongoing metabolism.

Animals obtain nutrients from their diets with these nutrients differentiated into macronutrients versus micronutrients, the former consisting particularly of carbohydrates, protein, and fats as well as dietary fiber, and the latter consisting particularly of vitamins and minerals.

The "rules" of healthy eating really aren't all that difficult, though it is easy to be fooled into eating less healthfully in the course of attempting to consume a more healthy diet. The first "rule" is that if you know you shouldn't be eating something, then you should be eating that something at best only in moderation. But even that statement is fraught with issues. The first issue is that of what actually is and is not good for you. For example, which is preferable, a high(er) fat diet or instead a low(er) fat diet? The answer actually is somewhat a function of just what sort of fat is being consumed or, alternatively, just what has been substituted for fat in order to be labeled as low in fat. In terms of moderation, what does that mean? Is drinking two alcoholic beverages per day moderation? Or instead is drinking two alcoholic beverages per month a better definition of moderation? Clearly, if you are consuming something on a daily basis, even if in relatively small amounts, then that food, or drink, is a regular component of your diet. If it is something that is not necessarily good for you (e.g., sugary soft drinks or trans fats), then from a health perspective it might make sense to question whether that's too much. Besides, what exactly is a small amount, e.g., a can of sugary soda/sugary pop per day? Two? Three?

Ultimately, it pays, diet wise, to consume foods that are closer to their wild, less-refined state versus, at the other end of the spectrum, something that is closer to a pure chemical state, e.g., such as sucrose (table sugar) as an example of the latter. At one point in our not too distant past, e.g., the middle of the 20th century, highly refined and its attendant apparent purity was considered to be highly desirable. Today we understand that the more refined an ingredient, then the faster it can be absorbed, following ingestion, and therefore the higher the peak levels that can be reached in the blood. High peak blood levels in turn can be harmful, such as excessive blood glucose or triglyceride levels (think explicitly in terms of higher peaks being further from homeostatic set points). So increasing the complexity of your foods to the point that they are less easily digested, and so that they spend more time in your stomach and satisfy you in smaller quantities for longer periods of time, generally is good thing. And this is versus foods that are more rapidly digested and otherwise less sating or which are satisfying for shorter periods (minutes versus hours).

So what to do? Avoid refined sugar, particularly in large quantities and particularly high-fructose corn syrup (sugary sodas/sugary pop? A big yuck!). Avoid highly refined, particularly non-whole grains. Don't be hugely obsessive about reducing fat intake – unless that intake is truly excessive, particularly from a maintaining your current body weight perspective – but do worry about what sorts of fats you are eating (consuming exclusively fats of animal versus plant origin, particularly saturated fats of bovine or porcine origin, is not a great dietary game plan, and nor is a diet that is rich in the oils of tropical plants, e.g., coconut oil or palm oil). Protein meanwhile is important, but in the First World most of us – vegans and perhaps vegetarians aside – tend to have plenty of high quality protein in our diets. Consuming sufficient amounts of protein can be relatively good for reasons other than building or at least maintaining muscle mass, as adequate levels of protein as well as fat tends to reduce rates of gastric emptying, and therefore one remains sated following a meal for longer. But certainly don't strive to increase your protein intake unless you have good reason to, as most of us would do well instead to reduce our protein intake.

Meanwhile, the consumption of fresh, less refined, and perhaps also less industrially raised foods, particularly of diverse plant origin, is the best way of assuring adequate levels of intake of vitamins and minerals, whereas highly refined and monotonous diets can actually lead to nutritional deficiencies. Lastly, though only tangential to issues of diet, is making sure that you keep your body well exercised as many of the goals of healthy eating, such as cardiovascular health as well as maintaining a good body weight, ideally as well as most effectively are achieved through a combination of healthy eating and exercise rather than only one of these on its own.

The above video provides a nice introduction to just what a nutrient is as well as types of nutrients and some of basics of the concept of metabolism.

The above video provides an overview of nutrient as well as the very basics of metabolism, particularly in terms of energy use and storage, with emphasis on macronutrients.

The above video walks us through the macronutrients.